What does it mean to be an ‘Aerobic Responder?’
Being an aerobic responder means you adapt (create change) quickly from aerobic (sustainable) work.
Being a power responder means you adapt quickly to high force and high speed activities.
Aerobic Responder DOES NOT EQUAL High-Level Endurance.
(It is very possible your grandmother who walks every morning is an aerobic responder without having the ability to express high-level endurance.)
…However, it is often true that aerobic responders are better at longer time domain workouts with higher amount of cyclical work.
Aerobic Responder DOES NOT EQUAL Low-Levels of Strength & Power.
(Many of the CrossFit® Games athletes are closer on the spectrum to being aerobic responders, yet they are able to express high levels of strength and power, as demonstrated at the Games.)
It is possible for an athlete to express high-level aerobic fitness and respond better to power activities.
It is possible for an athlete to express high-levels of power & strength and respond to sustainable activities.
How do I tell if I’m an Aerobic Responder?
Answer the following questions based not on what you WANT to do, but from which you would get the greatest training EFFECT.
Try to remove your personal preference as you answer.
Which squat protocol would make you gain the most strength?
Which rowing protocol would make you improve your 500m time?
A) 150m x12, Rest 90s
B) 1000m x6, Rest 60s
Which Met-Con would make you gain the most fitness?
A) 27-21-15-9: Row Calories & Thrusters for Time
B) 21-18-15-12: Row Calories & Thruster for Time
If you answered A more you are likely a power responder.
If you answered B more you are likely an aerobic responder.
Unclear Answers | Understanding Physiology
The issue is…you often don’t know which will help you more. Also, if you have avoiding one end of the spectrum completely you often get more benefit from going to the other end for a while.
The reality is you will get the most benefit from training the entire spectrum of energy systems. From less than 10s to greater than 20 minutes.
An elite level powerlifter could improve his squat more by adding an easy 20-minute stationary bike per day than adding another heavy session. …yet some light cycling sure as heck didn’t get him in the 1000-lb squat club; his ability to respond and adapt to power activities did.
Likewise, a 2:30 marathoner might improve her personal best more by adding in some strength work. …yet Bulgarian split squats and Russian twists didn’t get her to elite fitness; her ability to respond and adapt to aerobic activities did.
Understanding is Doing
To know and not to do is not to know.”
Very few athletes will be able to reach a high-level of fitness and not understand what it takes to make their body adapt. Often athletes who are at a high-level and don’t know what type of responder they are have experienced unconscious competence. This means that they will do what they need to do without realizing they are doing it.
Examples of a unconscious competent power responder:
-Is accused of “dogging it” during repeats at practice to give themselves a longer rest time.
-Chooses to play power based sports, like football or weightlifting
-Skips their burnout sets because they are “trashed” from their heavy working sets.
Examples of a unconscious competent aerobic responder:
-Joined the cross country team because they “don’t enjoy” the pace of soccer.
-Adds another Met-Con after their assigned work because they “aren’t very tired yet.”
-Feels like strength-based activities aren’t a productive use of their training time
For most of the world that aren’t naturally good at self-selecting activities for ourselves, we must be able to analyze and determine where our training time is best spent. An experienced coach can be extremely helpful in this process.
Now…start training in a way that suits the type of responder you are naturally!
This is Part I of II in this article series.
Part II: Strength Training for the Aerobic Responder