Nerd Lab: Eccentric Damage and a Heated Polarized Debate

NERD LAB! Our resident physiologists Rob Pickels and Trevor Connor nerd out and dive deep into new scientific research and debates. In this episode: Is cycling explosive and eccentric? Academics take on Dr. Seiler.

Fast Talk Episode 210 Nerd Lab

Exercise physiologists and resident nerds Rob Pickels and Coach Trevor Connor continue their discussion of new scientific research in sport science. While these nerdy discussions may not apply directly to your weekly training plan, understanding the questions that have been asked by physiology researchers can give you context about what is known and knowable by science as it relates to human performance. 

Hungry for more Nerd Lab? Check out Fast Talk Episode 188: FTP, VO2max, and Sprints within LSD.

Comparing Muscle Damage in Cycling, Volleyball, and Basketball 

The first of our studies looked at muscle damage in three different sports. We consider volleyball and basketball, both explosive sports with a highly eccentric activity, and cycling, an endurance sport considered to have little-to-no eccentric action. Muscle damage was measured across the disciplines both during the off-season and in competition.

We nerd out on the authors’ novel claim that during competition, cycling actually is an eccentric sport on level with basketball and volleyball in terms of muscle damage.  

The Polarized Training Debate 

The journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise recently invited two separate teams to write position papers on why polarized training is or is not optimal for endurance athletes. Not surprisingly, a team led by Dr. Carl Foster and Dr. Stephen Seiler were invited to defend the polarized approach. But, taking a strong stance against it was the team led by Mark Burnley and Andrew Jones. They took a hard stance and the debate got heated.

We dive into the arguments and weigh in on their merits.  

References

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BILLAT, V. L., DEMARLE, A., SLAWINSKI, J., PAIVA, M., & KORALSZTEIN, J.-P. (2001). Physical and training characteristics of top-class marathon runners. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 33(12), 2089–2097. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1097/00005768-200112000-00018 

Burnley, M., Bearden, S. E., & Jones, A. M. (2022). Polarized Training is Not Optimal for Endurance Athletes. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, Publish Ahead of Print. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1249/mss.0000000000002869 

Campos, Y., Casado, A., Vieira, J. G., Guimarães, M., Sant’Ana, L., Leitão, L., … Domínguez, R. (2022). Training-intensity Distribution on Middle- and Long-distance Runners: A Systematic Review. International Journal of Sports Medicine, 43(04), 305–316. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1055/a-1559-3623 

Córdova-Martínez, A., Caballero-García, A., Bello, H. J., Perez-Valdecantos, D., & Roche, E. (2022). Effects of Eccentric vs. Concentric Sports on Blood Muscular Damage Markers in Male Professional Players. Biology, 11(3), 343. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.3390/biology11030343 

ESTEVE-LANAO, J., JUAN, A. F. S., EARNEST, C. P., FOSTER, C., & LUCIA, A. (2005). How Do Endurance Runners Actually Train? Relationship with Competition Performance. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 37(3), 496–504. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1249/01.mss.0000155393.78744.86 

Esteve-Lanao, J., Moreno-Pérez, D., Cardona, C. A., Larumbe-Zabala, E., Muñoz, I., Sellés, S., & Cejuela, R. (2017). Is Marathon Training Harder than the Ironman Training? An ECO-method Comparison. Frontiers in Physiology, 8, 298. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.3389/fphys.2017.00298 

Filipas, L., Bonato, M., Gallo, G., & Codella, R. (2022). Effects of 16 weeks of pyramidal and polarized training intensity distributions in well‐trained endurance runners. Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports, 32(3), 498–511. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1111/sms.14101 

Foster, C., Casado, A., Esteve-Lanao, J., Haugen, T., & Seiler, S. (2022). Polarized Training is Optimal for Endurance Athletes. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, Publish Ahead of Print. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1249/mss.0000000000002871 

Hebisz, P., & Hebisz, R. (2021). The Effect of Polarized Training (SIT, HIIT, and ET) on Muscle Thickness and Anaerobic Power in Trained Cyclists. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 18(12), 6547. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph18126547 

Henritze, J., Weltman, A., Schurrer, R. L., & Barlow, K. (1985). Effects of training at and above the lactate threshold on the lactate threshold and maximal oxygen uptake. European Journal of Applied Physiology and Occupational Physiology, 54(1), 84–88. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1007/bf00426304 

Hydren, J. R., & Cohen, B. S. (2015). Current Scientific Evidence for a Polarized Cardiovascular Endurance Training Model. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 29(12), 3523–3530. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1519/jsc.0000000000001197 

Kenneally, M., Casado, A., Gomez-Ezeiza, J., & Santos-Concejero, J. (2020). Training intensity distribution analysis by race pace vs. physiological approach in world-class middle- and long-distance runners. European Journal of Sport Science, 21(6), 1–23. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1080/17461391.2020.1773934 

Manzi, V., Bovenzi, A., Castagna, C., Salimei, P. S., Volterrani, M., & Iellamo, F. (2015). Training-Load Distribution in Endurance Runners: Objective Versus Subjective Assessment. International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance, 10(8), 1023–1028. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1123/ijspp.2014-0557 

Muñoz, I., Seiler, S., Bautista, J., España, J., Larumbe, E., & Esteve-Lanao, J. (2014). Does Polarized Training Improve Performance in Recreational Runners? International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance, 9(2), 265–272. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1123/ijspp.2012-0350 

Neal, C. M., Hunter, A. M., Brennan, L., O’Sullivan, A., Hamilton, D. L., DeVito, G., & Galloway, S. D. R. (2013). Six weeks of a polarized training-intensity distribution leads to greater physiological and performance adaptations than a threshold model in trained cyclists. Journal of Applied Physiology, 114(4), 461–471. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1152/japplphysiol.00652.2012 

Orie, J., Hofman, N., Koning, J. J. de, & Foster, C. (2014). Thirty-eight years of training distribution in Olympic speed skaters. International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance, 9(1), 93–9. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1123/ijspp.2013-0427 

Pérez, A., Ramos-Campo, D. J., Freitas, T. T., Rubio-Arias, J. Á., Marín-Cascales, E., & Alcaraz, P. E. (2018). Effect of two different intensity distribution training programmes on aerobic and body composition variables in ultra-endurance runners. European Journal of Sport Science, 19(5), 1–9. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1080/17461391.2018.1539124 

Sjödin, B., Jacobs, I., & Svedenhag, J. (1982). Changes in onset of blood lactate accumulation (OBLA) and muscle enzymes after training at OBLA. European Journal of Applied Physiology and Occupational Physiology, 49(1), 45–57. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1007/bf00428962 

Stöggl, T. L., & Sperlich, B. (2015). The training intensity distribution among well-trained and elite endurance athletes. Frontiers in Physiology, 6, 295. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.3389/fphys.2015.00295 

Stöggl, T., & Sperlich, B. (2014). Polarized training has greater impact on key endurance variables than threshold, high intensity, or high volume training. Frontiers in Physiology, 5, 33. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.3389/fphys.2014.00033 

Treff, G., Winkert, K., Sareban, M., Steinacker, J. M., Becker, M., & Sperlich, B. (2017). Eleven-Week Preparation Involving Polarized Intensity Distribution Is Not Superior to Pyramidal Distribution in National Elite Rowers. Frontiers in Physiology, 8, 515. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.3389/fphys.2017.00515 

Treff, G., Winkert, K., Sareban, M., Steinacker, J. M., & Sperlich, B. (2019). The Polarization-Index: A Simple Calculation to Distinguish Polarized From Non-polarized Training Intensity Distributions. Frontiers in Physiology, 10, 707. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.3389/fphys.2019.00707 

  

Episode Transcript

Trevor Connor 0:04
Hello and Welcome to Fast Talk, your source for the science of endurance performance. I’m your host, Trevor Connor here with my regular co host Rob Pickles. Today we’re jumping into something that Rob and I both love. And this is actually what brought Rob onto the show in the first place. Our nerd lab episodes where we dive deep into a few recently published studies in exercise science. Today’s episode, we start with one on muscle damage in three sports, cycling, volleyball and basketball. Normally, this would be our controversial paper, but in today’s episode, it’s just the appetizer, the bulk of our conversations about two papers that are going to lead me to say something I never thought I’d say about published scientific papers. It gets spicy Robin I saw two papers of polarized in the title and thought, hey, they’d be fun to cover. But then we read them we realized we had stepped right into the middle of a controversy. A team led by Dr. Mark Burnley challenged the very core of the polarized training model. And a team led by Dr. Carl foster that included Dr. Seiler was asked to write a response. It gets heated it gets argumentative and in this episode Robin I try to address the main arguments. And I do have to say my apologies to Dr. Burnley. At some point during this episode, I started calling him Dr. Burly and didn’t even know it by my apologies. But with that, get ready for a heated nerd lab and let’s make it fast.

