The Rack Athletic Performance Center

1824 Briarwood Industrial Crt. NE STE 2
Atlanta, GA 30329


Mon - Fri: 5:30am-7:00pm

Sat - Sun: 9:00am-3:00pm


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Energy Systems Development

February 13, 2018

There’s a word in the fitness world that strikes fear into lifters hearts. The fear that gains will be lost. That word is cardio.


Cardio, aka cardiovascular conditioning, has developed a negative connotation. Coaches and individuals in the fitness world that don’t understand energy system development use incessant distance running to ‘condition’ their athletes. The use of this traditional cardio training is too general to develop the necessary metabolic properties for sport or training specific goals.


One key to appropriately developing energy systems is to have a clear understanding of the intensity at which your client or athlete is training. In turn, one must understand how sport influences the training demands and athlete’s energy needs. This is where Energy Systems Development (ESD) comes into play when training.


There are 3 different energy systems, which can be expanded to 5, to consider when training yourself or another individual (see graph below). Their descriptive characteristics are as follows:

Another way to look at the energy systems in terms of descriptors can be as follows:

-ATP-PCR is a high intensity short duration action. Think about a formula-one racecar or a rocket ship.

-Glycolytic system is moderate intensity for short to moderate duration. In this situation, think of driving a Honda Accord.

-Aerobic system is low intensity and long duration. Think of driving a Prius or riding on a train.


ESD is the application of scientific knowledge to develop an individual’s energy use capacity. ESD is programmed and tailored to each individual to elicit specific training responses and develop metabolic infrastructures for them to succeed.


ESD allows the coach to challenge the body’s homeostasis of existing metabolic pathways. Focusing on sport and goal specific training by manipulating time and intensity increases metabolic efficiency for those being trained. Since ESD is a planned and methodical way to condition individuals, it allows a coach to train individuals beyond their comfort level, but do so intelligently across the entirety of the program (see example below).

Utilizing ESD allows the coach to identify metabolic links in an individual’s training, as specificity becomes the focus. Additionally, building balance across training weeks ensures a well-rounded program and avoids gaps in training. With appropriate intensity implementation and pacing, it is easier for individuals to set realistic goals for themselves.



Brooks, G., Fahey, T., & Baldwin, K. (2005). Human bioenergetics and its applications. New York: McGrawn-Hill.

McArdle, W., Katch, F., & Katch, V. (2010). Exercise physiology: Nutrition, energy, and human performance. Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.

Siff, M., & Verchošanskij, J. (2004). Supertraining. Supertraining Institute.

Verstegen, M., & Williams, P. (2014). Every Day Is Game Day: The proven system of elite performance to win all day, every day. Penguin.

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