Polarized Training, HIIT & Athletic Needs – Stephen Seiler

by | Apr 18, 2017 | Training

Sport Science, Polarized, Training, 80:20, Coaching, Training, Hierarchy of Needs

Sports scientist Stephen Seiler joins us today to talk about Polarized Training, or intensity distribution, as well as a related concept he came up around the ‘Hierarchy of Endurance Training Needs’.

We cover some really interesting and practical information that you can take to your own training patterns today. Regardless of your training the idea that we should have focus and a purpose to our intensity and volume should resonate.

The Show is sponsored by:

HEALTH IQ : Please visit

Don’t forget to check out for show info, other WAP podcasts and to become a Donating member (free bonuses!) Visit W.A.P.

Download on Itunes (subscribe & leave a review Please!) 

Download Android / Stream / Listen online

Download and view on Wide-Angle-Podium Site 


 A researcher in Norway, originally from Texas. Well known for his work on polarized training, or intensity distribution, as well as many topics around adaptations to training, especially in endurance sport. He loves rowing and cycling.


Show Notes 


Book of sports physiology got him into it

Twitter – rowing and Flanders on same day!
   – likes rowing and cycling


Why research rowers/cyclist ? Has done both but availability of subjects. Need enough
    – cycling popular in Norway as is cross-country skiing
     –  questions he looks at training process and generalities and


Elite vs. amateur -> there are differences but also some commonalities
   – elites have time and can train as much as can
    – best athletes train a lot
Amateur have limits on time
BUT -> there is intensity distribution of time And recreational need that almost more! Not limited by NEED to recover like elites. That is the problem (the black hole) medium intensity
 –  => Black hole workouts (training in middle intensities where feels good, ’30min run’ ) LINK to Outside article
 – the most common mistake
 – regression to the mean


80:20 – (polarized)
   – does the concept apply if someone is not very fit, i.e if they can’t run ‘easy’????
   – 2mmol threshold reach before even run if overworked (ie. no aerobic system). See improvement with easy training


Marco Altini case study from HRV4Training data:
  – have  to ‘rework’ ‘reset’ them
  – the time crunch may have to re-distribute time to try and push duration one session a week
   – add goals to the session (efficiency etc) don’t ‘just run’


Media influence and interpretation of training
  – draw hypothesis from observation
 – test on slightly less elite (have access to)
 – tempting to make research readable/ applicable
  – reporters and headlines
Hierarchy of Endurance Needs
hierarchy seiler athletic needs
– Hype of training / quick fixes
 – need to establish basics
 – buying gains,
– the pyramid/hierarchy of endurance needs
      -> inspired by Hype Cycle or Curve (link) that has expectation, dissolution,
 – the basics aren’t sexy/ profitable
 – all about doing the work
  – also similar to Maslow’s Hierarchy


Basics first (volume, HIT, distribution)
Then other stuff (periodization, blocks, altitude, peaking etc)

-> higher elements have risk: low-cost reward (response, sickness, decrease training)

– average person focus low-cost techniques
– eating the cake vs. making the cake
– aerobic conditioning allows fast recovery
*most viewed on research gate


  – xc and rowers cross train due to access, may not be optimal
  – still seek specificity – hilly terrain, use poles, roller skis
  – never too far from key muscle groups
  – runner


Sufferfests –
 – the tendency to regress to mean
 – fitness center etc
 – hard to tell someone to do. 2 hr jog
 – be careful!!


Elites discipline
  – Bjørn Dæhlie famous skier ran slowly but for extended periods
 – “planning the work, and working the plan”
 – not influenced by others (half- wheel etc)


Coolest experiment?
 – alpine skiers o2 consumption,
  – in the field, very neat to challenge in the field
New discoveries with lots of data now ??
-> new era/stage of sports science moving to Big Data … how to synthesize aNd figure out what matters
-> narrow to useful tools
-> can’t underestimate coach’s feel, art of coaching and technology can confirm or sometimes change

Best books – come back to
Gladwell’s books  – Gladwell’s books
Glicks – chaos/butterfly effects in “Making New Science Book” 
– don’t discount older books on reinvent wheel


Our Newsletter

Subscribe to our newsletter to receive a Weekly Dose of Information + Inspiration!

Related Blogs

Subscribe To Our Newsletter

Subscribe To Our Newsletter

A FREE weekly newsletter to keep you up-to-date on all the latest in off-road cycling + endurance sport, with the latest podcasts, articles + intel.

You have Successfully Subscribed!

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This