Jim Miller 1:29
Hi, this is Jim Miller. I’m chief of sport performance at USA Cycling. It’s been a dream of mine to do more and help develop USA Cycling coaches. Our partnership with fast talk labs means any current licensed USA Cycling coach enjoy and fast talk labs for free and get the craft of coaching with Joe Friel, a whole library of sports science content and networking opportunities with other experienced coaches. The craft of coaching with Joe Friel is an awesome opportunity for coaches to become better, more successful and happier. Learn more at fasttalklabs.com.

Trevor Connor 1:59
Well, Rob, it’s just you and I, and I think we’re even though we call this the Nerd Lab, and this is about studies. I think we’re in for a spicy one today.

Rob Pickels 2:08
I think we are at some point, Trevor, I want us to almost be in the Thunderdome. Right. We’re we’re battling each other. The problem is oftentimes we end up agreeing. And so I think you and I are going to be on the same page for a lot of this today. And that’s a little contrary, because we’re talking about some contrarian studies. So yeah, well,

Trevor Connor 2:24
there’s some fighting actually going on in these studies. So we’re not avoiding it today. And I will tell you, I watched 300 Before I went to bed last night, well, I am ready to go. Here we go. This is fast labs. Okay, so normally, I would say this first study would be our controversial discussion for this episode. But wait till we get to the next phase. So this will be our nice and sort of friendly conversation. We have a study here called the effects of eccentric versus concentric sports, on blood muscular damage markers in male professional players. So the lead author is Alfredo Cordova Martinez. And this is published in the Journal of biology and I believe, yes, it was 2002, February of 2022. Brand new. So it is a brand new study. Don’t hate the player hate the game. Yeah. So Rob, you want to start us out by given the quick summary of what they had to say.

Rob Pickels 3:31
Yeah, this was an interesting study that looked at some blood markers of muscle damage, namely creatine kinase. They also talk about a s t and a Lt. Some other proteins that can be found more or less based on muscular damage, but also a bit in the liver. They also reported on testosterone and cortisol in a few other markers. But essentially, they tried to pick three different activities that would represent eccentric and concentric muscle contractions. And so when essentra contraction is when the muscle is firing, but it’s also lengthening, think about the downward movement during a squat. Concentric, on the other hand, is when a muscle is firing, and it’s shortening, right. And so the upward movement on a squat. So the three sports, they picked cycling, which is mostly concentric, we do a lot of that shortening there, but then also volleyball and basketball, which have a lot more jumping in them, and therefore are a bit more indicative of that eccentric sort of loading. Basically, they compared a training period versus a competition period. And they looked at all of these markers of muscle damage. And I thought the results were actually both interesting, but also something that we would expect. So during the training, the basketball players and the volleyball players, they had relatively high markers of muscle damage, which makes sense they’re they’re always jumping. They’re always doing squats, they might even be doing some strength training in there. He said trigger activity is very damaging exactly what We all know that fundamentally and the cyclist, as we would expect, had relatively low levels of muscle damage during the training phase. But in competition, the cyclists suddenly had a whole boatload of muscle damage. And, Trevor, I think that we both agree on part of the reason why that is, what is it?

Trevor Connor 5:19
I think you intentionally left out something that is an important part of the study, which was these were very high level cyclists and the competition period. This wasn’t a Saturday race. This was the Volta dishpan. Yeah, sure was they are racing 46 hours a day, in very grueling racing. And to some degree does have to say when you’re doing something that hard, it’s going to be damaging. But I think where you want to go with this is their conclusion in the study for the increased muscle damage. And I think this is an interesting point that they make is to say, cycling is considered a concentric sport, there’s no E centric movement, so we don’t get that muscle damage. Their point is in a controlled setting, like a lab, that might be true. But in a competitive setting, where you’re getting out of the saddle and jumping and attacking and hitting hard hills, you’re actually going to have a fair amount of eccentric damage. So their conclusion was that competition and that base phase in basketball and volleyball, you kind of see about the same amount of damage, because there is a centric movement. And it’s just not that different. In cyclists, you see this big polarization, because bass pit training is very controlled, and there’s no eccentric activity. But in that competition, boy, you’re doing a whole lot of eccentric movement, even on the bike, and you’re going to get that damage. But Rob, I disagree that look, I don’t agree with this,

Rob Pickels 6:50
I got I got my eyebrow raised on this one, hey, there’s no doubt that there is some eccentric in cycling, right, we know that maybe when you’re standing in the beginning of the pedal phase, your center of gravity is probably coming down toward the bike, but your knee isn’t quite extending yet, there is a little bit of eccentric loading there. Same sort of thing at the hip, trying to control your knee as it dies inward, a little bit of eccentric there as well. And maybe some other small contributions. But they’re small contributions. They are never ever, ever, ever, ever going to amount to the damage that you get with jumping and loading, like you are in weightlifting, or basketball or volleyball, really, and they mentioned this point in the article. So I can’t believe they don’t talk about this more. Really, what’s happening in my opinion with the Vuelta is the dramatic increase in volume, the decrease in the rest time, there are so many different factors that are going to lead to this, and you take a little bit of damage and you multiply it by a million repetitions, of course, you’re going to end up with a lot of damage at the end of that. So to be reductionist, and that’s a term we’re going to use more than once today to be reductionist down to the fact that, oh, they’re working harder and competition. So there’s more eccentric contraction, so there’s more markers of muscle damage, it does not seem to follow a lot of the research that they’re citing in their own paper, you know, so for me, I get is really interesting that cyclists are showing these crazy markers of muscle damage. But these cyclists are doing a lot of training, maybe that’s what we need to be thinking about is more applicable to the everyday rider, right? Nobody, aside from a handful of people are doing these vuelta, or these grantor level events. And so I don’t necessarily think that we need to be concerned with muscle damage quite as much as you do with basketball. Now, we did a whole episode on this. We do know that it happens. We do know that those markers are important. But I think to say that cycling is more damaging inherently, without considering the volume. I think that’s too simple.

Trevor Connor 8:55
No, I agree with you on that point. And look, I think we need to quickly explain the physiology here. The reason he centric motions are damaging to muscles is because you have these actin myosin chains that are being pulled tight because they are contracted while the muscle is lengthening. And if you do that enough, with enough force, same sort of thing, you can cause that damage to the muscle tissue.

Rob Pickels 9:20
Yeah, similar to you, Trevor, if I explained it in my way, I think of cars as well going up and down hills. But in my scenario, if let’s say there’s a car parked on a hill, and you have one person behind it, trying to push that car up the hill, that one person is not strong enough. And so what happens the car moves down the hill, even though that person is pushing as hard as they can. Maybe even if you have two people, right? It’s going to go down the hill a little bit slower because there’s more force, but there’s not enough people or muscle fibers in this case, to hold that car in place. Now, you put three people behind, and suddenly there’s enough people to hold that Car in plays pushing as hard as they can, because the muscle fiber can only contract 100%. Our bodies increase our amount of force by recruiting more muscle fibers. And so let’s put four people behind the car, suddenly, the car slowly goes uphill, that’s like, slowly lifting up that barbell, and put 10 people behind the car, and suddenly it’s running up the hill without any issue. So when you’re lowering a weight down, the body uses too few fibers, not enough fibers to actually hold that force and they get pulled in, they get lengthened and they get damaged. That’s why we see this, we see some operating in the membrane, we see some protein that’s leaking out from that. And that’s what we can end up measuring in the blood with the creatine kinase and these other markers of muscle damage.

