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



Yes, it’s quite possible to implement this without any fancy equipment.

I guess my comment was slightly tongue in check - more a reminder that it’s not that expensive if you really wanted to carry out the tests, especially when you think that one of the fancy Garmin computers is £500 and will make you go exactly 0 miles per hour faster.



Has anyone over the last 140 posts questioned if any TR users actually need to worry about THR vs SS vs POL vs ET AL?

Are ANY of us at that high of a performance level and/or at max potential fitness where eking out marginal gains by switching training programs would make a difference?

Sure, none of us want to waste time pursuing less efficient/effective training but most of us probably have a lot more to squeeze out of the training we are currently doing.


Yup, and in the other thread with over 200 posts. We discussed that getting consistent and following ANY plan can work.

But as with anything in this realm, people are different and react to training stress in different ways. Researching and testing different training approaches is worthwhile for a variety of reasons.

Maybe the most relevant example is the fact that Sweet Spot training wasn’t always a thing. People tried and tested to discover that a particular approach could often yield a good return on training time. So we have that as one known option to choose from for our needs.

This interest in POL is similar. Looking to see what can be learned and applied for various needs. I see it as incredibly worthwhile, even if all I learn is that it’s not right for me. Failures tend to offer as much or more reward than successes.

No single approach is appropriate or sufficient for everyone. So being open and willing to look at options makes sense to me; I don’t think a person needs to be elite to use this or other methods.

Changing training stress and approaches is a common way to break through plateaus and work towards new performance improvement.


I think there are other reasons also for discussing various training alternatives. Some people might enjoy or prefer one method over others for several different reasons.

Even if you are 100% convinced that the training program you’ve been doing is the best for you might need a change for a bit. Chad’s experiment for example has given him something to do for a month, whatever he feels about his POL experiment afterward it has served a purpose imho.

I know I like reading these threads, listening to the podcasts etc, it is a nice diversion for me.


And also the same person can react to different training stress at different times in a training cycle and throughout their athletic life/career.

Nothing wrong with trying different stimuli and seeing what happens but I am always a bit reticent to infer from what is working for for somebody else that it will work for me at this moment in time.

Very true. Traditional cycle training was often “little ring 'til spring” and then use early season races to race into form, maybe much closer to a polarised model? What’s old is new again. :grinning:

We are all our own N=1 experiment to a degree. My only thought is that often people don’t stick to a programme long enough to see it work, something that can apply to cycling and many other sports, weightlifting is another common one. It’s sometimes easy to jump from one plan to another based on it being the latest and greatest thing when boring consistency over periods of months and years rather than days and weeks is actually the route to improvement in endurance sports…but that’s not an easy sell!

If you are seeing improvements (in the areas that are important to you and your goals) there’s probably no good reason to change anything. If there is stagnation for a reasonable period of time, that’s when to consider other approaches.


Great expansion to the core points I had in mind, @JulianM.


It is definitely true that there is nothing new under the sun - yet. Lydiard had most of this sorted decades ago. I think for well trained athletes the take homes are two:

  1. Be reminded that hard days need to be hard and easy days need to be easy. That takes attention to details and dedication to not drift toward “just riding”. Most people need a plan to make this workout. Know I drift toward just riding if I don’t map out the year and stay focused.

  2. Reminder that doing the same thing over and over gets you the same results. If you
    have trained well for many seasons and are trying to beat prior outcomes you are probably seeking alternative ways to stimulate and gain adaptations. Call it marginal gains in currently favored terms. Maybe there are bigger than marginal gains to find too. That would be cool. The quest is real and also fun.

What is unfortunately missing from the current 80/20 discussion is data and plans for real people. Age groupers if you will. Looking at elite, world class athletes doesn’t really help me with my plan.

Maybe “we” can do an experiment here? Could be fun, won’t be controlled well or really answer the question in a proper academic way, but to my reading most of the academic physiology papers are short, cross sectional and poorly controlled anyway.

Chad has volunteered to share his training and outcomes. I’m willing to blog / share mine for 2019.

FWIW, my dataset going in is basically having hit the same FTP levels and body weight for last several seasons. Have been training and racing since the late 1970s and am now in my early 50s. Some years have done lactate tests and am even willing to do MLSS type stuff a few times a year as extra data. Every ride except mtn biking has SRm and usually HR data.

For 2019 season I’m coming off broken ribs and just now getting back to real training. Plan is to fully recover in Nov/Dec adding back core and strength training and regenerating my base fitness. Which should not take long since I have 40+ years of serious aerobic base miles. Probably the only advantage of being “old” (LoL Lol LoL)

Coming into Jan/Feb/March will do one of the build plans (Probably 2:1 microcycle using TR sustained power mid volume plan). I’ll continue strength training through this period on top of build. For overall health reasons, not for extracting even last w/kg.

