| | Lactate and Training – Part 2: Alactic Threshold

Author / Christopher McQuilkin

Lactic-acid-training-sprinting-power-athleteIn the first part of the Lactic Acid and Training series, Power Athlete shed some light on the theories behind the effects and purpose of lactic acid in the body.  The scientific search for answers continues, but the strength and conditioning world cannot afford to wait for a clear answer!  Our athlete's are on the clock, and their season will start no matter if a new theory comes out disproving another we all once thought to be true.

This series will continue to take a close look at lactic acid and its implications for building Power Athletes.  We will introduce essential training components, the proper application to each and why other components fail to drive optimal adaptation when training in and around the glycolytic pathway.

Lactic acid accumulation during practice and games is inevitable.  Athletes need to be prepared to perform at maximal velocity in this acidic environment.  Many old school strength and sport coaches take the approach of more volume is better for teaching your body to 'deal with it!'  Speed training then takes the back seat. Although the athletes may handle lactic acid better during games, they play slow...and their defense gets a conditioning test every game.  This article will examine intensity, speed training and how our knowledge of lactic acid can be applied to building a highly effective program.

11800013745_29091820b5_bAlactic Threshold Training

Objective and Effects:  The objective is for the athlete to train maximal speed or power in optimal conditions, for a distance, time or repetition/s that do not put the athlete into a lactic state.  Full recovery is essential for each repetition performed.  The alactic threshold occurs when an athlete’s maximal speed begins to drop mechanically and biologically, roughly after 7 seconds of maximal effort depending on the athlete.  This threshold is initially marked by the release of tryptophan in attempts to slow the athlete down.  Simultaneously, a pH change occurs in the body with lactic acid release, although the athlete will not be able to feel this until roughly 45 seconds of intense work, when oxygen is released in the blood stream.  The chemical reactions and pH change made at the onset of the alactic phase will affect the Central Nervous System by inhibiting the ability of the nerve to send an impulse across the muscle cell to keep firing on all cylinders.  This will slow the muscle down before it reaches its actual limits in which, crazy enough, death would result.  So when an athlete enters the lactic state, their muscles are entering self preservation.

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Christopher McQuilkin

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Former collegiate lacrosse defensive midfielder, 4-year letter winner and 3-year team captain. Coached strength and conditioning collegiately with Georgetown University football, Men's and Women's lacrosse and Women's Crew, as well with the University of Texas at Austin's football program. Apprenticed under Raphael Ruiz of 1-FortyFour-1 studying proper implementation of science based, performance driven training systems. Head coached CrossFit Dupont's program for two years in Washington D.C. Received a Master's in Health Promotion Management from Marymount University in 2010, and has been a coach for Power Athlete since October, 2012.


  1. Slager on March 11, 2014 at 6:15 pm

    Great stuff Tex.

    This got me thinking about blood pH during exercise. My biochem and physic professors have both said that blood pH decreases during exercise because CO2 + H2O –> HCO3- and this may even cause a bigger problem than lactic acid dissociation. High [CO2] also stimulates the respiratory rhythm generator to tell us to breathe and inhibits recovery. With that in mind, are there any specific breathing mechanics that you normally use with your athletes between sprints? My coaches would just yell at us if we bent over.

    • Tex McQuilkin on March 11, 2014 at 7:12 pm

      Thanks for the feedback. There are a ton of chemical reactions that occur during intense exercise, so it is tough to tell which exactly are more of a problem versus the other. A few of the studies I found fought for lactic acid as a hero, but many more continued to blame it for fatigue, damage, and muscle failure. I am no scientist, but I can take what these studies have found then compare and contrast with what effective strength coaches like Charlie Francis and Raphael Ruiz have found to help build an understanding.

      I can definitely see where your professors are coming from as CO2 is a byproduct nearly every step of the way of anaerobic and aerobic glycolysis that it can easily build up during intense exercise. During these demanding sessions, you will start breathing rapidly in attempts to bring more oxygen into the blood, but this will more likely send the body into panic mode. The last thing you want to do is enter a panic when you’re in an oxygen deficit. When this occurs you will need to slow that breathing down into calm, deep breathes to get as much oxygen with each breath as you can. If you have some materials to share with PANation, please don’t hesitate.

      Part 3 will go more into the style of lactic training and sprinting you are asking about. Until then, start collecting some questions to ask your professors about intramuscular muscle physiology and the expansion of abilities that come with Intensity training.

  2. Slager on March 12, 2014 at 6:06 am

    Thanks for the response Tex. I’ll keep an eye out for part 3.

  3. Taylor Smith on March 15, 2014 at 8:16 pm

    Awesome article Tex.

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