Powerful Vs. Enduring

physed-480 By Evan Peikon  
This is a two part article on training powerful athletes versus enduring athletes. The first portion will focus exclusively on how to identify an athlete as powerful or enduring, while the second will focus on the programming application side of things (among other topics). So, now that we’ve gotten that out of the way and have identified the purpose of this piece we can get going…..

In most instances coaches characterize athletes as powerful or enduring based on a number of factors. However, these characterizations are often subjective and are based on relativities and comparisons rather than concrete data. But there is a better, objective, way to make these assessments. Which, is through the use of speed preservation tests.
*Note that we use specific cyclical and mixed tests/ assessments on our athletes. But, those tests and their implications are beyond the scope of this article. So, this serves as a good objective measure for those looking to asses themselves/ their clients without that knowledge base. 

The way that the test works is by taking an athletes 1k, 2k, 3k, and 5k Row PR’s and finding the following ratios between them….
1. 2,000m : 5,000m
2. 1,000m : 2,000m
3. 2,000m : 3,000m
4. 3,000m : 5,000m

With on this data we can plot a line on a graph and quantitatively measure our athlete against seven theoretical avatars (which will be explained later in the article…).
*Note that this test is best done with rowing as MOST crossfit athletes are proficient enough that technique does not skew the data (versus running where VERY FEW athletes have the required technical proficiency. Seriously…. Crossfit athletes on a whole have dog shit running mechanics).

Testing Phase:
As previously stated, we will need an athletes 1k, 2k, 3k, and 5k Row PR’s to run the numbers on this test. Most crossfit athletes have 1k and 2k PR’s on hand already, so it shouldn’t be too much of an issue to throw the 3k and 5k into an athletes testing phase to get the full range of data moving forward. So, as previously stated we will need to calculate the following ratios…

1. 2,000m : 5,000m
2. 1,000m : 2,000m
3. 2,000m : 3,000m
4. 3,000m : 5,000m

In order to calculate these you will need to do the following equation:
(PR Pace of Distance #1) / (PR Pace of Distance #2) = ___ x100 
*Note- units for pace = seconds. 

So For Example…
An athlete has a 1k PR of 3:00 (1:30/500m or 90s/500m) and a 2k PR of 7:00(1:45/500m or 105s/500m). 

So in this instance you would calculate their speed preservation for test #2 as follows…..
(90 seconds) / (105 seconds) = .857 x100 = 85.7%

Athlete Classification Types :
Once you calculate the ratios for all four tests you can compare them to the following “Athlete Classification Types”. While your specific numbers may not match any of them exactly, it should be clear where you fall on the spectrum. So for example an athlete with the following numbers (85%, 90%, 89%, 95%) will fall in between Type A & Type B.

Type A- 84.5%, 89%, 87%, 94%
Type B- 86.5%, 92%, 90%, 95.5%
Type C- 88%, 93.5%, 91.8%, 96%
Type D- 90%, 93.8%, 93%, 96.5%
Type E- 91.5%, 94.2%, 94.8%, 97%
Type F- 92.5%, 94.8%, 95.8%, 97.5%
Type G- 93.5%, 95.8%, 96.3%, 97.8%
*%’s represented as test 1, test 2, test 3, test 4

So what do these classification types mean…..

Classification Meaning
In Order of Increasing Power:

G< F< E< D< C< B< A
*Ie- A is the most powerful & G Is the least powerful.

In Order of Increasing Endurance:
A< B< C< D< E< F< G
*Ie- G is the most enduring & A is the least enduring.

Specialty Time Domain Per Classification Type:
Type A/ B- ~2-4 Minutes (~Lactic Endurance)

Type C/D- ~6-8 Minutes (~Aerobic Threshold/Power)
Type E/F- ~10-20 Minutes (~Aerobic Power/ Endurance)
Type G- ~20+ Minutes (~Aerobic Endurance)

Athlete Case Study
Athletes PR’s
1k- 3:14.4,  2k- 7:03,  3k- 11:17,  5k- 18:47

Athletes Speed Preservation Scores:
2000m/5000m- 94% 1000m/2000m- 92% 2000m/3000m- 96% 3000m/5000m- 98%

Based on the Classifications above This athlete would match the most closely with Type F, meaning that they fall on the enduring end on the spectrum with  their speciality being in the 10-20 minute range. *Note that this athlete was previously a 3200m & 5k Running Specialist.

