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



Exactly! Return to fundamentals… base is about “raising the floor” (aerobic endurance) and there are several ways of doing it. After base shift focus to “raising the ceiling” (high intensity work). And during base don’t be afraid to mix it up and get a little (10-20%) high-end work. That said, during base its all about high volume (polarized) or sweet spot (TR and others). Everybody is going to be different on the crossover # of hours where polarized produces better results than sweet spot. And even season to season. So don’t worry about mixing it up and experimenting!


“Hi intensity” in the polarized model is above lt2, right? Well if lt2 is a bit below ftp or your 1 hour power then even high sweet spot is “hi intensity”. Of which I am finding sweet spot base low volume has a lot!

I did Kaweah today and the 50 min just a few watts below ftp was an ass buster. If I can get the same improvements with more work under lt1 I’m interested. 2-3 hours on the trainer is no problem for me.

Definitely looking forward to the TR podcast on this.


This is a fascinating discussion. I’m debating whether I could use this 80/20 polarization approach for the first 12-16 weeks of base building for my 2019 season. I’ve also seen the MAF Method come up a lot recently - basically aerobic base building where you don’t let your heart rate go over a certain threshold for 12-16 weeks - basically a 100-0% approach, I guess…

Agree that the best way is to try it and see - tricky part is that I think it will be some time before the benefits of using this type of base-building won’t be evident for some time, and it might be hard to tie benefits from increased FTP later in the year to base building done over the winter!


LT2 and FTP are exactly the same - they are just different ways of expressing the physiological change that takes place in the muscles: the highest power where lactate is flushed out of the muscles at the same rate it is produced. Typically this state can be held for between 40 and 70 minutes.

Sweetspot is right in the middle of POL Z2 and should be avoided when training polarized.

I think Chad’s spreadsheet is a little confusing in that the last column (general info) shows overlap but I believe that they are just notes relating to the boundary between zones.



Thanks for that link. I quite like the simplicity of the intervals prescribed. Just go as hard as you can for the duration making sure that each work interval remains at the same level during the srssion; no crashing and burning before the final one. You just work out what that intensity is. Given that the intervals he suggests are 4x4, 4x8, 4x16 then all of these would be above FTP pace and well above sweetspot.


POL training obviously works for many athletes who have the time to invest. I have yet to see any study that says the same for people having less than 10+ hours at hand. So it is frustrating to hear Seiler and other proponents of POL argue that it works for “time-crunched” athletes as well.

On the other hand if you take a look at the expected adaptations from the “sweet-spot” approach it seems that there is no adaptation you can get from (Coggan) zones 1 and 2 that you can’t equal or better from training at higher intensities.

And herein lies the conundrum: If “Coggan and friends” are right, why do professional and other athletes training via POL see such good results. What adaptation is missing from the aforementioned table? And why is it missing?

This stand-off between “Seiler and Co” and “Coggan and friends” increasingly looks more like ego than science. So I’ll go with field (and business) sense, i.e. with the Coach Chad and the Other Chad :slight_smile:

I’m assuming that Coach Chad (and TR) has (a) a ton of data from actual athletes using and progressing on TR, (b) is interested in keeping TR competitive commercially, and (c ) has no vested interest in one scientific approach or the other (in fact TR offers both in a sense, and is always cautious to propose a magic bullet solution). So, when he says “sweet spot” approach works better for “time-crunched” cases, I’ll go with his suggestion (always critically, in the good sense)

On the other hand Other Chad is doing his own experiment and sharing with us, which, even if anecdotal and highly personal, is super interesting to watch.

So, at this point, I respect the science, but doubt the scientists’ egos, and am eager to see a sort of consensus position.


