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Aerobic Endurance Training for Competitive Functional Fitness – OPEX Fitness


Aerobic Endurance Training for Competitive Functional Fitness

Aerobic capacity benefits every aspect of life: inside and outside the gym.

Human beings are designed to be aerobic. The more aerobic we are, the more resilient we can be in life, period. The aerobic system is one of our genetic predispositions as humans and must not be forgotten. However in exercise prescription, a fear of “losing strength” has reduced aerobic endurance training. Aerobic Endurance Training is the single greatest contribution a competitive fitness athlete can add to their program.

Most people believe that aerobic training is just simply running, rowing or cycling for 30-45 minutes. There are several levels of aerobic training and each must be prescribed correctly for proper development. In the OPEX Coaching Certificate Program (CCP) many levels of aerobic training for development in performance are discussed. Most recently Maximal Aerobic Power 10 ) was added to the list defining Zone 1 training. The reason the language MAP is used over Zones is to separate the connection of heart rate (HR) training and aerobic training. Training programs for competitive functional fitness have too many variables that can skew an athlete’s HR zone from session to session such as central nervous system (CNS) demand the day before, sleep, nutrition, etc. Therefore, understanding needs to be directed towards “individual effort” and rate of perceived exertion. Heart rate isn’t always a predictor of intensity or effort. The coach is responsible for educating the athlete on the characteristics of aerobic training so the athlete themselves can identify the correct effort. If you are looking to perfect Energy System Training with your clients, download our free guide today.

Characteristics of Aerobic Endurance Training

OPEX Fitness characterizes aerobic training as sustainable, repeatable, and paced efforts. This development can only be achieved at an intensity, in which the complete oxygen-transporting system (aerobic system) is activated to the maximum, while lactate accumulation in the muscles has not yet been reached. Training the aerobic system and its many levels depends on the athlete’s current fitness level and function of the athlete. A novice lifter would not be programmed to squat #400 pounds on their first day of training, the same approach applies to Energy System Training, aerobic metabolism plays a vital role in human performance and is the foundation of energy system development.

Benefits of Aerobic Training:

When to Increase Intensity

Aerobic adaptations can be achieved within a 6-12 month period depending on the starting point and function of the athlete. Once adaptations have been developed aerobic performance can be further enhanced through exercise economy (technique) and higher efforts (increase lactate threshold). It’s important to understand that athletes need to to perform higher efforts by proving their efficiency in longer pieces both mixed and cyclical. In the OPEX Assessment, various endurance tests are used to identify competency in a broad stroke. For example; the 90-minute AMRAP; which is a mixed module endurance test giving insight to an athlete’s current potential. To properly determine if an athlete has sufficient aerobic development and possess the adaptations needed to move into more complex aerobic efforts it is important to compare data to “developmental groups” and “top athletes”. Progressing an athlete in energy system prescription is done once the athletes have proven they can sustain a pace and repeat efforts over and over. Starting with long slow efforts and building shorter and faster efforts is a progression that is largely individualized based on the athlete’s function and economy.

Prescribing Aerobic Training

Before prescribing any aerobic training it is important to know the athlete’s baseline aerobic capacity. Functional work capacities can be tested in simple exercises like; Running, Rowing, Swimming, AirBike, Push-ups, Sit-ups, Squats, Pulls etc. What might be “easy” work for some athletes could be threshold training or lactic work for others. These simple visual markers will allow a coach or athlete to realize aerobic training is no longer taking place.

Below we’ve developed sample programming for a specific athlete. For more sample programming on aerobic endurance training, download the OPEX Fitness Energy System Training Guide today.

Sample Aerobic Endurance Training Program

One Week Training Prescription for a Competitive Female Athlete who Needs Aerobic Development:

Considerations for this design:

30 Minutes Bike—easy effort- conversational pace MAP 10


Even– Double Under 30 seconds AMRAP

30 Minutes Row; every 500m get off and complete 60 meters of Farmers Walk #heavy MAP 10

Even— Farmers Walk AMRAP distance in 30 seconds #heavy

Swim 30 minutes – 25 meters every 90 seconds @ easy effort MAP 8

30-minute AirBike; every 2 minutes get off and complete 2 Wall walks MAP 10


While aerobic endurance training is essential to performance, true athletic growth will only come from tapping into the anaerobic and lactic energy systems. You can master the art of programming for all three energy systems in this free guide: Energy System Training.

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