Trevor Connor 10:48
I think that’s a really apt analogy, because if you are pushing a three ton car while it is running down a hill, you are going to get run over and there’s going to be substantial muscle damage, and you’re going to be sore. Yes, very sore.

Rob Pickels 11:01
You know, the other side of it, too, Trevor, is you started to mention with a low glycogen state, inherently we know that that leads to increase cortisol response, you have athletes do the exact same workout two different days one in a well fed one in a carbohydrate depleted state. And you see these increases in muscle damage, these increases in stress hormones, even just from that low glycogen state in itself. Again, this sort of harks back to a lot of what we talked about with Dr. Sen. Milan a couple weeks ago.

Trevor Connor 11:30
Yeah, that’s actually what I found. The most interesting about this study was us actually saw in the basketball and volleyball players, their cortisol levels went down during the competition phase, because they felt they had sufficient recovery. Yep, it was in the cyclist that you saw the cortisol go up in that second phase when they’re in competition, which you’d expect there in the Volta. But you’re right, it goes right back to what Dr. Sol Milan was talking about, which is cortisol is is catabolic, you’re breaking down your body.

Rob Pickels 11:57
Sure. So Trevor, in your opinion, how do we make this study better? Or how do we think of a study that might augment this one to increase our knowledge? The question I

Trevor Connor 12:07
was left with is you have a really unique scenario here when they are actually dealing with cyclists at the Volta. So even though how long was the that second phase, the competition for three weeks? Yep. So you can say there’s a long period of time. I mean, I think with the volleyball and basketball players, you’re going to see something that’s a little more generally applicable, because they don’t compete every single day in those sports even at the highest levels.

Rob Pickels 12:35
Yeah, looking at this right now, it says the competition period corresponded to days of high demanding performance combined with rusting and training days, right? Like, are you kidding me like that is nothing in comparison to what the cyclists want, right.

Trevor Connor 12:49
So I would love to see this study conducted with cyclists who are doing something a little more applicable to everybody, like maybe just racing on the weekends. You know, I’d love to see three weeks of are, you know, if you want to apply it to a more recreational level athlete, like a Tuesday night training, raise Saturday race, and then regular training, and see if you see similar effects to the with muscle damage, and with cortisol,

Rob Pickels 13:15
I think that that’s one way to do it. But I think I’m also a little more sadistic than you are, Trevor. And what I would love to see is the basketball and the volleyball players going through their competition, just like the cyclists did. Let’s get 456 hour basketball games every day of the week for three weeks in a row like the Walt is Yeah, that’s really cool. Let’s just see what happens.

Trevor Connor 13:37
I’m not sure the knees could handle that.

Rob Pickels 13:40
If they were all trained. Yes. It’d be interesting

Trevor Connor 13:43
to see. But yeah, I mean, I thought they had interesting things in this study. But to be able to take this study and apply it to everyday cyclists, there isn’t much that you can grab.

Rob Pickels 13:55
I would agree, definitely some confounding variables in this, but it does reinforce the basics of physiology. Eccentric is going to be more damaging than concentric. And the volume or the duration of activity is also going to have a very, very big influence on that muscle damage.

Trevor Connor 14:12
And, to me, continuing with that the big take home as you can get muscle tear into muscle damage in cyclists.

Rob Pickels 14:19
That’s a great reminder.

Trevor Connor 14:20
Hey, all right, Rob. That was our let’s call that our appetizer. Are you ready for the big one here for the main course, this is the main course boy, this is gonna be fun. Let’s do it. So when we do these nerd labs in Robin, I go and look at what’s the newest research out look at what kind of seems appealing. I mean, there’s a bit of selfishness here. I want to stay on top of the research. I don’t always have time with work. So it’s an excuse to read some recent studies and feel like I’m doing my work here. So I saw these studies that were just published about polarized training went Oh, that’d be fun. You know, we love to talk about polarized training here. So I downloaded them. We put them on our list and then Over the weekend, you and I both read them. And I think my response was, oh, boy, we have stepped in it.

Rob Pickels 15:08
The text messages that started going back and forth were were pretty funny. But I think we’re going to have fun with this. I think that we’re going to have great messages coming out of it. I’m going to try to stay objective. I’m going to try to be a scientist. Let’s see if we can do that.

Trevor Connor 15:23
Well, it’s gonna be interesting because I mean, to give you the context, it’s two studies one was published by so the lead author was Mark Burnley. But probably the more recognized name here is Dr. Andrew Jones out of Exeter, is a well known physiologist and researcher. And they published a paper called polarized training is not optimal for endurance athletes. And the journal basically asked for a response. And there’s some back and forth in these publications from Dr. Seiler steam. So the lead author is Carl foster with Dr. Seiler wrote some of those original research papers on polarized training. And so their paper is called polarized training is optimal for endurance athletes. So both of them wrote their position statements, and then had an opportunity to respond to one another. And just to give you an idea of where this goes, remember, this is a scientific journal. So there there is decorum, that is expected. And usually things any sort of criticism is kept pretty muted, pretty muted. So I read the one and the first sentence is a so called and then in quotes polarized endurance training program in the science world, that’s like slapping somebody in the face.

Rob Pickels 16:43
It certainly is, you know, in language definitely set the two of these studies apart from me, you know, just so listeners know, Trevor and I are going to refer to the studies by their first author foster in Burnley. It’s only because they’re the first people listed. Don’t take this as any commentary on people or attribution to a single person, for what it’s worth. But um, yeah, you know, reading, reading through here, I found both of these papers, you know, to be really interesting. And I think, you know, Trevor knows, I hope that everybody knows, I love challenges. I think the challenges are great, right? Because they either reinforce your belief as you work through them, or they show you something is different. And so the debate that is occurring, I think, is actually a very, very good thing for the scientific community.

Trevor Connor 17:30
No, I agree, these debates need to happen. And that’s science, always remember is always theory, in science, there really is no such thing as a fact, there is just what is the accepted theory at the time. And the reason it is always theory and not fact is so that things can always be challenged? So is this is the best theory we have now. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t going to be a better theory that comes along.

Rob Pickels 17:54
Ultimately, we are eliminating the null hypothesis, right? In our research design, we’re not necessarily proving something is true, we’re proving something else isn’t true, right. The alternative,

Trevor Connor 18:06
and that’s quick tangent. What kills me in the political arena is you’ll see politicians that will quote scientists and go Well, these scientists say this is not a fact. Therefore, it’s not true. And you go, any good scientist is never going to say anything as a fact. Correct? Because that science, I agree. So it gets misquoted a bit. So yeah, challenging is really good. I have to say, I don’t think I have in a while seen a back and forth that was

Rob Pickels 18:35
this heated and deliberate? Yes, sometimes I think that you can see in literature, things that are maybe a little bit more veiled, maybe you see something you disagree with. And so it prompts you or spurs you to conduct some research or or write a paper. These are specifically in contrary to each other. But what I want to start with is reading them as a third party, I think that they actually agreed quite a bit, Trevor, where are they agreeing if we start that as a foundation,

Trevor Connor 19:03
so I think we need to start by just doing a quick refresher course that when you are talking about polariser pyramidal training, this is based on that three zone model. So we have two thresholds, we have that lower threshold, the aerobic threshold, which is pretty low intensity, it’s that point where you start to see those lactates kick up from baseline from baseline, then you have what most endurance athletes are very familiar with, which is that upper threshold and there’s a lot of names for it VT one, lactate threshold, anaerobic threshold, MLSs, LT to LA and we can just keep going critical powers in that area. And that’s important because both of these papers actually point out that these all get used interchangeably, when in fact, they all actually are slightly different points, different intensities. So zone one is below that aerobic threshold. Zone two is between the aerobic and the anaerobic threshold. And then zone three is above. And polarized training basically says about 80% of your training should be in that zone one, and then about 15% to be zone three, and then you don’t spend a lot of time in zone two that’s about 5% pyramidal is just slightly different. So still around 80%, low intensity, but then pyramidal basically says of that remaining 20%, you’re going to spend more time in zone two than in zone three. And it’s

Rob Pickels 20:29
important to bring this up because obviously on the foster in the Siler paper, they’re leaning toward the polarize based on the title, but when you read through the Burnley paper, they’re relying a little bit more on pyramidal, which is why the definitions of the two right now are very important.

