How to Program Training For the Creatine Phosphate Energy System

How to Program Training For the Creatine Phosphate Energy System

If you want to improve a client’s absolute strength and physical potential, you can’t overlook the importance of training their creatine phosphate energy system. While any fitness coach can provide a textbook definition of the creatine phosphate energy system, they may struggle with applying this knowledge into the design of an overall fitness program. This blog aims to provide some examples of creatine phosphate energy system training examples or as we like to call it in our Coaching Certificate Program, OPEX Gain.

Understanding the Creatine Phosphate Energy System or “Gain”

Creatine phosphate is the human body’s simplest, most immediate and powerful energy source. Your body only uses this system for a short period of time. The system relies on fuel from phosphorylated creatine to rapidly mobilize high-energy phosphates to perform short bursts of powerful work. Creatine phosphate work examples generally involve one rep maximum lifts. The time domain of work this energy system tackles generally lasts up to ten seconds. We use the term “gain” to describe it because of the fact it is most often used in tackling absolute strength adaptations, or one-rep maximum lifts.

Gain Rationale and Progression Examples

Gain – Resistance Training. Reasons for it:

  • Mechanical Adaptation
  • Hormonal Effects
  • Coordination of both the Intramuscular and the Intermuscular

The creatine phosphate system or “Gain” is meant for resistance training. The reasons why we want clients to engage in this is primarily for building mechanical adaptation, creating hormonal effects, and developing coordination between the intramuscular and intermuscular. Creatine phosphate energy system training can increase a client’s longevity, vitality, and recovery if done correctly.

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Here are a few examples of what progression may look like in an OPEX Gain program for six weeks with a back squat and a deadlift:

OPEX GAIN Progressions:

Week 1- Back Squat @ 30X1; 5×5 sets @ 72% of 1 Rep Max, rest 3-4 min b/t
Week 2- Back Squat @ 30X1; 4×5 sets @ 78% of 1 Rep Max, rest 3-4 min b/t
Week 3- Back Squat @ 30X1; 3×6 sets @ 82% of 1 Rep Max, rest 3-4 min b/t
Week 4- Back Squat @ 30X1; 2×6 sets @ 85-86% of 1 Rep Max, rest 3-4 min b/t
Week 5- Back Squat @ 30X1; 1×7 sets @ 90% of 1 Rep Max, rest 3-4 min b/t
Week 6- Re-Test Max

Notes: Each week the total volume and reps per set are decreasing as the percentage, load, per set is increasing. As we increase the percentage of load relative to the client’s max, the total volume needs to decrease. If we don’t adjust the total volume of reps performed, we could risk tiring the client, fatiguing their central nervous system (CNS), or increase their chance of injury due to heavy loads lifted under greater fatigue, both physical and neural.

Week 1- Deadlift @ 11X1, 6 reps @ 70-73% x 3 sets, 3 min
Week 2- Deadlift @ 11X1, 5 reps @ 73-76% x 3 sets, 3 min
Week 3- Deadlift @ 11X1, 4 reps @ 76-79% x 3 sets, 3 min
Week 4- Deadlift @ 11X1, 3 reps @ 79-82% x 3 sets, 3 min
Week 5- Deadlift @ 11X1, 2 reps @ 82-85% x 3 sets, 3 min
Week 6- Deadlift @ 11X1, 1 rep @ 85-90% x 3 sets, 3 min

Notes: This model of progression could be called a “Linear Progression.” Load is increasing and total reps per set are decreasing, similar to the back squat example. This is a great model to help build an athlete towards a heavy single or three tough working sets by week six.

Week 1- Back squat @ 20X1; Build to a tough set of 6 reps
Week 2- Back squat @ 20X1; Build to a tough set of 4 reps
Week 3- Back squat @ 20X1; Build to a tough set of 2 reps
Week 4- Back squat @ 20X1; Build to a tough set of 5 reps
Week 5- Back squat @ 20X1; Build to a tough set of 3 reps
Week 6- Back squat @ 20X1; Build to a tough set of 1 reps

Notes: This progression is a bit more advanced. We can describe this as a “wave loading” progression. The first three weeks are decreasing in reps, followed by three weeks that ramp back up, then lower to a max the final week. Volume is relatively fixed, which includes one tough set per week. As a result, we are specifically targeting a neural/creatine phosphate system adaptation. This could be considered a hallmark progression for a “Gain” based movement with an intermediate to advanced level client who has a relatively developed CNS.

Final Notes: When it comes to “Gain” progression, a clinical pearl to remember is that load and total reps are inversely related. As one goes up, the other goes down. This can ensure the central nervous system will not be over taxed allowing for greater recovery between sessions.

Curious to learn more about Energy System Training and its application in fitness program design? Check out our free comprehensive guide on Energy System Training for Coaches.

Download our free energy system training guide now

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