I own Matt Fitzerald’s 80/20 book for running and used it to the “T” for some hard training blocks a few years back. I improved greatly getting my longer distance race splits down to 6min. pace using that method and I was only running 40-60 miles per week. Basically it was 100% Heart rate training, so all my pacing was done by HR. There was a grey zone (no mans land) between Zone 2 and Zone 3 that I never once ran in during my training. It was a full 12 bpm that I never touched. This HR zone happens to be exactly were my HR sits doing sweet spot. So technically following 80/20 you would never do any sweet spot. It’s smack dab in no mans land. 80/20 works excellent for running because your body needs that EZ stuff to recovery, if you ran everyday just below threshold your body would break down. It seems our body can handle sweet spot on the bike much better. When I signed up for TR I had to seriously step back and decide if doing all this sweet spot is a good idea because it’s so different than what I am use to. I decided to give it a try starting this week I go into SSB HV after about 10 months of self coach training. We will see how it goes…


His recommendations are based on his study: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/51543724_Adaptations_to_aerobic_interval_training_Interactive_effects_of_exercise_intensity_and_total_work_duration

It is important to look at the rest intervals: for the 8min 2min, and for 16min 3min.

Hence, 4x16min with 3min RI well above FTP? The same for the 8min intervals. With only 2min RI well above FTP?

Looking at this I’d say:

  • 4min -> VO2max intervals
  • 8min -> threshold intervals
  • 16min -> SST intervals

They all caused improvements in the studied population.


Based on the various Seiler podcasts, I think the very rough rule of thumb is 4x4s at ~110% FTP, 4x8s at ~105% FTP, and ~4x16s at 100% FTP. Given that an 8 minute FTP test is 110% * FTP, and 20 minute test is 105% * FTP, I think that these 110 / 105 / 100 values are roughly on (110 might be a bit low though, maybe 115 there, but that would be quite tough).


I also think TR is 100% focused on making riders better with no vested interest, but there is a circular reference to their data. That is - they almost always suggest Sweet Spot to riders looking for advice, so when riders improve was it because they simply trained consistently (followed any plan, whether SS or Polarized) or that SS > Polarized? You can hear the same thing in Seiler’s podcasts, in his data set Pol > SS, but he also advises people to train in a Polarized way, so the data may be a bit biased.

All that to say I think either can work and likely there’s a good dose of YMMV here - for me SS just feels crushing day after day, and I think I can get in much more high quality work with Polarized while not feeling run down all the time, but can see others feeling the opposite. 700 TSS Polarized feels hard but doable, when I crack a 600 TSS Sweet Spot week I’m a mess.


Looking at the summary I’m not sure you’re correct. All intervals were carried out at blood lactate levels above 4 mmol/L and are considered to be in Zone 3 of the polarized model.

  • 4 x 16 minutes: 88% HRpeak = 4.9 mmol/L
  • 4 x 8 minutes: 90% HRpeak = 9.6 mmol/L
  • 4 x 4 minutes: 95% HRpeak - 13.2 mmol/L

It’s worth remembering that in the classic model threshold is a zone centred around FTP, whereas in the polarized model threshold is a boundary between zones. I think the 4 x 16 intervals would fall within the threshold zone of the classic model whilst not being at threshold. The study is showing that they are less effective than doing the harder intervals for less time.

What i didn’t like about that study was that there was no real comparison to a structured Sweetspot plan - they just told the control group to go out and ride. Make of that what you will…



This is a very good point. I’ve seen it pointed out quite a few times by users and TR themselves that they have loads of data - the trouble is that there is no control or comparison data. ‘We all did the same and got better so this must be the way to do it’ isn’t hugely scientific.

I have no doubt that you can get very fit doing doing the Sweetspot approach - to suggest otherwise is just nonsense. The question is whether you could be better by choosing Polarized. Everybody on here is an N=1 study with no control for comparison (with the exception of Chad).

There’s no doubt it’s a very interesting subject



Sweet Spot:

  • That’s one reason I made the side-by-side comparison to begin with. People tend to talk in generalities, and I think they are making mistakes.

  • Mike is correct. When you actually map out the models, these is NO WAY that 7L Sweet Spot is in either Z1 or Z3 POL (I have seen both suggested over the last few months).

  • I strongly point this out any time I see it suggested because it is very incorrect and potentially misleading to others who have not looked at the finer details.

Layout confusion:

  • Yes, I agree. The General Info section is there as a reference to how I generated the zone splits and SS sections, per Dr. Seiler.

