Traditionally, the first thing we all think of is aerobic exercise. Slow non-stop movement. Either pounding away on a treadmill or cycling as you stare off into the distance. The problem with that is we are only scratching the surface with what we can be accomplishing metabolically.

Two Systems

When we think about conditioning , we need to consider a hybrid car. It has two systems to deliver energy for travel. Gas and electric. The human system is similiar. Our electric system is like our aerobic exercise; slow but efficient. Our anaerboic system is comparable to gasoline; lots of power but not very efficent. So, when we approach conditioning we need to work both engines of the human body to optimize our physical fitness. The fun part about this is that there is no wrong way to go about metabolic conditioning. And you can implement alot of variety and combination of movements. Before, I go into specific examples let’s delve a bit deeper into energy systems and some parameters to help guide us.

Anaerobic System- two parts

  1. Phospate System- High Power, short duration :01-:30, required rest time to repeat effort: 3-8x the working time

Consider sprinters or throwers in track and field. Immense amount of energy with the athlete going at full throttle. As an event we only see the final product, but the training is similiar bouts on repeat with large rests.

  1. Glycolytic System- Medium Power, medium duration :30-2:00, required time to rest to repeat effort: 2-4x the working time

If we stick with the track and field example, we are talking about your 400 meter and 800 meter sprinters. These athletes can hold a really strong pace but wouldn’t dare go all out if that want to finish the distance.

Aerobic System- long and steady; not necessarily slow

The aerobic system referred to commonly as oxidative-Low power, long duration, 2:00+ up to several hours, required rest time to repeat effort: 1-2x the working time

Is it for you?

HITT (High Intensity Interval Training) has popularized and made training the metabolic systems more commonplace in the the fitness world and is loosely based off the parameters above. It is often used in fitness classes but the best application of this type of training is specifcally for individuals. Firstly, testing and measuring your capacity or max output in each energy system. Second, the next handful of weeks would be working intervals in the weakest system. Lastly, finishing up by retesting to measure improvements.

Working example

A runner wants to improve overall conditioning for a better 5k time. Sticking purely with running the individual scores as follows:

Phospate: 100m Run- Score 0:23

Glycolytic: 800 meter Run- Score 3:35

Oxidative: 1600 meter Run- Score 7:32

You may need to be familiar with running and/or run coaching athletes to notice the biggest area of improvement for this athlete would be in their glycolytic system with repect to running. So the biggest area of improvement over the next segment of training would be to focus predominately on running distances, durations and intensitites that would fit within the glycolytic energy system.

Other Considerations

It is also important to consider that we can measure different modalitites; calistetics and weightlifting as well as movements within those modalities; kettelebell swings, box jumps, air squats, push ups, etc.. As long as you can perform the movement free of technical faults at a maximal effort with respect to the intensity and duration.The more specific the goal of the individual the more specific the energy system training can be and thus the results.

What is something you are specifically traininig for? If you want some ideas on how to approach it or want to work with a professional to gain an edge in your fitness schedule an intro to learn more about how this type of training can benefit you.

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