How to Program Training for the Anaerobic Energy System

How to Program Training for the Anaerobic Energy System

A Practical Approach for Fitness Coaches to Programming for the Anaerobic Energy System

There are times when the anaerobic energy system needs to be improved for some particular clients. Specifically, anaerobic energy training is necessary for clients participating in intense sports like CrossFit or football in which the work is highly demanding and success is dependent on how well adapted their glycolytic system is to the volume and workload. Anaerobic energy system training is not entirely necessary nor should it be a priority for those who are working out only to be healthy. In any case, it is important to know HOW to build this with the right person at the right time especially since you will likely have clients who want to compete in some fashion in mixed modality fitness.

The purpose of this blog is to help showcase how to program anaerobic energy training. Plenty of coaches know what the anaerobic energy system is, they just have some difficulty in understanding how to program training for it.

What is the Anaerobic and Glycolytic System, or “Pain?”

Another term we at OPEX use to describe the anaerobic energy system is pain. The anaerobic and glycolytic energy systems operate by using glycogen and lactate as fuel for intense activity that start working once the creatine phosphate system has be depleted. Time domain of this type of work extends upwards of 30+ minutes. We use the term pain in describing it due to the buildup of lactate and high contraction rate of muscle endurance, both of which can be perceived as painful. Clients often describe the feeling of pain or serious discomfort when engaging in glycolytic dominant tasks like a 60-second, maximal effort assault bike sprint. If anaerobic training is programmed and done correctly, it should be a fairly uncomfortable ordeal.

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Pain Rationale and Progression Examples

Pain – Anaerobic Training. Reasons for it:

  • Stress Adaptation
  • Metabolic Adaptation
  • Booster for Aerobic System

Anaerobic (glycolytic) or “pain” energy system training is an unsustainable energy pathway that can be effective for the right person at the right time. However, it may not be necessary for the common client. When dosed inappropriately, anaerobic training can lead to more overall fatigue, taking them away from function and vitality of life. The person and function will always dictate how well or if this fits into their training program.

There are three beneficial reasons for why this type of training is warranted in the correct program:

  1. It creates a stress adaptation for the athlete.
  2. It creates a metabolic adaptation through upregulation of vital enzymes within the glycolytic pathway.
  3. It creates a booster for the aerobic system allowing athletes to sustain top-end power for longer periods of time due to the added fuel utilized via the re-uptake of lactate within the muscle.

It is important to note that people have to be able to dig deep into their central nervous system to express “pain” which only comes through a robust training age and contraction volume. The client must have the prerequisite strength and power in order to tackle this type of training.

Here are a few examples of what progression may look like in an OPEX Pain Program over six weeks using a rower, an assault bike, or a sled for the purposes of training the anaerobic energy system:

OPEX PAIN Progressions:

Week 1: 100m Row ALL OUT x 10 sets, 2 min b/t – Damper 5
Week 2: 125m Row ALL OUT x 9 sets, 2 min b/t – Damper 5
Week 3: 150m Row ALL OUT x 7 sets, 2:30 min b/t – Damper 5
Week 4: 150m Row ALL OUT x 7 sets, 2:30 min b/t – Damper 5
Week 5: 250m Row ALL OUT x 1 set
—-

Week 1: AirBike, 12 sec ALL OUT every 2 min x 10 sets
Week 2: AirBike, 15 sec near ALL OUT every 2:30 min x 8 sets – maybe aim for 3-4 RPM lower than last week
Week 3: AirBike, 20 sec near ALL OUT every 3:30 min x 6 sets – maybe aim for 3-4 RPM lower than last week
Week 4: AirBike, 25 sec near ALL OUT every 4 min x 5 sets – maybe aim for 3-4 RPM lower than last week
Week 5: AirBike, 30 sec near ALL OUT every 5 min x 4 sets – maybe aim for similar RPM lower than last week
Week 6: AirBike, 60 sec ALL OUT x 1 set
—-

Week 1: Sled sprints, 10 sec ALL OUT @ moderate load every 1:30 min x 10 sets
Week 2: Sled sprints, 5 sec ALL OUT @ moderate load every min x 15 sets – slightly heavier than previous week
Week 3: Sled sprints, 7 sets:
10 sec ALL OUT @ moderate load
10 sec rest
10 sec ALL OUT
3 min b/t sets
Week 4: Sled sprints, 7 sets:
10 sec ALL OUT @ high load
10 sec rest/remove weight
10 sec ALL OUT @ low load
3 min b/t sets
Week 5: Sled sprints, 3 sets:
30 sec ALL OUT @ moderate load
3-5 min rest b/t sets
—–

Notes: The length of intervals increase each week, but the total working sets decrease as the client progresses from week to week. As the client adapts to this type of training, the pace will slow down from week to week in order to sustain the effort. The goal is not to “blow the top off” on the first interval and then grind through the rest. The goal and purpose of these intervals is to elicit a dose response that is predicated on the individual executing each interval with the proper level of effort that they can sustain. Otherwise, the client will begin to perform fatigued based sets that will only tire and weaken their central nervous system, along with teaching the brain that decreased output is the course of action when high levels of output are required.

Effective anaerobic energy system training is not just the burden of the fitness coach in producing it. The client is equally responsible for tackling anaerobic training effectively, as we will demonstrate in the next few examples of what bad execution looks like.

Example of BAD execution:

The prescription:

Week 3: AirBike, 20 sec near ALL OUT every 3:30 min x 6 sets – maybe aim for 3-4 RPM lower than last week

The result:

1st set – 30 calories
2nd set – 22 calories
3rd set – 18 calories
4th set – 15 calories
5th set – 15 calories
6th set – 15 calories

Notes: In this example, we see the client starting too hot. As a result, they are unable to sustain 28-30 calories per set for the remaining five pieces. In this instance, the client is teaching their brain that fatigued based effort is warranted when high power output is called upon. This will also negatively affect fuel utilization as the mechanisms needed to sustain output are not being properly trained due to repeated fatigue based sets.

Example of GOOD execution:

The prescription:

Week 3: AirBike, 20 sec near ALL OUT every 3:30 min x 6 sets – maybe aim for 3-4 RPM lower than last week

The result:

1st set – 20 calories
2nd set – 20 calories
3rd set – 20 calories
4th set – 19 calories
5th set – 19 calories
6th set – 20 calories

Note: In this example, the client shows great repeatability from set to set. The pace was executed appropriately for the dose response. They gave a hard effort each set, but held back a bit to ensure they could extend out that effort for all six sets. While the pieces of work are not considered sustainable sets past 20 seconds in this example, we still want great repeatability between efforts to properly train the anaerobic system.

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