You are on page 1of 6

The Glycolytic System – Moderate Power/Moderate Duration

Now it becomes more complicated as energy demands shift to this system. The
glycolytic system is the “next in line” tool after the ATP-PC system runs its
course. Dietary carbohydrates supply glucose that circulates in the blood or is
stored as glycogen in the muscles and the liver. Blood glucose and/or or stored
glycogen is broken down to create ATP through the process of glycolysis. Like
the ATP-PC system, oxygen is not required for the actual process of glycolysis
(but it does play a role with the byproduct of glycolysis: pyruvic acid). It is
estimated glycolysis can create energy at approximately 16 calories per minute.
Here is where it gets interesting. After maximum power declines around 12
seconds, further intense activity up to approximately 30 seconds results in lactic
acid accumulation, a decrease in power, and consequent muscle fatigue. This
high, extended effort is labeled “fast” glycolysis.Exerting further effort up to
approximately 50 seconds results in another drop in power due to the shift in
dependence on the oxidative system. Bottom line: it is getting tougher.

Example: think of an all-out sprint, to a slower jog, to an eventual walk. That is

the progression of the three energy systems when going all-out.
Enter “slow” glycolysis into the discussion (warning: more science jargon ahead,
but hang in there). Recall the byproduct of glycolysis is pyruvic acid. In fast
glycolysis, more power can be generated, but pyruvic acid is converted to
lactic acid and fatigue ensues quickly. Slow glycolysis is different. Relatively
less power is generated, but pyruvic acid is converted to acetyl coenzyme A
(acA), fed through the oxidative Krebs cycle, more ATP is produced, and fatigued
is delayed. Thus, extreme fatigue can be avoided (but relatively less-intense
effort can continue to be expressed) in slow glycolysis as compared to fast

Examples: any moderately-long runs such as 200-400 yards, a 1:30 effort of all-
out MMA maneuvers, or a one-minute full-court press - offense display - and
another full-court press effort in basketball.
Glycolysis literally means the breakdown (lysis) of glucose and consists of a series of enzymatic
reactions. The carbohydrates we eat supply the body with glucose, which can be stored as glycogen
in the muscles or liver for later use.

The end product of glycolysis is pyruvic acid. Pyruvic acid can then be either funneled through a
process called the Krebs cycle (see the Oxidative System in next weeks article) or converted into
lactic acid (lactate + hydrogen ion). Traditionally, if the final product was lactic acid, the process was
labelled anaerobic glycolysis and if the final product remained as pyruvate the process was labelled
aerobic glycolysis.

Oxygen availability only determines the fate of the end product and is not required for the actual
process of glycolysis itself. Oxygen availability has been shown to have little to do with which of the
two end products, lactate or pyruvate is produced. This is where the terms aerobic meaning with
oxygen and anaerobic meaning without oxygen become a bit misleading (5).

Alternative terms that are often used are fast glycolysis if the final product is lactic acid and slow
glycolysis for the process that leads to pyruvate being funneled through the Krebs cycle. As its name
would suggest the fast glycolytic system can produce energy at a greater rate than slow glycolysis- it
has greater power. However, because the end product of fast glycolysis is lactic acid, it can quickly
accumulate and is thought to lead to muscular fatigue (1). The contribution of the fast glycolytic
system increases rapidly after the initial 10 seconds of exercise. This also coincides with a drop in
maximal power output as the immediately available phosphogens, ATP and especially PCr begin to
run out. By about 30 seconds of sustained activity the majority of energy comes from fast glycolysis
(2). At 45 seconds of sustained activity there is a second decline in power output (the first decline
being after about 10 seconds). Activity beyond this point corresponds with a growing reliance on the
oxidative energy system.

Training which emphasises the glycolytic energy system results in increased muscular glycolytic
enzyme activity- most notably increases in concentration of lactate dehydrogenase,
phosphofructokinase and glycogen phosphorylase. (7). This type of training which creates high
levels of intramuscular levels of lactate and pyruvate (monocarboxylates) has also been shown to
increase the concentration of monocarboxylate transporters in the muscle. These transporters act as
revolving doors in the muscle which improves the rate of removal of these products.
Improving the function of the glycolytic system will shift an individual’s on-set of blood lactate
accumulation curve to the right, meaning the player is able to work at a greater exercise intensity for
a given blood lactate concentration.

Training to emphasise this system should include near maximal efforts with work:rest of 1:3-7.
Sessions should be designed to ensure different lengths of effort and work:rest are programmed so
players are exposed to different levels of lactate production.