  • The LT2 and LT1 boxes are there to help explain the two split lines between the 3 zones. I have struggled with how to have ref info, and not be confusing. I’m happy to hear suggestions.

  • I may just need an empty column between the info and zones?

  • I disagree entirely. Look at the side-by-side picture I shared above. It is based on the detailed models described by Dr. Coggan and Dr. Seiler.

  • 7-Level Sweet Spot is close to, but below FTP/LT2. As such is is entirely in the Z2 Moderate Intensity Zone of the Polarized model.

  • Even if you blurred the lines enough to have 7L SS touch the line between POL Z2-Z3, it is not High Intensity.

  • The point of the Polarized model is to spend time solidly in the middle of Z1 or Z3 when you are training. You generally should avoid the lines that border Z2 Moderate Intensity.

  • Based on my analysis, there is no way that 7L SS is part of a typical Polarized training approach. That area is specifically to be avoided per the overall goal of the 80/20 Polarized model.


NOTE: There is a TL;DR at the end for those that are Time Crunched Forum Readers

To throw in a pair of pennies (two cents), A few of us locally have been discussing training. We are all serious riders, many have raced bikes for 3-4 decades. We trying well and all suffer from pretty much the same affliction of not getting any better. So we seek new methods and approaches. Same as most everyone reading this thread.

Race season for us is Early April through Early September and focus is road time trials. We have a 12 race local series here in New Jersey called the NJBA Time Trial Cup. Most of us then typically do another 6-8 races TTs each year for a total of around 20 races. Distances vary from 8 miles to 25 miles. To do well you need a pretty good CP20 for the shorter events and FTP drives results in the longer events. The “average” guy in my group of buddies can do 22 min +/- for 10 miles and mid-50s for 40K (55-57 min). Not bad but pretty average for “serious” riders training 8-10 hours a week.

Here are some general observations that might help in understanding different plans and adaptations and what to expect in the real world of non-elite riders.

I’ll apologize in advance if this isn’t exactly the right thread to post in.

  1. Almost all riders see good gains when moving from just riding to a structured plan. This is obvious to people posting here but a lot of the early gains from getting a coach or joining a plan like TR (base - build - speciality) is simply due to adding structure. It’s fantastic and you see nice gains in FTP, CP20, etc. But it’s all do to structured training vs going for bike rides.

Take home is everyone benefits from structured training and it doesn’t much matter what the plan is or who the coach is. Even serious riders who have “trained” for years see gains. Of course the biggest gains are novice riders. All of this is wonderful, but it’s obvious.

The big problem is after you’ve been on structured training for several years, I’d say 3-5 years in my experience and working with others, you’ve captured the gains that simply training properly gives you. Along the way you’ve probably improved your diet and hopefully improved your race craft as well.

Take home is that somewhere around 5-7 years of being “serious”, and I mean serious in the hobby sense on training 8-10 hours a week consistently, most athletes start to plateau. Pretty much every single guy plateaus in the 3.8 to 4.2 w/kg range and can get there consistently year after year. But getting more doesn’t happen.


Well, 3.8 - 4.2 is about what a typical male who trains seriously 8-10 hours a week and lacking elite genetics is going to land. It doesn’t matter what plan, what coach, etc. If the training is solid that’s where you end up.

Questions I ask are the following:

  1. Is 4.2 w/kg is all I’m ever going to get no matter what training I do, how well I eat, how dedicated I am?
  • or -
  1. Is it possible that this 3.8 - 4.2 w/kg range is simply what is attainable for average guys training 8-10 hours a week but the potential is there to actually go higher if they could only find the right way to unlock it? If yes, then how?

From watching real world riders I think the how is obvious and there is no magic. See below.

Biggest problem is none of us know what our athletic potential really is. We want it to be higher than what we have but we don’t really know and it’s not easily determined. Lacking measurements and data we have to hope that our potential is higher than where we are so we keep training and adjusting and looking for those new stimuli. But most of us change stimuli in a very narrow range. Meaning we don’t really change it meaningfully so we end up in the same spot. We also resit trying something dramatic because of fear and emotion: e.g. “what if it doesn’t work and I spend a whole season at 3.5 w/kg??? My buddies will kill me and make fun of me!!! I’m not a sucker so I’m sticking to my SST plan because I know it works”!!!

