Archive for the ‘Book Review’ Category

For Part one in the series on The Self-Compassionate Mindset see here.

For the three parts on The Diet-Mentality see here, here and here.

Continuing our series today lets look at what the self-compassionate mind actually is:

Outlining it as the opposite of the diet-mentality of course does some good, but you also need to understand it as an entity unto itself. The more deeply you can understand and comprehend the self compassionate mind, the more ready you will be to recognize it, and embrace it in your life. It cannot be something you try to use to ‘resist’ your diet-mentality. It must be much more than that. Remember, ‘what you resist, persists.’

The self compassionate mind is what is left when you let go of the diet-mentality. It is not be to be used as a “weapon” in a battle within the diet-mentality. That kind of mindset just proves the diet-mentality is still the working operating system of your thoughts and feelings about weight control. That is what must be surrendered. And a more in-depth understanding of the self compassionate mind can help you to do so. (Abel, 2015, p.82)

Abel notes that the self-compassionate mind is about mindfulness, which allows you to be directed the way you want to go with your weight management, more than that he notes that anything you do from this place will result in, as we have mentioned, positive feedback loops that amount to a sustainable and regular practice of care, self-acceptance, self-empowerment and personal growth.

To Abel you need to move from externally motivated reasoning, that is numbers, societal expectation, to an “inner connection”, that simply eating right and exercising is not enough, and can even be emotionally destructive taken without this context. Think – just because you are running on a treadmill and lifting weights, doesn’t necessarily mean you have fostered the right analogous psychological habits. It is compassion that is needed, which he defines for us:

Emotional support in the direction of the desired change, and without self-rejection and attack when you struggle. (Abel, 2015, p.83)

This comes from within you, not from external stimuli and more than this, love is required, using positivity rather than jealousy and envy to motivate you to your goals, to avoid the “compare, contrast and compete” mindset from the diet-mentality. Going even further, patience is required, a patience that “accepts all things”, to be patiently self-supporting and self-accepting of yourself as you move through your weight management. These, Abel states are the keys to “endure the process” of long-term and healthy weight management.

Abel notes that often these kinds of sentiments are seen as being weak or soft, a flaky kind of sentimentality, aside from asking why labeling yourself positively rather than negatively is seen as weak, Abel states the opposite is true. Self-compassion requires you to have the strength to be open to, and able to withstand tough and emotional situations, and more than that to face up to them, to not shy away from difficulty and discomfort, as he states: “Real compassion is strength in action.” (p. 85) It connects you with yourself by allowing you to be open and honest and committed with yourself, to connect with your courage and honor, both pathways Abel notes which lead to contentment and achievement.

Therefore the self-compassionate mind, because it nourishes your soul and your spirit, is also the only path to understanding what long-term weight control is about and what it entails, and how to nurture your way there. (And never attempt to force your way there). (Abel, 2015, p.86)

This kindness allows you to forgive yourself for your mistakes and replenish you, invigorates you to focus on your process.


Abel, S. (2015). The Anti-Diet Approach to Weight Loss and Weight Control. Scott Abe


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I’m adding this post into a series I did some years ago as it is an important phase and one I missed out of pure laziness.

The muscle definition phase (hereafter “MD”) is the phase you would use at the end of the training block of training parameters previously mentioned to help reduce bodyfat and draw out some of the muscle you have built, for clarity those previous phases would be:

  1. Anatomical Adaptation
  2. Hypertrophy
  3. Mixed Training
  4. Maximum Strength

To begin with let us state the scope of the MD phase as according to the authors:

  • Burns off subcutaneous fat and increases visibility of muscle striations.

  • Increases the protein content of muscles through performance of long, high-rep sets. In addition to better muscle definition, in some instances these exercises increase muscle strength.

