The Biochemistry of Alactic + Aerobic Training - Getting Started

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[This is part 1 of many about the details of Alactic + Aerobic training and why you should be doing it.]

Much of our training centers around Alactic + Aerobic (A+A) work. A+A is a subset of anti-glycolytic training (AGT) which we’ve been working on for a couple of years. To really take advantage of all that AGT has to offer, you need to do a few low and slow workouts during the week, and that’s something you can’t (shouldn’t) do in the gym. So I leave that as an exercise to the reader. I focus our gym time on 1) getting strong and 2) conditioning via A+A work. This series is on the biological theories behind A+A and how we implement it in the gym.

What does A+A mean?

We use the Alactic energy pathway of the cell to fuel a short set of high intensity work. We then take advantage of the the Aerobic pathway to replenish our energy, during the recovery period between sets. We store a small amount of energy next to our muscles and the Alactic work burns that up right away. (Since I have a bunch of EEs at the gym, think of this as a rapid discharge of a capacitor). Then we need to replenish that energy, so we use the slow, but highly efficient, Aerobic pathway to recharge (waiting to charge the capacitor). We are actually training are aerobic system without needing to run for hours!

So what is A+A work?

A while ago, I came up with this definition: repeated bursts of short, intense work with lots of rest consistently practiced over weeks or months.

What does that mean in practice?

...bursts of short, intense work... - 10 seconds of heavy swings, fast viking push presses, even a few steps of a heavy sled push. What we’re doing here is using up all of stored energy. We’re getting the most out of the energy we have stored for immediate use.

...lots of rest... - we like to have 4:1 or more rest:work. That gives us enough time to recharge so that we can go fast again - that takes time.

...repeated bursts... - we do this for 15 to 30 minutes, sometimes up to an hour. If we do it long enough, we don’t quite recover fully between sets. That means we will need to very lightly tap into glycolysis. We’re training that pathway without over-doing it and causing damage.

...practiced over weeks or months - If you keep coming back, day after day doing these style of workouts. It will tell your body that you need to get more efficient aerobically. You need burn more fat to recharge, but since that’s a slow reaction your body figures out how to do it in parallel. You’ll have a lot of slow reactions happening at the same time. You’ll get a high power output without stressing your body.

Why do we do A+A work?

Basically, the Alactic and Aerobic pathways are the more “evolved” pathways that burn clean and efficient. We have a third pathway, the glycolytic one, that’s the oldest - evolutionarily speaking. It’s quick and dirty - literally - and is great when you need to run from the lion, but constantly using it will damage your body.

In this series of posts I will explore how energy is used in the cells, all three metabolic pathways we have to generate energy, how they work together, and how to train them. I have 5 more posts mapped out, but I sometimes end up like Donald Knuth and this may be an ever expanding series of posts that will never be done.

Until I finish mapping out the logic on why we do this, just trust me. Do your work with great power and lots of rest. Don’t rush it. Maybe by the time I’m done with this series, the what-the-hell effect will happen and fitness will have sneaked up on you.

Michael Deskevich