Work Capacity Assessment: Energy System Training

Work Capacity Assessment: Energy System Training

How to properly assess your clients. Energy System Assessment 101: OPEX Work

How OPEX Coaches Conduct Work Capacity Assessments

While many coaches perform assessments of a clients movement, they very rarely seem to comprehend how to gauge their client’s work capacity.

Assessing a client’s work capacity. Why does this matter?

“Being able to identify which energy system needs work “relative” to the function and goals of the client will allow a coach to design a program tailored towards those weaknesses.”  – Sam Smith (OPEX Coach)

In OPEX Work, the final phase of our assessment model, the athlete’s various energy systems are tested. OPEX Work gives professional coaches an idea of a client’s starting point from a work capacity perspective. It also provides the coach with the direction of their fitness program in relation to their objectives.

The tests we will present are only meant for intermediate and advanced athletes, not beginners. Improper application of these tests to beginning clients could lead to injury, so don’t try it without getting more of an education in the subject.

(Resource: Learn more about energy system training is this free guide.)

Example Work Capacity Assessments

The testing series below is what a testing series may look like for a new client with intermediate capabilities.

10 Minutes AirBike Max Calories

1 RM tests on absolute strength lifts

85% AMRAP, at prescribed tempo, tests of absolute strength lifts (Back Squat and Close Grip Bench Press)

Row Repeats: 30 seconds all out, 30 seconds rest x 4 sets

To provide an understanding of what kind of information these tests are providing, our very own Head Coach Sam Smith will explain the purpose of each test…

1) The 10 Minutes AirBike Max Calories – This test is aimed at the client’s aerobic system. Using oxygen as a main fuel source to extend out power over a fixed duration.

2) The 1 RM tests, and 85% AMRAP test, on absolute strength lifts (IE- Back Squat, Deadlift, Front Squat, Bench Press, Strict Press, Weighted Pull Up) is primarily driven by the CP System (Creatine Phosphate). This energy system is driven by stored energy within our cells that are able to produce our maximal force for very SHORT periods of time.

3) The last test, the Row Repeats, is one of our favorite tests as it gives great insight across all energy systems. The first row score in meters can give feedback on where an athlete’s absolute power is at relative to their goal/function. The second row score can give insight into their ability to utilize glycolysis as a fuel source as their CP system has been tapped and now must create fuels by other mechanisms. This is also evident in their third row score looking at drop offs in power potentially identifying a weakness in fuel usage. Finally, looking at all four row scores and see decrements between them can give GREAT insight into their aerobic system.

Aerobic System Assessment

The first energy system being tested above by the 10 Minutes AirBike Max Calories is the Aerobic system. This system uses oxygen as its primary fuel source. The time frame of activity this system can sustain can last hours.

Creatine Phosphate System Assessment

The second energy system being tested is Creatine Phosphate. This energy system is used at the highest intensity exercise given by the person exercising. Creatine phosphate is your body’s simplest, most immediate energy source and your body maintains using this system for a short period of time. The system relies on the fuel Carbohydrates to further its work at providing energy. Creatine Phosphate tests are generally tests of one’s strength, like a one repetition maximum lift.

Anaerobic and Glycolytic System Assessment

Finally the coach tests at Anaerobic and Glycolytic energy system in the row repeats. Though these energy systems have different names they operate by using sugars and and lactate as fuel. The time frame of these tests can range from 30 – 10 minutes.

More Examples of Work Capacity Assessments

Here are a few more examples of various energy systems tests organized according to what they test:

Anaerobic Alactic:

20 second Bike Sprint

20 second Row Sprint

150 m Sprint for Time

Anaerobic Lactic Power:

60 second Max meters on Rower

60 second Max Calories on FWB

300m Run for time

Anaerobic Lactic Endurance: (Shorter time frame, 4-6 min)

1500m meter row for time

6 minute max calories FWB

1 minute run

Anaerobic Lactic Endurance: (Longer time frame, 10-12 min)

3k Row for Time

2 mile Run

10 minute Mixed Modal Individualized Test


60 minute Row for meters

10k run for time

40k cycling time trial

OPEX 90 minute AMRAP:

1300m Row, 200m FW @ 2kg/1.5kg per hand, 15 Wall Walks, 42 DU’s

Once you have a basic understanding of energy systems, you can design a well thought out testing phase for your clients, collect the data, see where they want to go relative to where they “currently” sit. Remember that it’s only in the retest that you will be able to see if your program design is yielding results for the client.

Want to learn more about energy systems training? Download our free guide today and learn through more than a year of sample programming to develop progressions for the alactic, lactic, and aerobic energy systems for general population clients and athletic seasons.


Fitness Assessments for New Clients