Training the Glycolytic System – Session examples

Level 1
100m efforts– 2 blocks of 10 X 100m efforts starting each new effort on 60s
Aim to complete each effort in under 16s
Alternate between 100m straight through, 2 X 50m and 5 X 20m
2-minutes recovery between blocks
1:4 work:rest
Down & up efforts– Starting on stomach, up run forward 5m, down flat to stomach, up as quickly as
possible running backwards 5m
Continue for 20s- focus on maintaining speed of movement throughout work period
Begin next effort on 60s
Complete 2 blocks of 10 efforts
1:3 work:rest
Level 2
Shuttle- Sprint to 22m mark- drop to stomach then up & run backwards to 10m marker
Drop to stomach then up & sprint through to 50m mark
Easy jog through to far end- get through in 20s
Begin each new effort on 80s
Complete 2 blocks of 5 shuttles
1:4 work:rest
10s work:20s recovery- Calculate a player’s 85% of maximum speed (e.g.: if 10m/s then will be 8.5
Multiply by 10 then set a marker at this distance
Player aims to cover this distance in 10s with a 20s recovery period
Complete 4-6 efforts each block (emphasis should be quality of effort)
Complete 2-3 blocks with 2-minutes recovery between blocks
1:2 work:rest
Wrestle- Turtle flips- 1 player is on the ground on all 4s while a partner stands next to him/her
The player on all 4s tries to stay on all 4s while the partner tries to flip the player onto their back
If they are flipped the player on all 4s re-sets and the drill continues for the time
15s work period starting each new effort on 60s
Complete 5 efforts in each role
2-minutes recovery then repeat
1:4 work:rest
Level 3+
200/300/400m efforts- Vary between straight line and shuttle
Focus on maintenance of intensity throughout session- identify specific speed bracket you want the
athlete to maintain (eg:6.5-7.0m/s)
Example- 2 X 200m completed in <30s beginning new effort on 2-minutes- 1:3 work:rest 2-minutes
recovery 2 X 300m completed in <45s beginning new effort on 2:30- approx. 1:3 work:rest 2-minutes
recovery 2 X 400m completed in <1:05 beginning new effort on 5-minutes- approx. 1:5 work:rest
Repeat chase, catch & wrestle drill- In a restricted area (10m X 10m) 1 athlete is the chaser while the
other is the evader
Working on 45s intervals- the evader tries to stay away from the chaser
When the chaser catches the evader he/she wraps them up then wrestles the ball from them
The evader makes this ball wrestle as difficult as possible
As soon as the ball is stolen it is thrown back to the evader who again tries to evade the chaser
This continues for the work period- emphasis is on high intensity in the chase/evasion and then the
competition for the ball
Complete 5 X 45s work intervals with each new effort beginning on 2:15- 1:2 work:rest
2-minute recovery between blocks
Repeat with the roles changing

As your ATP-CP system sputters out, your glycolytic system steps in and keeps you
moving for about another minute or so before it, too, begins to run out of fuel.

Because glycolysis relies on energy converted from carbohydrate (glucose) intoATP,

your glycolytic system is slightly less responsive than your ATP-CP system. But it can
still provide as much as half the energy you need in the first few seconds of intense
exercise. (See “An Energy Systems Timeline,” below.)

If you’ve ever done an all-out set of max pushups, or a 400-meter sprint, you’re familiar
with what it feels like to exercise the glycolytic system at close to its maximum. In a
word, it hurts.

Contrary to popular belief, the burning sensation you get when you exercise intensely is
caused not by lactic acid (another fuel source) but by a buildup of hydrogen ions, a
byproduct of glycolysis, which can inhibit muscle contraction, giving you “wobbly knees”
after a minute or so of full-out running or cycling.

The more you train your glycolytic system, however, the better you’re able to buffer
these ions and the faster you can recover between sets of medium-to-high-intensity

The discomfort that comes from glycolytic training is well worth it. Increasingly, fitness
pros are recommending this type of training for people who want to gain muscle, lose fat
and get the most out of their time at the gym.

“A 200-meter sprinter is a great example of an athlete whose training is mostly

glycolytic,” says energy systems researcher and body-transformation expert Mike T.
Nelson, MS, PhD candidate, founder of “It’s a nice compromise
between strength and endurance work.”

One reason glycolytic training burns fat so effectively is that it creates a significant
“metabolic disturbance,” Nelson explains. And recovering from it requires work from all
three energy systems. In this way, glycolytic training improves not only the functioning
of each individual system, but also your ability to transition smoothly
among them.

Nelson argues that such “metabolic flexibility” is a significant, though little-known,

component of long-term health and fitness. “Diabetics and obese people can’t transition
well between energy systems — they’re metabolically inflexible,” he says. “Smart
training doesn’t just develop the three systems in isolation — it also develops your
ability to transition from one fuel source to another so all three metabolic pathways work
together effectively.”
Many field and team sports also train the glycolytic pathway.

Training Your Glycolytic System

Speed: Medium-fast
Primary Fuel: Carbohydrate
Sample Activities: Traditional strength training; 200- to 400-meter sprinting; 50-meter
freestyle swimming
How to Train It: Medium-intensity strength training; interval training; running stadium
stairs or hills; shaking “battling ropes”; jump-rope sprints; kettlebell workouts; swimming

 Two to four sets

 High effort for sets lasting 20 to 40 seconds; eight to 12 reps in strength-training
 Short rest between sets (two minutes or less); partial recovery between efforts

Frequency: Twice a week per muscle group or area of the body trained

If you’ve ever done a 400-meter sprint, you’re familiar with what it feels like to
exercise the glycolytic system.
In a word, it hurts.

Glycolytic athletes specialize in activities lasting 30 seconds to two minutes or so.

They’re fast and seemingly tireless — though perhaps not quite as strong as the ATP-
CP athlete, nor as enduring as the oxidative athlete — and they tend to be muscular
and lean. This type of training is ideal for burning fat (in recovery) and building muscle
mass. Strength training using sets of eight to 12 reps and sprinting 400 meters or less
typify glycolytic training.