Moving Forward:
Now that you have an idea of where you (or your athletes) fall on the spectrum of powerful –> enduring, and have a base level of knowledge on how your athlete’s “engine” operates, it’s time to explore the implications and how to properly train/ prescribe training based upon it. Which leads us to the implications section. 

These are general patterns i’ve recognized based on an extended analysis of both my exclusive coaching clients and followers of the HPA Competitor’s Blog. As such, these recommendations MUST be taken in that context, and interpreted as a statistical average of multiple individuals. 

Note- Individual makeup is king. Rather than applying this information directly you should use it as a starting point for future analyses or apply it to the current paradigm centered around a given athlete (ie- Don’t scrap what you already have. Apply one thing at a time, asses the results, adjust your athlete centric paradigm as needed, then start over). 

Consistency/ Progression Schemes:
In my experience “Type A” athletes tend to be less consistent, and more temperamental, in terms of pure numbers from week to week (regardless how how things “feel”). Whereas you can guess with high certainty what numbers/ scores/ times a “Type G” athlete will get on a given lift/ workout. Based on observation i’ve also found that “type G” athletes tend to have a slower skill acquisition rate, though it is highly likely that this is a correlative relationship rather than causative (ie- Type G athletes tend to come from low skill endurance based sports, so there is a selection bias in place here).Knowing this you can adjust progression schemes as needed to account for ups and downs in numbers, skill acquisition rates, and individual athlete’s speeds of adaptation on given elements (ie- How quickly do they adapt to abs strength vs musc end vs aerobic threshold progressions etc). 

Metcon Tactics:
Often times more powerful athletes fare better with short sets/ short rest, whereas more enduring athletes can string together longer sets with more moderate rest times. This especially holds true in CP-recovery, or muscular endurance, based testing scenarios. However, both approaches should be applied in training and refined to match the individual. 

Note- These strategies are only applicable to a specific subset of testing scenarios as discussed above. As such they are not recommended in  lighter/ higher turnover/ ES based testers. 

Aerobic Base Development:
Lower (relative) intensity, cyclical, efforts should be used when trying to develop a more powerful athlete’s aerobic base to ensure they are getting the correct training stimulus (eccentric cardiac hypertrophy, mitochondrial density, angiogenesis etc). If they were to follow the same progression scheme/ prescription as a moderate → enduring athlete it would not only yield lackluster results, but may also worsen their aerobic development in some circumstances. 

Conversely enduring athletes often need high(er) relative intensities to further develop their aerobic systems and get lackluster results with the typical 85% (moderate approach). Also note that there are more options both in movement selection and training methods when dealing with aerobic base development in enduring athletes (ie- tempos, fartleks, progression runs etc with less strong of a focus on low tension, and cyclical, movements).

Strength Hierarchy:
I’ve covered this topic in depth HERE. But, as a general statement enduring athletes often need to further development their base strength level (regardless of how “good” or “bad” their CP-recovery system/ muscular endurance are. Ie- if you can’t lift the weight you can’t play the game). On the other hand stronger, more powerful, athletes often reach a point of diminishing return where additional strength gains do not yield further gains in performance. In this scenario CP-recovery/ muscular endurance must be prioritized (gross overgeneralization). 

Note- There are also correlations with absolute strength/ speed development (ie- is an athlete stronger than fast or faster than strong), but I will simply defer you to an extensive article on that topic that I wrote for the performance menu journal. Which you can find HERE.



10 thoughts on “Powerful Vs. Enduring

    • Thanks Rory. I’ll definitely get a post up with all the data i’ve collected as well- I have an article in the pipeline explaining the entire collection process and subsequent analysis etc. Just need to retest a few more things so it all comes full circle.