  • Clearly increases capillary density within the muscle through increases adaptation to aerobic work, which may result in a slight increase in muscle size.  (Bompa et al, 2003, p.245)

The authors note they are breaking from bodybuilding tradition when they propose a rep range over 12 to 15 reps, stating that on average bodybuilders believe to increase muscle size reps over this range are not necessary, which the authors concede this. However they state that going over these rep ranges will promote “better looking bodies with higher muscle density, perfect symmetry, and increased muscle separation and striations” (p.245-6), they do this by (1) burning off the fat and (2) decrease load with more reps. Let’s take each in turn.

(1) Burn Off Fat

In order the maximize the values mentioned above removing fat is important, to do this the authors state that to do this: “the duration of nonstop muscular contraction must be increased” (p. 246). They state that bodybuilders have traditionally used aerobic steady state cardio to achieve this, but the authors state this method to be ineffective when compared to theirs. The difference, they say, comes from the fact that fat will be burned from local muscle groups and the body overall through the drastic (but progressive) increase in repetitions. Coupled with this they state to peform the program in a non stop fashion, that is “to perform hundreds of repetitions per muscle group per workout. Since it is impossible to do work of such long duration nonstop for only one muscle group, exercises must be continually alternated during the workout.” (p. 246)

(2) Decrease Load With More Reps

In order to achieve the kinds of reps the authors are talking about you need to drop the load to “30 to 50 percent of 1RM” (p. 245), that is by about half of what you normally lift (RM refers to Repetition Maximum and refers to the max amount of weight you can lift by a designated number, e.g 1,3,5,7 etc). Why do this?

At the beginning of a high-rep, low-load set, only a limited number of muscle fibers are active. The other fibers are at rest, bu they become activated as the contracting fibers become fatigued. This progressively increasing recruitment of muscle fibers allows a person to perform work for a prolonged period of time. Prolonged work exhausts the ATP/PC and glycogen energy supplies, leaving fatty acids as the only fuel available to sustain this activity. Use of this fuel sources burns fat from the body, and especially the subcutaneous fat. The burning off of this type of fat increases muscle striations and muscle definition. (Bompa et al, 2003, p.246)

Program Design For The MD Phase

The authors state in order to utilize fatty acids as fuel a large amount of repetitions must be performed, and thus short rest intervals will prevent ATP/PC and glycogen regeneration and force the body to use its fatty acid stores. The authors warn the MD phase must be carefully designed so that it only takes 2-3 seconds to move between exercise stations. Moreover as exercises are often paired together the authors note is preferable to pick an even number of exercises. They also state some basic programming principles:

In the first three weeks, the purpose of training is to increase the number of reps to 50 or higher for each exercise. When this is accomplished, the exercises are grouped into two, then four, and so on, until eventually all eight exercises can be performed together without stopping. (Bompa et al, 2003, p.247)

Fr maximum results the authors note that the ideal MD Phase should consist of two six-week MD phases, with the longer the time spent on MD the greater of amount of fat burned.

Muscle Definition Cues

Unfortunately this will be a straight quote, as it is bullet points:

  • MD training requires that muscle groups be constantly alternated.

  • The same exercise may be performed twice per set, especially one targeting a desired muscle group.

  • The number of reps may not be exactly the same for each exercise. The decision depends on the individuals strengths and weaknesses for given muscle groups or on an individuals choice in targeting specific muscle(s).

  • Speed should be moderate throughout the set. A fast lifting rhythm may produce a high level of lactic acid, which can hamper ability to finish the entire set.

  • In order to avoid wasting time between exercises, athletes should (if this is possible) set up all the equipment needed before the training session begins.

  • Since the physiological demand of MD training can be quite severe, entry-level athletes should not use it.

  • The total number of MD workouts per week can be from 2 to 4, depending on the athlete’s experience – lower for recreational, and higher for advanced or professional athletes. The additional 1 to 2 workouts can be divided between aerobic, H, or MxS training.

  • The number of reps per exercise should not be restricted to 50, as shown in our example. A very well-training athlete may go as high as 60 to 75. (Bompa et al, 2003, p.247)

Below I’ll include example workout the authors provide:

FullSizeRender (3)Reference

Bompa, T.O., Pasquale, M.D., Conrnacchia, L.J. (2003). Serious Strength Training (Second Edition). Champaign, IL. Human Kinetics.