After build am going to 80/20 type structure with one day of 4 x 8 min work, one long day of 3-4 hours and one day of longer FTP intervals (2x20, 1x45 type stuff). The hard days will be done on the TT bike as I’m shooting for 40km PR this year and plan to do 4-5 of those events starting in May going through August. Will have other shorter races in there to compare fitness and results to past seasons. About ten total years in same region and same races each year.

Total time Bike, Core, Weights will come in around 10 hours +/- That’s the time I have to work with.

The null hypothesis is that this program will yield same basic results as prior years. Meaning I’ll max out at a true FTP of about 235w with a CP20 of around 255w. That would be fine but of course hope for better and to get those PRs.

I don’t want to blog every day as adaptations take a while and nobody cares how my Friday Pettit workout tomorrow goes. I hope nobody cares. If you do then stop stalking me!!!

But if enough folks are interested and there are people willing to dedicate a season to this I’m in for posting updates and results as things progress. Someone (Chad…) with good IT skills and knowledge of the forum would need to figure out how to structure the thread so we can find and track results.

Once (if) there is a volunteer set can take it offline to sort the details ?



I’m in…



Does anyone have any experience using sweet spot intervals (defined 88%-92% FTP) as late base period intensity. (as opposed to the core part of the base phase itself, ala TR Sweet Spot plans)? So base rides ((zone2/LT1/AeT)) and as a single weekly workout you would do an hour or so of SS. A possible alternative would be base rides with a single full-on threshold/suprathreshold and/or Vo2max workout throughout base (so what has recently been dubbed “polarized”, what @mcneese.chad is experimenting with).


Back when I was a collegiate runner, we trained with a predominantly Lydiard-based system (as I believe all US colleges would do now). We ran big miles (high end aerobic, below LT1, talk test pace, etc) in the winter with strides and hill sprints thrown in. We were supposed to hit the weight room but I rarely did because I thought I knew it all. Anyway, towards the end of base, we would introduce some “tempo” runs or fartlek work (right at or just under half-marathon pace). I would like to try to mimic this as I found when running that it was a nice precursor to more intense workouts. I find that doing 2-3 Sweet Spot workouts in a single week as base training (even without the additional Vo2 or threshold workout thrown in) over-reaches me…big time. I still believe in the weekly long run/ride as the single most important ride in your plan. I still believe in volume, even if you cannot get as much as you want. Speed work begets speed, but at this point in the year, I’m not willing to compromise building miles because I blow up some interval workout.


Erg 2017 2018 season.pdf (62.7 KB)

Here is my experience from last year during winter erg training for a 2,000m race in February. I followed a reputable interactive training plan which you can generate online at what used to be the Concept 2 UK website. If you can see the pdf, it built on a lot of Sweet Spot work in the early season and focused exclusively on tempo, SS, TR and VO2 max work from mid-plan to the end. I’ve added colour coding. Yellow - aerobic, Orange - tempo, Blue - SS, Green - threshold, Red - VO2. Very little aerobic work after the first few weeks.

On November 7th, after a lot of tempo and SS work, I did a TT test of 2,000 m and pulled a 7:01 (mm:ss) or 299 watts. After this test it was a mix of tempo, SS, TR and VO2. In February at the race I pulled 6:57 (mm:ss) or 307 watts. I felt good for the race and didn’t think I could do much more. The workout plan constantly had me on the edge of burnout. You can see there was minimal improvement from the final two months of hard efforts.

So it seems to me that SS work will get you to a good level fairly quickly, but after that don’t expect too much improvement regardless of how hard you work.

So far this year I have been totally aerobic to this point and I will soon start adding some VO2 to the mix, but only two days a week, everything else will be aerobic with slightly higher volume.


(was this plan for rowing??)

If the majority of what you do is SS then yes, you probably aren’t going to be on a rocket to the moon. This is kind of why TR utilizes SS for base – to get you to a good level fairly quickly and then build on that base.

It seems to me that your plan was missing the hard days. One “AN” session per week isn’t going to cut it for providing improvements. Those intervals also look constructed incorrectly, at least not in a way to best capture the intended adaptations, e.g. 6x1min/5min RI isn’t really going to give you anything except more sweat.



Hi, yes that was a rowing erg training plan. The training plan is free, so I guess you get what you pay for. It seems to be a common thread for most erg plans I have seen and used in the past (ie, the Wolverine plan).

This year I will do much more base aerobic (longer sessions at <75% max HR) and fewer but harder AN workouts. No medium hardness workouts as they seemed to keep me in a constant state of fatigue and don’t appear to add much in the way of performance benefit. So 2 harder AN workouts per week with reduced recovery intervals and come February 2019, we will see what results.


A base of what? Mid-intensity intervals? They’re still intensity. I guess I’m trying to wrap my head around the idea that these mid-to-threshold intervals are considered base training.

