Thursday, July 19, 2007

Aerobic threshold training

I am amazed that more people wanting weight loss aren't looking more closely at what Tracy has been doing, from an energy system and calorie burned per minute perpective. Many people have lost 100 pounds or more. Some have even kept it off for two plus years or more. But I surely haven't seen anyone loose 125 pounds and end up to lean and muscular with body fat levels 20 year old females would love to have.
Now I write this NOT because she is my wife and I am proud of her but because as a strength and conditioning professional I am amazed at what I have seen her do with her body with her training and I am intrigued by what is actually happening.

She built up quickly to two minute swing sets, which is a feat in itself, with two minute rest intervals. She started with four work bouts( 8 minutes of actual work) twice a week and built up to being able to do 900 swings with the 16 kg in 30 minutes as a throwaway workout- no big deal. or 2000 swings in a hour two or three times a week. The work being done here is off the charts ; and yet it is available to so many. yet so few seem to choose it. It is very hard but ???? It is obviously working.

At whatever sport I decided to compete in I always approached it the same way. I started at the top and looked to what the best were doing. I would try to emulate them and build up to what they were capable of.
If my goal were to lose a lot fo bodyfat and get as lean as possible I would be doing these hellacious swing workouts Tracy is doing. At least I would HAVE to try.Start at the top and work down.

When she started doing them and I noted how well they were working I called them "aerobic threshold" sets. In an energy system sense, under two minutes of work is mostly anaerobic, requiring more white fibers, glucose as fuel and of higher intensity. Pretty much after two minutes the energy required to keep things going is primarily fueled by the aerobic energy system.

The anaerobic threshold is the level one can work at and NOT go into oxygen debt.The aerobic threshold is the level one can work and NOT go aerobic.I'm sure KJ can school me on my exercise physiology mistakes but one thing is true: it does work.

SO these multiple two minute work bouts she does is just of short enough duration to keep a high degree of white fibers involved but long enough to start tapping into the aerobic( more fat, less sugar as fuel). That's my theory and boy it sure seems to work.
Now that she is doing heavier, shorter work bouts she is not losing weight but gaining muscle. The one to one work to rest ratio keeps the entire time spent training shifted towards the aerobic system so she is as lean as ever. Way cool.I am just suprised more people who's primary goal is weight loss are not emulating her training.


Royce said...

If it makes you and her feel any better in 3 weeks or so I'm switching to am A/B workout scheme.
workout A will be KJ's VO2 Max after an extremely abbriviated strength workout. Workout B will be working up to 2 minute bouts of swings with 60 seconds rest. I'm doing the workouts mon-wed-fri. so one week will have two A workouts and the next week will have 2 B workouts.

Mark Reifkind said...

that looks very interesting. and please know that that post was not aimed at anyone in particular.

Royce said...

Actually I didn't feel that way at all. I know how it is to have discovered something so effective and have so few people give it serious consideration. Like kettlebell practice in general for instance.

Mark Reifkind said...

cool, and yes, like kbs in general.I shouldnt be surprised though, dont really know why I am.

Samuel said...

Rif, I haven't been following Tracy's blog (shame on me). Is the training program you're describing basically

1. Work up to x minutes of consistent work for y sets.
2. Increase number of sets gradually?

My training schedule has sucked rocks recently, but there seems to be some light at the end of that tunnel, and now feels like a good time to try something new.

Kenneth Jay said...

Hey Rif, It is a solid plan for fat loss you have Tracy doing. A 1:1 work:rest ratio ranging from 2-4 min. is a very solid approach and allows to do a high volume for long total workout time.



PS. no matter what you do the energy turnover will always be a mixture of aerobic and anaerobic turnover. It cannot be seperated. Also remember that white fibers (at least type IIB) is oxidative as well as glycolytic- meaning that it can be fuelled by both anaerobic and aerobic sources. Anaerobic threshold is the point were lactate starts to accumulate in the muscles (also called OBLA- Onset of Blood Lactate Accumulation) and not when energy turnover goes from aerobic to anaerobic since those two always are presents more or less.

take care man!

Chris said...

This was a really useful post Rif and Kenneth's comment was helpful too. I must admit I've been follwogin Tracy's blog for a little while now and she is an inspiration.

For my own interest I've just started a blog

looking at some of the recent research relevant to conditioning / nutrition etc. Things are definitely moving towards intervals, power training, etc.

Brett Jones said...

Sorry Rif - it just couldn't be that easy! ;)
Swings rule!

Mark Reifkind said...

thanks for the clarification but here's a point: obviously the longer the set goes on the more oxygen is the source for fueling the effort. At what point would you say( time wise) that a work bout is predominantly aerobic as opposed to anaerobic( or as Dr Siff would say oxygen dependent vs oxygen independent)?

My point and theory is that by tracy keeping the sets at not much longer than 2 minutes( and doing numerous multiple sets) she straddled the line between o2 dependent and 02 independt work and was able to maintain a higher percentage of muscle mass than she would have had she used very long, lower intensity sets.

Mark Reifkind said...

samuel yes, but also she would use a constantly changing variety of combinations of one arm,two arm and transfer swings to keep the perceived effort low as the sets got longer.

Kenneth Jay said...

Hey Mark, to your question I can only answer that it depends on the exercise in question. the fact that the kettlebell does not behave exactly similar compared to conventional running, bicycling etc. makes it a bit tricky to answer. You are right that if we are talking about running at about 2 min. the energy turnover is mainly aerobic, more than 90%- no question about that, but since the kettlebell swing causes reactive hypernimia (bloodvessels getting constricted for longer periods of time) more anaerobic energy turnover will be present. This is because energy still needs to be produced even though oxygen cannot get into the muscles because of the vessel constriction. hence the only pathway available is anaerobic. This is also why the swing does not stimulate MVO2 as much as running for instance. Even going at the swings for extensive periods of time my guess is that about 20% of the energy is derived by anaerobic sources. So you might ask "for how long can one continue to do swings if it inevitably causes some anaerobic turnover and thereby metabolite accumulation?" well, that will depend mainly on the level of OBLA (Onset of Blood Lactate Accumulation). at how high rate can your body clear metabolites (ie. lactate)..

hope this answers it a bit. physiology is pretty complicated when looking for exact causes huh?

Stil I agree that an interval setup of what tracy is doing is very good and that is what matters-I would recommend it myself.

Take care my friend!


Mark Reifkind said...

GREAT STuff Kenneth, great information, thanks man. yes physiology is complicated but so interesting as well.especially for unique training environments like with the kb.
so perhaps if even at long durations of work the kb still has such a large anaerobic component there is such a good strength aspect to the most basic movements.

but also because of the hypernimia, shorter bouts with decent rest bouts( to allow for more perfusion) will increase Vo2 ( although not mvo2)even at what would be usually anerobic work levels?

Mark Reifkind said...


Just to be clear; I did not design Tracy's trainning programs. SHe came up with everything herself by instinct.I just tried to figure out what was happening.

Kenneth Jay said...

Hey rif, Well, shorter intervals with (obviously) a bit higher intensity will have an indirect positive effect on MVO2. The answer is not however that shorter interals wil bring more perfusion of blood. The positive effect is on the "fast component" of the VO2 kinetics. that means that Vo2 will rise to "steady state" levels faster and thereby reduce the oxygen deficit.

take care man,


Mark Reifkind said...

more great info kenneth, thanks for taking the time.