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Let us now turn to possible dietary solutions. After all, it is all well and good to critique diets, and their practices, but what are the answers for the person who wants to take control of their body via their health, weight and fitness? To Abel it begins with “self-nurturing, self-respect, self-acceptance” (p. 44), that to be able to affect any kind of mastery over any goal including body transformation goals you must start from a place of positivity and acceptance, of yourself and your body. That to view yourself negatively from the outside, while you deprive your body will ultimately end in failure. More than this, these attributes have to be gleaned intellectually, they cannot be dieted to, in the dieting process,  but rather reasoned from before the dieting process even begins. Abel urges that you self correct your diet-mentality by replacing the cycle of negativity in your own head:

You correct the mistakes you are making in your attempts at weight-loss and weight-control – by nurturing and accepting yourself beyond the mitakes you are making – NOT by rejecting yourself for making them. (Abel, 2015, p.45)

This new way of thinking Abel states will create a positive feed back loop that will enrich you, and when you positively perform toward your goals you will strengthen “your connection with your body” (p. 46). The catch being of course that the reverse is also true, labeling yourself “good” or “bad” every time you make a judgement about food will foster a disconnected state with your body.

FullSizeRender (2)

(Abel, 2015, p.68)

As you can see, Abel stresses a pre-dietary understanding and introspection of yourself and who you are, cold hard nutritional facts and practices cannot guide you to who you are and what you value about yourself with self-compassion at the very center of all of this.

Think about your thoughts in relation to ‘how’ you eat, and ‘why’ you eat. And for the time being, leave the judgemental element of ‘what’ you eat out of the equation entirely. Just examine your operating system of the diet-mentality, and, as in the diagram, look at all the ‘branches of your existence’ that it extends to.

If you start to think ‘rationally’ from there, you can see all the irrational inconsistencies and emotional contagions of the diet-mentality that affect both you on a conscious and sub-conscious level. (Abel, 2015, p.69-70)

Abel thinks the “real and true and actual” key to weight management lies in being “process-focused” not “outcome focused” (p.70), more than this we need to focus on a consistent level of process focused behavior and thinking. Abel offers two strategies to be consistent with diet, in that it must:

  1. serve the body
  2. be sustainable

It’s in the self-compassionate mindset that Abel believes the path to being able to make consistency a priority lies, that allows for this to be a process and not an ideal (be it bodyweight/ bodyfat etc) to strive toward. He believes outcome focused thinking to be a part of the diet-mentality, a system that keeps you emotional and irrational and locked into thinking about end-points. Not that emotion itself can be or should be completely avoided either, but on the self compassionate mindset:

… emotional connections with yourself are ‘related’ to the food and eating experience, but not dictated by it. You are not emotionally connected “by” food or “to” food, any more than you could be emotionally connected to your mobile phone. (Abel, 2015, p.71)

That might be enough for today’s purposes. Please feel free to share any thoughts and criticisms you might have of this series thus far.


Abel, S. (2015). The Anti-Diet Approach to Weight Loss and Weight Control. Scott Abel.

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To Abel there are even more ways a restrictive, “12 week” diet can hurt you, for example in the way it affects your sleeping patterns:

The quality of your sleep can affect the weight-control systems of checks and balances inside your body… This can become a vicious cycle. (Abel, 2015, p.124)

He goes on to state that many dieters experience problematic sleep, and deprivation is one of the main causes of disrupted appetite and appetite control, both physiologically but also psychologically in that you experience decreased will power (think of it being used as an interrogation technique for example). This becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy whereby sleep deprivation weakens your will, thus making you eat junk food which makes you put on weight, which makes you diet harder, affecting your sleep further and affecting your appetite to a greater extent. More than this, diets that tell you when to eat (as in eat after such and such a time of day) can make you go to bed hungry, this can affect sleep:

The presence of food affects brain chemistry and neurotransmitters that are calming and relaxing for you. Without them, and with an empty stomach you cannot force yourself to relax and go to sleep.

