NASM essentials of sports performance training
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NASM essentials of sports performance training


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FLEXIBILITY TRAINING FOR PERFORMANCE ENHANCEMENT 151
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CHAPTER 5
Cardiorespiratory
Training for
Performance
Enhancement
UPON COMPLETION OF THIS CHAPTER, YOU WILL BE ABLE TO:
Describe how cardiorespiratory training is used within an integrated training program to
improve performance.
Apply the guidelines for proper cardiorespiratory training.
Understand the importance of interval training and its effect on cardiorespiratory performance.
Design performance enhancing cardiorespiratory training programs through the use of
Base and Interval training.
Sports Performance Professionals must be creative in developing new cardiorespiratory training
experiences. As such programs expand, becoming new and more diverse, athletes will want to
know how to start and plan a safe program that will create success while minimizing the risk of
injury and avoiding underperformance, staleness, overreaching, and overtraining.
The term athlete, as it is used throughout this text, encompasses people at all competitive lev-
els including high school or college students, professional level athletes, as well as recreational
athletes who compete in weekend races or local leagues. All athletes need goals and proper train-
ing guidelines to assure continued growth. Personalized cardiorespiratory training programs will
go a long way toward achieving specific goals. 
To have a complete cardiorespiratory training program, a Sports Performance Professional
must first assess the athlete, then create a program with specific goals while applying a measure-
ment tool (such as heart rate or watts) to measure the athlete\u2019s progress.
153
Basics of Cardiorespiratory Training
Of the various components that comprise an athlete\u2019s total physical fitness program, car-
diorespiratory endurance is probably the most misunderstood and underrated. The athlete of-
ten fails to understand why building an aerobic base is such an important part of a complete
Introduction
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training program. Without a proper cardiorespiratory base, an athlete\u2019s performance may de-
crease over time, opening the door for underperformance and possible injury.
In order to understand how to perform cardiorespiratory training in the most effective and
efficient way, the athlete must first understand how such training is undertaken. Many athletes
incorrectly assume that cardiorespiratory training is synonymous with aerobic training. This mis-
understanding can delay or even prevent athletes from realizing success from a program designed
to meet goals specific to their sport.
The most common goals of performing cardiorespiratory training are the following:
\u2022 To improve performance. A primary purpose of training is to delay the onset of fatigue
during competition. Although a Sports Performance Professional can teach an athlete var-
ious skills, these abilities are of little use if fatigue diminishes skilled performance when it
matters most.
\u2022 To reduce mental anxiety. With fatigue comes a loss of concentration and confidence,
critical components to performance.
\u2022 Weight management. Proper cardio can help with the goals of weight loss or weight gain. 
Cardiorespiratory training is more than just training the aerobic energy system. To meet these goals,
both the aerobic and the anaerobic energy systems must be trained. This is especially true for ath-
letes who must constantly tap into top-end anaerobic energy systems, while maximizing perform-
ance and minimizing fatigue (such as tennis players late in a match). According to the specificity of
training principle, this would be impossible if only the aerobic energy system was trained.
REVIEW OF ENERGY SYSTEMS
The body cannot survive, much less perform physical work, without energy. This energy is pro-
vided in the form of adenosine triphosphate (ATP). ATP is produced by the body from the foods
it consumes. ATP is utilized aerobically (with oxygen) and anaerobically (without oxygen). Of
these two methods, the most efficient, by far, is the aerobic system (1). 
The normal heart beats approximately 70 beats per minute (bpm) at rest (1). The heart of a
well-trained aerobic athlete can beat as few as 40 times a minute. This kind of heart conserves en-
ergy and can supply oxygen-rich blood to the rest of the body with (up to) half the effort. 
Aerobic training stimulates the heart to adapt by becoming larger and stronger through exercise
to supply the body\u2019s ever-increasing demand for oxygen. The heart becomes a more efficient pump
by pumping more blood per beat, meaning it does not need to beat as often to supply the same
amount of oxygen. Aerobic energy production requires a constant and adequate supply of oxygen. 
The respiratory system begins with the lungs, which bring oxygen from the air, across the
alveolar membrane, and into the blood to be carried by hemoglobin. This process is called pul-
monary ventilation. The movement of oxygen and carbon dioxide into and out of the circulatory
system takes place through diffusion (1).
With each contraction, the heart pumps blood out of the left ventricle into the aorta, distend-
ing it and creating pressure on the vascular wall; the systolic blood pressure. During the relaxation
phase of the cardiac cycle, between beats, the blood pressure in the arterial system declines; the di-
astolic blood pressure or the amount of pressure in the system needed to keep the vessels open.
The amount of blood the heart pumps per minute is the cardiac output. This number is de-
termined by multiplying the heart rate by the stroke volume; the amount of blood pumped with
each contraction of the ventricles (2). Cardiac output and oxygen consumption are linearly related.
The body\u2019s oxygen requirement at rest (or any steady state) is constant. So, the greater stroke
volume means the heart beats less often. During exercise, the stroke volume increases in propor-
tion to the intensity of exercise to about 40% of capacity where the stroke volume starts to
plateau. Thus, beyond this intensity, increases in cardiac output are due to the increased heart
rate. With training, the response of stroke volume to increasing intensity is the same, but happens
at a higher level due to the increased pumping power of the heart. The heart rate response to in-
creasing intensity is a linear relationship and after training, the maximal heart rate is unchanged
or slightly lower. This means that the main reason that maximal cardiac output (and thus oxygen
consumption) improves with training is in large part due to the increase in stroke volume. This
change in stroke volume is one of the main central cardiovascular adaptations to training (2).
Realize that heart rate can change from rest to maximum by a factor of 3 (i.e., from 60\u2013180
bpm), whereas the stroke volume changes by only a factor of 1.7 (from 70\u2013120 mL). Although
an increasing heart rate is a main factor in increasing cardiac output, if training increases the
stroke volume by even a small amount, any increase in heart rate will show substantial changes
in cardiac output. Resting cardiac output