Saturday, January 15, 2011

Programming Via Energy Systems

There are many ways to develop a program. The main thing is to be as specific as possible in your training to achieve the goals you have set. Namely, if your goals involve developing "explosiveness" (power), you will be working on being able to create a larger force, submit force in a shorter amount of time (increased rate of force development), or both. So, you have many things to think about!

For this area of program development, focusing on which energy system is the most dominant, you must think about how long the movements last in the sport. This will tell you what type of training and energy systems must be utilized to elicit the best results. Also, within the sport, examine the different positions as well. For example, a quarterback needs to train a little differently than a lineman or a defensive back. I'm sure you all knew that though ;)

There are three main energy systems that the human body relies on to restore energy for subsequent movement. I will briefly go over them, as I'm not an expert in Bioenergetics and all the mechanisms that go into each. One of the key things that I can tell you is that the body is always using a certain mixture of all three; never only one. The quicker and more intense the movement, the less oxygen needed and the more ATP/CP or glycogen needed. The deciding factors of what percent of each system will be utilized is what level of intensity and duration of time the training movement requires.You must also be aware that the rest between repeated bouts of activity within each of these systems is different. More elaboration on this follows....

1) ATP/CP System (Phosphagen System)  

This system is the first that comes into play. This system is required for shorter bursts of movement, so all the power type movements utilize this system the most. This system is dominant for powerful movements that last up to around 20 seconds. The percentage of maximum power used is 90-100%. Complete rest for these movements will fall between 1:12 to 1:20 (work to rest). An example of this would be a Snatch performed by a weightlifter (I know, I'm a little biased with my example!). This movement starts and ends in less than a second!

Think Kendrick Farris needs oxygen for a heavy clean? Think again!

2) Glycolytic System

This is the next system that comes into play. Intermediate length movements use this system the most. This system becomes more dominant if the movement continues beyond 20 seconds and lasts up to around 2-3 minutes. The percentage of maximum power used is about 35-90%, again, depending on the duration of the movement. Complete rest for these types of movements is 1:3 to 1:5. An example of this would be a 200m because an average time for this distance would be around 20 seconds, give or take a few seconds (depending on the level of the athlete).

Usain Bolt uses his glycolytic system fairly well; Wouldn't you agree?

3) Oxidative System

This is the last system used for activity. The movements that require this system the most are those movements that are very long in duration and very low intensity. More specifically, these movements last longer than 3 minutes and only require <35% of the maximal power that can be produced. Complete rest for these movements would be 1:1 to 1:3. An easy example of this would be a marathon runner. This activity lasts much longer than 3 minutes, so it is apparent that the primary energy system used would be the oxidative system.

Keep running! Only a few hours left!


While the science is indisputable, the practicality of training for these systems is a different story. If there is one thing I've learned in the first few years of my coaching career, it is that time is money and sometimes these systems cannot be trained 100% as they should be. Many times you may have to cut rest periods shorter for power-type activities that need longer rest periods because the kids you are training have to leave at a certain time, or their parents may just be impatient. Whatever the case, try to stick close to the work/rest ratios outlined above for the best results.

Wrap Up

There you have it! A few more kernels of knowledge to store in the "Training Methods Tool Box". I'd hope that, with this new information, you will all think differently about how you approach the development of your next training cycle. Train hard, train smart!

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