Aerobic Endurance Training for Athletes

Use the airbike to train anerobic endurance on the airbike

How to build your athlete’s aerobic system on the AirBike

Human beings are designed to be aerobic. The more aerobic we are, the more resilient we can be in life, period. The aerobic system is one of the three energy systems (alactic, lactic, and aerobic) but, tends to be forgotten. In exercise prescription, a fear of “losing strength” has reduced aerobic endurance training and popularized alactic and lactic training. However, aerobic endurance training cannot be forgotten and is the single greatest contribution a coach can add to an athlete’s program.

(Coach’s Resource: Master programming for all three energy systems with this course.)

Benefits of Aerobic Endurance Training:

  1. Enhances transportation of oxygen to working muscles.
  2. Increased enzyme availability for muscle endurance.
  3. Liberate Free Fatty Acids for fuel (regulates body fat distribution).
  4. Speeds recovery between high-intensity training sessions.
  5. Improves cardiovascular health and function.

Characteristics of Aerobic Endurance Training

OPEX Fitness characterizes aerobic training as sustainable, repeatable, and paced efforts. This development can only be achieved at an intensity, in which the aerobic system is activated to the maximum, while lactate accumulation in the muscles has not yet been reached. Training the aerobic system and its many levels depends on the athlete’s current fitness level and function. A novice lifter would not be programmed to squat #400 pounds on their first day of training. The same approach applies when training the aerobic energy system.

Prescribing Aerobic Training

Before prescribing any aerobic training it is important to know the athlete’s baseline aerobic capacity. Work capacity can be tested in multiple ways but we prefer the 10 minute max calories on the AirBike test. This test gives coaches an accurate measurement of work capacity along with a database of scores to compare to. The ability to compare data gives coaches an accurate depiction of the athlete’s performance and the opportunity to adjust training if necessary. Learn the 10 minute max calories on the AirBike test with our course Programming for the Airbike.

When to Increase Intensity

Aerobic adaptations can be achieved within a 6-12 month period depending on the starting point and function of the athlete. It’s important to understand that athletes need to earn the right to perform harder efforts by proving their efficiency in longer pieces both mixed and cyclical. An athlete’s aerobic system can be progress once the athletes have proven they can sustain a pace and repeat efforts over and over. Keep in mind that when progressing the aerobic energy system start with long slow efforts and build to shorter and faster efforts over time.

Sample Aerobic Endurance Training Program

One Week Training Prescription for a Competitive Female Athlete who Needs Aerobic Development:

Considerations for this design:

  • Athlete’s lifestyle supports 10 sessions per week (6-7 of those are aerobic)
  • Most aerobic sessions are long slow pieces and cyclical; Map 7-10
  • Each day begins with a priority of aerobic training
  • No limit to Maximal Aerobic Power (MAP 10) prescriptions, as long as the athlete’s lifestyle can support it. Give as many hours possible of low-intensity work for athletes who don’t possess developed aerobic mechanisms.

Monday

AM

30 Minutes AirBike—easy effort- conversational pace (MAP 10)

PM

  1. Single Arm Kettlebell Overhead Squat – barefoot, turn and look at the Kettlebell like Turkish Get Up, come on toes as needed @ 32X1; 2-3/arm x 4 sets; rest as needed
  2. Segmented Snatch grip DL 3-3-3-3-3; rest 2 minutes–release at top
  3. Muscle Snatch 4-4-4-4; rest 2 minutes

+

Every Minute On the Minute (EMOM) 10 minutes

Odd– Strict Handstand Push Up max in 30 seconds

Even– Double Under 30 seconds As Many Reps As Possible (AMRAP)

+

10 Minutes AirBike Zone 1

Tuesday

AM

30 Minutes Row; every 500m get off and complete 60 meters of Farmers Walk #heavy MAP 10

PM

30 Minutes walk with weight vest MAP 10

Wednesday

AM

30 Minutes @ sustainable pace MAP 8

1 Minute Row

1 Minute Skip rope

1 Minute Front leaning Raise (FLR)

1 Minute Run

1 Minute AirBike

PM

  1. Push Press + Push Jerk + Split Jerk; 5 sets; rest 2 minutes
  2. Overhead Squat @30×1; 5-5-5-5; rest 2 minutes
  3. Snatch Push Press behind the neck 6-6-5-5; rest 2 minutes
  4. Single Arm Upright Dumbbell Row 8 reps x 3; rest 1 minute

