The Year of the Engine

Capacity is foundational to fitness, and capacity gains translate directly to performance. Inexperienced athletes improve rapidly, but beginner gains quickly taper off, and plateaus follow.  Increasing your capacity, really increasing your capacity, is a long-term endeavor that requires a more analytical approach.

That’s why we created The Year of the Engine.   The Year of the Engine solves the capacity problem, permanently.  It meets you where you are and guides you through increasingly advanced training sessions.  After  The Year of the Engineyour capacity will never fail you again.   

Capacity takes time!   Coaches who tell you that “conditioning takes months” have probably never done any of these, and should be avoided.

Capacity takes time! Coaches who tell you that “conditioning takes months” have probably never done any of these, and should be avoided.

VARIABLE INTENSITY

The energy requirements for MetCons are unlike other capacity sports.   In classical capacity sports (running, cycling etc.) an athlete’s pace reflects equilibrium between energy production and removal of metabolic byproducts.  But in MetCons, energy needs fluctuate. For example, in the benchmark WOD Fran, the energy demand for thrusters is different than for pullups.  No equilibrium is reached in MetCons because the tasks, and the muscles used, change within the workout.

Do singles on the snatches.   Break every 15 wall balls.   Do the set of 21 as 7-7-7.  In general, MetCon performance is optimized via a ramp up / back off pacing strategy.  Even elite athletes take short “breaks” within a workout.   Variable intensity within a workout is a feature of this training style. Consequently, MetCons promote large increases in glycolytic power, with smaller improvements in oxidative capacity.  This is why MetCons alone cannot build an engine.   Attempting to correct this with additional MetCons only exacerbates the imbalance.   

In spite of these unique energy demands, many coaches borrow training ideas from endurance or traditional capacity sports.  Energy systems training, steady state work (“going long”), or focusing on parameters such as VO2Max and lactate threshold are examples of widely practiced, but incomplete, approaches to capacity development for fitness athletes.  In brief:

  • The energy systems are part of a complex series of interdependent processes governing ATP production.   The nature of their interaction varies with the task, based on motor unit recruitment. Focusing on energy systems as discrete entities is misguided. 

  • Steady state work or “going long” will deliver some useful systemic adaptations, but focuses mainly on slower contracting - and lower-force-producing - muscle fibers, whereas MetCons generally demand intensity. Long sessions are part of the solution, but they leave a lot of capacity on the table.  

  • Parameters such as VO2 max and lactate threshold link an athlete’s pace to their energy production.   This doesn’t work in MetCons; you can’t ascribe a pace to a workout with two or three different tasks, and constant changes in the muscles producing the energy. Oxygen consumption tests on a treadmill tell us little about 8 minutes of snatches, double unders and butterfly pullups. 

These ideas are all attempts to retro-fit training principles developed for other activities.  They are the fitness version of having old software on your new computer.  It’ll probably still function, but it won’t be able to do everything it’s capable of.

A new conditioning framework for fitness athletes

Rather than re-purpose other ideas, we built something which aligns with the capacity challenges of our sport.   We’ve divided The Year of the Engine into 4 successive stages:

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Engine Builder (the tune up): Your engine works, but not always as smoothly as you’d like.  Maybe you struggle on long sessions, or you’re inconsistent on intervals.   Engine Builder is the tune-up: 12 weeks of intervals, endurance and some threshold training.  In this stage, you’ll increase your power output across all relevant time domains, in preparation for advanced training. 

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Polarization  (the fuel tank): Polarization refers to an intensity distribution which combines steady state work with bursts of tremendous intensity.   This recruits a broader spectrum of motor units than endurance sessions, and with much less stress than intense intervals.    The result is an increase in oxidative capacity across a broad spectrum of motor units – a big fuel tank - so you stop running out of gas.


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Differentiation (the turbocharger): Engine upgrade? Check.   Fuel tank upgrade?  Done.   Now, we fire it up.   In this stage, we build speed and power on the foundation developed thus far.   This stage features intervals with a work-rest ratio that permits high intensity.  Lots of coaches overuse intensity too early in the training plan, essentially replicating the conditioning limitations of MetCons.  This is like trying to turbocharge a lawnmower.   Because of the work you did in Phases 1 and 2, you’ll be ready to go…and recover quickly…so you can do it again.

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FLUX (the racetrack): Time to see what we can do.  FLUX refers to glycolytic flux, the rate at which molecules move through the glycolytic pathway.   Maintaining a high rate of glycolytic flux across variable tasks is the key parameter for fitness athletes.  This stage introduces zero-rest intervals,  where you’ll work above threshold intensity without the benefit of a rest interval.   And when you get to FLUX,   you’re ready for it.   FLUX synthesizes everything you did thus far, then adds another layer of power.  

Compatible capacity

The best part of YoE might be that we designed it for augmentation. Love working out at your box? No problem. Add YoE and keep doing the classes with the community. Following an online competition program? Cool, stick with it. Add YoE and watch your scores climb up the leaderboard.

You’re a capacity athlete, not an endurance athlete. Stop training like one. Stages 1 & 2: foundation of capacity. Stages 3 & 4: speed and power.

You’re a capacity athlete, not an endurance athlete. Stop training like one. Stages 1 & 2: foundation of capacity. Stages 3 & 4: speed and power.

GETTING STARTED 

Our conditioning and capacity framework has enabled thousands of athletes to build serious capacity, without sacrificing other aspects of their fitness.  Now it's your turn. There are two ways to work with us:

Monthly subscription:  When you choose this option, you will be billed monthly on the date you sign up.  There is no contract, membership, obligation or minimum.   Stay as long as you want.     Sign up monthly

Quarterly subscription:  Quarterly subscribers are billed every 3 months on the date they signed up.   You’ll also save 10% off of the monthly subscription price of $25, so you’ll pay $67.50 every 3 months.    Again, no obligation.  Sign up quarterly.  

 Need more information?   Check out Year of the Engine FAQ or send us an email: coach@thegainslab.com