The 80/20 training to improve your performance as an amateur athlete

The 80/20 training to improve your performance as an amateur athlete

Training in any sport not only requires adequate preparation, material and discipline. The evolution of scientific studies also requires an appropriate choice when choosing what type of training to carry out to achieve the goals. In the case of amateur runners or cyclists, for example, one of the trends in recent years has been the tactic known as 80/20.

This planning, translated into common language, means carrying out 80% of the training in a moderate way, with a regulated effort that does not imply excessive exhaustion, and 20% of the practice in a much more intense way. This approach has historically been attributed to physiologist Stephen Seiler, from Adger University in Norway, who carried out work in 2016 on the training of elite athletes who achieved better results in competition.

The expert’s analysis, together with the experiences of runners who had followed this dynamic, created a series of routines that sought to unite the best of two worlds. On the one hand, the benefit of moderate activity that does not bring the body to fatigue thresholds and also shorter sessions, at high intensity, which serve to improve VO2 max (oxygen consumption) and other issues such as the amount of energy that muscles can store in the mitochondrial system.

The Norwegian researchers revealed that the 80/20 approach offered results regardless of the training sessions the athletes carried out. According to their results, improvements were achieved if practitioners carried out four sessions a week but also if, for example, they doubled the number of training sessions. In addition, they highlighted that the benefits could be more evident in amateur athletes or those who only participated in sports recreationally.


What this study was saying is that the evidence shows that always training at the limit, pushing the body to exhaustion, does not lead to improvements in performance but, on the contrary, can lead to a decrease in sports results. In addition, the risk of injuries increases due to the stress to which the musculoskeletal system is subjected and one can also suffer lethal overtraining for any sports practice.

Within this thesis, in 2019 a study was published carried out by the universities of Leeds, in the United Kingdom, in addition to the departments of Physical Education of the UPV and the Polytechnic University of Madrid and the Isabel I of Burgos, in which it was reached a conclusion that 80/20 supported. According to this work, the best predictor of good results was how much time of slow running the athletes did in their work sessions before the competition.

This approach was reviewed by the physiologist from the University of Verona Luca Festa, who four years ago published a study on the results in amateur sports of this type of training (baptized as polarized as it oscillates between two extremes, the slow pace and the fast pace). more strenuous) and compared them to another type of training defined as ’45/35/20′. This routine consisted of 45% of the exercise performed in a relaxed manner, 35% moderate, and 20% at high intensity.

The conclusions reached by the Italian physiologist highlighted that “the two types of training had similar improvements, but those who did not perform the ’80/20′ were able to save 17% of time,” Festa writes in his study. His research, published by Frontiers in Sports and Active Living, had been carried out with 43 runners – although some dropped out of the study – whom he divided into two groups to train with the two systems for eight weeks. In the case of the polarized routines, Festa used a distribution consisting of 77/3/20. That is, 3% of moderate effort training was included in the classic 80/20. The test that served as a test to evaluate the effects was a two-kilometer run on a 400-meter track.

“While there is a consensus on (the effectiveness) of widespread polarized training among coaches and athletes and many studies have shown that it achieves important improvements, in recreational athletes there is no evidence to differentiate the models,” writes the Italian expert. In any case, when choosing and planning a workout it is always better to turn to experts and keep in mind that each body is different and adjusting to a predefined mold can be a mistake.

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