Aerobic Training For Athletes

Aerobic Training For Athletes

What is aerobic training

Aerobic training, also known as cardio, improves an athlete’s ability to use oxygen to sustain activity for periods of time. The aerobic energy system utilizes fats, carbohydrates and sometimes proteins for re-synthesizing of Adenosine Triphosphate (ATP) for energy use. ATP is the primary energy carrier in all living organisms. The aerobic system produces far more ATP than either of the other energy systems but it produces the ATP much more slowly, therefore it cannot fuel intense exercise that demands the fast production of ATP. However, aerobic training for athletes is key to optimizing performance.

Why aerobic training is good for athletes

The aerobic system is the dominant source of energy in sport and activities lasting longer than 3 minutes of continuous activity. Here are a few examples: endurance runners, cyclists, and distance swimmers, etc. All athletes can benefit from aerobic training even if they rely on quick short bursts of energy. Building a larger aerobic base will help increase anaerobic thresholds and improve energy efficiency.

Effects of aerobic training for athletes

Our bodies adapt to low to moderate-intensity activities that last for more than just a few minutes. Sustained workouts improve your body’s ability to breathe in and use oxygen. Here are the types of adjustments our bodies make internally to make these improvements:

  1. Increases in the number of mitochondria (small structures known as the powerhouses) inside muscle cells that produce energy from oxygen,
  2. Increases in the muscle’s ability to use fat as fuel,
  3. Greater lung capacity,
  4. Improved heart stroke volume (the amount of blood pumped with each beat),
  5. Changes in hormones (epinephrine) that break down and move fat through the body for use as a fuel,
  6. Increased lean body mass.

 

What are the best Aerobic Training Workouts

Intensity (how hard), duration (how long), and frequency (how often) are key ways to improve your ability to maintain aerobic activity. Fitness improves when intensity is between 70-80% of maximum heart rate, but this may not be adequate for endurance athletes in some sports and events.

Elite endurance athletes often utilize high-intensity interval (HIIT) exercise in their training regimens. Recent studies indicate that HIIT is a time-efficient strategy to stimulate a number of muscle adaptations that are comparable to traditional endurance training. Athletes may include other sport-specific activities in interval training workouts.

The aerobic energy system can be developed with various types of training.

  • Interval training– Interval training for the long term aerobic energy system would have a work-rest ratio of 1:1 or 1:2. The work periods would usually exceed several minutes and the rest periods would be active but at a lower intensity that could be sustained.
  • Continuous training– Training that maintains a constant intensity and lasts for a prolonged period of time (usually longer than 15 minutes)
  • ‘Fartlek’ training– A type of interval training whereby the exerciser varies the speed and effort throughout the training session according to how they feel ensuring that they can continue to exercise at all times (i.e. no rest intervals).

Workout Examples

  • Run for two minutes at mod/high intensity, followed by two minutes at low intensity (active recovery) repeated for 30 minutes.
  • 30 minutes low/moderate intensity cycling, swimming or jogging without change in intensity.
  • 30 minute jog over hills requiring bursts of extra effort every now and then but never stopping throughout the jog.

 Process and rate of recovery

 Recovery for the aerobic system is about restoring fuel stores to their pre-exercise levels. This requires the ingestion, digestion and transportation of the fuel and can take between 12 and 48 hours depending on the intensity and duration of the aerobic training for the athlete’s performance.

 


Unilateral vs Bilateral Lower Body Training

Unilateral vs. Bilateral Lower Body Training

The unilateral versus bilateral training debate is just about as controversial as what comes first, the chicken or the egg? If you were to ask personal trainers, fitness coaches, or performance specialists which is better, you would get mixed responses. To make things easier for you I am going to break down the differences between unilateral and bilateral lower body training.  The best one for you depends on where you are on your fitness journey or performance goals.

Unilateral Training

Unilateral training involves asymmetrical exercises that only use one side of your body at a time. A unilateral lower body movement involves the use of one leg. There are varying intensities when it comes to unilateral lower body training depending on whether the exercises are done with free weights or machines. Here are examples of unilateral lower body exercises:

Bilateral Training

Bilateral lower body training involves the use of both legs symmetrically. Bilateral lower body exercises are the staples of most strength programs. Here are examples of bilateral lower body exercises.

Benefits of Unilateral Training

Unilateral lower body training is great for improving muscle imbalance, kinesthetic awareness, and stability. The asymmetrical nature of these exercises cause your body to stabilize joints and core muscles to maintain balance while executing the movement. If you have had an injury or dysfunction in your lower extremities, unilateral training will help isolate those weak points, and the appropriate exercise can help strengthen to restore full health and function. Unilateral training puts more isolated stress on the single limb being worked. This allows people to put stress on their limbs without overloading with weight, which can increase risk for injury.

Benefits of Bilateral Training

There are many benefits of bilateral lower body training. These include greater muscle recruitment, strength gains, central nervous system (CNS) adaptation, hormone response, greater metabolic effect, and requires less coordination. When performing bilateral lower body exercises, balance and stability are less of a factor compared to unilateral training. This gives you the ability to lift more weight. If your goal is to increase strength, muscle mass, power, or speed, bilateral training will help you make the necessary gains to reach your goal.

How to Implement Unilateral and Bilateral Training into your Workouts

Both bilateral and unilateral lower body training exercises are beneficial whether you are looking to improve your fitness or performance for sports. The most important thing to consider when selecting bilateral or unilateral lower body exercises is what is your number one goal? Do you want to maximize your strength? Do you want to improve your balance, core strength, or stability? Are you recovering from an injury and looking to strengthen an isolated joint or muscle group? Answering these questions before making exercise selections will help you map a plan of action before putting together an exercise routine.

My recommendation is to combine both bilateral and unilateral training in the same training session. After completing a thorough warm up, start with a compound bilateral exercise such as a squat or deadlift. It is important to do these exercises while mentally and physically fresh because they are more taxing than unilateral exercises. After completing one to two compound bilateral exercises, add in one to two unilateral exercises. Another option to consider is switching back and forth between hip dominant exercises (deadlift, hip thrust, etc.) and knee dominant exercises (squats, step ups, etc.).

Below is an example of a combined bilateral and unilateral lower body training routine.

 

Example 1

Bilateral

Back Squat 3×8-12
Unilateral

Single Leg Romanian Deadlift

3×8-12
Unilateral

Dumbbell Lunge

3×8-12
Bilateral Stability Ball Hamstring Curl

3×8-12

 

Example 2

Bilateral

Deadlift 4×5

Unilateral

Bulgarian Split Squat 3×6
Bilateral Nordic Leg Curl

3×8

Unilateral Single Leg Hip Thrust

3×8

 

 


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