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




There have been several mentions of pros who are using the polarized models, as well as people saying that it works with under 10 hours a week; can someone name the pros or provide some amateurs to look at?

Obviously @mcneese.chad is sacrificing his body for science and has done a lot of the work to transcribe the protocols, I’d just like to see more in the sample size :slight_smile:


I have a plan to pull my data into a summary sheet to confirm my zone distribution. That along with some notes may be interesting at least.

Looks like about 10-hour weeks, so right on the bubble. I will try to contrast against rides in the prior month for time and TSS.

I have to get it added, but yesterday’s “long and easy” ride was a killer. Still trying to figure out what really happened and if I screwed up (like I think I did. :wink: )


On the last Scientific Traithlon podcast it has been mentioned that the Norwegean ITU team seems to dominiate at the moment. They train 80/20. However, they do the 20% strictly below below/at threshold. They also had discussions with Seiler on this. Their position is that below/at threshold is more race specific.

In one of the next episodes an interview with the head coach is planned. Perhaps already next week.


@mcneese.chad Thanks!


So to add a bit more fuel to the fire to this topic since I have a moment. Let’s assume that those that support a threshold training model will agree that using any of the sweet spot plans on TR will make you faster.

Let’s take sweet spot base low volume II. Very little sweet spot work and mostly VO2max and threshold work. This is what I am presently doing at the moment and just finished up the fourth week.

I then add ten minutes of extra warmup at the beginning of the scheduled workouts and then add 20-30 min at the end of the workout of either endurance or recovery zone work. I have then simply added a ride on Wednesday of an hour and a half and a 3.5 hour ride on Sunday. I am adding endurance rides where I can and trying to build up more resiliency and aerobic capacity and try to keep to this schedule and will be adding a sixth day (endurance zone 2) of riding during the next block.

I have not purposely tried to be polarized, but essentially when I took a look at WKO4 and looked at time in zones, it is essentially could be defined as polarized. Total time: 9:15min and 522 TSS.

If we assume as I said above, that the sweet spot base low volume II would work on its own for improvement, why wouldn’t this less than 10 hours of “polarized work” also work? Even adding another hour of two of endurance work and it becomes significantly more polarized and still at 10 or 11 hours.

I have included the workouts for the week below, as well as the analysis in WKO4

The only difference was that I switched out leconte for leconte -1 from the regularly scheduled planning.

The breakdown of the bars on the graph (coggans ilevels) from the left to the right are as follows:
30% recovery
47% endurance
(77% of time in zone 1)
5% tempo
1% sweetspot
12% ftp
5% FRC/ftp

  1. Don’t forget that 80/20 or 90/10 is not a requisite at all times. There are times that all of the zones are covered during a season and while zone 2 (polarized model) is mostly devoid of work, there are times of the year where it is most certa8nly used. This varies by sport as well as by coaches and athletes. It’s simply looking back on the workouts and having it “described” as polarized.

  2. simply adding another hour or two would skew this even more towards the “time in zone” - 90/10 area and would still only be 10-11 hours of training time.

Simply trying to illustrate that it indeed may be possible to see gains on a polarized approach of less than 10-12 hours.

Regardless I think some of us get too dogmatic and polarized (pun intended) in our approach to training.

TR staff will continually say that adding extra aerobic base work is beneficial and even in most workouts the text that Chad has placed in spots will tell you that sweet spot work can attenuate most of the advantages of a large aerobic base but can’t completely replace it.

My .02 again


Hi Dave. I’ve seen no studies that show that.


I added this link in my original response. Adding again here.


Hi again.

I’ve read the particular study and noted -in another thread- that the threshold training they seem to have done, was … not threshold.

From the study abstract: “threshold model [7.5 (±2.0 SD) h/wk; 57%, 43%, and 0% training-intensity distribution]”

It may very probably be that I am reading something wrong, but it seems that the non-POL group did not do any training above threshold.

Apologies if I am missing something.


I like what you’ve done here. If truly in base phase and you are building more volume why not swap the Vo2 on Tuesday for SS and save the Vo2 for very late base phase into build phase?


If your question is to see proof that POL works, I think that study showed it does.

If your question is to see proof of POL being better than a SS or Threshold model that includes VO2max work, then no, that study did not show that.


my question is whether POL works for sub 10+ hour week volumes as well as or better than SST+THR+VO2. I emphatically stated that POL works great for athletes who can invest such time.

And that is why I say that I have yet to see studies that show POL being as effective for “time crunched” athletes


I’ve not yet seen any study’s comparing these two approaches head to head. Are you aware of any that show a SS/THR/VOmax approach being better than POL on <10hrs a week?

When I get some time, I’ll take a look and see what I can dig up…


@tezz thanks although I’m not sure what purpose removing VO2 max work would do? I, like many coaches, including Chad, believe that there is a place for VO2 work at all times of the year. It how it’s grown throughout the season that’s also important. Removing it and adding sweet spot work wouldn’t add volume. It would just change the intensity.


