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OBLA Training

Hadyn Luke posted this on Tuesday 22nd of January 2013 Hadyn Luke 22/01/2013

Tags: Training methods


In our blog this week, we are looking at OBLA training, how it works and what the benefits are.

OBLA stands for Onset of Blood Lactate Accumulation. Personal trainers and gym instructors have been using OBLA training with their clients for many years, although nowadays the phrase Maximal Aerobic Speed (MAS) is also often used.

OBLA training is running at the fastest speed possible while still recruiting energy from the aerobic rather than the anaerobic system. If a client is training for OBLA, they will be running at the fastest speed they can at which their lactic acid production is just lower than their body’s rate of lactic acid removal. It’s a very small margin, as once they go beyond this level, the high lactic acid levels will make it impossible for their muscles to continue exercising.

How to measure OBLA

OBLA would normally occur when a personal trainer is working a client at around 17/18+ on the 6-20 Borg scale. At this point, the fitness instructor will notice that the client has heavy, laboured breathing. It can also be measured through heart rate: a client working at OBLA will be working at around 85% of their maximal heart rate.

It’s possible to measure respiratory exchange ratios or analyse lactic acid rates with a pin-prick blood test – anyone with a blood lactic acid rate of four millimoles would be at OBLA – but these methods require laboratory equipment and so are not normally available as options in a standard gym.

The benefits of OBLA training

OBLA training allows a client to work at the highest intensity they can, which in turn permits them to:

  1. remove lactic acid and improve this aspect of their fitness;
  2. develop their aerobic system to the highest point and maintain a fast speed over time.

Who is suited to OBLA training?

For a personal trainer to recommend this training, a client has to be very motivated and to have carried out previous base training – it’s not for novices.

How long should a client carry out OBLA training?

This training system should only be performed for 25-30 minutes, depending on how fit the client is. As they fatigue, their ability to remove the lactic acid from their system will be diminished and they’ll stop recruiting as much energy from their aerobic pathways. At this point their lactic acid levels will become too high and the internal environment of the muscle will become too acidic, which is when they will need to stop and recover before continuing with their exercise routine.

What sort of equipment is suitable for OBLA training?

OBLA training can be carried out on a bike, a cross trainer, a rower or any similar piece of equipment found in a gym environment. A personal trainer may recommend different equipment and training schedules, depending on the client’s goals.

How often should OBLA training be carried out?

It shouldn’t be carried out at every training session as the client will soon fatigue. Instead, it can be used alongside interval training and long-slow duration training for optimal results.

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