Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Energy System Development

Energy System Development: Developing Movement Capacity

Energy System Development (ESD) plays a critical role within the Athletes' Performance Training System (APTS). ESD will be completed at the end of every workout unless otherwise specified by the therapy team or there are contraindications for any reason. Prior to the completion of the first ESD workout each athlete will complete a Peak VO2 test using the iMETT system and software. This 8-12min test is completed on a treadmill or bike and provides a detailed 3-Zone periodized heart rate system that is predicted off the actual Anaerobic Threshold (AT) and Peak VO2. Note that ventilation, heart rate and power is captured to provide highly specific training zones. The final product is a 5-Phase periodized conditioning plan designed to match the metabolic and movement demands of an athlete’s sport. Each phase will alternate the use of the following three heart rate zones: Yellow (85-95% of AT), Green (AT-110% of AT) and Red (110% of AT-Peak VO2 HR). These 3-Zones are then split into recovery days (Yellow Zone), medium days (Yellow, Green and Some Red) and hard days (Yellow, Green and Red). The emphasis of each zone will progress based on the athlete’s abilities, time availability and the needs of the sport.

Phase 1 (Base Development):

The dominant goal of Phase 1 is to create an aerobic energy system which will be the foundation of the following 4-Phases. To create a strong aerobic base the athlete will spend the majority of their time working around AT in the yellow and green zone with a progressive increase in red zone time as they improve. This will not only strengthen their aerobic capabilities, but also is critical in teaching them how to properly recover and introduce “true interval” training. This phase will last 1-7 weeks depending on the level of the athlete and any weight loss considerations that may need to be addressed before the intensity level is increased.

Phase 2 (True Interval Training):

The primary goal of Phase 2 is develop cardio and leg strength through the introduction of the red zone. This phase will still use cardio equipment, but the intensity achieved on medium and hard days will be significantly higher than the previous phase. True Interval training is characterized by the ability of the athlete to achieve and sustain the heart rates in their red zone for a period of time and then fully recover back down to their yellow zone. As the athlete improves they are able to achieve the higher heart rates sooner and sustain work/power at those levels for longer intervals. Additionally, the time to recovery decreases and we can use more advanced work to rest ratios. This phase will typically last 1-2 weeks and will prepare the athlete for the subsequent phases.

Phase 3 (Linear Movement):

The goal of Phase 3 is to introduce linear specific movements while addressing the metabolic and work to rest demands seen in their sport. When possible these sessions should be completed on the actual playing surface that the athlete will need to perform on. Note that movement quality is still emphasized in addition to the intensity needed to reach the heart rates in a given zone. The linear phase will last 1-2 weeks and workouts will only take place on the hard days due to the dominant focus on movement intensity. Therefore, the workouts on recovery and medium days will be completed on cardio equipment. This phase will use jog to sprint progressing to sprint to jog protocols for various time and distance intervals.

Phase 4 (Multi-Directional Movement):

The multi-directional phase is the same as the linear phase, but the movement focus will transition to change of direction and pivoting movements. Note that there is a dominant focus on acceleration and deceleration capabilities. Sessions will still take place on hard days using 6-cone drills to address the specific movements and metabolic demands of the athlete’s sport. Work to rest ratios will move from 1:2 to 2:1 once the athlete has shown mastery and adaptation.

Phase 5 (Sport Specific Movement):

This phase will introduce the actual technical/tactical drill work seen in the sport with emphasis in the specific work to rest ratios that characterize the sport. Keep in mind that work to rest ratios should reflect the random nature of the sport and the rest should also represent the type of rest the athlete will receive during play (i.e. Passive vs. Active).

Each phase represents a step to get the athlete in the metabolic and movement shape needed to play their sport at the highest level. This is done through specific heart rate training that focuses on capacity and power production. This is important because the athlete may have the cardio strength, but lacks the leg strength to sustain the power endurance demands of the sport. Therefore, the ability to increase speed, incline, resistance, reps per time interval and the actual monitoring of power (wattage) allows you to track heart rate and power adaptation through all 5 phases of training. The end goal should be to produce the sport specific energy systems matched with the appropriate lower body power endurance and movement durability.

Please see EPISODE 17 on for a detailed review of the Athletes' Performance ESD System by our lead Metabolic Specialist Paul Robbins.

Nick Winkelman CSCS, *D; NSCA-CPT, *D
Education Manger/ Performance Specialist
Athletes' Performance (Tempe, AZ)


  1. "Keep in mind that work to rest ratios should reflect the random nature of the sport and the rest should also represent the type of rest the athlete will receive during play (i.e. Passive vs. Active)."

    Coach Winkleman,

    With respect to the part about reflecting the random nature of the sport, does this mean having varying lengths of work and rest periods within the session even though all of them will fall within a given range specific to the sport?

    i.e. if training for ice hockey, having work periods between 30 to upwards of 90 seconds (possibly like a double shift) and rest/recovery periods ranging from 30 to upwards of 120 seconds but not having a distinct repeating pattern throughout the session

    Hopefully I was not too confusing with the way I worded this.

    Thank you for your help.

  2. You are exactly correct. Once you are into the sports specific phase randomizing rest intervals based on the range seen in the sport can be recommended. The following citation is for a paper that gives a great competition model for football and the various reast and type of rest intervals:

    Rhea, M.R., R.L. Hunter, and T.J. Hunter. Competition modeling of American football: observational data and implications for high school, collegiate, and professional player conditioning. J Strength Cond Res. 20:58-61, 2006.

    I hope this confirms your thoughts and helps. Note that you can also have different days where the conditioning represents best, average and worst case scenarios as far as rest to work intervals are concerned

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