Conditioning and Energy System Development

Michael Jeffrey MS, CSCS, NASM, FMS, YBT

This day in age being efficient and talented when it comes to a certain skill is essential when you want to see success in sport. There is such a strong emphasis on sport skill that experts in the field are being hired just to work on sport specific skill. Yes, this is very important; but even with all the skill in the world you will not be performing to the best of your ability if you are exhausted at the end of the game. Proper conditioning and development of your body’s energy systems will give you that competitive edge over your opponent who may be just too tired to perform.

How Do I Fix This?

 Our bodies are able to replenish ATP (muscles use for energy) through three basic energy systems: phospagen, glycolytic, and oxidative. These systems utilize our macronutrients (proteins, carbs, and fats) to be metabolized for energy allowing our body to perform work. To improve your conditioning levels and see the best crossover effect on the field, you have to properly train these energy systems.

Why is this important?

 Our body utilizes certain energy systems based on the duration of activity that is being performed. This is important because you want to train the energy system that is mainly used by your sport/activity. The following points show the time durations that are used by our body’s energy systems:

1) Phosphagen System: 1-10 seconds

Our body utilizes the phospagen system to provide ATP for activities that are short durations and high intensity. These activities generally occur between 1 and 10 seconds relying on creatine phosphate in the muscles to replenish ATP. Sports mainly using the phosphagen system: Volleyball, Tennis, Gymnastics, Golf, Field Events, Football

Sample Conditioning Workout:

Set 1: 6 sprint repetitions of 25 yards/30 seconds between reps

2:00 minute rest

Set 2: 6 sprint repetitions of 25 yards/30 seconds between reps

2:00 minute rest

Set 3: 6 sprint repetitions of 25 yards/30 seconds between reps

2) Glycolytic System: 30 seconds-2 minutes

Our body uses the glycolytic energy system for activities occurring between 30 seconds and 2 minutes. During glycolysis the body breaks down carbohydrates stored as glucose to help resynthesize ATP. Sports mainly using the glycolytic system: Basketball, Football, Lacrosse, Soccer (Position Specific), Hockey

Sample Workout 1:

Six 25 yard suicides

Goal time: 40 seconds

Rest time: 40 seconds

Sample Workout 2:

8 tempo 200’s

Goal time: 45 seconds

Rest time: 1:10 minutes

3) Oxidative System: 2 minutes plus

The last and most used system in our body is the oxidative system which re-synthesizes ATP both at rest and low intensity activity. This system mainly uses carbohydrates and fats to produce ATP and generally occurs with low-intensity activities that are longer than 2 minutes in duration. Sports mainly using the aerobic system: Distance Running, Rowing, Soccer (position specific)

Sample Workout:

Fartlek Run: Sprint 20 seconds/Jog 20 seconds/Walk 20 seconds for 20 minutes

There are several sports that use a combination of these energy systems which is why it is important to train all 3. It is vital that you develop all 3 energy systems because at one point or another, whether in life or sport, your body uses one of these energy systems. Yes, focusing on sport-specific conditioning still holds precedence, but you also need to be well rounded when it comes to your energy system development. A tired athlete, no matter skill level, is not a good athlete. So please take the time to not only condition, but condition the right way. Too many people think that you just have to run longer to improve your conditioning level. The fact is that you do not even have to run to improve your fitness levels. Doing high-paced circuits and strength training activities with short rest times can do wonders for improving both your aerobic and anaerobic conditioning levels. So please don’t just run to run! Stick to a plan and condition according to the needs of your sport; I promise you, it will make you a more well-rounded athlete.