The good old plan indeed does work. It’ll it’ll get you to the same plateau every season. At least it does for me.

I’ve been studying local racers anecdotally to see who has made dramatic changes in race results and fitness. In some cases I’ve gained access to power data. Here is what I’ve made of it and it’s remarkably simple.

a) Any training program is better than just riding. It doesn’t much matter which one you pick. The TR system is excellent and as the software tools get better and better a nice value. But there are also plenty of free plans that get similar results. Those just lack the nice packaging and require more thinking from the rider. I always advise riders to use a good plan like TR or a basic low touch coach (I don’t coach or earn any money so not looking for customers).

b) The next easy breakthroughs are strong guys who got serious about diet and drop 10, 15, 20 pounds. Those dudes really do get faster and this is the easiest gain for most racers. Almost all the weekend warriors I know can lose 5-10 pounds without getting silly. I’ve raced full seasons at 130, 135 and 140 pounds and with roughly same FTP and CP20 my lighter results are best. Going below 130 I lose power and risk illness (my dad was same so we have two data points from two similar physiologies)

c) For time trials core strength matters for holding best position. Guys doing everything else right who add some strength training see small gains. Not 25w FTP jumps but their race times improve as a stronger body races better. This is an easy get much like a and b you should just do them because they are easy.

c) The first Power gain comes from adding a long ride (3-4 hours) each week. This type of ride doesn’t have to be Z1 / Z2 but it’s typically some sort of group ride with varying pace and not a hammer fest. If you are on a typical plan with no long rides and add the 3-4 hour long one you will see improvements. It’s worth the time IMO.

d) The biggest Power gains come from increasing miles. A lot. Usually 100 - 200% The fit guys who were plateaued at 4 w/kg almost always see big gains by going from 8 hours to 16 or 20+ It’s universal and the only conclusion is that riding a lot forces new adaptations that you can’t get in 8-10 hours. We aren’t talking elites here, we’re talking regular Joe’s like most of us in the forum. Riding a lot will help. For reference, this is the difference between hanging on as pack fill in a Cat 3 road race or riding in the break and being a decent cat 2 rider. We’re not talking cat 3 to world tour. For 40km TT we’ll see improvements of 45-90 seconds. So 56 to 54s. That is a big deal when looking at riders who are already very fit in the context of amateur bike racing. This takes 2-3 seasons though, its not one season, didn’t work and quit. It takes time and commitment over years not weeks.

That’s really it guys - this isn’t rocket science!!

So back to 80/20 or 90/10 conversation (finally). The guys pushing this approach are almost certainly correct. 1-2 killer workouts every 7-10 days along with a ton of low intensity riding will show improvements. We are getting too wrapped up in the details of time in zones and all that stuff and I think it boils down to this:

If you can increase your ride time to the 15-20 hour a week range then absolutely go for 80/20. You still do periodization and peaks as the two are not mutually exclusive.

If you are in the 8-10 hour zone your best results will likely come from using that time to do one 3-4 hour ride each week, one long interval session per week taking about 90 minutes (4x8min 105-110%) one hour long “mixerval” type workout with 15 to 60 second efforts. That adds up to roughly 6-7 hours on the bike and three days. Assuming most of us will ride 5-6 days, the remainder should be those Z1/Z2 rides probably 1-2 hours depending on your life. Watch your diet, add in 2-3 core workouts per week (10-15 minutes) and you are going to be about as good as you can be with that amount of time.

*** This is the plan I’ll try to follow for 2019. I’m coming of a serious injury (broken ribs from a mtn bike fall) and have a busy year of work coming up but this is the plan and we’ll see how it goes.

BTW, I don’t buy that SST works long term to help riders achieve their max potential. Its great to build a foundation, but SST won’t build the fastest racer over time. I think, but cannot prove, that over reliance on SST produces a suboptimal adaptation and actually costs you in terms of achieving peak or your potential. But I don’t have data to prove that so just my thinking and personal experience.

