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The 3 Energy Systems

Updated: Apr 9, 2023

Firstly, what is energy? When referring to energy within the body, we called it ATP which stands for Adenosine Triphosphate. It is the body's 'energy currency.' Here's what it looks like:

So, our bodies need this ATP to power movement. But, did you know that our body's can theoretically provide energy indefinitely? They do this with 3 energy providing systems:

1. The ATP-PC System

  • Used for short, powerful bursts of exercise

  • Lasts <10 seconds

  • High Intensity

  • Example: 100m sprint

2. Anaerobic Glycolysis or Lactic Acid System

  • šUsed for medium length exercise that causes that burning feeling!

  • šHigh Intensity

  • šLasts 30 seconds - 3 minutes

  • šExamples: weight-lifting, circuit training, 400m race

3. Aerobic System

  • Used for long distance exercise

  • Lasts 3+ minutes up to indefinite

  • Low Intestity

  • Example: marathon, riding, swimming

  • Why is the Aerobic system "unlimited?"

    • It uses Oxygen

    • It takes longer to "warm up"

    • And with fuel and no injuries, theoretically it could continue indefinitely !

Lastly, our 3 energy systems work together! At the beginning of exercise, ALL 3 energy systems are providing ATP, just in difference proportions. They way they work together is called Energy System Continuum or Interplay. This diagram shows the dominant system over time.

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