Disclaimer: This is by no means an exhaustive list, so before you go and post about how there are more efficient means to build the aerobic system or you disagree, please take the time to reflect on the possibility that there is:
1. More than one way to create results.
2. What has worked for you may not work for everyone.
That being said I am open to a debate on the topic that is well thought out and informative for everyone to enjoy.
I think that many coaches believe in building a “foundation” or “base” before moving to higher intensity training methods. Part of that process is building our aerobic system so that we can handle higher amounts of “work”(i.e train longer, more often, and harder), recover from sets and sessions, increase mitochondrial density, heat the tissue in our bodies to allow for ease of movement so that we can train more efficiently and utilize less energy. All this sounds like an amazing plan for anyone looking to achieve higher levels of performance!
The logical next step is where do we start?
When we think aerobic training, most people would default to the standard methods; running, cycling, rowing, etc…for long periods of time. But what if this was an inefficient use of our time? Or it lead to injuries based on excessive volume and overuse?
If we are training our body for any specific energy demand, we are looking at both the local effect(muscles and muscle groups) as well as the systemic effect(what is happening to the whole body as a result of the training).
Two methods that can help in your quest to build a solid foundation and may have more direct transfer to field sports, team sports, and allows you to control volume to create a better progression, which in turn can reduce the risk of injury are; Tempo Intervals and Density Sets(M.A.F Session).
Made popular by the late Charlie Francis Tempo Work is sub-maximal percentage based sprints with moderate to short rest periods. Charlie’s sprinters were not only powerful and explosive but they were very well conditioning. Charlie believed in a high/low method that placed all higher intensity sessions within the same training day(maximal sprints and weight training), followed by recovery sessions the following day, thats where Tempo Intervals come in.
A session could look like this;
After a long warm-up consisting mainly of easy running, movement drills(dynamic warm-up), easy medball throws, you would begin your tempo sprints. because our goal is to improve the aerobic system, recover so that we can perform the next high intensity session, and improve our work capacity, these sprints are performed at approximately 75% effort. You would run at that speed for 12-15 seconds, rest a minute or until your heart rate recovers to 130-135BPM and repeat it for 12-20 sets depending on your current conditioning level. The beauty is that it is that simple!
Density Sets, AMRAP or Maximal Aerobic Function Sets
Wait a minute, I know this guy!
When most people think weight training they don’t think aerobic work, but a well designed training session that incorporate lower percentage weights, some bodyweight movements and even some traditional aerobic methods can have the same effect if your heart rate stays in the appropriate zone(this is a systemic effect).
Starting to sound familiar? Crossfits AMRAP(As Many Rounds As Possible), Charles Staley’s Density Sets, and M.A.F sets, all have the ability to build aerobic work capacity when done correctly.
The key is choosing movements or methods that allow for you to move at a constant rate keeping your hear rate in the aerobic zone(130-150BPM for some, depending again on fitness level and age). When using these methods for aerobic training the key is to limit the amount of lactic acid build up in the muscle, we want to encourage blood flow but not the production of waste products.
A session Could look like this;
30-60 min @ an aerobic effort:
6 kettlebell swings
12 walking lunges/leg
150m backwards sled drag(light)
*like I said the key here is to remain at a constant pace that both allows for you to hit the right heart rate and doesn’t encourage lactic acid build up. the limit to the possibilities are really your creativity and the needs of the athlete.
Aerobic Training Can Be Cool!
There is a time and place for any method of training, it comes down to the right application for the right person. I hope this made you think outside the box at what is possible. Give these two methods a try, plan the progressions appropriately and give me some feedback on how it went. Any questions, just ask!