Polarized (POL) training intensity distribution (TID) emphasizes high-volume low-intensity exercise in zone (Z)1 (< first lactate threshold) with a greater proportion of high-intensity Z3 (> second lactate threshold) compared to Z2 (between first and second lactate threshold). In highly trained rowers there is a lack of prospective controlled evidence whether POL is superior to pyramidal (PYR; i.e. greater volume in Z1 vs. Z2 vs. Z3) TID. The aim of the study was to compare the effect of POL vs. PYR TID in rowers during an 11-wk preparation period.
Fourteen national elite male rowers participated (age: 20 ± 2 years, maximal oxygen uptake (⩒O2max): 66±5 mL/min/kg). The sample was split into PYR and POL by varying the percentage spent in Z2 and Z3 while Z1 was clamped to ~93% and matched for total and rowing volume. Actual TIDs were based on time within heart rate zones (Z1 and Z2) and duration of Z3-intervals. The main outcome variables were average power in 2000 m ergometer-test (P2000m), power associated with 4 mmol/L blood lactate (P4BLa), and ⩒O2max. To quantify the level of polarization, we calculated a Polarization-Index as log (%Z1 x %Z3/%Z2).
PYR and POL did not significantly differ regarding rowing or total volume, but POL had a higher percentage of Z3 intensities (6±3% vs. 2±1%; p < .005) while Z2 was lower (1±1% vs. 3±2%; p < .05) and Z1 was similar (94±3% vs. 93±2%, p = .37). Consequently, Polarization-Index was significantly higher in POL (3.0±0.7 a.u. vs. 1.9±0.4 a.u.; p < .01) P2000m did not significantly change with PYR (1.5±1.7%, p = .06) nor POL (1.5±2.6%, p = .26). ⩒O2max did not change (1.7±5.6%, p = .52 or 0.6±2.6, p = .67) and a small increase in P4BLa was observed in PYR only (1.9±4.8%, p = .37 or -0.5±4.1%, p = .77). Changes from pre to post were not significantly different between groups in any performance measure.
POL did not prove to be superior to PYR, possibly due to the high and very similar percentage of Z1 in this study.