Polarized Training

Polarized Training

After the explosion around the high-intensity interval training methodology (HIIT), now the focus is on the polarized training methodology.
I will clarify the whole concept behind this methodology and how we can implement its characteristics for endurance training. And how your load distribution happens. I will show how this methodology fits into block training, as well as the behavior of its intensities inside the training session.

Despite the fact that looking only at the proportions of intensity, this concept of polarized training may seem easy but I will show that the reality is not quite like that.
Although the intensity distribution is somewhat disproportionate, it is much easier to understand the concept when we analyze the smallest portion of the training plan, which would be the training session itself.

Different Protocols fo Training

There are several methodologies used to prepare an endurance athlete. Among them, concepts of  sweetspot training, high-intensity interval traingin and polarized training are the best known and explored by triathletes.

Sweet Spot Training

High-Intensity Interval Training

Polarized Training

Characteristics of Polarized Training

We need to understand a little about the physiology of exercise, to know that the high-intensity stimulus will always be accompanied by long recoveries.

This is because when we demand high intensity, we stimulate more of our nervous system. And this neuromuscular activity requires a longer recovery time for us to execute the next stimulus.

Therefore, taking as an example one of our training sessions, we were able to observe that although the session was created with the objective of high-intensity stimulus, in the general context it had a higher proportion of low intensity in its classification.

In the next example, we note even more the proportion of polarized training. But this is only possible when training sessions are created in a structured way, in which we can determine what intensity we want for each stimulus. In this case, we use the TrainingPeaks platform for all of our training.

Of course, first of all, we need to identify in the athlete, their intensity zones for each modality. This is what we will see next.

Intensity Zones for Polarized Training

Another aspect that can raise doubts is in relation to which intensity zone to follow in order to know if we are using the guidelines of polarized training correctly. 

Athletes normally use 05 intensity zones for training intensities. And for each modality, there are different protocols and different percentages for determining these zones. Fortunately, the TrainingPeaks platform also facilitates this process. But it is necessary that your coach gets involved in this aspect, because it requires technical knowledge for that, ok!

However, to follow the concept of polarized training, these zones are simplified in up to 3 divisions.
In the following examples, I will really focus on only 02 zones: the low-intensity zone, which will also include moderate intensity, and the high-intensity zone.

Swimming Zones according Polarized Training

Swimming is always a special case when it comes to intensity. Because we deal with changes in the center of gravity, fluctuation. And that makes it very difficult when it comes to swimming easy!
But, following Joe Friel’s protocol, I ended up excluding the first two zones, which, in my view, are extremely slow.

Cycling Zones according Polarized Training

In cycling, polarized training fits perfectly. Especially when we observe competitions like Tour de France, in which we can analyze the escapes of the athletes during the race. And each escape is an acceleration that requires a high energy cost. In the next topic, I will comment on what my mentor Joe Friel calls “matches burn”. And how do we know how many accelerations we still have in a race.

Running Zones according Polarized Training

In the running leg is where I see the greatest difficulty. Because most athletes are so used to running in the so-called “sweet spot”, that is, just below their anaerobic threshold, they end up losing the ability to run easily. And competitions like Ironman, demand that the athlete has this slow gear. Especially when they exceed their limit in the cycling stage.
 The concept of polarized training also fits very well here.
For the athlete who knows how to fit his small accelerations within his low-intensity zone, he will not only be mastering his tactical skills but will also be traveling through a safe area with infinite possibilities for his training.


Certainly, this concept of training, widely disseminated by the respected Dr. Stephen Seiler, must be fitted into an appropriate training methodology. In our work with athletes around the world, I was able to fit polarized training perfectly into my block system for training both marathons, triathlons and Ironman® races.
To find out more, search for our training plans on the TrainingPeaks platform and join the Commandos legion.


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