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MSC Performance

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Energy systems: why work to rest ratio is important!7 min read

So most of you have likely heard of energy system training. You may also have heard the classification of the energy systems based on the time domain and how long you are working for, but in reality, they are categorised based on the training intent.

There are three energy systems and all three have one aim: to create the energy (ATP molecule). This energy is replenished through different sources such as carbohydrates, protein or fats.

A-lactic (anaerobic) energy system:the most immediate and powerful energy source which time domain lasts up to 10-15 secs. This energy system is mostly used for absolute strength adaptations, 1RM (repetition maximum) lifts or with the aim to increase power output.

Lactic (anaerobic) energy system:this system is being activated once the a-lactic sources have been depleted. This is the energy system you are using when you start feeling the pain in your muscles while working which is caused by a lactate formation in your muscle. To be a little more specific, alongside the lactate formation, there is an excessive hydrogen being accumulated which increases the acidity of the environment and eventually stops you from exercising. Lactate is a body’s by-product but do not think of it as a bad factor, even though it causes you pain. The lactate can be converted back to glucose; thus, it can be used again as a source of energy (positive fact). However, that all depends on the intensity and time which is unique to an individual. If the intensity is too high, your body can’t buffer the lactate quick enough. With training you are basically learning how to delay the onset of lactate formation and how to improve its buffering.

Perhaps, you heard the term lactate threshold too. Simply, it is the maximal intensity (effort) a person can maintain for a specific period of time. Therefore, the aim of such training is to improve one’s ability to buffer (clear) the lactate. Training helps to delay the increasing blood lactate for your body to manage. As your training level is improving, less blood lactate accumulation is observed, and you will improve the ability to maintain the high intensity for longer. It will also help you to recover more quickly from maximal effort bursts of speed and power.

Aerobic: a low tempo allows for the work to sustain without much rest. A good aerobic base helps to recover faster during workouts (that’s why you can see weightlifters or powerlifters doing some ‘cardio’). Such sessions should be performed at a sustainable pace. A good example from our Met-con session would be an AMRAP (as many rounds as possible) of 10+ minutes.

Even though, there is an order in which the energy systems turn on, they all are used during any activity. Our Met-con sessions are mostly based on a training of an a-lactic and lactic energy system which could benefit in various sports. There is a plenty research out there suggesting that interval training can improve performance of long-distance runners or team sports athletes. Following the Met-con sessions will improve your ability to perform work in the lactic system. However, in order to perform lactic work, you first have to develop the a-lactic system as well as the aerobic system which will make your training more efficient and allow for more effective recovery. One way or another, the key for sports performance improvement is consistency and that applies to any type of training you do – progressive overload, progressive energy system training. Hence, it is important to have some kind of control over your training (tracking the intensity, the volume and results achieved).

When you come for a Met-con session, Barbell Club, Weightlifting Club or your own training session, follow its structure and work hard, because it will only benefit you as much as the effort you put in. Similarly, try to keep your attendance consistent so you can maximize the results.

Simply put, you do not have to hit all Met-con sessions which are running through the week or train the hardest possible each session you are in a gym. What I am trying to say and why I’m explaining the systems, is for you to have a deeper understanding of what is going on with your body while training, how an adaptation will occur and eventually how your performance will improve.

We at MSC aim to deliver the best training experience and help you to improve your fitness and lifestyle. I hope you will find this article useful.