Polarity Training - a new frontier for progress
If you’re looking for a new way to stimulate adaptive change in your body for performance then we suggest you consider this! Polarity training is not new, but is only recently being validated by literature and, more importantly, has recently received a theory as to how it works! Let’s be clear - it works - but with more recent progressions in understanding about genome harnessing and epigenetic expression, we are in a position to offer a more reasonable explanation to why you ought to relax a little bit with specificity training and give this a place in your preparation.
The nuts and bolts:
Instead of training at the interested physiology - specificity training - you’ll spend around 80% of your training load under LOW INTENSITY aerobic conditions and 20% well above your comfort zone (supra maximal training) - hence the title, polarity. To get detailed - the Low zone work will be around 60-90 mins of desired training at around 145-155bpm HR or lower than 3-4mmol/L blood lactate - the HIT component will sit around 100% of your RPE scale (rate of perceived exertion), that is, as hard as you can go. A rough idea of a session design for the top end is 7-12x15-30sec full blow outs with full recovery between pieces (4+mins). Just to be clear - you CANNOT perform at this intensity for longer than 22minutes of accrued time (and this is the most ever recorder - so for many this is looking like being closer to 6-12mins).
The how: It all revolves around a couple of key physiological, biological and neurological adaptations that occur. Stroke volume will increase to peripheral tissue in the HIT - whilst capillaries will undergo morphological change under long slow conditions. Mitochondrial biogenesis will occur under both situations - the longer much more established traditionally but the shorter courtesy of the AMPK pathway (we’ll get to this in a sec). There are neural and hormonal changes that occur here that are beneficial to overall athletic performance as well but this is getting long and i need to get to the interesting bit…
Ok - by far and away the most interesting aspect of why this works is due to the genetic propensity we seem to have to trigger adaptive pathways from this ratio of work (roughly). Theories have been floated that we are most amenable to growth when we mimic similar physiological environments to that of our ancestors - don’t worry I’m not a massive paleo guy (although I support many aspects of it). Im interested in epigenetics and adaptation. This is why it stands up against conventional ideas (of which I’m very much a fan still) of specificity and adaptation. You adapt to what metabolites your body produces specifically to the work that you’re doing. In our athletes’ programs we use specificity coming into the season or race but polarity training, in blocks, throughout much of the pre-season.
Practical application time - so, you do 3 sessions per week? thats awesome, but this isn’t for you. There is not enough volume in your week to get the exposure to the stress to force a change in your body. If you’re doing 3 genuine HIT sessions (not including the hard Anaerobic threshold sessions that are popularised in today’s HIT marketed climate!!) of 10mins each - you will need to find another 2hrs of low end aerobic work to make the 80/20 (someone please check this..) and they will need to be around 60mins long - so 2 sessions. That’s very achievable. Elite athletes, including juniors - like the salty paddlers - are hitting around 90mins of HIT a week!! Work out how much long stuff they are doing to manage recovery and technical learning - no one is above 7% body fat in that squad.
This system works incredibly well for body composition work and also, much to our surprise, power output as well - the research backs this. Be careful though, the more qualified you get, the more specific work you’ll need to do closer to the race day to achieve specificity.
Get training - It works if you do