Crosfit – Aerobics and Anaerobics
There are three main energy systems that fuel all human
activity. Almost all changes that occur in the body due
to exercise are related to the demands placed on these
energy systems. Furthermore, the efficacy of any given
fitness regimen may largely be tied to its ability to elicit
an adequate stimulus for change within these three
Energy is derived aerobically when oxygen is utilized to
metabolize substrates derived from food and liberates
energy. An activity is termed aerobic when the majority
of energy needed is derived aerobically. These activities
are usually greater than ninety seconds in duration
and involve low to moderate power output or intensity.
Examples of aerobic activity include running on the
treadmill for twenty minutes, swimming a mile, and
Energy is derived anaerobically when energy is liberated
from substrates in the absence of oxygen. Activities are
considered anaerobic when the majority of the energy
needed is derived anaerobically. These activities are of
less than two minutes in duration and involve moderate
to high power output or intensity. There are two such
anaerobic systems, the phosphagen system and the
lactic acid system. Examples of anaerobic activity
include running a 100-meter sprint, squatting, and doing
Our main purpose here is to discuss how anaerobic
and aerobic training support performance variables like
strength, power, speed, and endurance. We also support
the contention that total conditioning and optimal health
necessitates training each of the physiological systems
in a systematic fashion.It warrants mention that in any
activity all three energy systems are utilized though one
may dominate. The interplay of these systems
can be complex, yet a simple examination of the characteristics
of aerobic vs. anaerobic training can prove useful.
Aerobic training benefits cardiovascular function and
decreases body fat. This is certainly of significant benefit.
Aerobic conditioning allows us to engage in moderate/
low power output for extended period of time. This is
valuable for many sports. Athletes engaging in excessive
aerobic training witness decreases in muscle mass,
strength, speed, and power. It is not uncommon to find
marathoners with a vertical leap of several inches and
a bench press well below average for most athletes.
Aerobic activity has a pronounced tendency to decrease
anaerobic capacity. This does not bode well for athletes
or the individual interested in total conditioning or
Anaerobic activity also benefits cardiovascular function
and decreases body fat. Anaerobic activity is unique in its
capacity to dramatically improve power, speed, strength,
and muscle mass. Anaerobic conditioning allows us to
exert tremendous forces over a very brief time. Perhaps
the aspect of anaerobic conditioning that bears greatest
consideration is that anaerobic conditioning will not
adversely affect aerobic capacity! In fact, properly
structured, anaerobic activity can be used to develop
a very high level of aerobic fitness without the muscle
wasting consistent with high volume aerobic exercise!
Basketball, football, gymnastics, boxing, track and field
events under one mile, soccer, swimming events under
400 yards, volleyball, wrestling, and weightlifting are all
sports that require the majority of training time spent in
anaerobic activity. Long distance and ultra-endurance
running, cross-country skiing, and 1500+ yard swimming
are all sports that require aerobic training at levels
that produce results unacceptable to other athletes or
individuals concerned with total conditioning or optimal
The extraordinary value of gymnastics as a training
modality lies in its reliance on the body’s own weight
as the sole source of resistance. This places a unique
premium on the improvement of strength to weight ratio.
Unlike other strength training modalities gymnastics
and calisthenics allow for increases in strength only
while increasing strength to weight ratio!
Gymnastics develops pull-ups, squats, lunges, jumping,
push-ups, and numerous presses to handstand, scales,
and holds. These skills are unrivaled in their benefit to
the physique as evident in any competitive gymnast.
As important as the capacity of this modality is for
strength development it is without a doubt the ultimate
approach to improving coordination, balance, agility,
accuracy, and flexibility. Through the use of numerous
presses, handstands, scales, and other floor work the
gymnast’s training greatly enhances kinesthetic sense.
The variety of movements available for inclusion in this
modality probably exceeds the number of exercises
known to all non-gymnastic sport! The rich variety here
contributes substantially to the CrossFit program’s
ability to inspire great athletic confidence and prowess.
For a combination of strength, flexibility, well-developed
physique, coordination, balance, accuracy, and agility the
gymnast has no equal in the sports world. The inclusion
of this training modality is absurdly absent from nearly
all training programs.
There is no ideal routine! In fact, the chief value of any
routine lies in abandoning it for another. The CrossFit
ideal is to train for any contingency. The obvious
implication is that this is possible only if there is a
tremendously varied, if not randomized, quality to the
breadth of stimulus. It is in this sense that the CrossFit
Program is a core strength and conditioning program.
“Neuroendocrine adaptation” is a change in the body
that affects you either neurologically or hormonally.
Most important adaptations to exercise are in part
or completely a result of a hormonal or neurological
shift. Current research, much of it done by Dr. William
Kraemer, Penn State University, has shown which
exercise protocols maximize neuroendocrine responses.
Earlier we faulted isolation movements as being
ineffectual. Now we can tell you that one of the critical
elements missing from these movements is that they
invoke essentially no neuroendocrine response.
Among the hormonal responses vital to athletic
development are substantial increases in testosterone,
insulin-like growth factor, and human growth hormone.
Exercising with protocols known to elevate these
hormones eerily mimics the hormonal changes sought
in exogenous hormonal therapy (steroid use) with none
of the deleterious effect. Exercise regimens that induce
a high neuroendocrine response produce champions!
Increased muscle mass and bone density are just two
of many adaptative responses to exercises capable of
producing a significant neuroendocrine response.
It is impossible to overstate the importance of the
neuroendocrine response to exercise protocols. This is
why it is one of the four defining themes of the CrossFit
Program. Heavy load weight training, short rest between
sets, high heart rates, high intensity training, and short
rest intervals, though not entirely distinct components,
are all associated with a high neuroendocrine response.