Polarized vs. Threshold Training Intensity Distribution on Endurance Sport Performance: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials

J Strength Cond Res. 2019 Dec;33(12):3491-3500. doi: 10.1519/JSC.0000000000002618.


Rosenblat MA, Perrotta AS, and Vicenzino B. Polarized vs. threshold training intensity distribution on endurance sport performance: A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. J Strength Cond Res 33(12): 3491-3500, 2019-The objective of this review was to systematically search the literature to identify and analyze data from randomized controlled trials that compare the effects of a polarized training model (POL) vs. a threshold training model (THR) on measurements of sport performance in endurance athletes. This systematic review and meta-analysis is registered with PROSPERO (CRD42016050942). The literature search was performed on November 6, 2016 and included SPORTDiscus (1800-present), CINAHL Complete (1981-present), and Medline with Full Text (1946-present). Studies were selected if they included: random allocation, endurance-trained athletes with greater than 2 years of training experience and VO2max/peak >50 ml·kg·min, a POL group, a THR group, assessed either internal (e.g., VO2max) or external (e.g., time trial) measurements of endurance sport performance. The databases SPORTDiscus, Medline and CINAHL yielded a combined 329 results. Four studies met the inclusion criteria for the qualitative analysis, and 3 for the meta-analysis. Two of the 4 studies included in the review scored a 4/10 on the PEDro Scale and 2 scored a 5/10. With respect to outcome measurements, 3 studies included time-trial performance, 3 included VO2max or VO2peak, 2 studies measured time-to-exhaustion, and one study included exercise economy. There was sufficient data to conduct a meta-analysis on time-trial performance. The pooled results demonstrate a moderate effect (ES = -0.66; 95% CI: -1.17 to -0.15) favoring the POL group over the THR group. These results suggest that POL may lead to a greater improvement in endurance sport performance than THR.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Meta-Analysis
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Athletic Performance*
  • Humans
  • Oxygen Consumption
  • Physical Conditioning, Human / methods*
  • Physical Conditioning, Human / physiology*
  • Physical Endurance*
  • Physical Exertion / physiology*
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic