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.  


Bellinger, P., Arnold, B., & Minahan, C. (2019). Quantifying the Training-Intensity Distribution in Middle-Distance Runners: The Influence of Different Methods of Training-Intensity Quantification. International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance, 15(3), 1–5. Retrieved from 

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 

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 

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 

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 

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 

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 

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 

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 

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 

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 

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 

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 

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 

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 

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 

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 

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 

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 

Stöggl, T. L., & Sperlich, B. (2015). The training intensity distribution among well-trained and elite endurance athletes. Frontiers in Physiology, 6, 295. Retrieved from 

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 

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 

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 


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