Different effects of the 80/20 ratio | 80/20 Endurance

Different effects of the 80/20 ratio

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    Marius T

    I was thinking at following scenario:

    If one respects the 80/20 ratio but the workouts are structured somehow different that the classic set-up, will be obtained different effects on the body/fitness?

    Example 1:
    A classical arrangement for bike is:
    CF10 – 15 minutes in Zone 1, 35 minutes Zone 2, 10 minutes Zone 1
    CCI4 – 5 minutes Zone 1, 10 minutes Zone 2, 4 x (7 minutes Zone 3/3 minutes Zone 1) 5 minutes Zone 2, 5 minutes Zone 1
    CAe8 – 10 minutes Zone 1, 4 x (30 minutes Zone 2/10 minutes Zone 1) 10 minutes Zone 1

    What if one transform CCI4 in a CF ride and put the intervals on the CAe8 ride.

    CF10 – 15 minutes in Zone 1, 35 minutes Zone 2, 10 minutes Zone 1
    Former CCI4 – 5 minutes Zone 1, 10 minutes Zone 2, 1x (30 minutes Zone 2/10 minutes Zone 1), 5 minutes Zone 1
    CAe8 – 10 minutes Zone 1, 4 x (7 minutes Zone 3/3 minutes Zone 1), 3x (30 minutes Zone 2/10 minutes Zone 1) 10 minutes Zone 1

    Will be obtained the same effect on the body/fitness, 80/20 rule being respected?
    My guess is not, because the stress (and therefore, the adaptation cycle) will be greater on the last workout.

    Example 2:
    CAe8 – 10 minutes Zone 1, 4 x (30 minutes Zone 2/10 minutes Zone 1) 10 minutes Zone 1, all done at 90 rpm, how David recommends.

    But, if one is doing all/some of Z2 intervals at 60-70 rpm, this will translate, in my opinion, in a different stimulus on the body (more muscular than cardiovascular).

    In this scenario, can one say that is still doing 80/20 concept? (taking in consideration the intensity of all workouts, of course)

    Any thoughts?

    David Warden


    Great question. Intensity balance is just one primary aspect to successful training. Frequency, duration, specificity, progressive overload, recovery, reversibility… all have to be included in a successful plan. The 80/20 intensity balance principle is just one pillar.

    If you did one workout a week for 30 minutes, and performed it with the 80/20 intensity ratios you are technically performing 80/20 training: but you won’t get any faster. The 80/20 intensity balance has to be integrated into the larger picture. If any pillars are missing, training stagnates.

    Let me distinguish between the 80/20 intensity balance and the 80/20 system. The 80/20 intensity balance is just that one pillar: 80 percent easy, 20 percent hard. The 80/20 system is how Matt and I integrate the 80/20 intensity balance into a broader methodology that incorporates all best-practice foundational endurance training.

    Short answer is you can technically perform 80/20 training without adopting the best practices of the full 80/20 system.

    In your example, the intensity balance has not been altered if you make those changes. The 80/20 ratios remain the same. But is it still the 80/20 system? Actually, yes, probably. Those re-integration and mixing of intervals within the same workout are not dramatic enough for most athletes to be disadvantaged.

    There are some risks. If you mix a CCI and a CAe in the same workout, are you compromising the quality of the CAe? Are you compromising recovery? By doing this, won’t there be a larger break between future higher intensity workouts? If you combine a Sunday CAe and a Tuesday CCI, does that mean no bike intervals for 5 more days? Does that break interfere with frequency and reversibly? The answer to these questions may be positive for some and negative for others.

    Here’s an extreme example of changing the workouts in a bad way. Let’s say you combined all intervals into two workouts over two days. 80/20 intensity balance? Check. Duration? Check. Specificity? Check. Hey, so far so good! Reversibility…., uh no, we fail that test. Frequency, uh, no. Recovery, dang, no. So, you can go too far in modifying the plan.

    I think that the order in which the workouts are presented in our plans is ideal, but it does not mean it is ideal for every athlete. As long as your changes don’t interfere with the broader 80/20 system, those changes are fine and are still 80/20 training in my opinion.


    Marius T

    Thank you, David, now is very clear. Somehow, I was tempted to focus only on the 80/20 ratio.
    The distinction between 80/20 intensity balance and 80/20 system opened my eyes.



    what is reversibility?

    David Warden

    Reversibility means that you can lose the effects of training (fitness) when you stop or significantly reduce training. This includes all aspects of training. In the example above, if you don’t do any high intensity intervals for 5 days, you’ll start to lose the effects from of those high intensity intervals, even if you maintain all other training structure, such as speed and VO2.


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