Trevor Connor 20:45
And so what the Burnley paper argues is that a they feel pyramidal is more effective for athletes. And I actually think they have points take it a step further and go, we actually think the polarizer is not optimal for athletes. And actually, there’s multiple other including threshold training that are better with

Rob Pickels 21:03
threshold training, be a bulk of your exercises,

Trevor Connor 21:07
don’t get into this, but I do feel in the paper, they sometimes go back and forth interchangeably between pyramidal and threshold training. They’re not the same threshold training says you should be doing 40% Possibly more of your time in Zone Two, much less than zone one and then probably 10 ish 15% in zone three. But in the Burnley paper, they’re basically saying a we think pyramidal is better for endurance athletes. And they also say that they feel that in the original papers by Foster and Siler, they actually got it wrong. And top endurance athletes are not doing polarized training, they are doing pyramidal training.

Rob Pickels 21:48
Yeah. So you know, similarities between the two papers, I think both of them are agreeing that that 80% low intensity is worthwhile, right. And so what we’re really talking about is a disagreement and how exactly the 20%, where an athlete is going hard, ought to be spent. The other thing that there’s a lot of agreement on again, is that they’re using relatively the same zone. So the very least the foundation of this. So really

Trevor Connor 22:15
the the key differentiating point here, I think, between the two studies is Burley is making the argument that the pyramidal approach is superior to polarized. And he also goes further to say that actually, most athletes are using a pyramidal approach, not a polarized. So he basically goes back to the observational studies by Dr. Seiler and points out, no, I think you got it wrong. And that actually you do the proper analysis of these studies. And everybody was using a pyramidal approach. We’re going to get to that in a minute, because that brings up some measurement questions, I think we have a long conversation there. But this is one of their arguments. And they cited some studies for this. But the foster group did reply to this or respond to that. And I thought they were very gracious and their response, congratulated the burly team for the paper, and then went on to say, we agree with a lot of what you’re saying. And we think that both polarized and pyramidal have their place, they’re very similar, most of the principles are the same, particularly that most of your time being low intensity. And it’s really just a differentiation between a few percentage. And they say, We think for some events, and for some sports, pyramidal can be more appropriate than polarized. What I found very interesting in their response was they then went on to say, and again, being very gracious. In observational studies, you tended to see polarized being favored. But in experimental studies, you’re seeing pyramidal be favored. And I think that’s quite appropriate. Whenever you have a novel idea, such as this polarized training model. Normally, you start with observational, the scientists or somebody sees something and says, Let’s report on this. Then once you have the observation, you then do the experimentation. So Dr. siloes, original papers were very observational. Here’s what I see the top pros doing in that favor the polarized but he’s his team is now basically saying, Yeah, pyramidal is shown to be as beneficial or potentially more beneficial in cases, when you look at the experimental studies, mentors, and I found very few studies that compare polarized to pyramidal because there is such a similarity, plenty that show the polarized was favorable to threshold

Rob Pickels 24:31
or to pure low intensity are the other things you see in the research. Right.

Trevor Connor 24:35
And I think that’s really important, because Burley actually does say in the paper first says that he thinks pyramidal is superior to polarize, but then continues the statement and says that actually, he thinks the polarize is generally inferior, and says that there’s even advantages to the threshold. So I think we’re seeing agreement between these two people, these two teams on the the polarized versus pyramidal. I do think only barely goes a step too far to also the claim that threshold shows superiority to depolarize. And I don’t think that matches up with the research despite his claims. And there’s one study that I just brought up now that that shows that next one does polarized training improve performance in recreational runners. This one actually did show a benefit, again, of polarized to the threshold training. Again, there’s a study by stilgoe from 2014. Polarized training has a greater impact on key endurance variables than threshold high intensity or high volume training. The last thing I just want to bring up here, there was a really good review that was done by Stoeckel and spear Lich. So this is a 2015 2015 review. And I’m actually really surprised that Burley’s team didn’t cite this because they did take a whole bunch of studies do the training distribution of these top level athletes across multiple sports and found that there was a mix of both pyramidal and polarized, which again, one of the main points of the burly paper is that nobody’s using polarized but here’s a paper that actually shows no, it’s actually fairly evenly split. And I found some of their conclusions. Quite interesting. What they said his most retrospective studies reported a pyramidal training intensity distribution, with extensive low intensity, less time in zone two and very little time spent in zone three. But they go on to say the findings from various prospective studies, less than five months training and invention suggests that a polarized intensity distribution results in superior training and performance responses compared to a low intensity model, a threshold training model, in some instances has been certainly phases of the season. However, experimental studies lasting six weeks to five months demonstrate superior sponsors to polarize training, intensity distribution, especially when compared again, with the threshold and the low intensity models.

Rob Pickels 26:56
Yeah, I think it’s really interesting that we have a totally separate group. Right. And what’s interesting about this Stoeckel in Spurlock paper is that they both have done experimental studies themselves. But then they’ve also done this meta analysis that’s looking at observational and experimental studies. And I think that they did a great job as sort of a neutral party, in assessing things objectively, in in that what they’re finding is yeah, there are research on both of these things. And in a lot of instances polarized is a very worthwhile training. But I don’t think that anybody is disagreeing and saying, Hey, you’re not going to get some improvement with different training modalities or with different training methodologies. You know, I

Trevor Connor 27:39
jumped around from various quotes in the study. So I kind of butcher that but basically, the gist of their conclusions were that they are seeing a little more pyramidal type training in endurance athletes. But basically what they’re seeing is athletes that are when you see the shift of the polarized when you’re doing the prospective studies looking at the polarized training, they are seen some benefits to that shift, and we’ll cover that a little more in a minute.

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Trevor Connor 28:11
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Rob Pickels 28:51
So, Trevor, you know, hearing your summary hearing my own sort of independent reading of all of this, it sounds like there’s a lot of appointments where the two groups are agreeing with each other. Where are we disagreeing in this polarized and pyramidal debate.

Trevor Connor 29:05
I also just want to quickly point out that again, being quite gracious in the foster paper, they pointed out that the polarized and pyramidal are very close cousins. They certainly are. So yeah, it’s surprising that this God is contentious as it did, but you know, there were a couple things that I at least noticed that I wanted to bring about the papers. One is I did, I don’t know if this was intentional, accidental or whatever. But it did seem like the burly paper was often treating that threshold training and pyramidal as the same thing, and jumping back and forth between them. And I don’t think that was appropriate. I think they made very good arguments about the pyramidal. I think their statement that there’s no evidence of polarizes better than threshold that just goes against a whole ton of research that’s out there and a ton of experience. I also found that they seem to conflate threshold a little bit. So this is this is really important. And this gets confusing for people. There are two definitions of threshold training, there is the what you see in the scientific world. And then there’s what you see in the training world. So most of our listeners, when they hear me talk about threshold training, they’re thinking 510 20 minute intervals at threshold at that anaerobic threshold. That’s what the training world thinks of when they’re thinking of threshold training. The scientific literature defines that entire zone two as your threshold range. And any training in that zone two, is threshold training. Sure. So in the scientific world, threshold means what in the training world you would think of as sweet spot training. And I think that’s really important, because even though he does in the burly paper, at one point, they do mention sweet spot, they seem to jump back and forth between those two definition of the threshold and one point, they make a strong case for threshold training for that zone true training. And then they make the statement, there’s evidence that threshold training is highly effective in promoting beneficial physiological adaptations. They have two references for that. But here’s the you can just listen to this, the titles of these two studies, one changes an onset of blood lactate accumulation, and muscle enzymes after training at OB la OB LA is another way of defining lactate threshold that that

Rob Pickels 31:29
upper birth awareness around for millimoles LT two Yep.

