Writing a Lecture for Anaerobic Exercise Prescription

This article will be a little different from previous articles as it will focus on how I would structure a class for the purpose of teaching university level students on anaerobic exercise prescription. The university I attend has few to no classes dedicated to this subject, so I thought it would be a bit of light hearted Christmas fun for me to delve into the topic. As this is a semester course, roughly 16 weeks, the article will be broken up accordingly.

Weeks 1-4: Understanding Anaerobic Physiology

Week 1

The first week is an introductory week to the concept of anaerobic exercise. It will begin by explaining what the word “anaerobic” means (fyi, it means “lack of oxygen”) and how that plays a massive role in exercise via cellular metabolism (quicker way of generating energy, but for a shortened time). Understanding the distinction between anaerobic and aerobic will be key to later understanding training methodology.

Week 2

While it may not be necessary to introduce every enzymatic reaction leading to glycolysis, it would be beneficial to understand what glycolysis is in more detail. This can be done by first understanding where glycolysis occurs in the cell, then further zooming out and expressing how these cells look and how they fit in the musculature. Giving context will allow students to fully grasp these facts by giving actualized context instead of simply assuming these things occur in a nebulous environment left unclear by the instructor.

Week 3

Now that the general idea of anaerobic has been established, as well as its location in the body and intracellularly, students should be familiarized, in greater detail, of what must happen for anaerobic exercise (read “metabolism”) to occur. This week, varying levels of intensity (walking, running, sprinting, lifting, etc.) will be described and the subsequent energy demands (at particular speeds of delivery, aka anaerobic needing energy in a short time frame) will be characterized in terms of when the body switches to anaerobic metabolism from aerobic metabolism.

Week 4

Tie it all together for a “recap” of sorts to make sure students grasp how all these concepts are dependent on one another, and above all, hammer home the idea there is a distinction between aerobic and anaerobic exercise (and why).


Weeks 5-8: Nutrition and Goal Setting

Week 5 & 6

While the class is not dedicated to nutrition, there should be some attention drawn to the subject as there is a great deal of misinformation on the topic. Students will be taught that although anaerobic exercise has profound health benefits and is especially impactful in terms of changing body composition, it is far more potent with regulated nutrition. During the second week, the class will cover the respiratory exchange ratio and explain carbohydrate use and its high importance in anaerobic exercise, as well as how to eat to perform optimally for an anaerobic event.

Week 7
Now is where it is key for students to understand that although anaerobic metabolism need usually comes from some form of resistance exercise, there are various goals within that concept. Understanding that one person may want to train for strength while someone else may want to train to increase overall musculature. Students not only should understand, but appreciate that not all of these goals are necessarily exclusive and that an athlete could mix and match training to aim for two or more goals without sacrificing much specificity.

Week 8

In this week, having fun by busting myths like “women should train differently than their male counterparts”, or “there is such a thing as training to *tone*”. Not only should the corrections be made, but a physiological explanation given after the class brainstorms possible reasons why this myth has been busted.

Weeks 9-12: Safety procedures, Exercise selection

Week 9

This week, students will learn about exercise selection such as when to use a squat, leg press, bench press, deadlift, etc.. Now, in one week it is impossible to cover every exercise, but focusing on some of those compound lifts will allow students to understand and focus more on those large muscle groups which are almost always favored anyway.

Week 10 & 11

This week, students will learn how to go about testing different populations based on their current condition. For example, an 83 year old does not undergo a 1 Repetition Maximum test, but a calculated max could be determined from a higher repetition number if the person wanted to find out their strength; Also, learning about special populations and how to handle strength training exercises for people in different conditions (pregnancy, elderly, children, etc).

Week 12




Weeks 13-16: How to Prescribe for Anaerobic Exercise

Week 13

Understanding the concepts of “volume”, “intensity”, “repetitions”, “sets”, “rest”, “compound”, “isolation”, among other basic terminology and the preferred method of exercise in certain situations (compound over isolation first).

Week 14

Learning to distinguish different volumes and intensities based on a person’s goals or series of goals, in general. Twenty repetitions is less likely to build strength than 3 or 5 repetitions, for example.

Week 15

This week students will learn about basic programming such as Starting Strength 5 x 5 and learn to apply certain concepts of one program to another program or simply add exercises with appropriate volume and intensity to basic programs. Basically, students will learn how to adapt a training program based on individual preference, health, and goal type.

Week 16

While an advanced class may be needed for this, it is necessary for students to understand the terms and concepts of periodization, undulation, auto-regulation, and how these apply to pushing an intermediate exerciser to an advanced level.

PROJECT DUE: Students are given a case study and they must create an exercise routine based on the knowledge they have acquired.


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