Quality over Quantity vs. 80/20 (or Chad vs. Matt ;))



That is true, but Dr. Seiler sites runners, rowers, cyclists, nordic ski to name a few.

Edit: And considering the context of the podcast (Triathlon), I think it’s safe to assume they are implying the 80/20 to be applied to all 3 sports. (MF hits on this @25 mins, and is right on with 80/20 applied to all 3 independently.)


I’ve concluded that the only way for a cyclist to know for sure if POL or SS works better for them is to try it for themselves. Too many studies have some vagueness, or suffer from “individual results may vary”.

I think you’re doing absolutely the right thing and giving POL a shot. And then you’ll be more informed - did POL work better, same or worse than SS; and if the fitness attained with POL is any “different” that that with SS.

I’m doing POL also, but not as “well” as you due to a bunch of travel I’m doing recently and other time constraints. So it’s been really informative to follow your experience to augment what I’m learning from mine :+1:t3:


I agree with @DaveWhelan - try and it and see. Seiler proposes high volume / low intensity training can be scaled down below 10 hours/week but I still haven’t seen solid evidence of a) how far down you can push it, and b) with 6-8 hours a week the relative effectiveness of polarized to SSB.

Last week my sister sent me her copy of “Base Building for Cyclists” (2006) and I’m about 25% thru the book. Joe Friel in the foreword states the book expands on his chapter length coverage of base in “The Cyclists Training Bible.”

The case being made in this book is very similar to what I’ve heard from Seiler. The key point is that by focusing on traditional base training at intensities below LT1, you will:

  • increase use of fat as fuel (“wider aerobic base”)
  • and upon returning to higher intensity training you will raise “fitness ceiling” to all time highs

Examples of athletes reaching new highs are given. Instead of posting a picture from the book showing before/after fat burning preference, here is a recent thread showing exactly that:

So the key point in my mind, the same thing I’ve heard from Friel, Coach Chad, and others, is that you need to build a stronger aerobic base ( = preference for fat as fuel) to later on raise your fitness ceiling ( = LT2) to new highs.

How you do it is a different question. Before TR I did semi-structured sweet spot training with intervals going from 10 minutes to 30-40 minutes and built a bigger base. And I did it with TR SSB1-HV. With enough time I’d do traditional base outside, and by riding outside naturally throw in some higher intensities for a 90/10 or 80/20 split. The higher intensity stuff would prevent the minor loss in ftp that I just experienced with TR’s Traditional Base 1 (no higher intensity in phase1 of TR TB).


I have had a very on/off year with slight knee injury (never had before) and my father passing. I am finally back to training indoors only (no outdoors, getting cold) doing Sweet Spot Base Low Volume I. I also just read through the 80/20 Running book and applying a low volume base 5K plan to get intermingled. My plan is to then bump up to 10K 80/20 with SSB VII and finally a mid volume Half Marathon w/ 70.3 Build up leading to a Half marathon in April.

I am on week five and so far am very pleased with results. The runs have been pain free - even pushing a stroller and have done at least on double with TR. Speed is coming back and I am finding my TR sessions to be really good. Will see how it progresses over time.


Awesome post @bbarrera.

My good friend and riding partner is convinced that much of my long ride endurance comes from one particular season of training that I did.

In early 2012, my girlfriend (now wife, but we were dating for 9 months as the time) talked me into doing the Seattle to Portland Ride (STP). 202 miles in 2 days. We trained long and slow together starting on trainers in the winter and outside in the Spring and early Summer.

I had done little if any structured training at that time and just rode randomly most of the time until then. We employed the training plan from the event organizers that was a smart and steady increase in saddle time and mileage. It was all the level of Z1 Low Intensity via Polarized (even though I had no idea at the time) that was meant to make for a successful completion of the event.

We did amazing and had a great time. Over 130 miles on day one and finished the rest on day two. I didn’t give it much attention at the time, and even lamented the training a bit when I joined the local Tuesday night hammerfest (and proceeded to get dropped… HARD for the rest of that season).

But as I got into more structured training via a local indoor cycling class, that long and steady base formed the foundation of my current fitness. I did not recognize the value of that and attributed my gains purely to the “new” intensity I added over the next two winter seasons.

Now, with my small taste of POL training, I am seeing the same basic timing and efforts at play. So it’s a funny return to what was an unintentional massive base build. I see the value of those seemingly slow days actually becoming much more worthwhile than I had ever considered.

So, even if I don’t use POL for the majority of my training, I have re-established the usefulness of long and slow days. I plan to incorporate them along the way even while I am most likely to use the regular SS Base, Build and Specialty phases via TR, just like my prior 3 years of use.


I distinctly recall Dr Seiler on episode 51 (?) podcast making a key point upfront - everyone seems so focused on raising the ceiling, why aren’t we discussing raising the floor? Even the examples he gives of the skaters is on point - while raising your LT1 floor, go ahead and throw in some intensity to not lose top-end, and when you return to training for races you’ll end up with more matches to burn at the end of the race.

Anyways, the whole “polarized is the new training paradigm” is just a dramatic way to draw attention to VeloNews podcast in my cynical view. The real point is to focus as much attention on base as you do high-intensity work. Raise the floor first, and then raise the ceiling.


