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George Coffey


In a normal linear periodization plan what would be the potential downside of intensifying the first week of each build block, taking an extra day or two of rest and then finishing out the block in a normal manner?


Joe Friel

George CC--Yeah, you can do that. Not really linear periodization any more, however. But that's not a problem.

Jordan Oroshiba

I think it is always important to distinguish what we mean by "Block" training. Some people seem to refer to block training as a microcycling a 3 days blocked, one rest day. Others do block training in the larger macro cycle as has been studied above. I frequently find this to give me a brief bit of confusion when people mention "block" training.


This is an extremely interesting study.

On a similar line, have you ever seen any studies that look at the order in which training sessions are completed during a week?



Is there any theoretical benefit to doing the tough week at the beginning of the block instead of the end? It seems less risky to increase the intensity just before a rest week.


Hi Joe,
Can you find in the study any indication of how they ordered the sessions in the BP in the overload week. 5 sessions in a week and logic would dictate to me a 2 hard 1 easy 1 hard 1 easy 2 hard type of arrangement.
This is very similar to what I do, but add an extra 2 rest days, so its a 9 day cycle.


Great article, Joe.

How was the LIT done in the study?

Zone 1 in the study covers as I see it your zones 2-3. You mentioned earlier that particular upper zone 3 (sweet spot) is worth visiting.

In your previous blog in june 2011 you wrote, that when in block 4 (muscular endurance) you should do Zone 2/3-work (your zones) following the Zone 4(or 5)-work.

In the study was LIT done following the HIT in the same session as well?

Thanks - your blog is a great inspiration!



Are you sure about the relationship of LTHR to max HR?

My LTHR is around 172 and max around 184, which is 93%.

This seems to be pretty consistent with the zones in your Total HR Training book which for LTHR of 172 has Zone 5c at 182+

If LTHR was really only 82% then my MaxHR would be 195 which is way over, I have never even been in the 190s.


Joe, TBH I think you should be a little more demanding of people who conduct studies like this in terms of protocol.

Given they were testing cyclists there really is no excuse for using HR as a measure. Power should be standard for all such experiments, especially those with higher intensity intervals.

Also, sadly typically, the sample numbers are ridiculously small and probably non random.

Further as you point out no account is taken of the placebo effect. Nor will any account be taken of the experimenter effect. Both may account for some or all of the findings, especially since they only just scrape over the feeble 1 in 20 chance hurdle and there it is clearly in the interest of the experimenters to find a positive result which they can publish and be cited by people like you.

I'm not saying that block training doesn't work. But it really needs more competent research than this.

Joe Friel

Martin--LTHR as a % of MHR varies considerably between people. That's why I said "in the vicinity."

Joe Friel

Jesper--In this study there was no control of what the subjects did to get time in LIT. Up to them.

Joe Friel

Tom--They could do the HIT workouts in any order they wanted so long as they did them, it appears.

Joe Friel

Blake--They did the "hard" week at the start of each 4-week block--weeks 1, 5, and 9.

Joe Friel

Ian--I don't recall ever seeing any study that looked uniquely at this.


I did read your post Joe, so did note that you said it was "in the vicinity". I also read the word before it>>> "usually".

I am looking at Appendix 2 of your Total HR book now. Assuming MaxHR is a huge 5bpm above zone 5c then the %s per zone are

5c 97%
5b 94%
5a 92%
4 86
3 83
2 76

So sorry the statement "At 82% of MHR an athlete is USUALLY in the vicinity of their lactate threshold heart rate (LTHR)" is either wrong or the zones in your book are wrong.

I tend to favour the former. It may just possibly be the case that some people may have LTHR at 82% but they will be far from "usual".

This isn't just picking hairs, its pretty critical. If the zones in your book are more typical then the "blocks" in this study are done at zone4+.

5 minute intervals done at this zone are hardly HIT. They should be more like 94%+

Bottom line as I said in my other comment above is that it is simply not acceptable in the year 2013, for a study of this sort to use HR as an effort measure and frankly I think you should say so.

I don't deny that block training works, but poorly conducted studies like this don't really provide much evidence one way or another.


In passing I would also note that it is frustrating that the detailed write up of this article is behind a pay wall.

This is contrary to the fundamental principles of science and of itself is another reason for criticism.

As a British citizen I am happy that our government has made a commitment to make research from its institutions free for all to access.

I hope and expect this will become the norm.


Joe: "both the subjects and the researchers know who is following which protocol"

How is that? There should be no obstacles to single-blinding the study, i e not tell whoever is evaluating the tests which athlete has done what training. Double-blinding, on the other hand, would obviously be impossible.

Joe Friel

SimonW--You're right.


Hi Joe,

Thanks for another interesting article. I do however, agree with Martin regarding the HR zones.

If we take myself as an example with a cycling MHR of 178

88% of MHR = 156

This would refer to my sweet spot and this is very I do 3-4 x 20min workouts. A 6x5min would NOT be a killer workout. But again, this is highly dependent on your fitness level and at what percentage of MHR you have your LTHR. But even with a low LTHR 88% would not be a zone 5b or 5c as given in your books.

Don't trying to be a smarty pants here, just want to straighten things out :)

I've done 3 out of 5 sessions by now and they have been based on my power threshold. I added 30W to my threshold which is about 8%, but I only average my HR above threshold on the last 3 intervals when doing 6x5min. Do you think that's "enough".




I would argue that a HR Zones applied to efforts at 5 minutes are probably useless, might even cause more bad than good.

Your 20 minute efforts are a better place to monitor HR. If you don't have a power meter you might consider PE for your 5, 3, 2, 1 min efforts. My guess is that you'll experience higher quality workouts with less overreaching.

Nick Smith-chandler

hi joe,

Have read the article a few times. Thnx so much.

Do you think there is any merit in lengthening recovery periods to 1:1 in this style of training? Would this not allow for individuals with SLIGHTLY less fitness to also benefit than those in the study. I am betting that gains will not be as much but as always science pushes us to incorporate new training methodology.

thnx for your time.

Joe Friel

Nick Smith-chandler--As the intensity of intervals increases it is common to lengthen the recoveries. 1:1 is usually done with intervals around one's VO2max. That allows the body to clear some of the acidosis so that the following interval can also be done at a high intensity. The opposite is also true. As the intensity decreases the recoveries typically become relatively shorter. In z3 they are often 4:1. That ensures that not all of the acidosis is removed before the next interval since one of the primary purposes of these is to elevate lactate threshold. That's done by maintaining a high level of acidosis.

Alexandre Schulter

Hi Joe,
There are two workouts that I am very used to do in a "linear" way: Wko #1 is several sub-1min intervals. Wko #2 is a 5h+ endurance ride with several 10min intervals. I guess these two stress my energy systems in a different way.

Do you think doing a block this way would be a bad idea?

day 1: Wko#1
day 2: Wko#1
day 3: Wko#1
day 4: Wko#1
day 5: Wko#1
day 6: Wko#2
recovery: up to 2 weeks

Or does it confuse things and would be better to do just Wko#1 in a block, then recover, then do Wko#2?


Joe Friel

Alexandre Schulter--In block periodization it's common to focus on one type of workout/ability with another done in a secondary manner as you suggest. This secondary one is something that is compatible with the primary workout. Usually maintenance of the primary ability from the previous block.


Hi Joe,
Very interesting blog. I am planning to go with block periodization this year myself and can't figure out what the optimum length of a cycle should be. I suppose this probably depends on whether im a responder or non-responder or something like that but what in your opinion is the best length of mesocycle to go for?? What in your experience works best for trained athletes?

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