Pros and cons of aerobic training for anaerobic athletes


Some will only read the title and say, what pro’s? As sport scientist we all know that there is a lot of research saying that training speed/power athletes or anaerobic athletes as if they are long duration aerobic athletes will not be advantageous for them. If you want a 100m sprinter to be as fast as possible, then don’t have a training program geared as if they were competing in the 5000m. We also don’t want our athletes to not be able to recover or maintain the high rate of speed it takes to be competitive in a race like the 100m. We as coaches have to find that happy medium when training anaerobic athletes.

The pros of long duration aerobic training for anaerobic athletes are

  • Phospho-creatine(PCr) energy system recovery: this is the energy system that anaerobic athletes rely heavily on to feed the muscle for fast powerful contractions. With aerobic training this system becomes more efficient at recovery between intense work sessions.
  • Increases in buffering capacity of the PCr: aerobic training increase the buffering capacity by training the PCr energy system to resynthesize at a much faster rate.
  • Increased muscle capilirization: the benefit of this is to be able to handle and manage anaerobically produced byproducts.

The cons of long duration aerobic training for anaerobic athletes are:

  • Can elevate cortisol levels: this hormone promotes muscle loss and fat storage.
  • Length of training: to achieve the greatest benefits of long duration aerobic training athletes need to put in hours a week compared to minutes a week with high-intensity sprint training. High-intensity sprint training yields similar and in some cases greater benefits with less time spent training.
  • Protein breakdown: consistent aerobic training has been shown to induce protein breakdown leading to a negative protein balance.
  • Muscle fiber changes: when athletes aerobically train consistently, the muscle begins to switch from type 2(fast-twitch) into type 1(slow-twitch). This hinders the power output for anaerobic athletes.

As you can see there are benefits to aerobic training for anaerobic athletes, but you also need to understand that these training modalities may have negative effects as well. Aerobic training can be done but with caution and appropriate times in a training cycle (not close to competition, majority of a cycle, ample rest time before anaerobic training session). We also need to understand that the body’s energy systems work in a synergistic way. All aspects need to be in tip top shape and that includes the aerobic contribution to anaerobic athletes.

ReferenceMurach, kevin, james Bagley, and Charles Pfeiffer. Is Long Duration Aerobic Exercise Necessary for Anaerobic Athletes?. Strength and conditioning journal. 35.2 (2013): 44-46. Print.

Drake Webster
Drake Webster studied at East Carolina University where he received his degree in Kinesiology. Drake is a certified USA Weightlifting Sport Performance coach and is recognized by the National Strength and Conditioning Association as a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS).
Drake Webster


Follower of Christ🙌🏼-Strength & Conditioning Coach at Athletic Lab-Head Competitive Crossfit team coach-Kinesiology, BS-CSCS-USATF-USAW-CFL1💪🏼
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Drake Webster
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