Saturday, December 24, 2011

Lactate Training

Workout of the Day

WOD 1 – in the morning…

4 minute AMRAP: 5 Toes to Bar 10 Ball Sprawls

WOD 2 – in the afternoon…

4 minute AMRAP: Picnic bench Prowler Push 10 pushups 10 situps

Before leaving Scottsdale I did a short AMRAP at the all new, still being unwrapped Optimum Performance Training Center. Both WODs today were based on an idea that James and company are pursuing through their testing of CrossFit athletes: Lactate training. The basic premise is that the chemical by-product of the glycolitic pathway (lactate) is a very potent and useable fuel source that most people don’t properly train themselves to use. It only gets used at near 100% effort during constantly high turnover or high power activities. That means that you can’t train it during intervals, or while you are pacing a WOD at sub-maximal effort. It’s also most effectively trained between the 4-8 minute time domain. Learning these facts was eye-opening for me because those are exactly the types of WODs that I feel weakest in. So, after some coaching on how best to structure this type of training I wrote a plan on how to work it in to my current program.

Going forward I think this will become easier to organize (Max deadlifting has left me a bit sore), but I have to say the initial attempts at this went really well. To keep this effective you have to keep the pace VERY high, to the point that it’s more important to alter the rep scheme mid-WOD than it is to complete all reps and risk muscle fatigue slowing you down. Kind of a novel approach—target the response rather than the work. The response is an almost numbing sensation where you lose a little of your connection to the tasks being done. All you’re thinking about is moving as fast as you can. James describes this as an almost spiritual experience, and he’s right. It’s like nitric oxide for your muscles. The problem with this is that you can’t dip into it too often. Like a type II diabetic that can no longer produce insulin in response to high blood sugar, someone who constantly “goes there” will lose the ability to utilize lactate as a viable fuel source over time. Therefore it’s important to stagger these sessions in the course of a day and then give yourself a good week off in between. Training this way will allow your body to learn to use lactate without burning out.


  1. Are you talking about milking yourself...? Sorry, just kidding. After reading that I think I have gone to "that place" before in a soccer game. I will have to give those WOD's a try with this in mind. It surely was an almost spiritual experience because I didn't understand where the energy was coming from. Love it!

  2. Cool. Have the same issue in the same time domain e.g Elisabeth. Sub 3 is almost non taxing in metcon these days but 6-9mins is horrible.

    How does this differ from the "classic" 100% 8x25s, rest 3:35 or Tabata?

  3. Hi Blair. See this page for a good description of the energy systems and how lactate plays into it:

    If you see in the first table, lactate (lactic acid) is an energy supplier in the 120 to 240 second time domain at 95% effort: that's 2' to 4'. This energy system can be trained just like any other.

    Also see this page for an extensive description of how lactic acid works:

  4. Ben, that model is 30 years old and over with.
    we are simply seeing things over the past few years with CF'ers that make the academic model of the energy system training machine VERY different.
    to create an eye opener, if the system goes to 4 min, what happens at 4:01?
    if the energy system goes from 2-4 min, how come with testing, we get people at 16-19.0 mmol/L of blood lactate at 1-1.5 min of intense activity based on the person and training period previously.
    if anything, it is so new, that i am completely saying that it is misunderstood and needs some work; and since we have been looking at it, as BM says, if used appropriately, it is potent, if not, devastatingly "aging"

  5. Bernie, the energy system model has been around for awhile, which is a good thing because there's tons of research and testing to go along with it. I was sharing those links for any readers who may be interested in aerobic and anaerobic training and wanted to get a background on it. I'm sure you're doing cutting edge research and finding cool stuff. I have a background in rowing and have coached at the elite level, so from the training I did I also saw and experienced a lot that pushes the boundaries.

    Also, I don't agree that the energy system model is over with. Training your aerobic systems is basic sports physiology and something every CrossFitter could benefit from before they jump into anything experimental.

  6. Blair,
    I guessing you mean take a good week off from lactate training and not training in general? Correct me if I am mistaken please.

    Thanks, Sean

  7. exactly sean. the temptation is to attack every conditioning session with this type of intensity, but as james said, the research is showing negative effects long term. that means the conditioning sessions in between need to focus more on aerobic capacity (along the lines of what ben is suggesting), muscle endurance (low weight high volume), or phosphate battery (the ability to reproduce force at moderate to heavy loads). Plenty to do :-)