A Guide to the Language of Programming- Part 1

Over the coming weeks and months there may be some new phrases and definitions used during classes, which some people may be unfamiliar with. Below are some basic examples and definitions for you all. Further blog posts will follow to go into more detail into some of these ideas and why we do what we do in terms of programming. Enjoy!



Aerobic comes from a Greek word meaning air. It is used here to refer to aerobic energy, which means energy produced with oxygen. We have one aerobic system as opposed to two anaerobic systems. You know you are ‘going aerobic’ when the work you are doing is sustainable (whole other blog post to come on this) and you are not redlining. This is traditionally thought of as being cyclical work – e.g. sitting on the rower for 20 minutes or cycling 100 miles. However, you can also easily go aerobic in a WOD – you’ll see how this is done in the new year. The key things to remember for these types of workouts are that they are sustainable (you can repeat it) and sub-maximal (the work is not so tough that you are constantly having to stop).

Aerobic Power

This is a measure of how much energy can be created by the aerobic system. The more capacity you have in the aerobic system the more power you will be able to create whilst working aerobically…still with me?

If you teach your body to work aerobically during WODs and slowly increase this capacity (whilst getting touches on the other energy systems) you will be able to do more work whilst aerobic, rather than constantly having to go anaerobic. The top CrossFitters in the world often finish a nasty workout and can stand and chat afterwards while everyone else is on the floor in bits. This is because they were working aerobically and everyone else went anaerobic. Look out for this at the Battle of London by the way!


Anaerobic means without oxygen. It is used here to refer to anaerobic energy, which means energy produced without oxygen. We have two anaerobic systems as opposed to one aerobic system. The two systems are A) the Creatine Phosphate system and B) the Glycolytic system. Think of something short and explosive.

A) Creatine Phosphate System

This is an anaerobic energy system that produces energy very quickly but for a very short time. The energy results from the breakdown of Creatine Phosphate. Think of doing a 1RM or heavy set of back squats, cleans, deadlifts etc.

B) Glycolytic System

This is an anaerobic energy system that produces energy quickly but not as fast as the Creatine Phosphate system. Energy results from the breakdown of glycogen and is called the glycolytic process. This process produces lactate. Most (not all) will be glycolytic during Fran or something like an all out 400–800m run. If you’re breathing hard, your legs are like jelly and you hurt like hell, its glycolytic. This is extremely taxing on the central nervous system and has a big effect on your body.

Central Nervous System

The central nervous system (CNS) is the part of the nervous system that integrates the information that it receives from, and coordinates the activity of, all parts of the body. This includes the brain and spinal cord. When you get stronger you are not only training the muscles – you are also training the CNS to recruit more muscle fibres.

ATP/CP Battery

Imagine you have a battery solely used to lift heavy weights close to or at your maximum. Every time you lift a weight close to your max you drain this battery, and then it recharges over a certain period of time. When lifting a weight at 90 percent of your max, you may drain your battery 50 percent or 85 percent. And it may take you 30 seconds or 3 minutes to recharge your battery, which is based on your individual makeup. So some people have strong batteries and can lift close their 1RM repeatedly with little rest, others however may struggle here and need more rest at their 90 percent. We have a specific way of testing this, which will become obvious when it is used.

Zone 1

This is how we’ll refer to easy cyclical aerobic work. It’s so easy you can just sit and chat whilst doing it and it takes nothing out of you. It’s great for recovery work and also good to build the aerobic system. Examples are getting on a rower or airdyne for anything from 20-60 minutes and just having a nice easy session. These won’t be programmed in the classes but we would highly recommend you find time to do it!


**Thanks must go to James Fitzgerald at OPT and the guys at Peak Athletic Development for providing us with a basis for some of the above definitions.


By Tom McPartlan

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