You Don’t Know What You Don’t Know.All exercise modalities fall under what is known as aerobic or anaerobic. To put it simply, aerobic exercise uses oxygen for fueling muscle fibers, while anaerobic muscle contractions is fueled by energy sources stored in the body and is not dependent on the oxygen we breathe. Aerobic exercise is of a lower intensity and a long duration, whereas anaerobic exercise is shorter and of a higher intensity. In order to fuel these different types of activity, our body runs three different energy systems.
The first system to engage is the creatine-phosphogen system and covers roughly the first 10 seconds of intense activity and is anaerobic in nature. The second energy system to engage is glycolysis, which is also anaerobic and will cover roughly the first 3 minutes of activity. The final system that allows you to go beyond 3 minutes of work is the oxidative system which is aerobic in nature.
Ok…so what does that mean and how can you use that information to program your conditioning? The most important thing to understand is that although all 3 of these systems overlap, and most training based activity stresses each energy system in some way you must manipulate two variables to tax a specific system: work to rest intervals and intensity. The long and short of it is the more intense the exercise, the longer the recovery needs to be. Makes sense, right? Check out this chart for optimal work to rest ratios:
. TARGETING THE THREE PRIMARY ENERGY SYSTEMSInterval training can be used to target all three primary energy systems: creatine phosphate, aerobic and lactic acid.AEROBIC RATIORatio: the aerobic ratio is: 1:1 to 1:0.5. This is to suggest you would start at the highest ratio (1:1) and over time progress on to the harder ratio (1:0.5)This equates to: four minutes of work followed by four minutes of rest, repeat x desired number of reps. Or 4 minutes work followed by 2 mins rest, repeat x desired reps.Minimum work duration: to ensure that the energy system used is aerobic and not lactic acid, the minimum work duration should be two minutes.Maximum work duration: depends on the individual’s goals.
If they are training for a marathon, they might carry out 1 or 2 mile intervals. These could be four-minute miles to 15-minute miles, depending on their ability and fitness levels. For recreational use, a two-minute interval would be more appropriate.LACTIC ACID RATIORatio: the lactic acid ratio is: 1:4, 1:3 or 1:2. It is recommended you start on the highest ratio (1:4) and progress down the ratio’s as your lactic acid tolerance and lactic acid removal pathways improve.This equates to: one minute of work followed by a four-minute rest; or 30 seconds of work followed by a 90-second rest; or 30 seconds of work followed by a 60-second rest.
Each protocol would be repeated for the desried number of reps.Minimum work duration: 15 seconds, in order to promote the use of the lactic acid system rather than the ATP/CP system (creatine phosphate).Maximum work duration: this will vary depending on fitness level and lactic acid tolerance. For example, a highly trained athlete will be able to maintain a higher output for longer, resulting in higher lactic acid levels.
Generally, you wont be able to maintain a high (lactic acid generating) output for longer than 2-3 minutes.Creatine phosphate (ATP/CP) ratiosRatio: 1:6 or higher, up to 1:50 (or higher)This equates to: 10 seconds of work followed by 60 seconds of rest, or even five seconds of work followed by 250 seconds (4 mins 10 seconds) recovery.Minimum and maximum work duration: this will depend on the type of explosive fitness required by each individual. For example, Usain Bolt requires a large ratio to ensure that every time he works, he is training as fast as possible with no fatigue. Whereas an everyday gym-goer may be happy to work on a rower for 10 seconds, followed by 60 seconds of rest, to help develop their energy system.
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