But with the presence of enough food and enough blood-sugar to cross the blood-brain barrier, you increase serotonin levels enough to relax naturally and fall asleep. (Abel, 2015, p.125)

But what about psychology? Abel notes that the diet-mentality is about self-rejection, and thinking you can overcome or conquer yourself and your ego, that for meaning and purpose to be positive in your life it needs to be “self-connecting and expressive” (p. 144). So that “being on the ball” with diet, that is to be consistent and good in your eating actually comes from your state of mind, and your self actualization, and no diet can provide the necessary substance for you or your life to ever be justifying enough for you to maintain a constant on the ball approach. More than this Abel notes that when you break your diet, you are actually reflecting back to yourself your own misgivings about your life and yourself, that is the reason you break your diet. The diet-mentality tells you a diet can fix these problems, it fools you into believing such, Abel asks when you enter a diet regime that you ask yourself two questions:

  1. What are the intended consequences ‘for’ my diet undertaking?

  2. What are the unintended consequences ‘of’ my diet undertaking? (mentally and emotionally). (Abel, 2015, p.145)

He asks that when considering the mental and emotion considerations of a diet that you consider your past influences, your upbringing, for any “current triggers”, for example he notes that some people with extreme eating behaviors/disorders and/or body image issues had overly critical parents or an emotionally absent parent (sometimes being an alcoholic or drug dependent). Extrapolating from this he states that current triggers under this scenario might be factors like ” a need to be noticed or a fear of being judged or “exposed” as being unworthy.” (p. 145) Abel notes that an intended consequence of dieting is a sense of control by focusing angst in areas other than on yourself and your life.

The planning and rules for dieting offer something else to focus on. You can “feel good” when dieting because you are proving yourself “worthy” and at the same time avoiding inner emotional conflicts. But then you become ‘externally focused,’ at which point the same old fears (past influences) that set all of this in motion just play out as “unintended consequences”.

You emotionally fear weight-gain, which now represents not being good-enough. It represents being judged; it represents feeling inferior. (Abel, 2015, p.145)

Abel notes these are all unintended consequences of the diet-mentality, and the fears don’t stop there, he goes on to say that you fear (your diet-induced) hunger, thinking you should be able to resist it, from here you label yourself as weak and unworthy, thus replacing your past triggers, turning that hyper critical analysis you received from your loved ones inward, most important and scarily:

YOU become both your own hyper-critical parent and the emotionally absent one as well.

And still you turn to dieting as a way out Abel notes, as a way to “measure and judge yourself within it”. The point being of course that this all becomes an exercise in avoidance, you never reconcile your current emotional and mental states and only intensify and deepen them while adding and losing (but overall gaining) weight as time goes on. To finish this blog series on the diet-mentality, before we look at how to get out of this hole Abel finishes up:

The lie of the diet-mentality is that you believe that ‘proving your body’ in weight-loss will somehow translate into soothing your soul, only it never does. The cycle repeats itself. (Abel, 2015, p.146)

Our next series will go through Abel’s ‘self-compassionate mind’ that is, how to repair the damage done by repeated dieting.


Abel, S. (2015). The Anti-Diet Approach to Weight Loss and Weight Control. Scott Abel.

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Abel states the diet mentality snares you into confusing “effect with cause”,  that dieting to feel better about yourself is exactly backwards, as the stress and anxiety caused by the diet-mentality will never allow you to be free of worrying and stressing over these issues. When you diet to address the supposed cause of your unhappiness (your weight, your appearance), you only ever deal with effects, not causes. The causes are self perception, emotional, how you feel about yourself.  It is in coming to these issues already empowered, free of these emotional attachments that a leaner you will manifest, according to Abel, or at least finding these truths once already within the diet-mentality, that feeling inspired in yourself, to look better and feel better, being connected emotionally with your body will result in long-term sustainable results. Just how to do this and how to free yourself of the diet-mentality will be discussed later. (p. 64-66)

This emotional component, of being incomplete, unsure of yourself and potentially unhappy is at the root of the diet-mentality for Abel, and is something he addresses often he talks about how it twists your self perception and emotional unity (which he couches in terms such as “spiritual self”):

Under the influence of the diet-mentality you are starving your spiritual self, as a result of rejecting your external self, while under the pursuit of some diet illusion you think will bring it all together.