On <10h subjects:



take home message, POL group got better at riding 4min intervals, THR group got better riding 60min. Once again, THR rode at tempo, not SST. Still improved 40k time though. POL improved high effort parameters like PPO or time to fatigue@95% PPO. And improved LT1 more.

Second take home message, you improve what you train. I don’t really see how the title of the study is justified.

Specificity! My personal goal, raise high end by Christmas. And that’s why you can call my current training polarized. Still have my reservations with this POL hype.

My last two HIT sessions:


This study keeps popping up :slight_smile:

The THR group actually did 0% of above-threshold work, which is confusing to me as I don’t understand what they are actually comparing POL to.

When it comes to TR there’s plenty of over/under and vo2max in most (if not all) build and specialization programs. If I remember correctly, same goes for Carmichael’s TCTP, and the advice given by Coggan.


Before I start I’ll state that I haven’t fully read the paper but will do when I get the time.

By process of elimination you’ve just identified what they’re making the comparison to: sweetspot base.

The question should be why would you choose to do sweetspot base when the study is clearly stating that polarized training is more effective at increasing all of the measured parameters?

What he’s not clear on in the presentations I’ve seen where he shows graphs (I think it was showing data for cross country skiers) is whether racing time was included.

My guess is that it isn’t.

I’m pretty sure that during the race season there will be a slightly higher percentage of time in Zone 2 and much of the race prep that we all worry about will actually be done in races - when you get to race 3, 4 or 5 races almost every weekend for 4 months, it really takes care of itself.

Certainly an interesting topic and I do wish that there was more accessible data on the subject.

Of course everybody is asking where are the studies showing that polarized is better for time crunched athletes… Where are the studies showing that it isn’t. :wink:



I did a ramp test on 9/20 and received an FTP value of 287. With an average of 200 TSS (lower than normal) over the next 3 weeks I did a 40k TT with a power of 294 average (56:20 finish time), using the same bike/power meter though I did sit up during the ramp test rather than staying in aero.

I always seem to struggle to hold power on the trainer compared to the road so I have started using the ramp test for indoor rides and just use RPE for actual outdoor races. I did not use 294 as my TR FTP as it would make the intervals uncompletable.

Based on this the ramp test seems to be accurate for at least my body.


Yup. Without data, it just becomes a philosophical argument.


Man, you guys make all of us work more (good for challenging biases and honing intellectual honesty) :slight_smile:

Made me hesitate there. I reread the thing (and a bit better), and I beg to differ.

  • There is no such stated objective for the study. In fact, THR is so vaguely defined in this study that it ends up looking a bit like a straw man. AFAIK, there is no standard “THR” approach
  • The 45% athletes spent in Z2 (as defined in POL) when following a THR plan is not equivalent to Sweet Spot time (there is much tempo in POL Z2 if I’m not mistaken).
  • Sweet Spot training programs in TR have minimal tempo (lower Z3 as defined by Coggan). Most of the volume is Sweet Spot, a bit of Over Unders, and the remaining is Z1 / Z2. In fact, Sweet Spot is probably more than 50% (sometimes closer to 65%) of the volume.

Furthermore, the particular study asks (“well trained”) cyclists to de-train for 4 weeks, before starting the POL / THR 6-week training cycles. If I am not mistaken when we de-train the first “layers” of fitness to go are the “top-level” ones, whereas “base” usually degrades at much slower rates. So, it seems logical (albeit not absolute) to me that the de-trained athletes who incorporate above threshold training will “peak” better than the ones who are effectively maintaining or marginally training to increase their FTP.

Another related point is RPE. When you train at higher RPEs you -presumably- can race at higher RPEs. Athletes performing the 40k TT could only see distance completed (not time, not HR, not power), so I would argue that RPE (or sense of effort in general) served as the pacing “instrument” for both groups.

Finally, it seems somewhat logical that 6 weeks including high-intensity sessions (for de-trained athletes) will produce a bigger jump in performance compared to the THR plan described. But this is not a comparison of two truly periodized programs; it just tells us that athletes will see faster improvement if they do “HIIT” instead of doing endurance and tempo.

I am still not convinced that this study shows that POL-lite is better than (or equally good as) a TR sweet spot + build + specialization approach for a periodized program.

Very useful question! I know of no such studies. However both Carmichael in his book (TCTP), TR, and -I think- Fascat Coaching, say and/or imply that the data they have from relevant use-cases show that long-slow rides are less efficient than the “sweet spot” approach. These are three different data-sets, of real world “time-crunched” athletes. On the other hand, it is very possible that all sorts of biases are at play here (i.e. confirmation bias, subliminal resistance to changing one’s training approach, and more).

Truth be told, it seems that we are being asked to trust the “TCTP / Sweet Spot / THR” approach based on what their proponents say they see in their data. I understand there are issues of proprietary corporate advantage, but I it may be time for more transparency.