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Energy System Conditioning - The Aerobic System

Alright guys, continuing on with Energy System Conditioning and having covered the Anaerobic System last month, it’s time we talk about the big daddy himself; the Aerobic System.

A lot of you are no doubt aware or maybe even culprits yourself, but the Aerobic System generally gets a bad rap in today’s world of Crossfit and HIIT and other circuit based methods; but just as the Anaerobic System has its own qualities of power AND endurance, so too does the Aerobic System. Contrary to what most people think, the Aerobic System must be trained for power as well as endurance and is NOT simply a system used to help recover or to help long distance runners or triathletes compete.

Now we already talked about how the Anaerobic System uses phospho-creatine and glycogen that is stored in the muscles to enable us to have instant access to very powerful movements but with little endurance qualities. Unlike this stored fuel, in the Aerobic System the body must use Oxygen to break down fats, proteins and sugars into our fuel during the Krebs Cycle, a system that is a little (and I emphasize LITTLE) slower to get involved but can provide MASSIVE and nearly unlimited stores of fuel so long as the body has access to Oxygen and fats/sugars/proteins.

Primary Benefits of a well-trained Aerobic System versed in both Power and Endurance.

  • Higher Anaerobic Threshold = A more powerful Aerobic System allows the body to use the Anaerobic System less, making it more available in a critical situation

  • Higher Total Power Output = If Power equals Work/Time, a higher power output means for the same 5 minute round in your fight, you are able to punch/kick/shoot more than your opponent without the increased fatigue.

  • Faster Recovery of the Anaerobic System = if the Aerobic System can produce more power through training, your body can recover the phospho-creatine and glycogen needed in the Anaerobic System for those huge, explosive movements faster. Meaning you can do it more throughout the fight

Training the Aerobic System

For Power

Cardiac Power Interval

Work = 60-120sec

Resistance = Maximal Exercises used: Sprinting, MedBalls, Fight Specific Drilling

HR = Maximal

Rest = 2-5mins (I always err on the side of too much rest)

Total Sets = 4-12 (Start with 4, these are very taxing)

High Resistance Intervals

Work = 10-12sec

Resistance = Maximal Exercises: Prowler/sled push, sprints, resistance bike, versa-climber

Rest = HR 120-130bpm (if you don’t have a HR monitor, rest until your breathing is almost normal but HR is still elevated)

Reps = 15-20


Tempo Interval (I did a blog post on just these earlier, that's how useful I find them. Look it up in April)

Work = 10-12sec

Resistance = 70-80% (very moderate)

Rest = 45-50sec - Fast walking or slow jogging (or mimic this speed with fight specific drills)

Reps = 20-30 reps or 15-30mins

I like to use a HIIT Timer and do 10sec on and 50sec off, simple 1 minute intervals.

Cardiac Output

Work = 30-60mins

Resistance = light (use fight specific drillings such as bag work or shadow work)

Rest = none, one continuous session

Alright folks, now that we’ve talked about some of the different methods to train our specific energy systems, remember that any and all of these training styles should be composed of exercises or movements mimicking specific fight movements. So don’t be afraid to buck what you’ve always done/heard and get the bag out or get your partners out and set up some Energy System Conditioning that will actually make you a more fearsome warrior on the mat, in some darkly lit parking lot or in some smelly 3rd world shit-hole.

Make sure you check back next month when we talk about how to take all of these method and plug them into a weekly/monthly plan that will help you get the most out of these methods.

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