It won’t! (Abel, 2015, p.87)

Shame based self-criticism, self-rejection and self-attacking stem from the diet-mentality Abel notes, and are not ways to correct undesired behavior.

From here Abel turns his attention to dieting itself, and immediately he looks to the weight loss industry, critiquing such companies as Weight Watchers stating that even the focus of the company’s name emphasizes the diet-mentality, in the term “Watchers” as if weight is something that needs to be watched, focused on, as he puts it “consciously or subconsciously”. (p. 118) He asks if watching your weight is the goal of a lifetime? No, he would say, but more than this he would say it can’t be . The reason, beyond the aforementioned, this is so is because the best diet is the one you can stick to, repeating Weight Watchers every time you put weight back on, or going low carb as it were every time you need to get in shape misses the point. Sustainability is at the heart of effective and healthy weight control, but as Abel notes Weight Watchers type diet plans fit in precisely with his diet-mentality critique:

[it reinforces] the short-term type of thinking of the diet-mentality. It confuses short-term weight-loss attempts with long-term weight control. (Abel, 2015, p.119)

What of other standard dieting practices such as weighing yourself on a scale? While maintaining a healthy weight and body fat percentage are realistic goals to have notes Abel, he wants to separate the distinction between sustainable and absolute values:

Everyone is likely to have different body-weight set point, a different level of flexibility and metabolic resilience, in terms of how much weight you can lose and maintain.

Everyone is going to have a difference scale-weight that represents “health, vitality and sustainability” FOR THEM. Therefore, aiming for “numbers” on a scale or a percent bodyfat not only confuses the issues, but can cause many of them as well.

The best way to become overweight, proven in study after study (…) is to become a serial dieter.

This fundamental truth is not in dispute among real experts. (Abel, 2015, p.119-120)

Abel does not blame you the dieter however, he lays the fault of this issue solely at the weight-loss industries door, he states it is them (us?) that should be sued for causing weight gain, for promoting dieting system after dieting system, for reinforcing self-destructive behaviors and creating, or at least promoting the diet-mentality en masse.

Going further, and bringing it back to the dieter herself, Abel asks yet again what kind of effect this kind of yo-yo dieting has on the way you process these kind of results within the context of the short-term emphasis of the diet-mentality? He asks to consider the example of someone who has lost some weight on a low-carb diet:

So your diet-mentality dictates to you that you “know” eliminating carbs “works” because you lost weight during so way back when. But you are perpetually blind to the reality that weight lost this way is what caused you to gain back all your weight and even more. You can’t see it, so your diet-mentality tells you to go back to the exact thing that precipitated the weight-gain to begin with. How does this make any sense? Yet this is exactly how the diet-mentality plays out for millions of people every single day, every single year. (Abel, 2015, p.122)

But, how does this work exactly? What is the mechanism by which we lose and re-gain said weight? Abel dubs it the: “post-diet-compensation-resistance-syndrome” and it occurs usually after extreme dieting, in which you find yourself snacking and nibbling, sometimes binging, all the while with the mindset to never go back to all or nothing extremes. You find yourself in a situation where you’ve built up so much of a resistance, due to deprivation, to eating and dieting that you can’t adhere to healthy and normal eating habits. But, Abel notes this is a common self-protecting mechanism (or “emotional reaction compensation”, p. 123) and it can last for years, which can be strengthened by even entertaining another diet strategy. In an attempt to avoid the diet-mentality through avoidance of dieting you actually sabotage even “health ‘diet’ efforts (eating right without dieting).” p. 123 This cycle Abel notes will continue until you brace the self-compassionate mind.

This might be enough for now, we’ll take a closer look at other negative causes associated with the diet-mentality in Part: 1C.


Abel, S. (2015). The Anti-Diet Approach to Weight Loss and Weight Control. Scott Abel.

