Anaerobic and Aerobic Training for Sport

03 May Anaerobic and Aerobic Training for Sport

Athletes who participate in sports competitively utilize the anaerobic and aerobic systems very differently. Utilization of the aerobic and anaerobic systems of energy are very sport dependent. For example, a marathon runner will utilize the aerobic system of the body to a very high degree whereas the American football player will rely heavily on the Anaerobic system during the course of a game. That being said, understanding the differences between these two systems and the processes by which the athlete should develop them is very important.

Endurance athletes who compete in marathons, triathlons, cycling events, and the longer distances in track will recruit the aerobic system to a high degree. The majority of other athletes will rely more heavily on the anaerobic system for energy.

As result it is very important for the performance professional to understand the concepts and principles contained within aerobic and anaerobic training for sport.

Aerobic and Anaerobic Training

 The concept of how aerobic training should be utilized with athletes, golfers, tennis players, pitchers, quarterbacks has vastly changed over the years. What once was perceived as beneficial to all athletes such as long steady state aerobic training is not necessary conducive to all sports and as result, the guidelines and principles governing aerobic and anaerobic conditioning has changed.

The first step in this process of understanding how to utilize aerobic and anaerobic training to the benefit of an athlete is first to recognize the goals of such training. The goals of aerobic and anaerobic training for athletes are as follows; 1) Performance improvement, 2) Reduction in mental and physical fatigue, 3) Recovery, and possibly 4) Weight management.

The general goal of all strength and conditioning programs are performance improvement. This holds true for the modalities of aerobic and anaerobic training as well as all other exercises utilized with athlete focused performance training. Fatigue in any sport is extremely detrimental and poor aerobic or anaerobic capacities can add to the levels of fatigue during a competitive event. The inclusion of aerobic and anaerobic conditioning can be beneficial in the areas of weight loss or weight gain. The health and fitness professional must be aware of the differentiations between aerobic and anaerobic training and how best to utilize these modalities to meet the goals of their clientele.

Energy Systems

To create motion, the kinetic chain of the body utilizes adenosine triphosphate commonly referred to as ATP as its energy source. ATP can be used as an energy source with oxygen (aerobic) or without oxygen (anaerobic). Both of these systems are utilized by most athletes and the degree of which is very sport dependent, and thus require development via specific training modalities.

Aerobic Training

 Aerobic training increases the efficiency by which oxygen is utilized via development of the heart. Aerobic training develops a stronger and larger heart thus allowing for more efficiency in the pumping of blood through the pulmonary system of the body.

Aerobic training begins with the lungs taking oxygen in and transferring it the blood where it is pumped through the muscular system where is utilized to break down ATP as an energy source. This energy pathway is commonly referred to as the oxidative system.

During an oxidative state the muscular system utilizes both glucose and fat to produce ATP for energy. The aerobic system generates greater amounts of ATP in comparison with the anaerobic system.

Anaerobic Training

Anaerobic defined as without oxygen creates ATP in the absence of oxygen within the body. During high intensity activities of short amount of times where oxygen is unavailable the body must produce ATP. This process of energy production entails the anaerobic system where the primary source of ATP is stored ATP, creatine phosphate (CP), and glucose. In addition to stored ATP and glucose, the body uses a an additional energy source in the production of ATP via the anaerobic system, creatine phosphate (CP).The overall process of ATP production in the absence of oxygen is referred to as the glycolytic (latic acid) system.

As result of the lack of oxygen in the production of ATP via the glycolytic system, the amount of ATP produced is limited. This creates a short amount time by which energy can be created by this system and a time frame of approximately 4- 120 second in which the body can make use of the anaerobic system for energy production.

Phases of Cardiorespiratory Training

 Cardiorespiratory training for the sports as with many performance training programs encompasses five phases of training. These five phases will develop the aerobic and anaerobic capacities for sport and include the following:

  • Base Training
  • Interval Training
  • Linear Trainin
  • Multidirectional Training
  • Sports Specific Training


Phase One: Base Training

The main goal of base training is to create an aerobic base. This base becomes the foundation to build the additional phases. It is ideal to begin this phase of training with the athlete during the off-season or when competitive play is minimal.

A variety of cardio equipment can be utilized in this phase and depends upon ease of use for the clientele as well as what is available for usage. This phase of training will incorporate a differing number of training intensities corresponding with specified training days. Day one is considered a low intensity day (65-75% of HR Max) and day two incorporates a higher intensity training level (80-85% of HR Max). This creates a two day rotation for the golfer to adhere too.

Aerobic training session length can vary depending upon the individual and time available for this section of the program. A typical Phase one training session typically entails 20-60 minutes. A 5-10 minute warm up occurs prior to the introduction of phase one and two. A 1:1 ratio between phase one and two after the completion of a warm up is an effective model to follow.

Phase Two: Interval Training

 Interval Training is the second phase and incorporates sprint training. The goal of this phase is to develop cardiorespiratory strength for future training. This phase is typically 1-2 weeks in length and the athlete will work at an 85-90% of max HR for 30-60 second sprints.

A variety of training equipment can be used in this phase from stationary bikes to treadmills. Phase two training utilizes a 3-day rotation where training intensity is varied each day. The length of each phase in phase two training sessions are 20-60 minutes dependent upon the goals of the golfer. If weight loss is a goal, the training sessions will consist of 40-60 minutes whereas a goal of weight gain will limit the session time to 20 minutes.

A 5-10 minute warm up will commence each phase two training session. After completion of a warm up a series of spring intervals will begin. The length of each sprint interval is 30-60 seconds with a corresponding rest interval of 1-3 minutes. This creates approximately a 1:2 work-to-rest ratio.

Phases Three – Five

 Phases three through five continue with the concept of interval training. These phases will advance the interval training concept introduced in phase two. Phases three-five can incorporate a number of different training modalities indoor and outdoor to continue the development of both the aerobic and anaerobic capacities of the athlete.

The performance professional has the choice of keeping the athlete on select pieces of cardio equipment and performing similar interval training as in phase two, or expand the drills in these phases to outdoor sprint training, agility drills, or a combination of training stations.

The work to rest these phases should be 1:2 with each work interval lasting 30-60 seconds. The performance professional during these phases should continue to build the aerobic and anaerobic capacities of the golfer.


 Aerobic and anaerobic conditioning is important for any athlete  The development of the cardiorespiratory system deters fatigue during competition, improves performance, improves recovery, and assists in weight management. In addition to the benefits provided by such a program, it is important the health and fitness professional develop a program which is safe, challenging, and deters boredom. The utilization of the suggested training phases provided in this chapter allows for the goals of cardiorespiratory training to be met through a structure program providing both a safe and challenging environment for your athletes.

About Performance Coach Sean Cochran: Sean Cochran, one of the most recognized performance coaches in sports today. A career spanning positions with 2 major league baseball organizations, over 10 years on the PGA Tour and work with top professionals including three-time Masters, PGA, and British Open Champion Phil Mickelson, future hall of fame Trevor Hoffman, and Cy Young award winner Jake Peavy provides Sean a proven track record of success.  He has been involved in the production of numerous performance videos and authored books including; Performance Golf Fitness, Complete Conditioning for Martial Arts, and Fit to Hit. He has been a presenter of educational seminars for numerous organizations including the world renown Titleist Performance Institute.


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