By Skyler Zarndt MS, ATC, RSCC
Yesterday we briefly outlined Joel Jamieson’s Certified Conditioning Coach course. If you didn’t get a chance to take a peek at it, check it out here. In essence, the course offers a real world practicality that can be applied by any person, regardless of training age or experience.
Whenever conditioning for athletic performance is discussed, perhaps the most popular discussion topic is “energy systems.” In a very rough and global sense, energy systems are exactly what they sound like; how we take the food we eat and convert it into usable energy. In a more specific sense that relates to conditioning, it’s the pathway or process that our body uses to provide energy, based on the demands of the environment.
We have three energy systems that our body relies upon – Aerobic (Oxidative), Anaerobic Lactic (Glycolytic), and Anaerobic Alactic (ATP-PCr). It should be noted that the term “aerobic” simply means “involving oxygen” and the term “anerobic” means “absence of oxygen.” To give you an idea of what each system does and when it is on, take a look at the graph below:
As you can see, the Anaerobic Alactic (ATP-PCr) system works for a short time, but the body relies on it when it must produce a massive amount of energy over a small period of time. Even if the body wanted to use it for a long period, the substrates that supply this system cannot be replenished quickly enough for this to be possible. Its ability to provide energy lasts up to about 10 seconds. To use this system, just sprint for as fast as you can and as long as you can. You’ll notice that you start to gas-out shortly after about 10 seconds. Then our next system kicks in…
The Anaerobic Lactic (Glycolytic) system is our sort of “in-between” system. This system will last us around 10 seconds up to about 90 seconds. It still allows us to work at a high intensity, but our body now is now breaking down glucose to produce our energy. This process will produce lactic acid as a byproduct of energy production (no that’s not why your muscle’s get sore after lifting weights), hence it’s name.
Finally, our Aerobic (Oxidative) system allows us to work for extremely long periods of time. This system utilizes oxygen as well as a host of other substrates in a complicated process to provide energy. It lacks the ability to provide quick bursts of energy, but it is the energy system we rely on for roughly 99.9% of energy throughout our life. The aerobic system has many working parts. This means that it provides us with lots of adaptable areas, which in turn allows us greater flexibility when training this system.
What this course outlined was essentially how to train these three energy systems in preparation for our specific goals. Because each sport challenges energy production in different ways, we must train accordingly. As Jamieson stated “Every adaptive response in the body is essentially about maintaining homeostasis so that energy production can be maintained in the specific environment.”
We can break down each “environment” into three components:
- Rate of energy production
- Duration of energy production
- Work to rest ratio
These variables define each unique environment that we may encounter in regards to conditioning.
Rate of energy production is defined by “how rapidly ATP is regenerated during the work period. High rate = high power output.” This would be anything that takes a lot of energy in a very short time, such as weightlifting, sprinting or throws in track, and power lifting. High rate of energy production = Anaerobic dominant.
Duration of energy production is defined by “how long energy must be produced for. Duration = economy/efficient.” Marathon runners or cyclists certainly have to produce energy for long periods of time, and their training reflects this. Long duration activities are Aerobic dominant.
Work to rest ratio is defined by “variance between length of work and periods of rest.” If we have activities that require greater power demands, we need longer rest to recovery ratios between sets. This would include exercises that are Anaerobic in nature. Activities that have a greater Aerobic contribution require shorter rest periods OR longer work periods.
It should also be noted that the more repetitions done consecutively, the more Aerobic an exercise becomes. This comes into play when we need to determine how much aerobic conditioning an athlete needs.
Now that we understand energy systems and how they pertain to conditioning, we can start to see how we will put together our programs. Tomorrow we will discuss movement potential and variability, as well as the role of conditioning in the brain, all in an effort to better understand how we can train more efficiently and effectively.
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