With the recent addition of our Energy System Training (EST) program there have been a lot of questions about what exactly EST is; here is the first of a two-part series to help explain.

Many of the athletes/clients at PC are involved in endurance-based sports, through our strength-training programs they have realized greater success and feel the benefit of increased strength and power. This study gives a perfect example of how endurance sport athletes highly benefit from increased strength and power. However as a Strength and Conditioning coach I can’t ignore the conditioning side of things. Thus the creation of EST.

For the sake of simplicity I’ll say there are three primary Energy Systems that our body uses: alactic, lactic and aerobic. Each is responsible for energy production although how and when they are used is dramatically different.

Alactic – This system is capable of producing the most energy in the least amount of time but it only lasts for a short duration, 5-12 seconds. Power exercises come to mind with this system; for a track analogy, the 100M will represent the alactic system.

Lactic – Energy production with this system involves more chemical processes than the alactic system, consequently it can’t produce energy quite as fast but the duration of sustained energy is slightly longer, 15-90 seconds, think 400M.

Aerobic – While the other two systems can function without oxygen the aerobic system can’t. It’s the least powerful in the short term but it allows us to perform for hour and hours. Even though it’s not the most aerobic activity possible, consider Ashton Eaton’s 1500M performance at the London Olympics to claim gold in the decathlon!

Because the three systems create energy at different rates and durations it’s important to train the Energy System most influential to your training goals or sport, however there can be a lot of cross over between systems. A common mistake is to think that the three systems are either “on” or “off.” This couldn’t be further from the truth. Instead they all contribute to total energy production through almost all periods of exercise. A great example of this is in a 400M sprint where almost 50% of total energy is produced aerobically.  Most people training for “general” fitness will benefit from training all three systems, which will make you a more well rounded athlete or potentially a superhero:

**I am Spiderman of course**

In the last decade the fitness industry has shifted away from steady state cardio for more flashy forms of cardiovascular training (intervals). There are a few driving forces for this:

1. Everyone is too busy. Today’s world is full of instant gratification with no time to waste, unless you count the 10.5 billion minutes spent on Facebook daily…by the way visit Peak Conditions page to see more superhero photos!

2. High injury rates associated with high volumes of steady state cardio (running for most people) have been well documented.

3. A certain injury prone and most of the time careless “hardcore” fitness craze is all about high intensity short workouts. And no it’s not dancing Gangnam style.

Despite the latest fitness craze, all three systems are important to being a balanced athlete.  I call our program Energy System Training because it is intended to condition an athlete or client to be able to meet the energy production demands of their sport or fitness goal. For most sports, training will involve a combination of the three systems sequenced together at the appropriate time.

Part 2 will discuss HOW you train each of the three energy systems…