Trevor Connor 31:33
And the second one they bring up is effects of training at and above the lactate. So let me emphasize that effects of training at and above the lactate threshold on the lactate threshold and maximal oxygen uptake. So these are two studies that are talking about training right at that boundary of the zone two and zone three and above. Exactly. And he’s using that to back threshold training, which is zone two training. And then they actually go on to say that they don’t understand why Foster’s team is against threshold training. So again, which threshold training are you talking about, because Dr. Seiler is definitely not against training at threshold. As matter of fact, he’s quite famous for his four by eight minute intervals, which are intervals at that lactate threshold, which is backed by these studies. So in these couple paragraphs, I just got confused, reading it because he was going back and forth between these definitions of threshold. And as a result, you know, actually, some of the studies he cited contradicted the point he was making.

Rob Pickels 32:38
Yeah, is that definition, the basis of the disagreement that we have here, when we’re identifying a lot of these aspects that they are agreeing on? Do we need to be more clear with exactly how things are being defined and how things are being used?

Trevor Connor 32:55
Like that’s a confusing point. And a little before you came onto the show, we actually had Dr. Siler on the show, and had that conversation about the two different thresholds. And what is he defined as threshold? And how does that fit in with training? Yep. So we even had to clarify that in the show, because we get a lot of questions from our listeners going, don’t quite get this and I want to go do threshold intervals. But that’s not part of polarizing, I want to be polarizing, we’re going No, you go out and do a 20 minute threshold effort, you go out and do the four by eights that really fits within the polarized model. Yeah, sure. So there’s a lot of confusion about that. And it’s because you have these two definitions, a threshold, I can’t speak to the burly steam, and whether they they know about that whether this was intentional or accidental, but definitely reading it, it went back and forth between the two definitions. And it made it very confusing. So I mean, they stated here, one perplexing aspect of polarized training is the inherent notion that so called threshold intensity training sessions should be minimized or eliminated. But which threshold are you talking about? Because the sensitive before sight of those two studies that defined threshold as training at lactate threshold, correct,

Rob Pickels 34:07
a very, very sort of high end of what the otherwise larger quote unquote threshold zone is otherwise describing,

Trevor Connor 34:15
right? Yes. So that was the the one thing that I found a little confusing or struggle with. The second thing, and this is going to lead into I think, what is the biggest conversation I know you really want to talk about is how you are defining these different zones. And something that I think deserve more conversation is, is it something you measure by literal time and zones or by intention? And then if you are measuring it by time zones, what are you measuring? Correct, and I think intention was glossed over and that’s very important. And let me give you an example of this. I polarize my athletes, I do polarized training myself. So my typical week i will do two hard high intensity sessions that are focused on zone three. And then the rest of my time is zone one and accepted certain points of the season. I don’t do a lot of that in between that sweet spot training. I have never once in Wk Oh, looked at my heart rate distribution, I do have a graph that shows my heart rate distribution across the three zones and not seeing pyramidal. Because let’s give you an example. And type of interval work that’s getting really popular right now is Tabata type work. So tomatoes, for example, the classic one is 20 seconds on 10 seconds off. Yep, that 20 seconds, you’re going really hard the 10 seconds here. So you’re clearly in zone three, with the the 20 seconds, and the 10. Second rest, you are puking in Zone One, if you can turn over the pedals at all. You never touch that zone two, but your heart rate, the entire workout is going to be on zone two. So if you are figuring out this distribution by heart rate, absolutely, you’re gonna see a ton of pyramidal. So it’s how you’re looking at it. And I do think again, even though I see pyramidal distributions in Wk O, the intention is important. And Dr. Seiler talk to that.

Rob Pickels 36:16
Yeah, Trevor, I think that you see the exact same concept when you take it to a longer interval as well, right. And I don’t want any listener out there to think well, that only applies to short intervals, because it doesn’t, you can go out and do longer intervals as well. And when you go from the recovery intensity, up to threshold, or vo two or whatever it is for your five or whatever minute longer interval, there is that heart rate lag, your heart rate is very slow to respond. It spends a lot of time in those quote unquote, middle heart rate zones. But we know that the workload certainly isn’t there. And this is an important concept when you’re working with athletes, because sometimes you can go back and you can look at the average heart rate throughout a session that does not describe the work that somebody did. in some regard. Even the average wattage might not describe it, you have to be looking at the actual work that someone did to further you know, bring this point. The Burnley group actually called out Dr. Seiler on one of Dr. siloes papers, his 2006 paper, and they said hey, they’re offering this up as evidence of polarized training distribution. But frankly, it was a pyramidal distribution. And what’s interesting is if you read that paper by Dr. Seiler, they say very clearly, yes. When we analyze this based on heart rate, it’s a pyramidal distribution, right. So personally, is trying to make this argument like it’s a brand new argument, but it was already, you know, it was already laid out, what 1517 years ago in the original paper, you know, and Dr. Seiler is Trevor, as you’re saying, talking more about where were the workloads that people were at? What was the the session RPE that the people were out? What are these better descriptors of the actual work? They did? Because we know that these heart rate responses are going to smooth they don’t see the highs and the lows that workload do and they regress to the middle with the middle being that zone to training. So yeah, you look at heart rate. It’s gonna say pyramidal all the way.

Trevor Connor 38:20
And I think so there were two things that I personally disagreed with the Burnley paper on. I didn’t have much disagree with with the foster paper on because they were mostly conciliatory. So they actually didn’t try to argue all that much and say, you make some good points, and let’s adjust the science. So it’s hard. I actually found it hard to kind of argue with them. But the Burnley paper, that was probably my biggest point of contention, I think it was yours as well. Both papers talk about this measurement issue. How do you determine the zones and then measure or what percentage was spent in zone three? What percentage in zone two? What percentage in Zone One? And this is a tricky question to the point. I actually found a paper that I then discovered Burnley had briefly referenced but didn’t really talk to is a 2019 paper called The polarization index, a simple calculation to distinguish polarized or non polarized training intensity distributions. All paper trying to address this issue of this ain’t easy to figure out. So here’s a way that you can potentially determine if this study’s distribution is polarized or not. And they and we’ll get to this in a minute they actually then go back and review a bunch of studies that claimed to be polarized to see if they actually were polarized. It’s tough to measure and interestingly, Burnley and and foster both brought up the fact that because there’s so many different definitions for that break point between zone two and zone three. And it’s also hard to define that break point between zone one and zone two, that you can have a bunch of training that’s just a couple beats per minute or a couple of weeks. below or above the depending on how you define it can be lumped into zone three or be lumped into zone two. And when you’re talking about member, the difference between pyramidal and polarized is just addressing 20% of your time. So it’s often just a few percent, that’s going to make the difference between being classified as pyramidal or polarized.

Rob Pickels 40:19
Correct. And I feel like the Burnley paper and their reliance, you know, and they initially call this out before they lay out what what they consider to be the appropriate zones, which ultimately everybody agrees on, is that if you look at the various break points throughout these papers, maybe um, you one was described based on lactate, maybe one was a ventilation break point, maybe one was an RPE. break point, right? There’s a lot of research out there, and I get not all of it is perfect, but you do the best that you can. The other side of this, though, is I think that as coaches and as athletes, and maybe this isn’t as important or apparent to the pure researcher, oftentimes, when we talk about Zone training, we’re not talking about training at the very, very, very minute edge of a zone, right? All of these adaptations, all of this stimulus, it exists on a continuum as we move through energy systems as we cause these different adaptations, as we recruit motor units. And so when I think of training, and I’m thinking of a zone two type of training, I’m thinking in the middle of that zone, I’m not thinking pressed up against the very upper edge or anything else. Because here’s the thing in all honesty, Trevor, if you’re training at and I’m just going to use a term to pull one out of the air, if you’re training at 99% of critical power, or 101% of critical power, even though those are technically in two different zones, zone two and zone three, that is much more similar training, than training at 99% of critical power and 80% of critical power. Even though those are both technically Zone Two, we’re splitting things to thin it, because we’re just talking about this really on paper, theoretical, I don’t know that one or 2% makes a difference, even though it causes it to technically be in a different category.

