Anaerobic capacity

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  • #8873

    There’s been a lot of discussion about aerobic capacity (VO2max).

    On the other hand, you don’t see much discussion about
    anaerobic capacity. My understanding is that for every person
    there’s some sort of optimal anaerobic capacity based on your
    race/event distance and your VO2max. It seems that the longer (and slower)
    the event, the lower your anaerobic capacity should be.

    Assuming you have a lactate meter, is there rule of thumb for what
    your anaerobic capacity should be to get maximum performance for your event?

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    Anonymous on #8888

    Good question.

    I’ve never read anything about absolute values per sport, but I suspect that (in their competitive season) sprinters would want as much as possible and ultra athletes would want as little as possible. (In preseason training, some anaerobic capacity would be useful for ultra athletes as well.)

    More relevant than absolute values is how an athlete’s maximal lactate value influences how he/she should be trained:

    • Fast-twitch athletes will have a higher anaerobic capacity, will respond quicker to anaerobic power training, and can’t endure as much threshold work.
    • Slow-twitch athletes will have a lower anaerobic capacity, respond slower to anaerobic power work, and can tolerate more threshold work.

    Check out chapter 17 in Magness’ book, The Science of Running, for more info.

    Anonymous on #8899

    Scott’s right that there is no absolute biometric measure of anaerobic capacity like there is for maximum aerobic capacity. The most common measure of anaerobic capacity is the Wingate test which is a maximum 30 second sprint on a stationary cycle ergometer. This is measured in Watts and can be divided by the athletes weight to give a relative value that can be compared from athlete to athlete.

    Ideally an endurance athlete should maximize BOTH aerobic an anaerobic capacity. With XC ski sprinters we would use lactate measures after a ski specific “Wingate” test on a SkiErg which also gave us power in Watts.

    In a top WC XC skier we’d see max lactate levels of 20mMol/L in this test. But the same athlete would have a very high aerobic threshold within 6% of Anaerobic threshold which would be about 93% of max HR.

    Keep in mind the the anaerobic capacity is the frosting on the cake and having a high anaerobic capacity without the huge aerobic base is worthless in an endurance event. The longer the event the less important the anaerobic capacity.


    xcskier on #8929

    In Olbrecht’s lactate book “Science of Winning”, he suggests 400m-600m maximum run
    to determine anaerobic capacity.

    Could you elaborate why an Ironman triathlete or a marathon runner
    should maximize anaerobic capacity?

    Anonymous on #8930

    As far as absolute measurement goes, I believe that there are two methods:

    1. From Olbrecht’s book, The Science of Winning, “The anaerobic capacity is the maximum amount of [lactate] that can be produced per second [via] glycolysis. It is frequently called VLamax… [with] units expressed in mmol of lactate per liter per second.”
    2. VLamax isn’t measurable without fancy, expensive equipment, so Olbrecht uses a more practical method during his version of a lactate test. He measures anaerobic capacity with a 45-90″ all-out effort and then takes lactate samples every two minutes thereafter. (There’s a minutes-long delay between lactate production in the muscle and its appearance in the blood.) The samples will show lactate rise and then fall. The maximum lactate value observed is used as a proxy for anaerobic capacity.

    From what I understand, whether or not an athlete wants a high or low anaerobic capacity would depend on a trade-off between having a race-ending kick available or a higher average speed at aerobic threshold. Anaerobic capacity pushes the lactate curve up and left, so by atrophying it, the curve can be cheated down and right. But it’s at the expense of kick potential.

    I’ve seen this happen in two cases:

    1. A lactate test the day after a sprint workout. Sprint workouts build AnC, but the short-term effect is that AnC is temporarily suppressed. During the lactate test, the test subject was able to achieve a much higher aerobic threshold heart rate and speed than he had before.
    2. When AnC atrophied during a race season. A couple seasons ago, I was doing regular lactate tests but no sprint training during race season. My anaerobic capacity fell because I wasn’t training it and threshold work reduces it. My aerobic speed was maintained despite getting tired as the season wore on. In this way, I was able to “cheat” my curve down and to the right.
    Anonymous on #8931

    I could be wrong, but I think that all but elites would want minimal anaerobic capacity for Ironman of marathon events because the durations are so long, courses are typically flat, a higher average speed is more desirable, and minimizing glycogen use is a top priority.

    Early in the training season, building anaerobic capacity may be beneficial, because it allows for higher training volumes (so says Canova anyway). Then toward race season, it could be intentionally atrophied via threshold work and an absence of sprints.

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