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For the moment lets put aside our analysis of Bompa and Haff’s work to look at another issue.  Lately I’ve been concerned with trends, meta-analysis of the diet industry, including personal training, bloggers, strength coaches etc, and I’ve been perplexed at what I might add to the conversation that addresses the concerns I’ve had about getting client results (while reflecting the myriad positions, experiences and goals of my clients and indeed anyone reading). There is plenty of writing on the how to’s of training and dieting: what programs, what diets, the best cheats and “life-hacks”, but I don’t see so much nuanced work on just what is exactly going on with all these diet plans and training routines, as in why they’re failing (of course there is plenty of work on this out there, I am by no means an independent or original thinker) and why we’re failing as an industry. As Abel notes, if we had all the secrets, why would obesity be such a problem for western society? Well, the answer (or indeed the level of focus) is obvious: it’s not carbs, it’s not the minutae of choosing Wendler’s 5/3/1 or Crossfit of endurance training, but rather psychology, behavior, that is: it is above the concerns of ‘how‘. I am guilty of focusing on the ‘how’ of course, because obviously these things are still important, we need to know what to do, but we also need to know why. And that is what we will attempt to look at the in the coming blogs.

Abel delineates between the popular “dieting” mindset he wants to critique, namely: the diet mentality, and the mindset he believes to be the best to adopt for healthy weight management, that is: the self-compassionate mind. As such it might be important for us to break this series into at least two parts, with (1) dealing with the diet mentality and, (2) dealing with the self-compassionate mind.

The Diet Mentality

Before we begin, let us allow Abel to elaborate for us, the key elements of the diet-mentality, which:

  • is about results/outcomes

  • is about appearance over substance

  • is about amplified emotions

  • separates you from your inner self – is about self-measurement and emotional judgement of yourself (Abel, 2015, p.78)

Abel states there to be two main factors behind the rise of the diet mentality, (1) body consciousness and, (2) marketing (p. 7). Here he targets the “diet-industry”, which he believes uses the billions of dollars per year it generates to influence its audience by aligning its marketing toward body consciousness. We are told, so the argument goes, that we should care about the diet-industries message, that we should care about our weight, we should look leaner, more than that we should want to look lighter, that we cannot define ourselves without such. The diet-industry sells more than an image however, it sells as Abel puts it, “spiritual fulfillment”, tapping into a grander purpose for your life, giving you purpose if you will. And it is in these messages that the diet mentality begins to take hold.

And conversely, didn’t you know that the reverse is also true as well? For within this message is another, more insidious message.

If a lighter and leaner you is a better you, then if you are currently overweight, then of course you are led to believe that you are not “good enough” just the way you are right now.

And from here the personal angst begins. (Abel, 2015, p.8-9)

From this perspective then well-being becomes solely about your physical appearance, and that health is only about how you look, but Abel thinks this process to be in reverse, that it is an a “spiritually” lighter you, that a physically lighter you will emerge. This internalization Abel claims, stops you from seeing the reality that your inevitable failure to achieve the weight you desire is: “what drives and sustains the diet-industry.” (p. 10) To Abel, the diet-industry does not want you to achieve your goals, because, as he states, if they do, they’ve lost a customer. (p, 10)

The diet-mentality is about emotional manipulation, it tells you according to Abel, that suffering is just the way to get the body you want, that self-control and self-denial are the same thing, but you need to realize there is:

… a qualitative emotional difference between the sacrifices involved with an empowering sense of discipline, and the notion of ‘suffering’ which is punitive and based in self-denial and self-deprivation. (Abel, 2015, p.41)

There is nothing necessarily wrong with deciding to lose or control your weight, especially when you begin from a place of care, of self-compassion, but its the diet mentality that twists these goals and perspectives, replacing the self-compassionate mind. Nor is there anything necessarily wrong with adopting food rules 9as long as they aren’t used as Abel puts it to: “deprive, deny, punish or self-incriminate by emotional judgement”, p. 62), but the diet-mentality can cause a prescriptive and emotional undercurrent, that you must deprive and deny yourself of the food you want, and most importantly if you do not, you are a failure, More than this notes Abel, you fail because you put this heavy emotional burden on yourself, that leads you to further emotionally invest and blame yourself, ontologically it seems, as a failure. All of this however fails to see the true goal of any long-term weight management, that is to let go of heavy emotional pressures about diet and body-weight. (p. 60-61)

This might be enough for now, let us continue these issues in Part 1:B.


