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THE AEROBIC ENERGY SYSTEM

What is it, how it functions, and how to train & improve it!





WHAT IS AEROBIC CONDITIONING?

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Our bodies create energy to do work via 3 different pathways. The anaerobic lactic system (aka anaerobic glycolysis), the anaerobic alactic system (aka phosphagen or PCR system), and the aerobic system. The aerobic system is the system that our bodies utilize the MOST frequently to create energy. We use this on a day-to-day basis for the majority of our life tasks. In real life, the anaerobic systems are only used in "fight or flight" scenarios. All three systems are important to train and have different benefits to training them!




COMPONENTS OF THE AEROBIC ENERGY SYSTEM

1. Relies on oxygen for ATP regeneration

Oxygen needs to be present in order for this system to function and break down ATP (our body's energy source.)

2. Produces energy at a slow rate

The anaerobic systems produce energy FAST. The aerobic system is the slowest process for producing energy. This is why sprinting, box jumps, and one rep maxes are primarily anaerobic (because you need energy quick for these tasks)

3. Produces energy for long periods of time without fatigue

Here is a big perk for this system! Although it produces energy slow, it outruns the anaerobic system by a long shot. Anytime you need energy for more than a couple of minutes you are relying on your aerobic system.





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TO IMPROVE OUR AEROBIC CONDITIONING
WE MUST EITHER…

1. INCREASE OUR OXYGEN SUPPLY

This is to increase the amount of oxygen that gets transported to your muscles. Since oxygen is delivered via blood, we do this by increasing cardiac output (the amount of blood that gets pumped with each heart beat). Aerobic conditioning strengthens the heartbeat by increasing the size of the chambers in the heart and by creating a more forceful squeeze with each beat. This will all force more blood out with each pump!

2. INCREASE OUR OXYGEN UTILIZATION

This is how efficiently your muscles can utilize the oxygen being delivered to the muscles. Aerobic conditioning increases the number of mitochondria (the power plant of the cell) in the muscle cells. It also increases the number of enzymes in the muscles. These enzymes play a role in the metabolism of the muscle cells and how efficiently they can use oxygen to create more ATP (energy.)

3. INCREASE OUR SUBSTRATE AVAILABILITY

This is increasing the efficiency of turning the raw materials in our bodies (ex. carbohydrates and fats) into energy. When these substrates (carbs and fats) combust with oxygen, energy is released. The more efficient our bodies are at storing and utilizing these substrates the more efficient our aerobic energy system.



THIS CAN HAPPEN THROUGH AEROBIC CONDITIONING METHODS SUCH AS…

1. CARDIAC OUTPUT TRAINING

Low-intensity exercise for 30-60 minutes with heart rate in the 130-150 bpm range. Helps improve oxygen supply to muscles by training slow twitch cardiac muscle fibers. This is also known as LISS (low-intensity steady state.)


2. CARDIAC POWER INTERVALS

Max heart rate intervals that are 60-120 seconds long. Rest periods of 2-5 minutes or until HR gets back down to 120-150 bpm.


3. THRESHOLD TRAINING

Maintaining a heart rate of + or - 5 bpm of anaerobic threshold for 3-10 minutes. The anaerobic threshold is the sweet spot where we are working out aerobically just below the brink of anaerobically. This is to build our aerobic capacity (how much work can we do while maintaining that aerobic state.) There are rough calculations out there or this can be found on specialized heart rate monitors. Rests are 1-5 minutes long in between bouts. 2-5 bouts per workout. Training fast and slow muscle fibers and oxygen utilization (how efficient our muscles can utilize oxygen.)




END STORY- EDUCATION HELPS

I find that knowing what goes on physiologically in our bodies can make workouts like aerobic conditioning less dreadful. Understanding this can make your workouts more purposeful! You are no longer working out just to "sweat." You are literally changing the size and efficiency of your heart and how successful your body can create and utilize energy. SO COOL!


All the health and fitness vibes to you,

Chelsea Lowenstein

B.S Kinesiology




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