20 June 2016 – Let the Strength/Aerobic Cycle Begin!

In a flurry of deadlifts and box jumps, the strength cycle has ended.... So. Many. Gainz!!

Now, it's time to get in some serious Engine Work! (Don't worry, I'm not going into that car analogy again!) Our next cycle, beginning today, will be a Strength/Aerobic Cycle, focusing on developing your aerobic capacity with a secondary focus on both gymnastics and barbell strength. 

Time for Coach Phil to take the floor and get his geek on to explain what exactly this cycle is and why it's important to you....

To say I am happy with the results from Testing Week is an understatement, the progress made by everyone in the previous training cycle has been fantastic! Whilst some results were to be expected, such as the increases in 1 rep max lifts, I have to admit to being surprised to see quite so many PBs in some of the more conditioning based workouts, such as the 2000m row!

Our next training cycle is going to focus on the conditioning side of the spectrum. Now you have these new levels of strength, it is time to get you to apply it efficiently. 

What is the Aerobic System?

As the name suggests, the aerobic system produces energy (ATP) using oxygen and either fats or sugars. As such, it has a vast capacity for energy production. Provided we have fuel (oxygen, sugar or fat) we can go on producing energy indefinitely. During any low intensity efforts, this system provides the majority of our energy.

However, as this pathway requires oxygen it has limitations with regards to power. When levels of exercise intensity increase to a point at which energy is used up faster than oxygen can be supplied, we require our anaerobic systems to pick up the slack. The anaerobic systems are far more powerful and can generate ATP very quickly, but they also fatigue quickly.

Why is the Aerobic System Important?

Whilst the three energy systems (Creatine Phosphate, Glycolytic and Aerobic) are all active at the same time, the intensity and duration of the activity will dictate which pathway contributes the most energy. Generally, for any high intensity effort longer than 90 seconds to 2 minutes, we rely on the aerobic system for the majority of our energy.

So if you play any sport of moderate to high intensity that lasts longer than 90 seconds, then a strong and well-developed aerobic system is a must!

Not only is the aerobic system responsible for vast amounts of energy production, it has another vital (and often overlooked) role during activities of higher intensities...

The aerobic system serves the role of “refuelling” the anaerobic systems. The more we use our anaerobic systems the more metabolic byproducts are produced which leads to fatigue. Your body relies on the aerobic system to clear out the byproducts and restock the mechanism of anaerobic metabolism. This means you can recover faster and keep working at higher intensity.

For CrossFitters, the faster and more efficiently our aerobic systems can produce ATP, the less we rely on the anaerobic systems (which fatigue quickly), but also the faster you can recover from bouts of high intensity efforts. This includes recovering between sets, reps, breaks in a workout, etc., as well as recovery between training sessions.

What are we improving in the next cycle?

For our aerobic cycle we are looking at developing three main areas:

Oxygen Supply: This is the ability of your heart and lungs to get oxygen to your working muscles. We want to increase this supply line which means looking at building your cardiac output (ability/efficiency of your heart to pump blood), peripheral vascular network (these are the pipelines that carry your oxygenated blood, we want more!) and your respiratory system (the ability/efficiency of your lungs to bring oxygen into the system).

The more oxygen we can get into the system, the longer we can stay aerobic even as intensity creeps up. If we can stay aerobic, we won’t fatigue or “gas out”.

Oxygen utilisation: This is the ability of your tissues and cells to actually use the oxygen efficiently when it is supplied. To improve this we need to look at making changes in the muscle fibres themselves. Whilst our ratio of slow to fast twitch fibres is determined largely by genetics, we can alter their metabolic properties in favour of increased endurance in addition to making them bigger, stronger and more powerful. Here, the aim is to increase the amount of mitochondria (the power plants of the cells) and increase the concentration of enzymes used in aerobic metabolism.

Substrate availability: Substrates are the chemicals and components used within reactions; the more substrates we have that are involved in aerobic metabolism the better our aerobic system can function. Through regular aerobic training we can increase intra-cellular storage of fats/sugar and other substrates. This makes our cells more efficient at aerobic metabolism.

All together, this training cycle will develop your aerobic power (the highest amount of power we can generate aerobically) along with aerobic capacity (duration and efficiency of the system).

So what does this look like for your training?

The first stage of this cycle will focus on cardiovascular development and will feature some lower intensity methods. This is where we look to build your vascular network and the stroke volume of the heart.

The lower intensity workouts provide fantastic opportunities to work on both strength and skill of barbell (barbell cycling) and gymnastics movements (strict and kipping variations) and building your ability to handle increased volume.

Weeks 1-4: Weekly Layout

Monday: Cardiac Output w/ Gymnastics bias
Tuesday: Strength/Aerobic
Wednesday: Cardiac Output w/ Barbell bias
Thursday: Strength/Aerobic
Friday: General skill, strength & conditioning
Saturday: CrossFit Open WOD Saturdays!*
Sunday: High Intensity Continuous Training and/or High Resistance Intervals (Engine Work); Weightlifting (CrossFit); Weightlifting + Technical Skill + Conditioning (Competition Class)

*Every Saturday we are going to be working our way through the backlog of CrossFit Open workouts! Why? Because it's bloody good fun! And it gives you a ton of benchmarks going forward.

As we progress, during weeks 6-10 (week 5 will be a de-load) the intensity will begin to increase as we move towards muscular endurance side of the equation.

If I want to focus on my conditioning, which days should I prioritise?

The Cardiac Output sessions (Mondays and Wednesdays) are going to be crucial to this next cycle, so while we recommend everyone gets to these sessions, if conditioning is your top priority then make sure you attend these sessions. Engine Work on Sundays would be a great third conditioning session of the week.

If I want to focus on my strength, which days should I prioritise?

On Tuesdays and Thursdays, we will take advantage of the Strength/Aerobic Method, which makes these two days obvious ones to attend. If you stick to the Sunday Weightlifting sessions, you have three solid strength days each week.

With that said, the cardiac output days could also make great additions: one day focuses on gymnastics and one on barbell movements, both at higher volumes.

Well, there you have it gang... ALL the knowledge bombs! If you have any questions on our current cycle, e-mail Coach Phil, who will be more than happy to show you LOADS of graphics of the process of ATP synthesis!


Conditioning - Cardiac Output (Gymnastic bias)

Every minute, on the minute, for 36 minutes (6 sets per movement), alternate between:

Minute 1: 12/10 Calorie row
Minute 2: 20 seconds of chest to bar pull-ups
Minute 3: 150m Run
Minute 4: 20 seconds of ring dips
Minute 5: 15 Wall balls (9/6 kg)
Minute 6: 20 seconds of toes to bar

Gymnastics Movements & Modifications: You need to be able to keep moving for the full 20 second interval, so choose movements appropriately.

This week, perform strict gymnastics movements: 
- C2B > Pull-up > Partner assisted
- Ring dip > Box dips > Push-up
- Toes to bar > Toes to rings > Hollow hold to V-tuck