+

EMOM 12 minutes

Odd—wall ball shots x 10 #20-9ft

Even— Farmers Walk AMRAP distance in 30 seconds #heavy

+

10 minutes easy spin AirBike

Thursday

AM

Swim 30 minutes – 25 meters every 90 seconds @ easy effort MAP 8

PM

Off

Friday

AM

30-minute AirBike; every 2 minutes get off and complete 2 Wall Walks MAP 10

PM

  1. 3 Position Hang Power Clean( knee-thigh-hip); 5 sets 65%; rest 90 seconds
  2. Hang Clean Pulls 4-4-3-3; rest 2 minutes
  3. Front Squat @ 20×1;  4-3-2-2; rest 3 minutes
  4. EMOM 1 rope climbs 18ft x 10 minutes

Saturday

AM

60-minute Hike natural intervals (hill, slopes)

NOON

  1. EMOM Clean Jerk @ 60% 3 reps –12 minutes
  2. EMOM Hang Power Snatch @ 60% 3 reps — 12 minutes

+

8 Minute AMRAP

5 Pull Ups (strict)

5 Push Ups

5 Toes to Bar

Rest 3 Minutes

8 Minutes AMRAP

10 Sit Ups

10 Back Extensions

20 Double Under

Sunday

Off

While aerobic endurance training is essential to performance, true athletic growth will only come from tapping into the three energy systems. Master the art of programming all three energy systems on the AirBike for general population and athletic clients with our course Programming for the AirBike.

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9 Comments

  1. Great article Kelsey, thanks.

    What is your opinion on the growing body of evidence (spent the last few hours looking up papers comparing outcomes of LSD vs HIT) showing that an incredibly low volume of intense work can have a similar, if not a bigger (positive) impact on the metabolism, when compared to steady state aerobic work? I understand that being able to sustain a high volume of work in the sport of CrossFit is paramount.

    But what if volume and recovery weren’t two main focus points in one’s training? Example: Active individual, training for health, no specific workout schedule to follow.. Could that person benefit from simply doing a few sprints once in a while, as opposed to accumulating hours at steady state over the week?

    I’d love to hear your thoughts on that!

    Thanks!!

  2. Sean..I think the answer is no. There is no substitute for the easy volume. Maybe someone with credentials will confirm.

  3. Sean – I think that if you could substitute long, low intensity sessions with HIT then that’s what everyone would be doing. I mean, why train for hours every week if you can get the same benefit from training for a fraction of the time? But if you look at elite endurance athletes – that’s not what they’re doing. They’re still out there putting in the miles because there’s no real substitute for that kind of training. Mark Twight wrote a widely shared article on the subject (https://www.marktwight.com/blogs/discourse/85824260-no-free-lunch).

    Of course, in the end it all depends on your goals. Not everyone wants to be an endurance athlete.

  4. What is your opinion on the growing body of evidence (spent the last few hours looking up papers comparing outcomes of LSD vs HIT) showing that an incredibly low volume of intense work can have a similar, if not a bigger (positive) impact on the metabolism, when compared to steady state aerobic work?

    — metabolic training AKA HIIT does have a larger metabolic affect on the body BUT at a cost. Saying its “postive” is dependent on the athletes current fitness level, goals and training/biological age. The research out there unfortunately is mostly composed of untrained individuals with poor aerobic marker to begin with…or done on a cyclical mode (bike) with low less impact and load. Crossfit is a challenging mix of strength, power, speed, and endurance and requires careful and specific development of all three of your body’s energy systems. There is not really a debate about which one is better, they lead to different adaptations and each has their unique benefits. Back to my point HIIT comes with a price tag…if you fast track it and abuse it, like a lot of athletes do..the result is a short career

    I understand that being able to sustain a high volume of work in the sport of CrossFit is paramount.
    — Correct and it takes YEARS to develop that volume…. do you think attaining that volume can be done by only doing hard intensity sets everyday? what supports that recovery between intensity? ( food, sleep, aerobic base…to share a few)

    But what if volume and recovery weren’t two main focus points in one’s training?
    Example: Active individual, training for health, no specific workout schedule to follow.. Could that person benefit from simply doing a few sprints once in a while, as opposed to accumulating hours at steady state over the week?

    — Well then this training article does not apply to this example, as it is relative to sport. If you are just wanting to be healthy then move daily, eat well, chew your food, and get some sun! The movement should support the long game since life is long (typically). Hope that helps!

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