ATP-CP Battery: Why Absolute Strength Isn’t Everything In The Sport of Fitness

What is the ATP-CP Battery (Adenosine Triphosphate or Creatine Phosphate Battery)?

The simplest way to answer this question is to think of your capacity to lift heavy weights as a battery. Every time you lift a weight close to you max you drain the battery, and then it recharges. When lifting a weight at say 90% of your max, you may drain your battery 50% or 85%. And it may take you 30 seconds or 3 minutes to recharge your battery, which is based on your individual physiology.

How Would you test your CP Battery?

Take this scenario… A. Power Clean; build to a 1RM -Rest 2 Minutes- + B. 8 Minute AMRAP: Power Cleans @90%(A.)

Athlete 1 Power Cleans 300 lbs. Then he gets 38 reps @270 lb in 8 minutes. Athlete 2 Power Cleans 300 lbs. Then he gets 17 reps @270 ln in 8 minutes.

– In this scenario athlete 1 has a good CP battery since he can perform a high volume close to his max with relatively short rest between reps.

- Athlete 2 on the other hand has a poor CP battery as he needs a significant amount of time to recharge his battery before hitting the weight again.

- Note: a score of 35+ is the goal/ indication of a good CP Battery.

Implications/ Real life Application:

After reading my aforementioned statements, a few things become quite apparent: 1. Absolute strength is important in the sport of fitness 2. Absolute strength is NOT the end all be all determining factor in performance. 3. A Competitor with a good CP Battery/adequate strength can in fact beat a stronger competitor with a poor CP battery. 4. This list can go on forever, but i’ll end it here…

So… How does this apply to a crossfit Metcon?

Lets take Regional workout #5 for example.

21-15-9 Dead Lift (315#) Box Jump (30’’)

First you must keep in mind that this isn’t an ATP-CP Battery test for all the regionals competitors. Those who blew through it looking stoic may have actually been hitting the aerobic power energy system (ie- an aerobic monster with a huge deadlift). However, for those who had to tackle this workout in more of a “grunt work” fashion, its safe to say they were using their phosphate battery. Which isn’t to say that they weren’t breathing hard, as thats not a determining factor due to the fact that aerobic metabolism will still aid in recharging your CP battery by generating ATP.

That being said, lets take two more hypothetical regionals athletes. Both have identical strength numbers, and are both operating in the ATP/CP system. The athlete who can “recharge” his battery the quickest is the one who will be able to get through the deadlifts faster and with shorter rest times. Using this type of situation it became very clear that a powerful battery can be the determining factor in going to Carson or not. It also sheds light as to how some Crossfit Games athletes are able to run at the front of the pack on “heavier” workout even though they arent nearly as strong as others (Spealler comes to mind as an example).

How to Train your CP Battery

When training the CP battery, the best approach to take is “Alactic/Aerobic Training” (ie- EMOMS) or Pseudo-Metcons with bottlenecks.

Method 1: Alactic-Aerobic

This method is more commonly referred to as an EMOM or “On the Minute Work”. It is aerobic/alactic due to the fact that you have a short burst with a higher power output (A-lactic), but have enough rest to recharge your battery and sustain the output over a prolonged period of time (aerobic).

For Example:

Perform 3 Power Snatch @65% at the top of the minute for 10 minutes; rest the remainder of the minute. or

On the Minute for 16 Minutes 3 Power Clean @65% (even minutes) 5 Hand Stand Pushup (odd minutes)

As a general guideline:

- use low %’s of your max lifts (55-75%) - use movements with a low eccentric portion (Power variations of olympic lifts) - use advanced gymnastic movements (relative to the athlete).

Method 2: Bottlenecks

This method is often considered a “Heavy Metcon”. (Ie- a technical movement or heavy weight causes a bottleneck, forcing you to rest and recharge your battery before continuing).

For Example:

5 Rounds for Time: 5 Burpee 50 Double Unders 5 Front Squat @185 (assuming a max front squat of ~225; which is heavy for this athlete).


3 Rounds For Time: 200m Run 6 Muscle Ups (assuming max of ~3 UB muscle ups) 3/3 Turkish Getups

General Guideline:

- Use Advanced Gymnastics movements (relative to athlete) - Use heavy weights (relative to the athlete, and rep scheme) - Use High skill movements.

Other Considerations

Keep in mind that the ATP-CP Battery and Neuromuscular Efficiency are two different beasts. Without going into much detail on neuromuscular efficiency (since it can be its own blog post), it is more applicable to trying to hit 85% of your max on a slow (squat, bench, deadlift) for max reps. The physiology of it is too complex to explain in short here, so suffice it to say that the former is more or less regulated by energy systems while the latter is regulated neurologically.

Also take into account that a good CP Battery also appears to have a direct relationship to a well developed aerobic system.

* post any questions or comments in the comments section below.


email me at -

#remotecoachingforcrossfit #remotecoaching #coach #strength #fat #jerk #snatch #weightlifting #cardiff #fitness #diet #wales #healthly #personaltraining #personaltrainer #clean #conditioning #olympicweightlifting #PT #crossfit