FireWOD: The Cure for Small Mitochondria

Let’s face it: you have small mitochondria.  Most of the time, you can cover this up, but in the gym, everyone can see just how small they are.  Long after the beasts with the huge mitochondria complete the WOD, you struggle to get as many reps as you can before the coach time-caps you.  Or, you scale the weight and reps, hoping no one notices.

But they see it.  They do.  Other people see your mitochondrial smallness.  

Now there’s something you can do about your tiny little organelle: FireWOD!   For under a dollar a day, FireWOD will increase the length AND girth of your mitochondria.  The change will be obvious.  After a few weeks of FireWOD, everyone will notice the way your big swinging mitochondria extract oxygen and deliver power at rates that impress even the most experienced athletes. 

No more scaling.   No more time caps.   With FireWOD, your giant mitochondria will clear a path for you as you confidently stride up to the leaderboard after class to get one last look at your score.

POLARIZATION: Mitochondria Gone Wild

Capacity-focused training can be broadly divided into three categories

Steady state / endurance pace: usually about 65-70% max sustained power, for a long duration.

Threshold / race pace:  Your fastest sustained pace without redlining, usually about 75-85% max sustained power for a moderate duration.   Most MetCons are done at this pace.  

High intensity:  This pace is for intervals or during a finishing kick in a MetCon.   Advanced athletes can complete short benchmarks like “Diane” at this intensity.   This is 85%+ max sustained power.    

Everyone trains to maximize stimulus while permitting sufficient rest and recovery.  But doing MetCons every day is not the path to maximum capacity.  While almost any program benefits beginners, FireWOD’s polarized approach produces capacity gains in athletes at any level.  Polarized training means a balance between moderate intensity training and very high intensity training, with little threshold training.   A classic polarized training model splits training volume into

  • 75% steady state / endurance pace
  • 5% threshold / race pace
  • 20% very high intensity / above race pace

This increases oxygen delivery to your cells, and increases the ability of your cells to use it.   More oxygen, more mitochondria, more power. 


Polarization is proven to deliver the biggest capacity gains, even for experienced athletes.

Research published in the Journal of Applied Physiology shows that six weeks of polarized training convincingly outperformed six weeks of threshold training delivering superior improvement in key fitness parameters.  

Research published in the journal Frontiers in Physiology concluded that a nine-week polarized training cycle outperformed high intensity intervals, threshold training, and endurance-focused training.

These charts summarize the findings from the above links.  Two separate studies, two separate designs, one conclusion:  Polarized training dominates other protocols

  The lactate threshold (LT) is the intensity level at which blood lactate levels begin to increase.    The lactate turn-point (LTP) is the intensity level at which further increases in intensity produce  huge  increases in lactate levels.  These are discussed in some detail  here

The lactate threshold (LT) is the intensity level at which blood lactate levels begin to increase.  The lactate turn-point (LTP) is the intensity level at which further increases in intensity produce huge increases in lactate levels.  These are discussed in some detail here


The exercises in FireWOD are a lot like your current program.  Constantly varied?  Yep.   Functional movement? Absolutely.  Every training session.  Couplets? Triplets?  Chippers? EMOMs? Intervals? FireWOD has it all.  Instead of every training session performed at high intensity, FireWOD relies on polarized intensity.   CVFMHI becomes CVFMPI. Here is an example of how several different ways to arrange a 20-minute conditioning block on the assault bike for an athlete whose endurance pace is 60RPM:

   Polarization example: 96% moderate intensity / 4% high. Try it!  

Polarization example: 96% moderate intensity / 4% high. Try it!  

While each training style is beneficial, only the polarized approach accomplishes ALL of the following:

- Delivers systemic cardio-respiratory adaptations, including enhanced oxygen transport and delivery to working cells.

- Reduces emphasis on glycolytic engine, sparing carbohydrates.  This leaves more fuel in the tank for strength training.

- Activates fast twitch muscle fibers, improving their oxidative capacity and fatigue resistance.

- Increases economy of movement, meaning less oxygen is required for sub-maximal efforts.


FireWOD programs 5 training sessions per week.  The training week adheres to the polarized intensity distribution in the aggregate, but not every session is polarized.   Because FireWOD uses varying intensity, you can combine each week's FireWODs with the rest of your training as you see fit.   Do them in any order.    Testing a 1RM lift?  You may want to do a lower intensity FireWOD that day.  

Polarization advances the capacity of functional fitness athletes without sacrificing any of your ability in other domains.  Polarization is well understood in the capacity community (rowers, middle distance runners, etc.) but The Gains Lab is the first to broadly apply it to functional fitness.  After you sign up, we’re here to help with any questions about the program and how to use it.

I want big mitochondria.  Polarize me!