Energy System Training for Athletes

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Pronunciation: \ˈdg-mə, ˈdäg-\
Function: noun
Inflected Form(s): plural dogmas also dog·ma·ta \-mə-tə\
Etymology: Latin dogmat-, dogma, from Greek, from dokein to seem — more at decent
Date: 1638

1 a : something held as an established opinion; especially : a definite authoritative tenet b : a code of such tenets c : a point of view or tenet put forth as authoritative without adequate grounds

2 : a doctrine or body of doctrines concerning faith or morals formally stated and authoritatively proclaimed by a church

While the dogma of recreational lifters is slowly being put to rest with the widespread use of the internet, training and conditioning for sports is still very much rooted in the dogma of the past.

Some coaches are getting with the current information but most are still stuck in the ‘This is how I did it so this is how they will do it’ broken record of circular reasoning that gets their athletes nowhere.

A brief overview:

There are multiple energy systems in the body. You can compare conversely this to a car that has only one. There is a single gas tank, one engine, and the only thing that changes the fuel utilization is how fast or slow the operator of the car decides to go. At extended periods of time, going 30 mph the car uses less fuel then when you drive at 100 mph. This is how many coaches view the body. In reality the car (your body) would have multiple ways of producing energy.

For the sake of simplicity I’ll take it down to the basic two systems.

The first way is through through the aerobic (aerobic means with oxygen) system. This system is built for low intensity, long duration endurance exercise. The primary form of energy for this system is oxygen and fat. Any type of long distance runner, swimmer, or biker is going to rely primarily on this system.

The second system is the anaerobic system (anaerobic means without oxygen). This system is built of short periods of high intensity training. It is fueled mainly by creatine and glycogen (sugar stored in the muscle). Sports such as wrestling, track and field (sprinting events), and football all rely heavily on this system of the body.

Each of these systems can be made more efficient and more productive, the question is, are you training the correct system for the sport you or your athletes are participating in?

Considering that the average play during football lasts only 5-6 seconds with 25-30 seconds between plays, do you really need your team jogging 2 miles for conditioning?

The same could be ask for wrestling, basketball, and volleyball. All of these sports require highly efficient aerobic and anaerobic systems for the athlete to be successful. Only training athletes in an aerobic type fashion will only leave them a step behind their competition.

Two Novel Methods

Tabata training was invented in Tokyo by Dr. Izumi Tabata while he and his time were looking at ways to increase the aerobic and anaerobic capacity in athletes. The basis principle of this method is to do 20 seconds of work followed by 10 seconds of rest, repeated 8 times. This totals to only 4 minutes of work but it’s brutally effective. When choosing the exercise to be performed, make sure it’s a total body exercise and that it can be performed safely even when the athlete is fatigued. Dumbbell thrusters are an excellent choice while something like deadlifts or cleans would be a fairly poor choice.

Another valuable method is the Fartlek method. This is most often used by long distance runners to increase speed and endurance at the same time. It can however be adapted for athletes who’s objective is a much shorter range. One way is to have athletes sprint the straightaways and jog the corners on a track, sprint the length of the basketball court then walk/job back and repeat, or to sprint 40 yards then walk/jog back and repeat.

One thing to realize is that these are not set in stone. Use distances or times that are applicable to the sport you or your athletes are participating in. If it’s not applicable then what’s the point?

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