Comparison of Methodologies

The “dominant” market training strategies are Joe Freil’s Cyclist/Triathletes “Training Bible” and 80/20 Endurance. There are many articles inside The Sufferfest about their methodologies, but can you provide sort of an explanation and comparison of the differences between The Sufferfest’s approach to training, Training Bible, an 80/20 Endurance? I am most interested in the triathlon perspective, but also the single sport.


To be honest, they’re all pretty similar, in that they mix up a variety of high intensity and low intensity training.

We must bare in mind that SUF is GENERALLY aimed at those who aren’t putting in 10-20+ hours per week, and it has been shown that to get the best results then it’s better doing a little more high intensity stuff.

If you are riding 20 hours a week then lots of longer stuff to build a very solid aerobic base can help, but if you aren’t riding lots and lots of hours then your time is better served doing high intensity stuff, because it builds both endurance as well as VO2 max and anaerobic capacity.


Interesting subject. :slight_smile:

Regarding the point about the best results coming from higher intensity for time-crunched athletes, there are plenty of polarized training studies and advocates (including Stephen Seiler himself) claiming that polarized training scales down to 4-6 hrs per week just fine.

I frequently refer back to these two articles, which probably describe the SUF approach well.

Still, I’d like to hear how the SUF Science team would generally describe the approach they’ve taken in designing the SUF training plans. Is it polarized or a variation of it?


Great Topic. There are many similarities methodologies that you will see out there, high intensity, low volume, and visa versa. Which one is best? The answer is, it depends. And beyond that what does “High Intensity” look like? The demands are different for each sport. For a 140.6 you need to be able to go long and will likely have very few AC demands. And for crit’s you will need to be able to go deep in AC and MAP but be able to recover quickly but only for an hour or so.
The real difference is how you put the puzzle together based upon where your strengths lie now and what the demands of your event/goal may be. Just as Ross mentioned, the time available has a huge impact on the type of training that will help you the most. There are many ways to create effective adaptations to our training. For many, simply doing a structured plan will generate a positive effect. Especially if you have not been following one. And while this will likely be effective it is almost certainly not optimal. As you begin to bring in limitations on your training we begin to narrow the options.

The first part of this equation is to assess where you are, then look at where you need/want to be and map a route to get there. Then you have to look at the time you have available and resources. You also have to look at the demands of your event and make sure you match your training to get there. If you are “time crunched” and you are only doing weekend crit’s, chances are you will be fine doing a high intensity, low volume program. But if you are planning for a 140.6 and limited to less than 10-12 hrs a week you will have to change your training plan drastically.

The SUF science team places an emphasis on quality training. Not to be confused with strictly high intensity training. Sometimes quality training is quality recovery, or neuromuscular training. Our training plans are currently based on rider weakness and strength plus time available and event demand. There is certainly variation among each plan based on rider level and time available. Matching up your needs and time may be the first decision that you need to make.


Super reply. I was going to ask my own question about Suf plans through the year but I’ll start a new thread rather than hijack this one!

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Not trying to contradict @Coach.Jeff.H when he says “it depends,” but I think there are some additional tenets to the sufferfest methodologies, that i think run pretty consistently thruogh the plans. These are more like “philosophies” rather than specific rules or approaches. But they are:

  1. Performance at intensities above FTP can be what make or break your race. In other words, don’t just focus on FTP to the exclusion of all else.

  2. Everything that improves your capacity is “base”. People are like, you gotta do long low intensity to build your base, but you my friends are one whole organism and you can train yourself that way rather than just as a collection of systems. so like, short sprints with long easy pedaling in between, that builds your base. MAP intervals, that builds your base too. Anaerobic capacity with easy riding in between plus some extra volume in zone 2 at the end, also builds your base.


I’d like to point to Seiler’s emphasis on “careful application of high-intensity training incorporated throughout the training cycle”, and then even with “a typical intensity distribution in which about 80% of training sessions are performed at low intensity (2 mM blood lactate), with about 20% dominated by periods of high-intensity work, such as interval training at approx. 90% VO2max.”

Would Sufferfest be willing to incorporate an indication of the %HI-time/%LI-time for every week at their training plans selection panel?

Unless you want to do a lot of training in addition to the training plan, I can’t see the point of this? And it should be fairly easy to identify which exercises are not high intensity, thus enabling easy estimation of Hi/Lo percentages.

On the contrary, if the weekly %HI/LI is indicated it will become easier to identify the required workouts needed to drop from or add to the plan to stay within 80/20, which requires now figuring out it everytime for everybody to b done herself/himself.

Well, as mentioned further up in the thread, if training 5-6 hours a week, or even 10 for that matter, the 80/20 model is far less applicable. If you are a proffesional athlete (or even train like one) with 20+hours a week, then you need to be careful about the balance of Hi/Lo intensity. But when doing Sufferfest training plans, which at the most are 10-12 hours a week for some of the Advanced plans, the percentage of HIIT should increase if you want to go fast.

If you have 5 hours a week for training and do 1 hour of HIIT, and 4 hours of low intensity, I can guarantee you a person doing from 2 to 3 hours of HIIT (out of the 5 hours) will become faster than you.

In other words, I believe 80/20 does not apply for the training volumes employed in SUF training plans, and for me, I wouldn’t want them to either.

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Well, 80/20 as Seiler’s papers have made pretty clear, is for everybody not aiming at overtraining or undertraining, and not only for cyclists.
It is not an idea, neither a philosophy, but it is based on actual data.
Where is the science based data for just HIIT even for a single week, let alone week after week? I’m quite interested to see the references.

You need to be really careful about a lot of this stuff. Dylan Johnson has some excellent videos about it, including how to structure training plans for <10 hours a week. If you watch his videos and look at the research he references, HIIT sessions are all out, max efforts. I’d argue that very few Suf workouts push you that hard. If you take a step back and look at the plan structure Dylan recommends, based on science, and what the Suf offers, it’s really not a million miles apart.

Yep - in one of his videos he outlines a 3-4 day a week plan - one sprint workout, one VO2 Max workout, one long weekend ride, then throw in some recovery rides as time allows.

Great guy. Hear him say less than 2-3 HI per week, the rest endurance and recovery, while he literarily quotes 80/20 for instance at 5:0 minutes in [“How to Raise Your FTP, Full Workouts and Training Plan - YouTube”] .

I think the point to be careful about is that HIT in this sense are max efforts. For example my Sunday ride this week is 4 x 8 min sub threshold, which in the research papers wouldn’t count as HIT.

I’m not saying anyone is right or wrong, I don’t know enough, but that care is needed to make sure we’re all talking about the same thing.