This review aimed to examine the current evidence for 3 primary training intensity distribution types: (1) pyramidal training, (2) polarized training, and (3) threshold training. Where possible, the training intensity zones relative to the goal race pace, rather than physiological or subjective variables, were calculated. Three electronic databases (PubMed, Scopus, and Web of Science) were searched in May 2017 for original research articles. After analysis of 493 resultant original articles, studies were included if they met the following criteria: (1) Their participants were middle- or long-distance runners; (2) they analyzed training intensity distribution in the form of observational reports, case studies, or interventions; (3) they were published in peer-reviewed journals; and (4) they analyzed training programs with a duration of 4 wk or longer. Sixteen studies met the inclusion criteria, which included 6 observational reports, 3 case studies, 6 interventions, and 1 review. According to the results of this analysis, pyramidal and polarized training are more effective than threshold training, although the latest is used by some of the best marathon runners in the world. Despite this apparent contradictory finding, this review presents evidence for the organization of training into zones based on a percentage of goal race pace, which allows for different periodization types to be compatible. This approach requires further development to assess whether specific percentages above and below race pace are key to inducing optimal changes.
Mark Kenneally, Arturo Casado, and Jordan Santos-Concejero
Mark Kenneally, Arturo Casado, Josu Gomez-Ezeiza, and Jordan Santos-Concejero
Purpose: Optimal training for endurance performance remains a debated topic. In this case study, the training of a world-class middle-/long-distance runner over a year’s duration is presented. Methods: The training is analyzed via 2 methods to define training intensity distribution (TID) (1) by physiological zones and (2) by zones based on race pace. TID was analyzed over the full season, but also over the final 6, 12, and 26 weeks to allow for consideration of periodization/phases of season. The results of both methods are compared. Other training data measured include volume and number of sessions. Results: The average weekly volume for the athlete was 145.8 (24.8) km·wk−1. TID by physiological analysis was polarized for the last 6 weeks of the season but was pyramidal when analyzed over the final 12, 26, and 52 weeks of the season. TID by race-pace analysis was pyramidal across all time points. The athlete finished 12th in the final of the World Championship 5000-m and made the semifinal of the 1500-m. He was ranked in the top 16 in the world for 1500, 5000, and 10,000 m. Conclusion: The results of this study demonstrate a potential flaw with recent work suggesting polarized training as the most effective means to improve endurance performance. Here, different analysis methods produced 2 different types of TID. A polarized distribution was only seen when analyzed by physiological approach, and only during the last 6 weeks of a 52-week season. Longer-term prospective studies relating performance and physiological changes are suggested.