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How To Train The 3 Energy Systems In The Body

How To Train The Body's 3 Energy Systems

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The human body has 3 different energy systems.

Depending on the amount of power needed and the overall duration required for that activity, your body’s energy system shifts between 3 different pathways.

For example, whether you’re throwing a straight punch to a heavy bag, performing a standing dumbbell bicep curl for 12 reps, or going for a 5 mile run, your body uses a different energy system.

Another way to look at it is like this.

Think about sprinting as fast as you can.

  • You start off as a quick and powerful sprint for 10 seconds
  • You begin to slow down between the 10 second and 2 minute mark
  • Then you begin walking after 2 minutes

Each of these stages taps into a different energy system.

But before I share the benefits of each energy system, lets talk about what we refer to as the currency of energy, ATP (adenosine triphosphate).

What is ATP?

All energy in the body starts with ATP, which is a compound stored in the muscle tissue and is required for any type of muscular contraction.

Since we move our muscles so often, ATP is constantly being used and then created.

Then the human body produces enzymes that break down ATP to produce energy.

Think of ATP as the currency of energy. If you want energy, you need to pay with ATP.

Here are the 3 energy systems of the human body that produce ATP:

Energy System #1: ATP-CP System

The ATP-CP (Creatine Phosphate) energy system is used during short duration and high power situations.

This energy system allows our muscles to pull in creatine phosphate (CP) to create more ATP.

This allows efforts to last approximately up to 10 seconds.

For example: completing a 40 yard dash or completing 1-2 reps of a heavy barbell back squat.

Think, activities that require a lot of power over a short time period.

Therefore if you want to train this energy system, stick to heavy resistance training exercises and quick sprints.

The benefit of training in this energy system is it will help you become stronger and more powerful.

This type of energy is short lived though as only a small amount of creatine and ATP can be stored in the muscle.

Once the activity continues for longer than 10 seconds, the body shifts to the next energy system.

Energy System #2: Anaerobic Glycolytic System (Lactic Acid)

Brad Gouthro

As ATP-CP runs out after 10 seconds of effort, the body shifts into the anaerobic glycolytic system that requires the breakdown of glucose/glycogen to create more ATP.

Ever wondered what causes the “muscle burn” when you try to squeeze out the last few reps?

It’s called lactic acid.

Lactic acid is the by-product of glucose breakdown.

This energy system allows efforts for up to 2 minutes.

For example: resistance training for muscle building or sprinting for 200-400 meters.

Training this energy system is great for fat loss, muscle building, and improving overall body composition.

After approximately 2 minutes, the body shifts to the final energy system.

Energy System #3: Aerobic Oxidative System

If your body’s energy requirements require effort for over 2 minutes, your body must add oxygen to the mix.

The more efficient your body uses oxygen, the longer it generates energy for long-term strenuous effort.

For example: a 5 mile jog, or slow and steady cardio on the treadmill.

How Can You Benefit From This With Your Training?

Your body’s energy systems do not work independently of one another.

If you complete short and intense exercise or light and long exercise, all 3 energy systems can make a contribution, but one or two will be most dominant.

Certain sports rely more heavily on specific energy systems.

Therefore, if you’re training for a specific sport, focus on improving the energy system that you will tap into most for that sport.

For example, basketball players require quick bursts of energy so the first two energy systems, ATP-CP system & the Anaerobic Glycolytic System, will play a bigger role than the Oxygen system, as important most possessions in basketball do not last for over 2 minutes.

If you’re training to improve overall body composition, like most of the Live Leaners do, training in the Anaerobic Glycolytic System is most important.

And that’s what our Live Lean programs are designed to do.

If you’re looking to train for power and improving 1 rep max strength, training in the ATP-CP System is most important.

Finally, if you’re looking to run a marathon or other long duration endurance events, training in the Aerobic Oxidative System is most important for your goals.

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