Trevor Connor 42:16
Burnley does kind of recognize that, that, you know, being a little above or a little below, you’re still hitting the same systems. But again, that to me, is why the intention is so important. So if I give an athlete, the, let’s say, the four by eight minute intervals, and I say I want you doing them right at threshold, but they have a day when they’re pretty tired, and they go on do them. And they go I gotta back down the power a little bit. So they’re five watts below what we have defined as their threshold. The intention is the same. That was a threshold workout, I’m classifying that as part a zone three,

Rob Pickels 42:46
no doubt, I eat a slice of pepperoni pizza 10 Watts low. I mean, come on now.

Trevor Connor 42:51
But here’s where I kind of take issue with the paper. They do point out this the fuzziness of the division between zone one and zone two and the fuzziness of the division between zone two and zone three. And that can really affect the data. So they make that statement. And then they go on to say And again, I’m reading right out of this. The most serious indictment against the whole notion of polarized training is that when training intensity is classified and quantified appropriately, so again, they are saying that Seiler and foster got it wrong, didn’t quantify it, right? It is evident that most elite endurance athletes practice pyramidal, not polarized, they have no references there. Later on. They then say pyramidal training intensity distributions are almost exclusively reported in cross endurance sports. And there they do have references. So I’ve got two issues. One is they basically say, Well, we think Foster and Siler and their team got it wrong, and then make a blanket statement that actually pyramidal is his practice, they do not give evidence, they do actually have a graph where they take those references I just mentioned in that that second quote, and break out those studies and show that they are pyramidal. But they know where explained how they are defining those zones, how they are doing the calculations. And I don’t find it appropriate to say to somebody, you got the calculations wrong. And it’s actually all pyramidal. We’ve already calculated it is all pyramidal. But we’re not going to explain to you how we calculated it after just saying it is hard to get it right after saying it is fuzzy. If you’re going to do that you got to be say, Here’s exactly how we calculated it. And to take it a step further, those studies they re analyzed to prove that most elite athletes are actually pyramidal. Not polarized. Actually don’t. I went and looked at those references. And I don’t think they back the case that they’re making, in fact, and we’ll get into this. I think at least one of them, possibly two out Right contradicts the point they were using these references to make

Rob Pickels 45:04
in Trevor, I’m so glad that you went and looked at the studies themselves, right? Because oftentimes, if we just take things at face value, we’re gonna miss the new ones that people are trying to use to make their arguments. So what did you find? Yeah. And yeah,

Trevor Connor 45:17
just want to say greasier completely. I mean, one of the, when I was working with Dr. Cordain, when I was getting my graduate work, he always said, check the references. And I think this is such an important thing, because you see those reference numbers and go, Oh, they did their research. Gotta go back and check.

Rob Pickels 45:33
If it wasn’t so loud, I turned my computer around, because you can see I have big circles and check written next to it on the same boat with you.

Trevor Connor 45:40
So they did reference Dr. Sailors own study, and they cover that a lot. So I’m gonna I’m gonna skip that one, the new research that they basically took and re analyzed, and to the point that they created a chart, showing that these studies were were pyramidal not polarized. First off, one was about speed skaters, all the rest were about runners. So to say all endurance athletes are actually pyramidal. And using these references, that’s not representative. No cyclists, no skiers, no triathletes, they left out a lot of endurance sports. So I don’t think you can make that claim just using these references. One of them even in their reanalysis, they admitted was polarized. So we’ll skip that one. Let’s now go to the speedskater. One. This one, I just don’t feel fully backed what they were trying to say. It was a 38 year analysis of Olympic speed skaters. And I’m just going to read the conclusion right here. These data indicate that in speed skating, there was a shift towards polarized training over the last 38 years, this shift seems to be the most important factor in the development of Olympic speed skaters. So basically, the gist of the study is they used to be more threshold pyramidal. They had been shifting to polarize. And that is the only thing that they could find that explained the improvement in speed skaters. So I even though yes, you can argue well, the speed skaters at a certain point, were more pyramidal. I think you’re missing the gist of this study, which is shift towards polarized start to make them better. throb is laughing. So

Rob Pickels 47:20
I am I’m sorry, it’s just I can’t deal with this. Because it literally says the shift towards polarized training to be the most important factor in the development of Olympic speed skaters. I don’t even know what to do with that. It’s so literally written right there by the authors in the conclusion.

Trevor Connor 47:40
So there’s two other studies that I’m going to get to in a minute, because I actually think they are the most important in this evidence of top endurance athletes being pyramidal. But before I get there, the rest of the studies were all in runners, and they were all in non elite, more recreational runners, which is fine. It’s totally great. But again, they were using these references to say elite endurance athletes are pyramidal not polarized. So you can’t then cite studies that use recreational runners if you’re going to make that claim. Yep, exactly. But let’s get to these last two, because what I found really interesting is they were focused on this issue that depending on how you measure, the same data can be pyramidal or polarized. One of them showed that you look at it one way it was all pyramidal. You look at it another way it was a mix of pyramidal and polarized and the authors seem to have forgive me for using the word cherry pick the pyramidal. But the one I really want to finish on is this study by led by Dr. Ballenger. And this the title of this study is middle distance runners the influence of different methods of training intensity quantification. This whole study is literally about the fact that depending on which data you use, you get a pyramidal or a polarized representation of their data. So when they use speed, and this was again and runners, when they use speed, you had a clearly polarized distribution 79.9% zone one 5.3%, zone two, and 14.7%. Zone three, if you used heart rate, it was 79.6 zone one 17%, zone two, and 3.4% zone three. But Rob, just few minutes ago, we talked about the fact that if you use heart rate data, you’re always going to end up with pyramidal.

Rob Pickels 49:40
Absolutely without question, right? We know how the heart rate response is going to occur with exercise and that alone is gonna you know, ultimately, I don’t want to use the word cherry picking again. But if you choose to look at data in a certain way, then you’re just choosing to eliminate things that ultimately go against your position and it’s not a good thing to do.

Trevor Connor 49:59
Well that’s That is my issue here is they did they cherry picked the heart rate distribution, as opposed to recognizing what this study was about saying that depending on how you measure, literally using the same data, depending on how you measure it, it can be polarized or pyramidal. So they should recognize that as opposed to saying, Well, we’re just gonna go at the pyramidal data.

Rob Pickels 50:21
And that’s a lot of what this comes down to. Right, they are choosing heart rate as the only way to determine the distribution of intensity.

Trevor Connor 50:30
But do we know that because they don’t say anywhere how they were calculating these?

Rob Pickels 50:34
I mean, I think it to me, it seems clear that that’s what they’re doing. But I don’t necessarily agree that that’s the best way that we ought to be going about this.

Trevor Connor 50:42
You know, if they’re using heart rate, you’re always going to get a pyramidal distribution. Yep. But we don’t even know that because they just simply made that statement that everybody is pyramidal. And that is the the main thesis of their paper, they say to quite boldly, they give these references, which I don’t think is a homerun for them. They clearly on this one, cherry picked the distribution. And the whole point of this paper is, depending on your method, you can get a polarized or a pyramidal distribution. They don’t address that in their paper. Yeah. And they give no explanation of how they came up with their distributions. None whatsoever. Did they use heart rate? Did they use speed that they use power? Wherever they put in VT one and V two? Are they using v one and V two zero? Are they using and are they didn’t cover any of this after accusing the other authors of using poor maligned measurements, ways of figuring out these distributions. So if you’re going to make that claim against other authors, you better very clearly state. Here’s how we came up with our distributions. And back what they’re saying. And these papers just don’t back that that is clear.

