How specific is aerobic capacity?

  • Creator
  • #61500

    Hello everyone,

    as I am forced to move temporarily away from my beloved alps into the flats of eastern Germany, I was wondering how specific is aerobic capacity.

    Basically, my question is if aerobic work on mainly completely flat terrain does anything at all for my aerobic capacity in steeper terrain.

    The way I understand it, aerobic capacity depends mainly on cellular adaptations of the muscles involved in a certain movement. So, two sports, like for example (flat) road running and (steep) mountain running, that use mainly the same muscles should be pretty exchangeable in terms of aerobic capacity building?
    I wonder how/when specificity enters the game.

    Maybe some of the experts could shed some light on me/us in that. I think it is also a very interesting topic in general, not only for my personal current situation.

    Thanks and Br


  • Participant
    dcgm on #61558

    My experience hiking up 25-35% grade hills with 35-65lb loads, having trained mostly with flat running and a little bit of gym-based ME, was that it sucked out loud for the first three or four sessions but I started PRing after that. So there’s definitely a “conversion” period, but there does seem to be decent carryover if you don’t neglect the ME work and have adequate max strength.

    Shashi on #61680

    This forum discussion might help –

    Flat runs

    Eddie on #61756

    Hi Peter,

    I think Scott J’s old post answers it (thanks for the link, Shashi).

    The way I understand it (but I’m no expert), training needs to be specific to muscle fibers and energy systems. The carryover in muscle recruitment is probably considerable from flat to uphill running, but some fibers are not as stressed from one modality to another. To me, this is evident with the relief I feel when switching between uphill running and hiking. And metabolically, my flat running and uphill hiking produces different lactate curves and aerobic thresholds. Personally, I train them separately to build their specific aerobic capacities (emphasizing the weaker).

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