Aerobic Endurance Training for Athletes

Aerobic Endurance Training for Athletes

How to build your athlete’s aerobic system on the AirBike

Human beings are designed to be aerobic. The more aerobic we are, the more resilient we can be in life, period. The aerobic system is one of the three energy systems (alactic, lactic, and aerobic) but, tends to be forgotten. In exercise prescription, a fear of “losing strength” has reduced aerobic endurance training and popularized alactic and lactic training. However, aerobic endurance training cannot be forgotten and is the single greatest contribution a coach can add to an athlete’s program.

(Coach’s Resource: Learn the body’s three energy systems with this course.)

Benefits of Aerobic Endurance Training:

  • Enhances transportation of oxygen to working muscles.
  • Increased enzyme availability for muscle endurance.
  • Liberate Free Fatty Acids for fuel (regulates body fat distribution).
  • Speeds recovery between high-intensity training sessions.
  • Improves cardiovascular health and function.

Characteristics of Aerobic Endurance Training

OPEX Fitness characterizes aerobic training as sustainable, repeatable, and paced efforts. This development can only be achieved at an intensity, in which the aerobic system is activated to the maximum, while lactate accumulation in the muscles has not yet been reached. Training the aerobic system and its many levels depends on the athlete’s current fitness level and function. A novice lifter would not be programmed to squat #400 pounds on their first day of training. The same approach applies when training the aerobic energy system.

Prescribing Aerobic Training

Before prescribing any aerobic training it is important to know the athlete’s baseline aerobic capacity. Work capacity can be tested in multiple ways but we prefer the 10 minute max calories on the AirBike test. This test gives coaches an accurate measurement of work capacity along with a database of scores to compare to. The ability to compare data gives coaches an accurate depiction of the athlete’s performance and the opportunity to adjust training if necessary. Learn the 10 minute max calories on the AirBike test our free Professional Coaching Blueprint.

When to Increase Intensity

Aerobic adaptations can be achieved within a 6-12 month period depending on the starting point and function of the athlete. It’s important to understand that athletes need to earn the right to perform harder efforts by proving their efficiency in longer pieces both mixed and cyclical. An athlete’s aerobic system can be progress once the athletes have proven they can sustain a pace and repeat efforts over and over. Keep in mind that when progressing the aerobic energy system start with long slow efforts and build to shorter and faster efforts over time.

Sample Aerobic Training Plan:

One Week Training Prescription for a Competitive Female Athlete who Needs Aerobic Development

Considerations for this design:

  • Athlete’s lifestyle supports 10 sessions per week (6-7 of those are aerobic)
  • Most aerobic sessions are long slow pieces and cyclical; Map 7-10
  • Each day begins with a priority of aerobic training
  • No limit to Maximal Aerobic Power (MAP 10) prescriptions, as long as the athlete’s lifestyle can support it. Give as many hours possible of low-intensity work for athletes who don’t possess developed aerobic mechanisms.



30 Minutes AirBike—easy effort- conversational pace (MAP 10)


  1. Single Arm Kettlebell Overhead Squat – barefoot, turn and look at the Kettlebell like Turkish Get Up, come on toes as needed @ 32X1; 2-3/arm x 4 sets; rest as needed
  2. Segmented Snatch grip DL 3-3-3-3-3; rest 2 minutes–release at top
  3. Muscle Snatch 4-4-4-4; rest 2 minutes


Every Minute On the Minute (EMOM) 10 minutes

Odd– Strict Handstand Push Up max in 30 seconds

Even– Double Under 30 seconds As Many Reps As Possible (AMRAP)


10 Minutes AirBike Zone 1



30 Minutes Row; every 500m get off and complete 60 meters of Farmers Walk #heavy MAP 10


30 Minutes walk with weight vest MAP 10



30 Minutes @ sustainable pace MAP 8

1 Minute Row

1 Minute Skip rope

1 Minute Front leaning Raise (FLR)

1 Minute Run

1 Minute AirBike


  1. Push Press + Push Jerk + Split Jerk; 5 sets; rest 2 minutes
  2. Overhead Squat @30×1; 5-5-5-5; rest 2 minutes
  3. Snatch Push Press behind the neck 6-6-5-5; rest 2 minutes
  4. Single Arm Upright Dumbbell Row 8 reps x 3; rest 1 minute


EMOM 12 minutes

Odd—wall ball shots x 10 #20-9ft

Even— Farmers Walk AMRAP distance in 30 seconds #heavy


10 minutes easy spin AirBike



Swim 30 minutes – 25 meters every 90 seconds @ easy effort MAP 8





30-minute AirBike; every 2 minutes get off and complete 2 Wall Walks MAP 10


  1. 3 Position Hang Power Clean( knee-thigh-hip); 5 sets 65%; rest 90 seconds
  2. Hang Clean Pulls 4-4-3-3; rest 2 minutes
  3. Front Squat @ 20×1;  4-3-2-2; rest 3 minutes
  4. EMOM 1 rope climbs 18ft x 10 minutes



60-minute Hike natural intervals (hill, slopes)


  1. EMOM Clean Jerk @ 60% 3 reps –12 minutes
  2. EMOM Hang Power Snatch @ 60% 3 reps — 12 minutes


8 Minute AMRAP

5 Pull Ups (strict)

5 Push Ups

5 Toes to Bar

Rest 3 Minutes

8 Minutes AMRAP

10 Sit Ups

10 Back Extensions

20 Double Under



While aerobic endurance training is essential to performance, true athletic growth will only come from tapping into the three energy systems. Learn more about the body’s three main energy systems and how to create exercise programs to build your endurance in our free Professional Coaching Blueprint.


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