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Chapter 16 – Aerobic Endurance Training Program Design

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Chapter Objectives:

  • Make Aerobic Endurance Training Programs based on specificity and client goals.
  • Determine the right mode of aerobic exercise.
  • Decide on aerobic endurance training intensity and duration. 
  • Understand the interactions and effects of intensity and duration on training outcomes.
  • Find the intensity by calculating the target heart rate zone, RPEs, and metabolic equivalents.
  • Make programs that have the right warm-up, cool down, and progressions.
  • Apply long slow distance, pace/tempo, interval training, cross-training, arm exercise, and combination training with the client’s desired goals.

The specificity of Aerobic Endurance Training

The specificity principle that applies to resistance training is the same for aerobic training. So, the training program results will be specific to the type of training performed. If you cycle a lot, you will get better at cycling. There is not an equal amount of improvement between different exercise modes.

Components of an Aerobic Endurance Training Program

Exercise Mode

This is the first step to take when designing a program for aerobic endurance training.

Mode is the activity that is going to be performed.

You could wish to compete in a 5k race at some point and your training mode will relate to this by revolving around running of some kind. There are both machine and nonmachine cardio types that can be done. 

The exercise mode needs to match the physical abilities of the client. For example, someone limited in the lower body may need less impact on their feet, hips, or knees. 

Other factors to consider when choosing the mode would be equipment availability, personal preference, the ability to perform, and the goals.

Exercise Intensity

The intensity of sessions is made of both the frequency and the duration. The level of intensity must be decided before the duration and frequency.

Heart rate reserve is the difference between max and resting heart rates. This is very important when we are gauging and prescribing exercise intensity. 

The general recommended HRR is 50 – 85%. And depending on the person, some people may find 50% a lot, and some may find 85% not much.

You should always begin programs conservatively and slowly build Them up instead of going all out at the beginning. 

Target Heart Rate 

Heart rate and oxygen consumption are very close in relation. Heart rate increases when you exercise, and this workload increase calls for an increase in VO2. 

When the heart rate gets close to the max heart rate, or MHR, a higher percentage of VO2 is used.

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The target heart rate is the goal that is to be reached by the client when they are working out. 

We also use the percent of max heart rate. 

Max heart rate can only be found with a graded exercise test-taking the client to a point to where the heart rate doesn’t increase anymore with an increasing workload. At these beats per minute, the MHR is found. 

We also can use an age-predicted maximal heart rate, or APMHR, to find their estimated MHR. The equation is APMHR = 220 – Age.

The error range for the age-predicted formula is plus or minus 10 – 15 beats per minute. 

So, a 20-year-old would have a predicted max of as low as 185 and as high as 215.

The target heart rate range is now determined in several different ways.

Percent of age-predicted max heart rate

Target heart rate = APMHR X Exercise Intensity

Percent of heart rate reserve: also called the Karvonen method

HRR = APMHR – RHR

Low end of THR = (HRR X Lower exercise intensity) + RHR

Higher-end of THR = (HRR X High exercise intensity) + RHR

Percent of Functional Capacity

If someone has the graded exercised test and a physician performs it, they can use the percentage of functional capacity to determine the THRR most accurately.

Ratings of Perceived Exertion

This is the least accurate because it purely depends on the person’s perception of work intensity instead of what may actually be. It depends a lot on the training status.

The ratings of perceived exertion are on a scale of 1 – 10, with 1 being nothing at all, 10 being maximum effort, and also everything in between.

These scales are primarily examined and used when a client has some form of medication or illness affecting their heart rate readings.

Metabolic Equivalents

A MET is a metabolic equivalent. One met is equal to 3.5mL/kg/min of oxygen consumption. This 1 MET value is what the body is considered to be at when resting. So, we essentially grade activities as 4 MET or 5MET, representing 4 or 5 times the body at rest.

We consider 1 – 3 METS as light activity, 3 – 6 METs as moderate, and 6+ as intense.

Training Frequency

This is how long the workouts are done. This depends on the client’s goals, fitness level, duration of exercise, intensity when exercising, and the recovery time needed for the exercise.

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Exercise sessions that are long in duration and high in intensity will need more recovery time and, therefore, cannot be done as often. Shorter duration and lower intensity exercise will not need much recovery time and can also be done more frequently due to less workload.

