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Energy Systems Training – How To Train and Improve With James Fitzgerald

September 24, 2019


Some examples of Energy System Training. Or, best case examples energy system training. I’ll try to take a fairly complex topic and break it down to some simple pieces that can make senseif you want to do or coach specific energy systems training. One way that I teach coaches to think about that and to explain it to their clients is that you never really do work without everything being put together in that piece of work. That means that even if I walk across the room, I’m using all different parts of the energy systems. If I walk across the room a lot faster and I can sustain it for hours on end, then, I could be more dominant in one energy system over another. If I sprint across the room and I have drop off (end point) from that pace, now I’m using a different energy system. If I try to carry a massive load across the room, I can’t continue to hold it so I put it down and then pick it back up, across the room and I can’t do it and I
have to pick it up and put it down pick multiple times, now I’m using a whole different energy system. So, as a starting point, just think that with any piece of work, you have to use all 3 of the energy systems. Writing them in simple way that makes sense to most people are 3 circles within one another. The ATP/phosphocreatine system – “gain” – the glycolytic system – “pain” – and the aerobic system – “sustain” Naming these in a way that makes sense would be: 1. Sustain=Aerobic System 2. Pain=Glycolitic System (and because it rhymes) 3. Gain=CP ATP System Gain, Pain, and Sustain=the 3 Energy Systems. Then you can visualize what the dose response is that you’re trying to get from the specific workout, and it gives you an idea in terms of the dominant energy system that used within the training. So, if we’re going to talk about energy
systems and best energy systems training practices, understanding the dose response and understanding what you’re trying to achieve with each one must be really clear before you start training the process. For gain, we can call it “Alactic” – ie without lactate production or capability during the training session, you want to think of it in terms of very short, fast, and intense. You’re going to need to rest for a longer amount of time between sets in order to recover to go again because if it’s proper energy systems training, the work (reps, speed, weights, etc…) must be REPEATABLE within that session. If we’re doing capacity style of that training – testing max ability or pace, reps, weights, etc… – that’s different. If we’re if we’re doing a peaking variation of capacity, that’s different, if we’re teaching people how to start learning how to train, that’s different as well. But, if we’re going to be doing alactic training, we want repeatable measures of: A really short timeframe – 0 – 20 sec as a
starting point. The rest periods can be anywhere between 7 – 15x (times) that amount of work relative to the intensity, the person, and what’s inside of the workout. A really simple example of this would be: get on an Assault bike and to do 12 seconds at a really high effort, very very hard effort. Then take 2:48 sec of a full recovery break when you do that. So, if you would repeat that for 4 pieces (sets) with the same rest time between each piece (set), that would be an alactic session (Gain). The reason why I choose an Assault Bike for 12 sec is that a lot of people can do it. One thing we forget is that if you go through the anaerobic realm for training alactic (Gain) or lactic (Pain) work, people actually have to be powerful enough to do that. If you’re not powerful enough to get the dose response that’s required, or you’re looking at 2:48 rest and saying “that’s too much time,” you’re either doing two things: 1. You’re not going hard enough for the 12 sec or 2. You can’t go hard enough for 12 sec to actually get the response that’s needed for that specific time frame, If some people do 12 sec, take only 48 sec off and do it over and over with what they perceive as “very very hard effort.” they’re not really anaerobic. So, in most cases, in order to do true anaerobic training, you have to be strong
enough. That was one exampleof an alactic session based upon the timeframes, sets, and effort. Pain – everyone seems to know how to do the pain one. A way to think about pain work is that whatever timeframe you choose within training, let’s pick an example that is clearly painful, 2 minutes of hard work. When you do 2 min of work, it really should have an endpoint that’s just beyond 2 min in terms of your total workout capacity that you’re able to maintain. So, in order to determine if the workout is really glycolitic (Pain), you should not be able to maintain the 2-min pace you’ve chosen for more than just over 2 min. For example, on a graph, if you’re to put power output for that 2 min, a person’s going to get up to a certain amount of pace and power that they can maintain, and then after 2 min, the power should drop precipitously. So, if that’s the 2-min interval, they are doing glycolitic (Pain) work because they can’t maintain that pace, regardless of the limitation, after 2 min. To see the difference from glycolitic to aerobic sustainability, if you’re doing aerobic training, you could still do a 2-min interval. However, in the aerobic interval, the power output is lower, so there isn’t a fatigue point. They can recover and do the same power output over and over and over again. That’s the difference between 2 min of glycolytic work and 2 min of aerobic work. If you do 2 min of aerobic work, it’s
probably going to take you 1 – 2 min to recover before you can go aerobically again. If you do 2 min that’s truly glycolytic, it should take you 8 to 10 to 12 to 14 to even 16 min to recover. It gets in-depth to determine what the exact recovery time is per person. Some people just recover faster than others due to their aerobic system, due to correct pacing, due to their power output, or due to what was inside of the 2-min interval and how that really you know really
