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The Chemical Side

I have always had a deep interest in the study of physics.  In college, physics was one of my favorite courses.  In my career, I am engrossed in the physics of human movement and sport.  You don’t have to look hard to identify the elements of mass, force, acceleration, impulse, elasticity, tension, angular momentum, ect, in the study of human movement.  However, we cannot draw a complete picture using only the physical side, we must also develop an understanding of the chemical nature of movement.

The chemical side, of course, being the systems that supply the energy needed to cause the movement in the physical world.  Every squat, every jump, every 5km race, is powered by our chemical engine.  I am not going to do a full scale review of the physiological energy systems, that information can be found more completely in your NSCA book or other resources.   However, I would like to take a minute and familiarize ourselves with some important information.

 “Sport Specific Training” 

“Sport specific training” has been one of the most popular buzzwords of the last decade .  When you are working with different teams and different sport coaches, they always want to hear how your program is geared specifically towards their sport.   I feel the only way we can really be “sport specific” in our training is with our energy systems, matching the chemical and physical demands (physiological stress) of training to the demands of competitive sport.

Remember that needs analysis we are always building off of? Well, it’s an important part of this.  When we are analyzing our sport I need some information such as

  • Length of the game/match
  • Duration of the average play
  • Average number of plays per game
  • Average distance covered during a game for each position

This information is readily available from many journals regarding various sports.   If I don’t know how long a game is, or how much physical work may be required of you, how can I possibly say I am preparing you to succeed.  Armed with this information and knowledge of how our bodies engines are powered, I can make a more intelligent and effective training program.

You need to make yourself familiar with this information.


 A couple points to understand.

  • All three of our energy systems are always active, however one will make greater contributions depending on ……..
  • The INTENSITY of effort (how taxing is this work) – this is the primary determinant of which “engine” is firing.
  • And the DURATION of effort – secondary component.  As fuel sources are exhausted there is a transition to lower threshold systems.
  • It’s not that one energy system supplies a more potent form of energy (think moonshine vs. schnapps), instead it is the RATE at which energy is available and supplied.
  • High threshold energy systems (creatine phosphate)  supply smaller amounts of energy but at very rapid rates with faster fatigue rates and longer recovery periods.
  • Whereas lower threshold systems (oxidative) can supply larger amounts but at slower rates with longer fatigue rates and lower work:rest ratios.


  Wrap Up

 So why is all of this important?  Again, if you cannot identify your targets, you cannot possibly provide an efficient and effective program for your athletes.  A good start is developing a better understanding of work:rest ratios and implementing them in your training.  Identify your training target.  If you are doing speed training with your athletes, recognizes that you must allow full rest.  We should never let fatigue effect the quality of our work, unless our goal is conditioning, however, not every exercise or drill should be treated as conditioning work.

 One final note, to all you young coaches, you would be well served to spend some time actually reading those text books on your shelf.  Don’t assume that, because you got a 3.0 in your exercise physiology course, you have all the answers.  Energy systems can be a complicated and confusing subject.  It can be a tough task for young coaches to apply this information in a practical way.  However, speaking from experience, if you are looking to take certification exams such as the CSCS or SCCC, this information is vital.  So take your time now and start preparing yourself.


  1. Unpopular Opinions - June 25, 2014

    […] the physiological systems under stress. I posted an article a few weeks ago on this, it can be found here.   Review this, and let’s all start to learn this together.  I will get a new, more indepth […]

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