Abel, S. (2015). The Anti-Diet Approach to Weight Loss and Weight Control. Scott Abel.

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Although not directly tied to the title of the book, Periodization offers plenty of “ancillary” information seemingly pertinent to any fitness enthusiast, as such we will look at some of that here today. Primarily we will be looking at energy systems, what they are, their role and the benefits of maximizing each. To begin let us look at Bompa and Haff’s rundown of the three energy systems and their role in providing energy:

At all times the various energy systems contribute to the overall ATP [Adenosine Triphosophate] yield. However, depending on the physiological demands associated with the exercise bout, ATP yield can be linked to a primary energy system. For example, very high intensity events, such as the 100m sprint, that occur in a short time can result in a significant reliance on the anaerobic energy [that is, energy created without the presence of oxygen] systems to meet the demand for ATP. As the duration of the activity is extended, the reliance on oxidative mechanisms for supplying ATP increase. For example, exercise bouts that last approximately 1 min will meet 70% of the body’s energy demand via anaerobic mechanisms, whereas bouts of exercise that are 4 min in duration will meet 65% of the body’s energy demand via the use of aerobic metabolism. (Bompa & Haff, 2009, p. 26)

From here the authors state that what this means is that at any given time during exercise there is a primary energy system that meets the body’s needs for energy, but they also note that this does not mean that we need to train one energy system for one intensity. Studies have shown (p. 27) that high intensity (anaerobic) interval training can significantly improve endurance (that is, oxidative, long duration) work, by increasing lactate threshold and thus allowing the endurance athlete to work at a higher intensity before experiencing a build up of lactic acid. The benefits of high intensity interval training can reach beyond this however, with increases in short-term and long-term energy system enzymatic activity, an increase in maximal power output as well as aerobic power output all being demonstrated reliably. (p. 27) The authors note from here that it has been suggested that a high aerobic capacity enhances the removal of waste products from high intensity anaerobic work because “this capacity enhances removal of lactate and PCr [Phosphocreatine a short term anaerobic energy system, one of two, the other being the glycolytic system) this has led some coaches to assume that aerobic training is useful in recovery strategies from high intensity intervals. This however has been rebutted by numerous studies (p. 27), the increase in aerobic output resulting from athletes in predominately anaerobic sports who train anaerobically will develop an aerobic capacity high enough to aid in postexercise recovery. Moreover the increase and use of aerobic work can actually decrease anaerobic performance, through proposed mechanisms such as a decrease in the force/velocity curve (that is the athlete’s ability to produce force in the high velocity/low-frequency region of the curve which can affect the athlete’s ability to develop explosive strength particularly high rates of force development and high levels of peak force, p. 288), as well as a fiber type shift from type II muscle fibers (“fast-twitch”) to type I (“slow twitch”). While not necessarily detrimental to the common exercise enthusiast this should be considered when factoring in ones sporting concerns and outcomes.

To train specific energy systems we need to be mindful of our work-to-rest ratios, perhaps by looking at the sport we wish to engage in, or if we are simply training recreationally we might like to look at what markers we want to increase, be it speed, power output, duration, or if we’re going for aesthetic goals. For example, shorter work-to-rest ratios that is a 1:1-1:3 ratio (that is one interval to one rest, working up to one interval to three times the rest) will work the oxidative system, whereas longer work-to-rest ratios will target the short-term energy systems, for example 1:12-1:20. (p. 27)

That might be enough for today’s post, in our next post we’ll look at aerobic versus anaerobic endurance more closely.


Bompa, T., Haff, G. (2009). Periodization. Human Kinetics.

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