Ben Breathless

In the willPower Method® our approach is SMARTER NOT HARDER. What we want to see before intensity is clean movement and precision. willPower & grace® is typically taught as a steady-state cardiovascular endurance workout.

The best system of cardiovascular training probably isn’t the all-or-nothing approach. Rather, it’s typically a blend of both higher and lower-intensity cardiovascular training.

So, consider this: changing your format to a cardio-interval workout is an interesting way to keep your workout fresh, and a smart way to challenge your advanced students. How often do you encourage anaerobic training in your format?

Aerobic vs. Anaerobic

Aerobic exercise occurs in the presence of oxygen, and anaerobic is without.

During aerobic exercise, (with adequate hydration and fuel) muscles can continue working without complete fatigue. Steady-state aerobic workouts are. Perform your activity at a steady, challenging-but-manageable pace (60% to 70% of maximal capacity) for 20 minutes or more. This is attainable for most students. It’s a great place to be while teaching detailed precision and choreography.

Anaerobic exercise is short duration and super-high intensity, lasting anywhere from a few seconds to as much as two minutes (each person has a different tolerance). The anaerobic effect happens when you exert yourself at about 85% of your max heart rate or higher (again – this number is subjective). During anaerobic exercise our muscle cells rely on systems that don’t require oxygen, and these systems produce waste molecules that hinder muscle contractions – resulting in fatigue. It’s only short burst of energy before you max out, and then your body’s aerobic system kicks back in. Shifting back into aerobic allows the removal (or conversion) of the waste molecules.

Jen anaerobicWhen you experience anaerobic muscular fatigue, it hurts! Seriously, it’s not enjoyable – for MOST people.  Your lungs are on fire – your muscles burn. You lose your breath completely and it feels as though you have no air in your lungs… you could not scream “WHOO!” if you tried! (So when you hear an indoor cycling class screaming WHOOOOO – you know those people are still in anaerobic / endurance mode. They could be nearing their threshold, at 75% or 80% – which is very uncomfortable – but if they can still shout, they are still using oxygen.)

Since you’re a fitness pro, you might already know about aerobic vs. anaerobic – but very often our students don’t. It’s up to you to explain it! Use descriptive words to help student understand how anaerobic should feel.

  • Your lungs might feel like their on fire!
  • You are completely out of breath – and cannot talk!
  • Your muscles are burning, trembling and ready to give out!

(Do YOU have some great anaerobic descriptions? Please comment on this post below, and share them with our team!)

There are a slew of anaerobic residual effects: burning more calories during the workout AND at rest, developing strength, a more efficient use of time with regard to the points above, potentially a more lean and defined body, and an increased VO2 Max (your oxygen consumption level; the more your body can utilize, the more efficient your body becomes).

Getting Breathless in willPower

Aerobic training can be incorporated into both our cardio exercise as well as our muscular conditioning. In both cases, you engage in strength work – because you are working towards your maximum. (In cardiovascular exercise – it’s strength training for your heart and lungs).



Examples of cardiovascular anaerobic OPPORTUNITIES in willPower & grace®:

  • Level 3: Double Squat
  • Level 3: Squat Thrust Progression
  • Level 3: Plie with Heels (the JUMP part)

Examples of muscular anaerobic OPPORTUITIES in willPower & grace®:

  • Pushups
  • Plank
  • Plie with Heels (the part where you are LOW, and alternating heel lifts until your legs shake and tremble and you can barely hold it any more)

We also offer 2-3 opportunities to get anaerobic in the willPower IGNITE® format.

THIS IS IMPORTANT: Because the exercises are structured with levels, like wP&g, our Level 1 clients still have a safe place to work until they develop the coordination and endurance necessary to progress.

Please remember, and explain to your clients, HARDER is not always SMARTER. As our students begin to fatigue, they lose clean technique – and there is always risk of injury.

As you might imagine, anaerobic exercise is typically more stressful to your muscles, joints, and your heart. This is why we reserve anaerobic bursts for our Level 3 students. Populations with heart disease, high blood pressure, injuries, our prenatal clients, and even people just returning to an exercise routine should remain Level One; maintaining steady aerobic; endurance based training.

However, to more rapidly improve your exercise capacities, increase your tolerance and performance, some anaerobic exercise training is a necessity.  Therefore, performing anaerobic exercise is typically more important for competitive athletes and our advanced students.

What you need to know

Whats the difference between teaching L3 endurance (aerobic) and L3 strength (anaerobic)?

It’s mostly in the way you coach. Drive them to JUMP HIGHER… bring the music up, increase the volume and urgency in your voice. Ask for MORE reps that usual.

An interesting coaching technique that will make your class feel unusually challenging: have them RACE the music (go faster than the music… “L3 students: “Jump as high and as fast as you can for the next 20 seconds! YOUR ON THE CLOCK… GOOOO!”)

Jen brethlessHow do you know if a student hits anaerobic?

You won’t really know for sure – but there are signs. A veerrrry red face. A scowl during the exercise, a “checked out” look after the exercise. The inability to verbally answer a question (or say WHOO!)

If you push your L3 students to anaerobic, they will need recovery.

Keep them moving and don’t let them stop (no static holds here) – but allow them to pull back their intensity and complexity a bit.

Example: After Squat Thrust Progression, begin Squat with Rotation as a series of at least 8 squats – before adding rotation. Lower your voice a bit.. lower the music.  Encourage everyone to exxxxhalllleeee…. (Twisting, dropping the head, getting dizzy are not encouraged after losing your breath.)

If you push your L3 students to anaerobic, keep their heads above their hearts.

Example: After Plie with Heels (JUMPING), if you move directly into Cougar Lunge, a great cue is “Look in the mirror – keep your eyes on you”. If your student drops her head, she may get lightheaded.

swtich it up. level 3 STUDENTS don’t need to go anaerobic all the time. 

willPower & grace® is JUST as effective as a steady state aerobic class.  If you start coaching ANAEROBIC bouts, and your students are comfortable with this language, then offer some classes that are steady state as well. We don’t need to be known for the breathless class.  Keeping your Level 3 students at steady state aerobic (70-80%) will still be a GREAT workout for them – if you are encouraging them to find precision and alignment in their movement.

Training advanced level students is not about party tricks.  Give them a strong foundation, and “real deal” training – and you’ve got them for a lifetime.

Now, go rock it, honey.

willPower Education Team

willPower Education Team

willPower Teacher Trainers and Development Coaches guided by program creator, Stacey Lei Krauss. This Team develops tools to enhance your professional skills and fuel your motivation.

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