Rob Pickels 51:47
Yeah. And for context for listeners, the the Ballenger, paper that Trevor just referenced, I’m going to read the results to you from the abstract here. It says, compared with running speed derived T ID, zone one accounted for 80% of training, zone two was 5%, in zone three was about 15%. Again, that’s for running speed derived. Now the exact same people doing the exact same stuff, analyzing the exact same data. But doing it by heart rate now showed 80% in Zone One, 17% in zone two, and three and a half percent in zone three, those seem like they did radically different training, but they literally did the exact same training,

Trevor Connor 52:33
it was just to as a measuring exactly. So that’s the issue. They don’t explain their methodology of how to get there. And depending on what methodology you get, you can come up with potentially a polarized or a pyramidal. So they need to explain that. And so I don’t think they they made the solid case that everybody was pyramidal. And I look at to what I think are well put together papers that struggle 2015 paper that analyze the whole bunch of studies, did a great job and shows the distribution and they explain their methodology. And no, they don’t say everybody was polarized. They show that some were pyramidal. Some are polarized, which is what the foster paper says that in some cases, polarize might be more appropriate. Some cases pyramidal might be more appropriate. I also looked at that paper that was all about this issue of measurement, the paper the polarization index, a simple calculation to distinguish polarized for non polarized training intensities, tried to address this issue of how do you actually figure it out? Because depending on how you you figure it out, you can come up with different answers. They then went back to a bunch of studies to see if they are actually polarized or not. So they took 1234567 studies that claimed to be polarized and four of them it turned out were polarized, three of them were not. So what you’re seeing is, yeah, I mean, I think the burly team can make the argument that we’re seeing as much pyramidal. And it seems to be equally as effective, if not, in some cases more effective. But I think their statement that nobody’s polarized, isn’t backed and studies that do show their methodology actually show no, there’s a fair amount of polarized

Rob Pickels 54:15
and I do think it’s really important whenever anybody is making statements that you need to consider the consequences of exactly what is being said. And, you know, I’m not gonna lie, I think both groups are a little bit in trouble with doing this. You know, the foster paper is titled, that polarized training is optimal for endurance athletes. You know, the Burnley group, they said exactly the opposite, that polarized training is not optimal for endurance athletes, in my opinion, both of those titles, they sound a little click Beatty to me. I don’t actually know that they’re describing the arguments that they’re trying to make in the paper thereafter.

Trevor Connor 54:57
My personal feeling was the journal actually pick those two titles, maybe because it’s one word difference. Yep. So I think the the journal wanted to have a black and white is and is not

Rob Pickels 55:08
as a tough thing to do we know that in this world. The one other thing

Trevor Connor 55:12
that I would like to address, and I mean, there’s a ton in both of these papers that we could discuss. So we’re not going to cover everything about them, unfortunately. But the other thing I wanted to address is this or what they’re calling the survivorship bias. I’m going to give a quick explanation. And I actually want to read two sentences out of the burly paper. The Survivorship Bias basically says, you always have to be careful about saying something is better. And this has been a criticism of Dr. Silos research since the beginning that it could be that it’s actually not that effective a training method and that a whole bunch of people tried it and failed. And all you’re seeing is the people that it actually just really was effective for the responders versus non responders. You’re just seeing the responders and getting this bias that therefore it is best for everybody not seen how many people that it eliminated in the process of getting there. Yep, in the burly response. It was actually I thought a little bit interesting that the foster paper was quite conciliatory, as I said to burly, and that seemed to actually get the the burly group quite upset. And in their response to this, this conciliatory paper, they got even more heated. And so the they have in discussing this whole survivorship, they have two sentences here that really kind of shocked me, the notion that coaches established best practice and athletic training before science does is difficult to follow. How can best practice be established, if not through appropriate design and controlled studies. So basically saying, if it doesn’t happen in the lab, you can’t say it’s good.

Rob Pickels 56:49
I have that underlined in red with the big word myopic written next to it. Because I saw the exact same thing, Trevor,

Trevor Connor 56:55
and these are researchers. Yep. And we have covered extensively. And we have multiple studies, we actually just had one with Julie young, about experience versus research and talked about the fact that you can’t bring somebody in a lab and study 10 years of all their training lab actually has its limits, you have to establish things by experience. And by practice,

Rob Pickels 57:15
in general, you can’t look at any topic from only one direction and expect to have a full understanding of it,

Trevor Connor 57:21
right. But it definitely shows there’s a strong researcher bias here. And as a coach, I don’t personally agree with it. And to me, that kind of hurt some of the survivorship bias argument. But the second sentence, that a large number of cross country skiers, for example, have a similar training intensity distribution is more likely to be attributable to the philosophy of a few influential coaches, than to the establishment of optimal practices. So they’ve hinted at this a couple times in this paper, but basically, they’re saying the reason that you see a lot of athletes doing polarized training, is because these coaches are influencing them or pushing them to do it, not because it’s the optimal practice, I have a couple personal issues with that. One is athletes want to perform, they want to do the best, I just don’t think you would see that many people at the top level doing a particular approach if it truly wasn’t the optimal approach.

Rob Pickels 58:20
I have this underlined in red as well. It’s funny, we’re keying in on to a lot of the same stuff. I haven’t underlined in red, and I wrote why influential question mark, because they’re successful.

Trevor Connor 58:29
And you know, I’m actually going to point to a couple things to or at least one thing that they cited themselves to kind of contradict this, which is that 38 year speedskater study, which showed that the only change in speed skating training over the last 38 years, has been a move towards polarized training, and speed skaters have gotten faster. Yep. So if this was truly less than optimal, why are they getting faster? Why are they moving in that direction? Another point that I’ll make, and this goes back to the experience thing versus the lab, who kind of what they’re implying is nobody is doing. And so here’s actually a contradiction in their own statement. They’re saying that this is less than optimal, and they’re just doing it because coaches are influencing them. But that completely contradicts their own argument that most top athletes are actually doing pyramidal. Yep. So which is it? If they’re saying pyramidal is optimal, and here’s our evidence that top athletes are doing pyramidal, then doesn’t that also suffer from the survivorship bias,

Rob Pickels 59:27
you would not be able to make the statement that a large number of cross country skiers blah, blah, blah, after that, right, if people weren’t doing this training that you’re saying they’re not actually doing?

Trevor Connor 59:38
And this is, again, I’m going to point back to that STOVL review, which I think is a really good review that showed Yes, you have athletes that are doing both pyramidal and polarized, they point out that there was more pyramidal to start, and that what you’re seeing is a shift towards polarized. So what’s important about that, whether you agree with that or not, is in fact you have seen A whole lot of top athletes do pyramidal, you are seeing a shift towards polarized, they’re only going to do that shift. If it is making them better. Yep, they wouldn’t make that shift and go, Hey, I’m getting worse. Let’s keep at this,

Rob Pickels 1:00:15
I would hope not. So maybe other countries, but you know, our athletes will do it the right way. To me

Trevor Connor 1:00:20
that kind of kills this survivorship bias. And the thing is, are going back to what I said before, the the, the thing I’m going to tell you from my own experience is, and we even showed this in the study, you see a whole lot of pyramidal, particularly threshold training in lower level athletes. And what I have seen being an athlete at a national center is the athletes who were stubbornly sticking with threshold. Yep, never got to a very high level, at some point, you had to shift and I agree fully with either to a pyramidal

Rob Pickels 1:00:50
or a polarized 10 times better than a threshold system.

Trevor Connor 1:00:54
But if they didn’t make that shift, they never got to those highest levels. So, again, that to me completely contradicts the survivorship bias. We weren’t seeing at the center, everybody been put through a polarized approach, and most of the athletes dying, what you saw actually was most of the athletes were not performing because they were insisting on being threshold, and those who shifted to a polarized or a pyramidal became successful.

Rob Pickels 1:01:20
Yep. Without question. I think that, at the very least, people are agreeing a lot of your training should be low intensity, right. So keep that clear.