Back to 80/20 and achieving potential and breakthroughs. IF you can push that 8-10 hours per week up to 15-20 hours a week you’ll do it by adding almost all Z1/Z2. Else you’ll just implode, get over trained, sick, hurt, etc. But if you can add the time I can almost guarantee improvements. Sometimes dramatic after 2-3 years of building that platform (floor, base, whatever your favorite term).


If you are already doing structured planning and have plateaued for several seasons your biggest easy gets are likely diet and core work.

Second improvement is to move from an SST type plan to a plan with two hard days and one long day. 8-10 hours a week, call it time crunched 80/20 (someone trademark that!)

Biggest improvement, and not possible for the majority is to train on the bike 15-20 hours. You keep the same two hard days and add a ton of long Z1/Z2 riding. I believe this is the crux of the 80/20 debate. If you do this volume and your Z1/2 becomes Z2/3 or 3/4 you will just be over tired all the time and everything will breakdown.

Final thought - There isn’t magic and we’re all looking for magic. Potential determines where you can land. Dedication and attention to details will allow you to tap that potential. Time and using that time wisely matters.

Hope that adds something. Its fun watching what everyone is doing and trying to accomplish with their fitness goals and training approaches.




OK let me respectfully take another crack at this…

-I think (?) we’re defining FTP as your maximum average power for about an hour or a 40K TT. Because you start your ride at rest you get to accumulate that lactate and at the end you can ramp up your power and finish well over LT2. Because of these I think FTP is going to be a little higher than LT2.

-In the velonews podcast they talked about “actually doing an hour of power” and not ramps, 8 min, or 20 min estimations. I did four 40K’s this year and my average watts/normalized watts were 257/260, 260/267, 277/277, and 270/273. After a few days of recovery at the end of the season I did the TR ramp and got an estimated 290 in the TT position. I think for the polarized model, estimations of FTP are going to be high.

-If sweet spot goes up to 95% of “FTP” then 95% of 290 is 276 watts…which is above my 40K power for 3 of 4 races and only a single watt lower than the other race. And if we can agree that FTP is a little higher than LT2 then sweet spot using the ramp FTP test is high intensity…at least in my case.

-95% of my average 40K pace would be 95% of about 265 = 252 watts. OK, now that is a completely different story, I think 100% of us would agree that that is not high intensity and in zone 2 of the 3 zone model.

-Maybe the big question is…how do we determine LT2? If you are using an actual hour effort, sweet spot won’t be over LT2. If you are using ramps, 8 min, or 20 min estimates, the high end of sweet spot may actually be over LT2.


hey Katuska

I agree on the possibility of circular data when it comes to TR, and it is also probably driven by customers who gravitate toward fewer hours anyway.

They do however have data for both approaches, albeit less for POL, whereas I doubt Seiler prescribes and collects data from “sweet spot” type programs.

YMMV indeed :slight_smile:


Read most of your post trying to figure out who you were from that series and then at the end you go and give me a first name which made it way simpler. I occasionally go race that series, but mostly just to make sure my TT routine is set for stage races - definitely not out there hitting every event.

I find it interesting that you think the typical watts/kg peak is around 4 based on 8-10 hours a week of training. Almost everything else in your post (weight loss being a primary gain, any structure being a huge step up for a rider, SSB only taking you so far, etc.) rings true to me - but I race and ride with people all the time who are in the 8-12 hour/week range and are in the upper 4’s or low 5’s. Clearly genetics plays a part - but there are plenty of people who have figured out how to get that number higher (I’m sure you know Patrick Walter from that race series as an easy example) without significantly more volume


Like @mcneese.chad, I often read during low-intensity trainer rides. My usual set up one of these with my e-reader (Amazon Kindle) just perched on top. It stays in place pretty well and works fine. It’s a little harder with the addition of a rocker plate a few months ago but I just bump the text size up a couple notches and it’s usually fine. If I’m on my rollers I usually listen to audiobooks.


With regard to the long rides being hard on the backside, a rocker plate seems to help with that. That was an unexpected side benefit but I seem to have much less problem with numbness and soreness on longer rides since adding the rocker plate to my setup.