Exercise Duration

This is a measure of how long a session of exercise lasts.

This depends on the client’s goals, their fitness level, and exercise intensity.

Exercise duration has an inverse relationship with exercise intensity. So, as the duration increases, the intensity decreases, and vice-versa.

Progression

Like resistance training, it is important to progress in our workouts over time. Aerobic endurance exercises are divided into two different groups, the ones for improvement and the ones for maintenance.

Someone untrained will always need to start with the improvement side of working out. Maintenance programs will be used by someone who is fit and wants to stay at that level.

Improvements in aerobic endurance programs consist mostly of VO2 max increases or the ability to tolerate longer durations and intensities. 

Improvement plans for progression involve progressive frequency, duration, or intensity increases.

The general rule says that intensity, frequency, and duration increases should be 10% or less.

Warmup and Cool Down

Warmups are used to increase blood flow to the working muscles for that workout, minimize the oxygen debt, and increase the core temperature to unload oxygen from the blood to the muscles.

Cool downs are essentially the reverse of a warmup. Here, the goal is to decrease all of the mentioned aspects of the warmup slowly. It can also be important to have some light stretching in the cool down.

Types of Aerobic Endurance Training Programs

Long Slow Distance 

The exercise here is done at less intensity than normal to ensure a longer duration. If athletes can run a 6 minute mile, they may work at an 8 minute mile pace instead.

This training type focuses on increasing the anaerobic threshold, developing endurance in the musculature, and utilizing fat while sparing glycogen. 

Once the client reaches the target heart rate, they should maintain this for as long as they have energy.

This should not be done more than 2 times per week.

Pace/Tempo Training

This is for clients who can work at the highest percentage of their HRR. It is for those that want to improve their VO2 max.

The objective here is to train quickly at their goal pace. They will work higher than their current pace to achieve a higher pace in the future. The training typically lasts 20 – 30 minutes and the clients reach their lactate threshold.

This can also be done intermittently. This means you would have 3 – 5 minutes of work and rest for 30 – 90 seconds, repeating until you cannot sustain the pace in the work period.

These are typically only done 1 – 2 times per week.

Interval Training

This is alternating between periods of high and low-intensity exercise. We have short periods where we exercise at intensities higher than the lactate threshold and then switch to lower intensities for longer times.

These involve using work to rest ratios to determine the intensity of exercise.

High-intensity intervals are typically 3 – 5 minutes, with a rest of 1:1 to 1:3, depending on how the client responds to high-intensity intervals.

Clients with a firm aerobic base should perform this interval style training, as it’s very taxing on the body. 

Circuit Training

This is the combination of both resistance and aerobic endurance training.

The intervals o short aerobic training are alternated with some form of resistance training sets. This exercise type aims to increase the HR to the training zone and keep it there for the entire session.

It has been shown to increase strength but has no real impact on VO2 max.

It may prove most useful for maintaining, but not for, improving aerobic endurance.

Cross-Training

This is the combination of several different modes of aerobic endurance training.

For this to be effective, each exercise’s duration and intensity must be sufficient for the person’s fitness level.

Cross-training distributes stress to the rest of the body’s muscles, which is its main benefit.

Arm Exercise

Arm exercise is becoming more popular for cardiovascular training, especially for those rehabilitating injuries.

It is important to know that the VO2 max is lower for this form of aerobic training.

Upper body ergometers are the most common.

Combined Aerobic and Resistance Training

Having these two together is the preferred way to work out, but there is some negative to it, too.

We see lower gains in strength compared to the VO2 increases.

The other downside is fewer gains in muscle girth, specific speed, and power-related performance.

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Study the NSCA CPT Chapter 16 – Aerobic Endurance Training Program Design. Learn how to program goal-focused aerobic workouts. Prep & pass your NSCA CPT. 4
Study the NSCA CPT Chapter 16 – Aerobic Endurance Training Program Design. Learn how to program goal-focused aerobic workouts. Prep & pass your NSCA CPT. 5
Study the NSCA CPT Chapter 16 – Aerobic Endurance Training Program Design. Learn how to program goal-focused aerobic workouts. Prep & pass your NSCA CPT. 6
Tyler Read - Certified Personal Trainer with PTPioneer

Tyler Read


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