Trevor Connor 1:01:28
So like I said, these are long papers, there’s a ton that we could address here. They talk about specificity. They talk about the calcium calmodulin pathway to PGC, one Alpha, those are all things I would love to address, but we’ve only got so much time here. So Rob, I’ll just throw it to you. Is there anything else that stood out to you that you would like to address?

Rob Pickels 1:01:48
Yeah, Trevor, I think toward the end of the Burnley groups rebuttal back to the foster group, they dropped a couple names and I and I disagree with the use of them. And let me read a quote here. It says their initial comments while generally uncontroversial perpetuate the myth that the great New Zealand running coach Arthur Lydiard, promoted a high volume of low intensity training, they go on to say that, frankly, Lydiard his slow paces weren’t actually that slow. In all honesty, they’re true, they weren’t actually that slow. But in this is where things get a little bit manipulative. If you ask me, reading the foster group’s paper, the only reason they bring up Lydiard is to say that since Lydiard, describe this training program, people have been interested in training distribution, they were not using Lydiard. It’s very clear, they were not using Lydiard to support their data, right. And so the Burnley group, by utilizing that it just seems like they’re trying to pull in anything, whether or not it was being used. And that seems manipulative, you also go down and there’s a few other names that are mentioned. And the other one I want to talk about is is Jack Daniels because near and dear to my heart, not because of the alcohol because of the person that I did my undergrad at Ithaca College and just down the road is SUNY Cortland. Yep. And I think the Trevor, this is why Jack is probably near and dear to your heart, too. It’s why that was the first training book I ever read. Exactly. I actually have Jack Daniels book next to my desk, because when I’m writing training for my wife, who is a runner, I refer back to his book a lot. And so I know a lot about his training. And they’re trying to say that, you know, these other coaches, Jack Daniels included, that they are recognizing that this zone to this sort of middle zone is really, really important to athletes. And looking at Jack’s training, because I utilize it a lot. Yes, there is a little bit in what he calls the threshold zone. Frankly, that’s the very upper end of the zone. This goes back

Trevor Connor 1:03:48
to the two definitions of threshold, exactly, Daniel. So his definition of threshold is 86 to 88% of vO two Max, which is considered at or a little above, generally, the break point of zone tune zone three, it’s very,

Rob Pickels 1:04:03
very high in that range. And he also prescribes a ton of what he calls rep an interval training, which are both definitely above in the quote unquote, zone three. So again, it’s just it just feels a little disingenuous sometimes if you read this paper and don’t actually go through and look at the background of exactly what these people are saying exactly what these researchers are saying, you know, and just putting it out there. I just don’t like that in this because it doesn’t feel objective to me,

Trevor Connor 1:04:34
that one caught my attention to because like, I’m the same as you Jack Daniels is near and dear to my heart. And I am looking at his training pyramid right here and what is clearly zone two in that three zone model. He has grayed out and says this is no man’s land avoid no man’s land. He said the exact opposite of what they are attributing to him in this paper.

Rob Pickels 1:04:56
Now I agree. I agree and it makes it tough for me You know, when I think that seeing things like this, it induces bias in me, right, I tend to then start trying to pick apart other things, I tend to look at the rest of the paper, kind of with a negative sort of eye, you know, but as a scientist, I’m also very much trying to be objective, right, and to take the positives away from everything.

Trevor Connor 1:05:18
Well, I think we need to wrap this up, Rob. So you wanted to just kind of address how both papers concluded?

Rob Pickels 1:05:26
Yes, you know, what I think is really funny is the conclusions of both papers, in my opinion, are remarkably similar. So let me read this. It says, in the Burnley paper, to be clear, we are not advocating a model of endurance training that emphasizes threshold over other training intensities, but rather one that appreciates the strategic value of zone two in a varied and balanced overall program. So even though they’re arguing and saying that no polarized never works, they’re actually saying, well, at the end of the day, we just think that maybe it’s important if you’re going to have good balanced training. Now, if you go to the foster paper, it says the concept of polarized training has become popular, although it’s near cousin pyramidal training, maybe as effective. The relative merits of these two variations of training plans that are dominated by a large volume of relatively low intensity training may depend on the specific event for which the training plan is designed. So both groups taking those sort of sentences at the end of their paper, you know, are very, very similar in their takeaway message, Trevor, what did you see?

Trevor Connor 1:06:35
Well, that was exactly it. And I think Foster’s team expresses better that they’re, they’re really, so I’m going to use a political term that I Oh,

Rob Pickels 1:06:44
no, this is not tentative on the facts.

Trevor Connor 1:06:50
But, yeah, to me, as heated as this God, and I actually went to the very end of their responses, I’m glad you’re reading the conclusions of the original papers. Because what just shocks me is the very last sentence of the burly paper is we rest our uncontested case. And it was not a complimentary final paragraph at all, a further only go foster at all criticized threshold zone two dominant training, but then combined polarize with pyramidal training, and the remainder of their argument as foster at all use the very training intensity they rejected as a means of support their position, that wasn’t the case at all. They actually said, as you just read, gave recognition of polarized and pyramidal. But I liked the two conclusions you read, because I agree, it is a minor difference. And the term I’m going to use is this as kind of a nothing burger. Do you

Rob Pickels 1:07:42
think that if we sat down and we drank a beer with this nothing burger that everybody would actually be getting along, as friends

Trevor Connor 1:07:48
have the tone of the papers? I’m not sure. But it’s a very valid argument. And it’s a really good point. And I think more research needs to be done on which is truly optimal between polarized and pyramidal. I think it’s a minor difference. And if we do have to address the how do you measure it question as well. But it’s a really valid question that I think needs to be addressed. And I don’t get why there is this antipathy. Yeah, this should not be as heated as it is. And that’s what I’m struggling with.

Rob Pickels 1:08:19
I agree. Trevor, do we want to do some takeaways on this one, I got one that I’d love to say, you know, but I also feel like we’ve covered a lot of it. What are your takeaways?

Trevor Connor 1:08:27
My take home goes back to where we started the whole conversation of these two reviews, which is sciences theory. And I think it’s great that it gets challenged. And this was a really interesting question of the polarized versus pyramidal that I don’t have an answer on. And I’m really looking forward to more research being conducted on this. And in finding the answers. What I had a hard time getting past was the tone in which it was presented, because I thought it was far more confrontational than was in any way necessary. I just did not see the need for that. And I’ll take that a step further. And maybe I’m overstepping my bounds a little bit. But what made it ultimately hard for me to really want to listen or give credence to the burly review was making the statement that and using really strong terms that fosters team had miscalculated and misrepresented polarized training, then to make a very strong statement that, that actually all top athletes are pyramidal. And pyramidal is absolutely better and creating a graph but not giving their own methodology not showing that they aren’t making the same error that they aren’t misrepresenting, either. Especially when we showed one study that was clearly misrepresented. I think if you’re going to make those bold a statement, you better have a whole lot of references and back it up with all of your explanation for how you calculate it and justify it.

Rob Pickels 1:09:54
My take home is that there’s agreement that most training should be low intensity both sides of this debate that is very clear. I think that athletes, coaches, researchers, everyone needs to understand that this stuff happens on a continuum, right and that we can split hairs 1% here 1% There, a different zone is in a totally different situation. And I also think that each side of this debate is actually agreeing that the specific needs of an event may favor more or less zone two or zone three training. You know, to put that into perspective, in my opinion, a Domestique who is on the front of the peloton driving the pace up the climate threshold, maybe they need to be doing a little bit different training, then the GC contender who’s sitting in taking it easy, and then they’re attacking for the win. So we need to be thinking about the needs of the event when we’re choosing something that’s optimal or not. That was another episode of fast talk. Subscribe to fast talk wherever you prefer to find your favorite podcast. Be sure to leave us a rating and a review. The thoughts and opinions expressed on fast talk are those of the individual especially in this episode because it’s spicy. As always, we love your feedback. Join the conversation at forums doc fast talk labs.com to discuss each and every episode, become a member of Bastok laboratories at fast talk labs.com/join and become a part of our education and coaching community. For Trevor Connor. I’m Rob pickles. Thanks for listening

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