4 Different Types of Functional Aerobic Training

4 Different Types of Functional Aerobic Training

Aerobic training…boring!

Every day, clients and fitness enthusiasts around the world are bored by their aerobic training.

However, training the aerobic energy system is an essential part of a well-rounded fitness program. It has a host of health benefits, including but not limited to the prevention of metabolic diseases and detoxification. Also, the increase in stamina clients get from aerobic training can improve their performance and recovery in their “more exciting” weightlifting workouts.

To help you keep aerobic training enjoyable, try adding some variety with these four different types of workouts.

4 Different Types of Functional Aerobic Training

A Quick Note on Progression

These four types of aerobic training follow a simple to complex progression. We recommend that you also progress the exercises inside each session in a similar manner. To get the best results from each session, choose exercises that are within you or your client’s ability. Learn our process for assessing fitness ability here.

Cyclical Aerobic Training

The first type of aerobic training is cyclical. It uses methods that occur in cycles, such as rowing, biking, skiing, and running.

This type of training has low complexity, the tension in contractions is low, and the goal is to teach the participant how to repeat aerobic work and coordinate the muscles, heart, and lungs.

To start cyclical training, simply pick an exercise. We love rowing and biking. Next, create either a task- or time-dependent workout. An example of a task-dependent workout is Row 500m x 10 sets. An example of a time-dependent workout is a 20 Minute Bike. Finally, make sure that the work to rest intervals are a 1:1 ratio.

To progress this type of training, start with longer and slower intervals and move to shorter and faster intervals over time. You can also choose to add volume of intervals. Stop the progression if intraset repeatability (completing every set in the same duration) is not possible. 

Sample Cyclical Workout:

500m row  @ 1:58 pace

Rest 1:1


Circuit Aerobic Training

The second type of aerobic training is circuit training. In this workout, the client rotates between tasks for either a set amount of time or rounds.

Start this type of training with low complexity. Pick exercises that will not cause the client to reach muscle endurance fatigue. Then, set a time-dependent task like a 9-minute AMRAP. Learn more about AMRAPs here

To make sure this type of training stays aerobic, measure the time it takes to complete each round. The goal is to have great intraset repeatability. If the workout becomes unsustainable, discontinue the session. Often this is because of a muscle endurance fatigue limitation. Learn how you can build muscle endurance here.

Sample Circuit Workout:

5 Minutes:

9 Calorie Row

6 Hang Power Cleans

3 Burpee Box Jump Step Downs

Chipper Aerobic Training

The third progression for aerobic training is the chipper. This is a task-dependent workout where exercises are completed back to back in the order they are written.

Again, start this type of workout with lower-tension exercises and over time progress to higher tension exercises. Pick a selection of exercises and number of repetitions that you know can be completed in a session. 

This workout will challenge the aerobic system and the ability to self-pace. The main limitation will be muscle endurance and the ability to strategize and break the work up appropriately to maintain power output.

Sample Chipper Workout:

50 Calorie Row

40 Wall Balls

30 Pull-ups

20 Dips

10 Deadlifts

Constant Variance Training

The fourth progression for aerobic training is constant variance. This workout is a type of circuit or chipper workout in which the order of the exercises changes each round. The goal is to keep the interval times (interset repeatability) the same each set.

This is the most complex level of aerobic training and should be attempted after mastering the three other modalities. The goal of this training is to teach the client how to self-organize during aerobic work. 

Sample Constant Variance Workout:

For time:

  1. 10 Calorie Row
  2. 10 Wall Balls
  3. 10 Calories AirBike
  4. 10 Dips
  5. 10 Cal Ski
  • Rest 5 Minutes
  • 4 Sets

*Change order for each set: 

1) A,B,C,D,E (as above)

2) E,D,C,B,A

3) D,A,C,B,E

4) B,A,C,E,D

5) C,A,D,B,E

Design Aerobic Training with the Client in Mind

The best results from training come from when the workout is just at or next to your client’s ability. Before you get excited and program one of these sessions, it’s crucial to understand what they are currently capable of.

That’s why the best coaches assess their client’s abilities before ever designing a training program. Makes sense right? Sign up for our free coaching course today and learn our method of assessment so that you can create training programs that get your clients results. 


Fitness Assessments for New Clients