(addendum: and yes, those intervals DO get you to a good level fairly quickly…but then what?)


I can’t give you the details, but the essence is that you will see physical adaptation that goes beyond the simple look of the intervals themselves.

This is about driving changes on a physiological level that yield impact in various way, not just the specific range used.

It’s a bit like how long and slow rides lead to changes that help the aerobic system through even the high end, despite the intensity being low.

Training isn’t necessarily a 1:1 relationship of input to output. It’s far more complicated than that.


A base that is focused on aerobic adaptations. That is always the goal of base work. Ssb is hard but is still a lot easier and allows for more recovery than true suprathreshold intensity you’ll do during build and specialty. Click the link i posted and you’ll get a nice breakdown of the different methods.


I dunno. What do you do after you’ve built a base on long & low intensity rides?


You start to introduce progressively higher intensity, generally. Starting (perhaps) with what Coggan/Overton (and now TR) dub “sweet spot” (88%-92% FTP). You should have been doing at least some intensity throughout base. I’m not suggesting pure LSD here.

Anyway, I re-read what I wrote I don’t want to start some silly debate (which would make me look rather foolish). I came to cycling from running where this 80/20 training wasn’t called “80/20 training”. It was just called training. hahahaha…nothing new about it. I understand that Matt Fitzgerald is bringing it to the masses and that’s awesome. I love his books and articles.

But getting volume in for a cyclist is logistically more difficult than a runner. So initially (2 yrs ago), I was open-minded to the “time-crunched intensity over volume” sweet spot interval type base training.

But man, there’s a TON of intensity in those “base” plans. I couldn’t handle it. More and more it just seems like a quick win and then stagnation.


Haven’t read all your posts, so my apologies if you covered this earlier in the thread.

If you’re trying to get away from intensity in the base phase you can either go with traditional base or Sweet Spot Base High Volume (doesn’t go over threshold even once)

You’ll note that the main thing these plans have in common is that they are very time intensive. As you mentioned - volume for cyclists is harder to come by than volume for runners - we need a lot more time. Thus, the intensity work you see mixed into the lower time versions of these plans. It is generally seen as a way to expand your base in a shorter amount of time, but only when in conjunction with the more base focused workouts.

This is far from the only methodology you see around training, and what @mcneese.chad is attempting to test in his lower volume polarized training is whether or not these other methodologies work at low (<10 hours/week) volume. The sweet spot base plans are one way that is fairly well proven to work given the time constraints - other methodologies are also proven at higher volumes, but there isn’t a ton of data around them at lower volumes, particularly at the 4-8 hour/week range.

Basically - if you are only training 4-8 hours a week you have an imposed fitness ceiling regardless of methodology and the sweet spot base plans will do a good job of getting you close to that ceiling. If you are over 8 hours a week and even approaching 12-16 hours/week then there are more physiological concerns you need to take into account around what will work best for you, but you have many more proven options.

This stagnation you are seeing is likely a result of your time constraints, not the training methodology. At some point if you have to proceed you need to invest more time


@trpnhntr . You basically covered–rather eloquently I might add–what I’ve been trying to get at. So thank you. I’m at about 10hrs a week now, so ?right on the cusp?. This is why I’ve been so interested in what @mcneese.chad and others are doing/saying. I’ve started to a similar thing, but instead of doing Vo2max intervals during base (ala Seiler, et al), I was trying to translate the types of stuff we did back in college (running) to my cycling. So you’d do Sweet Spot intervals (we called them “tempo”, but whatever) about once a week (and much later in the base phase).

I’m now considering perhaps doing more intense “intensity” in base but I don’t want to risk my build in volume. So I’m interested in how his experiment turns out. My prediction is that he’ll get a slight FTP bump from the Vo2max work, but that the other physiological adaptations that come from the “high end aerobic” work (~AeT) won’t be realized in 6 weeks, and are more difficult/indirect to measure than FTP. I’m most interested in how he feels subjectively about the low-intensity part of the training.

If nothing else, at least more ppl are starting to consider the entire power curve, not just doing intervals and increasing FTP.


That’s kind of the point driving SSB – it delivers a relatively similar aerobic fitness base that a long and slow traditional base would, but in much less time. However, the way I view it (besides being severely unscientific) is that the effects of a traditional base will be much longer lasting whereas SS will deliver faster yet less concrete adaptations. Think of TB as allowing you to build on season after season and SS needing to be refreshed every season (but not completely washed away!). TB is almost exclusively working on a type 1 muscular level which builds that deep aerobic capacity (think 15-year professionals or that old guy in your club with rock solid legs); SS works on both type 1+2 level, kind of splitting the difference – the type 2 improvements will help raise your performance but at the same time the type 1 work won’t be as deep, nor will the type 2 adaptations be as long lasting. With 80/20 you will be doing exclusively type 1 and exclusively type 2 work, giving full work to each but taking much longer.