Physiological Adaptations to Exercise

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Physiological Responses to Exercise and Training

Brett Gallaway

Exercise Physiology

Steve Bowens

Falmouth Marine School


Introduction                                                                                3

The Operation of the Body’s Energy Systems                                4

                The Anaerobic (ATP-CP) Energy System                                4

                The Anaerobic Lactate (Glycolytic) System                                4

                The Aerobic System                                                        5

Energy System Recruitment                                                        5

Adaptations to Exercise                                                                8

Experimental Report                                                                12

Methodology                                                                        12

Results 1                                                                                15

Results 2                                                                                16

Discussion                                                                                17

Conclusion                                                                                18

Appendix 1                                                                                19

References and Bibliography                                                        21


The aim of physical training is to systematically stress the body so it can improve its capacity to exercise. Physical training is beneficial only if it forces the body to adapt to the stress of the physical effort. If the stress is not sufficient to overload the body then no physical adaptation occurs, Brookfield J, (2004). In order to achieve maximum effectiveness, it is necessary to consider factors including the body’s energy pathways, muscular adaptations, and the cardiovascular system. Along side these considerations fatigue and the recovery process play an equally important role in achieving fitness.

This report will initially consider the nature and necessity of the body’s energy pathways as a means of providing energy for training, followed by an overview of physiological training, focusing particularly on muscular and cardiovascular adaptations. This is then followed by an experimental report in which an individual is initially subjected to a fitness test, a training regime, and finally retested in order to assess any physiological adaptations. Finally these results will be discussed with conclusions given.

The operation of the body’s energy systems

While sports as diverse as for example, running, tennis, cycling or weight training may appear varied and diverse in nature, they do in fact share one aspect in common: the need for appropriate energy delivery. Rather like fuel for a car engine, the human body requires carbohydrates, lipids and proteins. Unlike a car however which simply has one energy transfer system - the engine, the human body utilizes 3 distinct methods of energy transfer, or energy pathways. In order to get the most out of the human body and to succeed in sport, it is necessary to use appropriate training principles to train these specific energy pathways, thus making them more resilient to fatigue.

The Anaerobic (ATP-CP) Energy System

The ATP-CP energy pathway supplies between 8 - 10 seconds worth of energy and is used for short bursts of exercise such as the 100 meter sprint. It first uses up any adenosine triphosphate (ATP) stored in the muscle, approximately 2-3 seconds worth, and then uses creatine phosphate (CP) to resynthesize ATP until the CP runs out, approximately another 6-8 seconds. After the ATP and CP are used the body will move on to either aerobic or anaerobic metabolism (glycolysis) to continue to create ATP to fuel exercise.

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The Anaerobic Lactate (Glycolytic) System

The anaerobic energy pathway, or anaerobic glycolysis, creates ATP from ingested carbohydrates with lactic acid being a by-product. Anaerobic glycolysis provides energy via the breakdown of glucose without the need for oxygen. It produces energy for short, high-intensity bursts of activity lasting no more than several minutes until ‘onset blood lactate accumulation’ or OBLA. OBLA refers to the point at which lactate begins to accumulate in the blood, usually measured at 4 mmol/litre of blood. Lactic acid build-up increases until the lactate threshold is reached, at this stage muscle pain, burning and fatigue make ...

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