Seiler isn’t anti-periodization, he specifically talks about race specificity / prep where people will lower their Z1 work even more and increase the intensity (not time) of their Z3 work. You can catch this in the Flo Cycling podcast, where in the context of a 5 zone model he states that people go from “zones 2 and 4 towards a zone 1 and 5 split”. Now, this is definitely different than the classical base -> threshold type of periodization, but he’s not anti-periodization per se.


Yes - I’ve seen it written down a few times on this forum that periodisation and polarization are opposites: Sweetspot and Polarization are opposites.

As you noted above, Seiler does note that there isn’t much ‘fancy periodization’ going on when looking at top class cross-country skiers.


OK, so I think I dismissed polarised training a little too quickly without fully researching this type of training. In fact, I think I might actually ditch my current sweet spot mid volume plan and give it a go. Like @DaveWhelan said, the only way to find out if it works is to try it for yourself.

Why the change of heart? I was originally put off as the 90% easy to 10% very hard ratio just seemed too skewed to illicit any adaptations for time crunched cyclists like myself. However, when you enter the numbers into a plan you soon realise that 10% equates to quite a lot of time at a very high intensity. So for a 7.5 hour week that would 45 minutes, which I think is quite a lot of VO2+ work.

I quickly planned out a year of training using the standard 3 weeks on 1 week off where on the 4th week I simply reduced the amount of time by 40% with the plan of still incorporating some high intensity work (the ramp test near the end of the week). By gradually increasing the weekly training time, this would take me up to 10-11 hour training weeks by the time I would normally be completing a Build phase. This would be a lot for me, but I think it may be manageable. An 11 hour week would require about 66 mins of time at the high end.

Seiler et al. recommend making 80% or training sessions easy and 20% hard. However, this doesn’t really fit in with my plan. At 7.5 hours a week, I think 1 session with 45mins of very hard intervals would be too much, so I was thinking of splitting the time between two sessions with the ratio 65:35. The longer session on the Tuesday and the shorter on the Friday. This would equal 30 minutes for session 1 and 15 minutes for session 2. As the season progresses I would change the ratio as the total weekly time goes up.

With regards to intensity, Seiler recommends that people do a lactate threshold test to work out LT1 & LT2, however for me and what I am training for, this would be overkill and not repeatable. I’ll just be using the standard Coggans power zones instead.

Despite some people lumping sweetspot into Seiler’s zone 1, I think this would be too intense for me. This means that I’m going to try and keep my easy rides within zone 1 &2 with the inevitable drift into Z3 while riding outside. The hard intervals are going to be 105% ftp and above.

I’m have difficulty choosing the best intervals for each phase of the season. My goal is to be competitive in several crits from mid May to July. So, do I train more on longer intervals in base and then as I get closer to May start reversing this so that I do shorter and more harder intervals as I approach the crit races? Or should I just mix long and short as I go through the base period and then change this to more shorter harder intervals as I get closer to the race season?


I think this is a key point - people look at 8 hours of training and think that the 48 minutes of intensity is too little, but when you add that up to two sessions per week, each with (for example) 6x4-minutes at 110% - 120% FTP, I think it becomes clear that level of work is pretty quality.

Seiler consistently calls out that the hard sessions should be really, really hard and I worry people don’t give that enough weight.


I’ve probably listened to all the podcasts with Seiler. And I find this one of the topics where he sends out conflicting messages. On the one hand he says

“hard days hard”

on the other hand he keeps saying that you shoudn’t overdo it.

“do only as many intervals as if you could still do one more. Don’t exhaust it. It’s not the load of a single session that is relevant but the load over a block of time (days/weeks/months)”.

So what?


I think the summary is this,

You need to do hard work on the Z3 days, with the proper intensity and amount to match the 80/20 plan.

The “too much” warning seems to relate to the people who do too many sessions and to much time at moderate intensity (i.e. Threshold or SST plans).


Watch the video linked in the following post. There’s a lot covered, so I won’t try summarize here - as I’m not fully sure I’ve grasped the key insights myself :thinking:

Fair warning - it’s kinda tedious to get through…




I thought that I heard him mention that bottom end of SS often ends up being top end of LT1. So something close to SS + VO2 ends up being right in line with the polarized plan.


That’s not how I see it when you look at the actual distribution between the 2 models.

7-Level SS is NOT in 3-Zone Z1 Low Intensity.
SS is clearly in Z2 Moderate Intensity, and is to be avoided for most use of the POL model.

It may be used for event prep, but it’s not part of the common POL planning.


I need to check that out later.

To remind you and others, I reserve the right to be wrong at any time :stuck_out_tongue:


@bbarrera Great post, I see you linked my thread in the discussion. Not to disprove the value of polarized training, but I would like to remark my fat adaptation and very solid base was actually built upon the right diet, backed up by structured but fairly intense training plan (SSB, not even 10 hours a week). The decline in my aerobic base in the season that followed happened after months of easy riding with a few intervals thrown in at random (and a donut and ice cream diet). My test results speak for themselves I think, n=1 of course.


@konradkowara thanks for popping in, I firmly believe SSB1-HV delivered a “wider aerobic base” but I don’t have any before/after testing of fat vs carb fuel usage to prove it.


My head hurts from all this X vs Y stuff! :exploding_head:

No wonder I decided to do TR plans instead of continuing to try and solve a question with no answer!

Good luck to all – what ever training you employ. :+1: