In the last blog we covered the 3 energy systems in some detail – so now let’s take a look at how the creatine phosphagen, lactic, and oxidative systems work simultaneously, and when each will predominate during team sports. 

One of the most important things to note about your team sport is the intensity and duration of efforts. As these are the main factors in dictating which energy system is supplying most ATP for that work. Remember that the creatine phosphagen system can supply energy for 1-10s, and the lactic for 20s – 4 minutes of maximal intensity work. While the aerobic system uses fats and carbs for lower-to more moderate intensity work for exercise 4 minutes and over.

So, you may be thinking that because your team sport is 1-2 hours or more in duration, you should be training predominately the aerobic system – lots of low intensity, long distance running to build up the foundations. This is common thinking, but this is a little off base, so let’s delve into the science and reasoning as to why that is, and how we can start training to optimise both your time spent training and your performance.

Most team sports are characterised by intermittent high intensity bursts of activity, followed by longer lower intensity periods, and even periods of complete recovery. And so all three energy systems are used according to the intensity, rhythm, and duration of these working intervals. We are using the anaerobic energy pathway during the active part of competition, and rely on aerobic pathways for lower intensity efforts, and for quick recovery and regeneration between high intensity repeated efforts.  

When we appropriately train these complex systems with our strength and conditioning interventions we can not only target ATP supply, but also a range of other variables specific to your team sport performance. Including facilitating recovery during game play, after competition, and between training sessions. These improvements are mainly due to enhanced recovery, slower onset and decreased fatigue, and energy system and nervous system efficiency. They can also help with ensuring peak performance by;
1. Recruitment of different muscle fibre types (development of tension, improved velocity and power),
2. Improved coordination of muscle fibres (better motor control, increased strength for collisions or contested possessions)
3. Recoverability on the field (lactic acid shuttling capabilities),

Now here are a few main things that I want you to take away and implement –
1. Because the anaerobic systems are the main energy provider for high-intensity efforts of 1 to about 120 seconds, we need to spend some time here in our training.
2. Including resistance training into your weekly schedule will develop anaerobic capacity and muscle endurance for short duration efforts (10 seconds – 1.5 minutes) in game. These gains in capacity and performance are only possible as a result of increasing your foundations of maximum strength and muscular endurance. Exercises performed in the gym should be focused on individual, and sport specific parameters, and volumes (sets,reps) and intensities (load,efforts), should also be considered.
3. Research has shown time and again that high intensity interval training is superior to lower intensity, long duration training for deriving many anaerobic and aerobic adaptations. And may actually be superior for improving VO2max (an indicator of aerobic capacity), as well as being more time efficient.
4. High intensity intervals should be prescribed according to the intensity, rhythm, and duration of these game-like working intervals. 

Last key takeaway (and this is an important one), if you are a team sport athlete you are NOT an endurance athlete, and you shouldn’t train like you are entering a marathon. Appropriately training the 3 energy systems for your chosen sport may require customised programming, but starting with this knowledge around physiological requirements is the foundation to improving performance (and recovery), and minimising injury risk.