resides. An example of 2-min of pain – if we were to say best training practices for most people – would really come down to mechanics and muscle endurance capability. If you wanted to do a really good 2-min interval for mixed modal training (CrossFit-style), something that’s really simple that can be a combo of kettlebell (KB) swings, rowing, and burpees. You do it really fast, you combine all those pieces together for a couple of minutes, and you do it at a really hard effort. In most cases, the speed of contraction and the muscle endurance you’re partaking in, as well as the amount of time you spend in lactate, or glycolytic (Pain), training will determine how long you can sustain that. You really should not last anything longer than a couple of minutes, so if you actually do a glycolytic interval, then it should not be able to sustain past those couple of minutes. Remember the old days of dot com (CrossFit.com) workouts that were generally you know three to four minutes in length. There was no way you were going to be able to do anything for half an hour to perhaps days after that because so much energy was put into 1 interval. It’s so so much the case today where people do 3-4 min really hard and then they take 2 min rest and then do another metcon. and that really meant that 1. They actually didn’t make the first one
glycolytic no matter how hard it looked or how “fast”they went, and for different reasons, they could be super aerobic, they may actually not be able to “go there,” or they may be super dampened and working at lower output. They’re basically turning glycolytic work into sustainable aerobic work, If they were to truly able to go there for 3 min, it should take 20 – 25 min to recover, it’s just recognizing exactly what the training is when people do it. And, for cyclical, or what we call middle zone painful training, there’s nothing better to use than a rower, so pick 1k row and do it really hard. Not very very hard, but really hard so that you can’t maintain that pace right after the 1k. So if you do a 1k row, you’re a male, and you finish it in 3:10, as you see you your meters kicking down, you should be saying “this is all I got, I can’t really go a lot further than this.” Then you rest 15 – 20 min, and you do that 1k a couple more times. That would be energy systems training for that specific area. Now, you would do a 3:10 row because you’re PR (personal record) is like 2:58, so for energy system training, you’re going to hold a 3:10 which is right around this area here (just below the capacity line) which is just below that threshold point so you can repeat it. That repeatability allows you’re to flirt
with that system which pushes your capability up underneath that, and for a number of other reasons, but just practicing it would be a simple one for a simple modality. Now, for the aerobic one it’s a little bit easier to do because, based upon the amount of reps that you do, we call them pieces and blocks for OPEX and OPEX coaches. The amount of repetitions that you do there, you can throw whatever you want in there as long as people can sustain it repetitively. For ex, if you wanted to do a 3-4 min metcon and then rest 2 min, what I would ask people to do is to truly see if it’s aerobic, and if you have enough muscle endurance in order to maintain those aerobic pieces within it, especially if it’s mixed modal, is to do a 4 min workout with a bunch of stuff inside of it, record a score relative to how much you did, rest 3 min, and repeat that exact same
workout 3 more times. That will allow you to say “can I maintain this pace?” It may be overkill for the reps you chose, but that’s your issue, at least you got to play around with what’s going to go into that. Whatever movements and reps you’re going to have, I’d say take something like you double unders, wall balls, and toes to bar, do a whole bunch of reps in 4 min, rest 3 min, and then do that exact same workout in the same format 3 more times. You should have the same score for every 4-min piece. If you do, that’s aerobic training. What’s wrapped inside of it is basically just muscle endurance and a bunch of other things. If you get attrition meaning that you score fewer reps each time, there’s a fatigue factor happening where you’ve either got an incorrect pace (speed), or you’ve got a muscle endurance issue that’s not allowing you to maintain that aerobic capability, or you may have just gotten tired or hot depending upon where you live which may cause a limitation in you creating a mixed modal aerobic piece (work). So, to use the rowing example here (pointing to aerobic), some really simple ones that we use are 500m row repeats. As an example, people have to get lots of volume built up before they get to these, but to use 500m row repeats, take your best to case score 2k row time (score), and take that pace that you did on average for the whole 2k and row each 500m at that pace. and for those of you who haven’t been introduced to aerobic training before will find that pace a little easy. That’s the whole idea! Why? Because you’re going to rest in two minutes, and you’re going to repeat that over and
over and over and over and over and over. Start with 3 or 4 pieces of that. Try to build to 6, 8, 10…the reason why I like volume for the aerobic training is that it maintains sustainability, and it ensure people know how to pace effectively for a number of the sets. As you build, it’s really tougher for people to go threshold (go hard enough for pace to be forced slower). If they start to screw up the second set and they go at a pace, but they know they’ve got 8 more sets to do, They’ll configure the correct pace because they can’t suffer for 8 more sets, nobody wants that because suffering occurs in here (pain zone). Sustainable work is something that
should be repeated repetitively over and over. So those are a couple of different examples of best energy systems training practices per zone. A couple of major points to remember: 1. There’s never one without the other, they’re always working together and relying on each other consistently all the time. Remember that time timeframes and time domains do not dictate energy systems training. When you choose the alactic system, for gains, you’re looking for high power output which requires strength to create power. If you don’t have sufficient absolute and relative strength, anaerobic training is useless. If you’re gonna be doing the glycolytic (pain) stuff, remember the type of power output shouldn’t be maintained past the time frame of the interval (set). If you’re doing aerobic work, it has to be sustainable the whole time. I’ll finish with a final point on it. There is a difference between fitness and health. If we can clearly delineate between the two, my argument is that you really don’t need to do any glycolitic (pain) training to maintain health and longevity. If you are going to do any glycolytic or really painful intervals, to give you some benefit in the kind of training you do for fitness or sport or whatever the case may be, it totally makes sense. If you want to live long and prosper, in most cases we don’t have to have glycolytic intervals. I hope that helps a bit in your thought process around energy systems training. Come back to OPEX for more information on all things coaching and fitness.

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