| June 18, 2021

Energy systems and how they tie into training

While training, our body collectively utilizes three energy systems: ATP/CP pathway; glycolytic pathway; and oxidative pathway.

By Steven Fitzpatrick

Read time: 3 min.

While training, our body collectively utilizes three energy systems: ATP/CP pathway; glycolytic pathway; and oxidative pathway.

ATP/CP Pathway –This pathway is an “anaerobic” pathway, meaning that it operates without the need for oxygen, by splitting Creatine Phosphate molecules from the body, the phosphate is reformed from Adenosine Diphosphate in to Adenosine Triphosphate so that it may be utilized for IMMEDIATE muscle energy, ATP is the energy that we require for every single movement we make, we utilize the ATP/CP pathway for any type of movement that is ballistic or in other words fast twitch. Examples of this are Powerlifting, Shotput and Pitching. Exercises specifically that would require this pathway would be attempting to hit a 1RM in the Deadlift and the Bench Press, squat

Glycolytic Pathway – This pathway is also “anaerobic” in the case of exercise that the body has depleted the ATP/CP pathway, the body must utilize carbohydrates for energy, (glucose/glycogen) the result of the breakdown in this pathway is lactic acid, lactic acid is the limiting factor in how much farther we can continue to train in this pathway, with 80 seconds being the maximum threshold. The three main factors that determine how well this pathway functions comes down to three things per individual

How much pain can the individual handle from lactic acid accumulation
How high is their anaerobic threshold
How quickly does the body utilize lactic acid

Examples of sports or exercises that use this pathway are -- 400 meter dash, assuming that they take no longer than 80 seconds to finish. Soccer, hockey, gymnastics.

Oxidative Pathway – The oxidative system is “aerobic” meaning that it operates in the presence of oxygen to create ATP, it creates ATP through the krebs cycle and electron transport chain, this energy system ultimately creates the most ATP at 38 molecules of ATP. Exercises that would utilize this pathway would be biking, rowing, running, swimming (over 80 seconds)

An individual that was running a marathon, we would be prominently training in the aerobic pathway, there is no such marathon that exists lasting under 2 minutes. We would be training in a form of steady state intervals so that we can continue to increase the level of aerobic endurance, although it would not be the only energy system they would utilize, I would also have them doing calisthenics with minimal resistance, with slow tempo and volume such as body weight squats in a circuit style fashion so that they can become receptive to the endurance, and upon closing in the week that they would perform the marathon they would reduce the resistance and continue to train on the treadmill, rower, and bike as these exercises, being oxidative, limit the use of the first 2 energy systems, and meanwhile, treadmill running for extended periods have a direct correlation to the marathon, the distance and time frame versus speed would be determined on how long the marathon was, if the client had a specific time to beat, and if the training will be done according to any variables on the type of marathon it is (obstacles) where intervals may or may not be applied.
An understanding of the way that the body's energy systems work will allow those trying to emphasize output during their sport a good perspective. In my belief, with different neuro-types, each individual has different appeal while in the gym, different goals, exercises that satisfy their mental state and physiological make-up, by understanding energy systems while combined with the desired training method of the individual.

The specific athlete will tend to appeal towards one or the other energy system function, although regardless, the body will still always utilize them all at some points.

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