Use the Air Bike to Train All 3 Energy Systems

TAGS: assault bike, air bike, Jason Brown, programming, personal training, sports, training

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The Assault Bike, or Air Bike, has gained quite a bit of popularity over the last few years. Anyone that has used the Air Bike knows that this piece of equipment can be particularly painful when used for developing the anaerobic system, but the Air Bike can provide additional benefits other than just smoking your clients.

By using the Air Bike, we can choose from a wide variety of conditioning measures. For most high-level athletes, the Air Bike is a staple in their programming and is used on the regular.


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For regular folks that simply want to improve their conditioning/recovery and lose body fat, the Air Bike can certainly be a vehicle that drives the results they're looking for, but to avoid overtraining and boredom, you'll want to be a little more calculated in how you implement the Air Bike.

Here are some options to consider.

The Aerobic System: Cardiac Output Method

The Cardiac Output Method helps improve oxygen supply by increasing the efficiency of how well the heart can deliver oxygen and by developing the peripheral vascular network.

This method works by stimulating eccentric cardiac hypertrophy through volume overload of cardiac fibers, thus causing them to stretch. This leads to an increase in the left ventricular cavity volume, improving the body’s ability to pump oxygenated blood to the extremities.

Any low-intensity exercises (i.e., jogging, biking, swimming, jumping rope, etc.) will accomplish this, as long as one’s heart rate is in the correct range of 130 to 150 BPM (60 to 70 percent of MHR for most). This work requires a minimum of 30 minutes — any shorter than that, and this adaptation won't take place.

The best part is that nearly anyone can benefit from this method regardless of their training age and ability. This method may be the most effective method I've used to develop the aerobic system because you'll be able to see the carryover to improved recovery, not to mention it actually improves oxidative abilities of fast-twitch fibers (yes, even fast-twitch fibers have aerobic abilities).

Cardiac Output Method Summary:

  • Helps improve oxygen supply by increasing how effectively the heart can deliver oxygen developing the peripheral vascular network
  • Stimulates eccentric cardiac hypertrophy through volume overload of cardiac fibers thus causing them to stretch — done for a minimum of 30 minutes, where the heart rate is between 130-150 BPM
  • Increase in left ventricular cavity volume, therefore pumping oxygenated blood to the extremities more effectively
  • Aerobic fitness is a marker of avoiding heart-related issues and correlates to lifespan and one's ability to recover

Anaerobic Glycolytic: Power Intervals

Glycolytic Power Output is an essential component of prolonged high-energy output. This method works by stimulating an increase in the enzymes involved in anaerobic glycolysis and shifting the metabolism of working muscles to rely more on anaerobic versus aerobic metabolism.

A wide variety of exercises can be used, from sprints to specific movements done at max intensity for 20 to 40 seconds.

When done on an Air Bike for the right person, this work tends to be quite painful despite its relatively short duration.

If you're utilizing this with a client, make sure that they possess high levels of absolute strength; otherwise, they simply won't be able to pedal hard enough to tap into anaerobic metabolism.

Anecdotally, we've found more than 650 watts for the ladies and more than 1,000 watts for the guys is acceptable in order for this work to be effective.

Glycolytic Power Summary:

  • Lactic power output is an important component of prolonged high-energy output
  • Stimulates increase in the enzymes involved in anaerobic glycolysis and shifts the metabolism of working muscles to rely more on anaerobic versus aerobic metabolism
  • 20 to 40 seconds of work.

Anaerobic ATP-PC Power Intervals

ATP-PC Power Intervals are explosive bursts of maximal effort work. This method improves the rate of ATP regeneration of the phosphagen system by increasing the number of enzymes involved in its energy production. Any repetitive explosive movements can be used.

Keep in mind that higher-threshold work should NOT be done in back-to-back sessions; instead, you should separate those sessions by 72 hours.

These are just three options for each system; there is a variety of measures you could use, but these three will certainly help get you on your way.

The same rules apply to Glycolytic Power Intervals. This work favors athletes with high amounts of absolute strength and likely will not be effective with new clients, lighter athletes, and/or weaker folks that simply cannot pedal hard enough.

ATP-PC Power Summary:

  • Explosive bursts and ability to be quick
  • Improves the rate of ATP regeneration by the ATP-PC system by increasing the number of enzymes involved in its energy production
  • Highest output, highest fatigability
  • Typically 7 to 10 seconds of max effort work

Here's what a sample week of programming may look like:

Glycolytic Power Intervals

Workout 1

Every 5 minutes x 5 sets:

Workout 2

5 rounds of:

  • 20 seconds of Max Effort Air Bike
  • Rest 2 minutes and 30 seconds

Workout 3

Every 5 minutes x 5 sets:

Cardiac Output Training

Workout 1

30 minutes on the clock:

  • Air Bike

Every 6 minutes, get off the bike and perform:

Wear a heart rate monitor and maintain 130-150 BPM

Workout 2

Wear a heart rate monitor and maintain 130-150 BPM

Workout 3

3 rounds of:

  • 5 minutes of Air Bike
  • 5-minute row

Wear a heart rate monitor and maintain 130-150 BPM

ATP-PC Power Intervals

Workout 1

10 rounds of:

  • 8 seconds of Max Effort Air Bike
  • Rest 90 seconds to 2 minutes

Workout 2

8 rounds of:

  • 8 seconds of Max Effort Air Bike
  • 3 Power Cleans @70% of 1RM

Workout 3

Every 3 minutes x 6 sets:

  • 10 seconds of Max Effort Air Bike

Conclusion

In short, the Assault Air Bike is a training tool that can efficiently help us improve the conditioning of all three energy systems and doesn't require weeks of training to learn how to master using it. But remember, it's certainly not a tool fit for all of your clients — your smaller folks luckily won't be able to reap the benefits of training the anaerobic systems with it.

The Air Bike can also provide a balance from the same ol' jogging wear and tear and remove athletes from the general breakdown that occurs with frequent bouts of running.

Keep in mind, these are only three methods, and you could certainly extrapolate more ideas from these three, but it's important to remember the overall intent and ensure that rest intervals are long enough to elicit the correct response.

References

Jamieson, Joel. 2009.Ultimate MMA Conditioning.Seattle, WA. Performance Sports Inc.

Images courtesy of RX Photography

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