Polarized Training

Polarized Training the death of zone 3?

I mentioned this term in a previous blog.

A new fan dangled term for an old age training technique perhaps?

Yes. Because it isn’t new – research has just began showing it’s true worth really.

The old hard-easy approach to training gets a little sciency in other words and you guys know how much I love my science.

Recently researchers have been busy comparing different training models and in one particular study they compare two broad approaches to endurance training:

What they refer to as a “polarized” model versus a “threshold” model.


Polarized model

80% low-intensity (proper granny peddle job) 0% medium-intensity (so long sweet spot) 20% high-intensity (hello Vo2 frothenator)

You’re probably thinking some wise guy has just applied the 80/20 principle from that book by Richard Koch!


Threshold model:

57% low-intensity; 40-43% medium-intensity; 0-3% high-intensity. (A little bit of this and a sprinkle of that)

So polarized training is done at either a low intensity or a high intensity, and not much in between.

Current coaching continues to prescribe various forms of middle ground aerobic training such as zone 4, SST and portray it as being the money zone!

The crux of all your problems and the ticket to success!

I’ve been here as an athlete and coach admittedly.

Athletes and many coaches alike seem to believe that zone 3 – 4 or sweet spot yields super powers…

Yes it has a place, but its not fucking magic!

It depends highly on the individual.

There are countless amounts of research to show that there is one outstanding way for a well-trained athlete to continuously improve.

That’s (HIIT) training not zone 3 so spending 5 hours a week may be in-fact a very poor use of your time!

Particularly if you’ve got fuck all of it to give.

So that’s it, wrapped up then yeah?

We should all pack in doing FTP intervals and start alternating long, slow efforts with balls- out efforts!

Well, not exactly.

Most of these studies still show that the athlete spends as considerable amount of time in moderate intensities!

Particularly once the racing kicks off – most guys will spend the vast majority of a race in zone 3 so it’s not exactly all that polarized.

Also these studies are all based on well-trained individuals so it’s not yet apparent how they apply to someone that doesn’t already possess a well-developed aerobic system.

I still think this is a very interesting area and we can take a lot from it.

Personally I don’t think it’s ‘lets completely can the tempo sessions’.

Instead, what I take from it is there’s certainly some benefits we get from really hard frothing at the gob sessions that we can’t replace with higher volumes of that ‘steady pace’.

Take note Anthony Walsh you zone 3 merchant!

If you want to go fast, you have to put the boot down.

I’ve always said it though – do the hard HARD and the easy EASY.

Aaron Buggle

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