Principles of Program Design Part Three: Energy Systems, Aerobic vs. Anaerobic Conditioning, and Understanding Mixed Modal Training


Principles of Program Design Part Three: Energy Systems, Aerobic vs. Anaerobic Conditioning, and Understanding Mixed Modal Training

Welcome back to part III of the Principles of Program Design Series. This has been a fun series to go through as it has been great to lay down the theories and concepts behind what goes into making a great workout program.

This is the final installment of this series and we will discuss the final few concepts to pay attention to before building a workout program or to help empower you (The client) to understand workouts.

Understanding Energy Systems

In a previous blog I jumped briefly into what energy systems were but lets taking a deeper dive here.

Energy System Training is a training methodology by which people do various levels of work to try to increase the overall ability to complete work.

Inside of energy system training it is important to recognize that different types and time durations of activities require different systems.

The energy systems I want to discuss are Alactic (High End Power), Lactic (Less Power More Sustainable) and Aerobic (Sustainable).

Alactic activities are most commonly expressed in short duration power outputs like lifting and other forms of strength training. It is important to remember that these efforts cannot be sustained for long periods of time.

Lactic Activities are activities most commonly done in the form of short duration sprints mostly cyclical in nature (Assault Bike, Rowing, Running etc..) but can be used in other facets as a person progresses through fitness. True expression of this energy system requires a lot of rest and is best applied once a person has built a great level of strength.

This is why we do so much strength training!

Lastly, we come to Aerobic Training (aka The Base). Everyone should start building the ability to utilize energy systems around a solid aerobic base. Aerobic activities are sustainable and repeatable time and time again. The best athletes in Functional Fitness Sport can take workouts that are not sustainable for “most” people and turn them into Aerobic Activities! Crazy right?

Understanding that these are all at play it will help you to understand where some workouts sit and what things are at play when you do conditioning.

Aerobic vs. Anaerobic

Also a key concept to understand here is the difference between these two!

Anaerobic Training covers both Lactic and Alactic Energy System Training and is a concept of moving and exercising without the presence of free oxygen being available.

Remember that TRUE Anaerobic training is NOT Sustainable for long periods of time and needs lots of rest. If you do workouts and can sustain them or suffer through them what you are really doing is “Threshold” style training.

Aerobic Training is 100% Sustainable and is done in a high oxygen environment.

These activities last for several minutes up to several hours and can be repeated over and over again with the same effort and output from a person.

Aerobic Work fatigues the body much less than the other types overall and can be done very often depending on the goals of a person.

Ideally developing these types of conditioning comes down to a simple thought. Flirt with the max of each of these output levels as much as possible to improve both! As long as you recover just as hard as you train of course!

Mixed Modal Training

Mixed Modal Training is where we will finish this series and brings us to the culmination of what we have been building to.

Mixed Modal Training is simply explained as using Multiple modalities in your exercise programs and workouts.

Mixing combos like Weightlifting, Gymnastics, Cardio Style Activities, and using different energy systems is Mixed Modal Training.

Inside this it is also important to understand another concept called “Concurrent Training”.

Concurrent Training is a practice in which you training Strength and Conditioning together in the same day.

This used to be a big no no is most strength sports and training communities.

Old school train of thought was if you mixed the two you would get less results but many studies have debunked this theory and simply state that the rate of the other slows slightly but doesn’t stop improving.

Mixed Modal Training and Concurrent Style Training is most Commonly known to be used by a lot of CrossFit or Functional Fitness style gyms because it has been shown to deliver amazing results to the most amount of people if done safely and efficiently.


This has been a great series for me to write as I hope it has brought everyone who has read this a basic understanding of what I Believe great concepts in training to be.

When a Coach understands these concepts well he/she can begin to build effective programs.

Using an ideal timeline of a persons fitness journey and using these concepts at the appropriate time will ensure we deliver as many people as possible to their goal and physical potential.