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Training The Energy Systems - Part I: Types of Anaerobic and Aerobic Exercise

written by: KaratekaJake • edited by: Cheryl Gabbert • updated: 6/27/2011

Learn to train smarter - not harder - for amazing results, without any extra effort! The first installment of a set of articles dealing with the body's energy systems and how to train them in the most efficient and effective manner. Includes various types of anaerobic exercise and aerobic exercise.

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    The Energy Systems and You

    Before we dive into the nitty gritty involving metabolic training, let us quickly go over the body's energy systems, and why they are important. Once you have a basic understanding of the processes, you can begin to better use them in your own training routines.

    Without going into too much detail, the energy systems relating to the types of anaerobic exercise are:

    • 1. The ATP-PC. This system does not require oxygen, and is the system relied on for the first few seconds of exercise, no matter whether you are going off the line in a sprint, or just taking a leisurely jog. This system can provide powerful, explosive bursts of energy, but it fades extremely quickly (within 5-15 seconds).

    • 2. Glycolysis.
      • Anaerobic Glycolysis. This is the 'anaerobic' most people refer to when speaking of anaerobic training. Simply put, this energy system relies on the breakdown of glucose to provide energy. It does not require oxygen, and typically picks up the slack as the ATP-PC system fades during intense exercise. Anaerobic Glycolysis can provide up to around 3 minutes of intense work, but due to the lack of oxygen, lactic acid is produced as a byproduct. This can lead to a 'burn' which makes it hard to continue with intense sessions involving anaerobic exercise.
      • Aerobic Glycolysis. While it contains the word 'aerobic', this system remains a part of the Glycolytic system. Glucose is still broken down into energy, however, as Aerobic Glycolysis occurs in the presence of oxygen, the lactic acid can be shuttled away from the muscle, allowing for much longer periods of work (up to an hour) - Unfortunately, due to the requirement of oxygen, the intensity must be carefully monitored to avoid slipping into anaerobic glycolysis.

    • 3. Aerobic. The aerobic system is often misrepresented as the only energy system, when in reality it only provides the majority of the energy in longer events (anything effort past 2-3 minutes quickly becomes mostly aerobic). It is used for slow, but long efforts.The reason for this is while it can provide energy for an incredibly long time, it is very slow at providing this energy and cannot keep up with a high intensity.

    While here they are listed separately, there is no definite 'on/off' time for any of the systems, and they often work simultaneously. However, even though they are hard to isolate, it is not hard to train them individually, as will be discussed in part II.

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    Changing Your Training Routine

    If you already have a training routine in place, and you enjoy it - there is absolutely no reason to change it! If it works well for you, and you are achieving your goals, keep at it until you feel a need for a change in pace. If you still feel the need to change things up, do it slowly and only change small parts at a time. That way, you can always be sure of which change causes which effect. For example, adding too many new types of anaerobic exercise at once could cause additional soreness.

    It can be tempting to jump in and try everything new at once, patience is a virtue and will pay off in the long run. Now that you have an understanding of the energy systems, we can go over how to apply them in your own training!

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