10.04.2017: Energy Systems use in CrossFit. What you need to know.

Hey team!

As you know we just wrapped up a LONG squat cycle, and are now going to be moving into our next cycle in which we are going to switch gears just a bit. 

After a fun "de-load"(ish) week beginning next Monday the 9th, we are going to begin a new squat cycle as well as adding back in more Olympic Weightlifting.  

The first week will focus on the basics of the lifts to make sure the lifting is being done well, and to test your 1 Rep Heavy on each, so that you have some numbers to work off of for our percentage programming.  On testing days, the goal is to find the weight you can move as well as possible, not to just get something ridiculously heavy overhead.  My goal is for your lifts, by the end of this cycle to be stronger, more efficient, and safer. 

I'll apologize to some of you in advance; there will still be cardio.  You're going to begin seeing shorter, more intense Metabolic Conditioning throughout the week, with Saturday being more of an endurance oriented day.

I could write a book on programming and how/why most gyms do it wrong.  But I'm going to focus today strictly on the 3 basic Energy Systems and how taking these into consideration in programming will allow you to get the most out of the programming that we offer here.

During exercise, your body relies on 3 basic energy systems: Your anaerobic lactic system, the aerobic system, and the anaerobic a-lactic system. 

Unless you are training competitively for a specific sport there is little reason to focus on only one energy system.  But depending on which sport you're playing, you will be relying on one system more than the others. 

Here are the basics of the 3 systems, in layman's terms.  Keep in mind that the body will draw on all three systems regardless of the type of effort.  It will never completely shut off one system, but instead, your body will change the percentage and amount of energy they provide based on the time domain as well as intensity.


The anaerobic lactic (AL) system provides energy for medium to high intensity very short duration work or activity; 10 seconds - two minutes.  Sprinters, soccer players, and men that suck in bed would rely on this system.  In our world this would be seen when going for something like a 500m sprint on the rower, or if you were trying to PR your 1 mile run.  


This system provides quick bursts of power or start-up energy that lasts less than 10 seconds. Think of a shot-putter or Olympic Weightlifter performing their sport and you'll have the idea of what the ATP-CP system is about.  

Though these systems are similar, there are some important differences. The biggest difference is in the capacity of each.  Capacity meaning the amount of time the system can function at full power before it begins falling off.

As I said above, the ATP-CP system will only perform fully for about 10 seconds, while your AL system can maintain full output for up to approximately two minutes.  An important thing that most coaches don't know, or take into consideration is the amount of waste, such as lactic acid, that can be built up when the AL system is being taxed.  You may be feel a burning sensation in the muscle, which is lactic acid having built up.  Shortness of breath and fatigue MAY be additional signs of lactate build up, but the jury is still out on that.  

There is a lot of misunderstanding and differing opinions on the topic of lactate.  One of which is the idea that muscle soreness is caused by lactic acid build up.  The majority of people smarter than me believe that muscle soreness is not caused by lactate, but by microscopic tears in the muscle fibers. 


The aerobic system is the most utilized of the 3 energy systems.  This system is only able to produce a small amount of energy, so it wouldn't help you in sprinting, but can produce some power for long periods of time.  Think of a marathon runner, or a triathlete.  This system can draw on energy stores (glucose), but only for approximately 90 minutes.  That's one of the reasons you see marathon runners, or triathletes taking Gatorade Gummies, or PowerGel during their events; they're trying to replenish those depleted glucose stores. 

One of the important things to know is why this system should be trained and conditioned even if you never plan to run a marathon.  The strengthening of this system will allow it to help in the removal of lactic acid, which will help your body learn to tolerate more lactate, over time.

In reality, most sports use a variety of energy systems, or at least the power and capacity of the system.  There are a few exceptions.  After thinking about the three systems, can you think of any sports that might be an exception?

Think of a shot putter.  How about Olympic Weightlifting?  Would a 1 rep heavy Snatch require the aerobic system to kick in?  Nope.  

These are your three energy systems.  By knowing what they are designed to do, and are capable of, I'm guessing you will be able to begin appreciating our programming here, on a deeper level than before.

My goal is to train you for life.  For longevity.  I want you to be the healthiest, most well rounded athlete you can be.  I'm not training you to win a marathon, or a gold medal in Olympic Weightlifting, or a powerlifting competition.  I want you to be able to do all things well.  I believe the focus of your training should be gains in strength, conditioning, mobility, hopefully allowing you to live longer, healthier, and happier lives.

If you have questions about anything I wrote here, please feel free to message me anytime!

The next blog post here will cover the important difference between hypertrophy strength, and hypertrophy, and how we take that into consideration in our programming and how that can help you decide on band tension for pull-ups, weight for lunges, etc..