The Lost Art of Aerobic Endurance Training for CrossFit®

Are you doing enough aerobic endurance training session? Or do you understand the aerobic endurance training methods.

First of all let me start with saying that human beings are designed to be enduring.  The more enduring we are, the more resilient we can be in life period.  The aerobic system is one of our genetic predispositions as humans and must not be forgotten in exercise prescription in fear of “losing strength”.   The single greatest contribution a competitive fitness athlete can add to their program is CORRECTLY prescribed Aerobic Endurance Training.

Most people believe that aerobic training is just simply running, rowing or cycling for 30-45 minutes.  In reality there are several levels of aerobic training and each “feel” different to the athlete and must be prescribed correctly for proper development.  In CCP we discuss many levels of aerobic training for development in performance.  Most recently we added MAP 10 to our list as our definition of Zone 1 training.  The reason we use the language MAP over Zones is to separate the connection of Heart Rate training to aerobic training.  Training programs for CrossFit have too many variables that can skew an athlete’s HR zone from session to session; CNS demand the day before, sleep, nutrition, etc.  Therefore, understanding needs to be directed towards “individual effort” and rate of perceived exertion.  The HR isn’t always a predictor of intensity or effort.  The coach is responsible in educating the athlete on the characteristics of aerobic training so the athlete themselves can identify the correct effort.

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Characteristics of Aerobic Endurance Training.

At OPEX we characterize aerobic training as a sustainable, repeatable and paced efforts.  This development can only be achieved at an intensity, which the complete oxygen-transporting system (aerobic system) is activated to the maximum, while lactate accumulation in the muscles is not yet reached. Training the aerobic system and its many levels, depends on the athlete’s current fitness level and function of the athlete.

Just like we wouldn’t take a novice lifter and make them squat #400 pounds on their first day of training, the same should apply with energy system training.  Aerobic metabolism plays a vital role in human performance and is the foundation of energy system development.

What Are the Benefits of Properly Prescribed Aerobic Training

  1. Enhances transportation of oxygen to working muscles
  2. Increased enzyme availability for muscle endurance
  3. Provides ATP required to resynthesize PCR during times of low activity between high efforts.
  4. Liberate Free Fatty Acids for fuel (regulates body fat distribution)
  5. Speeds recovery between high intensity training sessions
  6. Improves cardiovascular health and function

How to determine if an athlete is ready to increase intensity?

Aerobic adaptations can be achieved within a 6-12 month period depending on the starting point and function of the athlete.  Once adaptations have been developed aerobic performance can be further enhanced through exercise economy (technique) and higher efforts (increase lactate threshold).  Its important to understand that athletes need to earn the right to perform at higher efforts by proving their efficiency in longer pieces both mixed and cyclical.   In our OPEX assessment we use various endurance tests to identify competency in a broad stroke. For example; the 90min AMRAP; which is a mixed module endurance test, and the 60min Row test; which is singular and specific, gives us insight to an athlete’s current potential.  We review data to compare the “developmental groups” with our “top athletes” to determine if an athlete has sufficient aerobic development and possess the adaptations needed to move into more complex aerobic efforts.

Progressing an athlete in energy system prescription is done once the athletes have proven they can sustain a pace and repeat efforts over and over. Starting with long slow efforts and building shorter and faster efforts is a progression that is largely individualized based on the athlete’s function and economy.

Prescribing Aerobic Training

First knowing your athletes baseline in aerobic activity.   Functional work capacities in simple exercises like; Running, Rowing, Swimming, Airdyne, Push ups, Sit ups, Squats, Pulls etc.   What might be “easy” work for some athletes could be threshold training or CP battery training for others. KNOW YOUR ATHLETE.

Simple visual markers a coach or athlete can identify that tells them they are NO LONGER AEROBICALLY TRAINING …

  • Inability to pace,
  • Irregular breathing
  • Using chalk or hands on knees to “get air”—stopping.
  • Focus is narrow; you can tell in their eyes if they are really working

 

To learn more about aerobic training and how to program for your athletes/clients effectively apply for our CCP Level 1 Program today!

Aerobic endurance training program example

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 priority of aerobic training
  • No limit to 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

30min  Bike—easy effort- conversational pace MAP 10

PM

  1. SA KB OHS – barefoot, turn and look at the kb like TGU, 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 2min–release at top
  3. Muscle Snatch 4-4-4-4;rest 2min

+

EMOM 10min

odd– strict HSPU max in 30sec
even– DU 30sec amrap

+

10min ABike Zone 1

Tuesday

AM

30min Row; every 500m get off and complete 60m of FW #heavy MAP 10

PM

30min walk with weight vest MAP 10

Wednesday

AM

30min @ sustainable pace MAP 8

1min Row

1min Skip rope

1min FLR

1min Run

1min Abike

PM

  1. Push Press  +Push Jerk + Split Jerk; 5sets; rest 2min
  2. OHS @30×1; 5-5-5-5;rest 2min
  3. Snatch Push Press BTN 6-6-5-5;rest 2min
  4. SA Upright DB Row 8 reps x 3; rest 1min

+

EMOM 12min

Odd—wall ball shots x 10 #20-9ft
Even— FW amrap distance in 30sec  #heavy

+

10min easy spin Abike

 

Thursday

AM

Swim 30min- 25m every 90sec @ easy effort MAP 8
PM

off

Friday

AM

30min Airdyne; every 2min get off and complete 2 Wall walks MAP 10

PM

  1. 3 Position Hang  power Clean( knee-thigh-hip); 5 sets 65%;res 90sec
  2. Hang Clean Pulls 4-4-3-3;rest 2min
  3. Front SQ@20×1;  4-3-2-2;rest 3min
  4. EMOM 1 rope climbs 18ft x 10min

Saturday

AM

60min Hike natural intervals (hill, slopes)

NOON

  1. EMOM CJ @ 60% 3 reps–12min
  2. EMOM HPS @60% 3 reps –12min

+

8min amrap
5 pull ups strict
5 Push ups
5 T2B

rest 3min

8min amrap
10 sit ups
10 back ext
20 DU 

Sunday

off

 

– OPEX Remote Coach Robin Lyons

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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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