  1. Great article! Did you create these ratios yourself based on experience and trends seen within your athletes? Why not simply take the same tests and view them on a spectrum relative to ideal times for each piece to see power vs enduring? Will you be discussing your mixed modal application of this concept in the next piece? Thanks again for putting out so much great information.

    • The ratios/ concept are based on the Peronnet-Thibault mathematical model (http://jap.physiology.org/content/67/1/453), but are adapted to fit the context of mixed modal sport, and the modality of rowing, vs predicting running performance. In regards to viewing the tests on a relative spectrum we can do that as well, but the purpose is to objectify. Ie- The relative data doesn’t give the whole picture. For example- a “powerful” crossfit athlete is only powerful relative to those competing in crossfit. In the grand scheme of athletics, compared to say sprinters/jumpers/weightlifters, they are not that powerful (ie- absolute scale vs relative scale). So this test is taking us out of the relative “Crossfit” realm and grading on a larger scale. In terms of relative tests we do use those as well, but that is a different topic entirely (which would make for a nice follow up piece, along with the mixed modal applications of this info).

  2. Have you determined what is the best practice in building aerobic capacity? To keep it simple, let’s just stay with cyclical training protocols rather than mixed modal. I know it’s common understanding to build the aerobic system from endurance to power (opposite of anaerobic), but it could possibly be the other way around. I’m wondering if you have any more insight into that with your observations of your data? Have you noticed if more powerful athletes respond to a one way while more enduring athletes are opposite…. or are they similar?

    • To start- the common principal of “endurance–>power” works but is not the most effective method for base building (The main scenario where I find this type of cut and dry principal useful is with beginner athletes as you can give them a clear progression in terms of pacing. ie- show them how power output increases as time decreases etc) . The good thing about this type of Rx though is that it is effective for the majority of athletes (to some extent), and is hard to rx incorrectly (i.e. your not going to hurt someones aerobic development by giving it to them). However, I do not think it is the most effective method for aerobic base, threshold, or power development (which have distinct physiological differences in and of themselves).

      The main issue with the more advanced prescriptions is that they have the potential to hurt an athletes development if applied incorrectly whereas the more basic approach will simply yield subpar results (as I alluded to in the aerobic base development section of the article). Which is why I do not give specific examples in the article. In regards to your specific question about power–> enduring that can work for achieving a specific result (like speed preservation or aerobic threshold), but in terms of base development it wouldn’t be the most effective measure (i’d aim for a mix of speed preservation/ building a large volume of relative sub-max work which can be anywhere from 70-90% depending on the athlete’s state of overall development and standing on the spectrum of powerful to enduring).

      TLDR- Yes; powerful and enduring athletes respond differently to a given Rx. They aren’t opposites per say, but the most effective methods for building a powerful athletes aerobic base will yield lackluster results for an enduring athlete and vice versa. This not only included %’ intensities (as stated in the paragraph above), but also the formatting of work/ methods used.

      Also note that “building an aerobic base” in and of itself is a slippery slope as there are different physiological adaptations that make up that training characteristic. This could mean eccentric cardiac hypertrophy, mitochondrial density, angiogenesis, capillarization etc (there are training mechanisms that favor one over others etc, though there is synergism as well).

      Let me know if that answered your question or not, or if you need anything clarified.

      • Yep, that answered things pretty well. I was only trying to think about how to write prescriptions to a group, like a class at a Crossfit gym, to help build that aerobic base appropriately. But that RX will definitely be hit or miss considering a large group of people are going to be all over the place in terms of where they stand on the fitness spectrum.

  3. Hi Evan, I do not have a subscription for the performance menu journal. But I would really like to read your article: Absolute Strength, Absolute Speed, and Everything In Between.

    Is there another way I can read it?

  4. Hi Evan,
    Is there another way I can read the article: Absolute Strength, Absolute Speed, and Everything In Between? I do not have a subscription for the performance menu journal but really would like to read the article.

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