Are You Strong Enough? Cardio Will Make You Stronger.
You want to get stronger. You’re willing to put in the time lifting, but you’re not sure if you are making the most of your time. You need to do cardio too. It will make you stronger.
If you’re looking for complete and balanced fitness, combining strength training with endurance (cardio) work is the obvious place to start. But what if you only really care about
lifting weights and getting as strong as possible? You only have so much time. After warm-up and mobility work, all of the rest of your time needs to go to lifting, right? No, wrong. You need to focus on your aerobic base as well.
Bringing up your aerobic base and improving your cardiovascular-respiratory endurance will make your lifting sessions better. You’ll get through a 90 minute session in 60 minutes. So, if you’re lifting 4 times per week, that saves you 2 hours. That’s plenty of time to throw in some 800 meter run repeats on one day and a 5K run on another. Prefer to row, swim, bike, or do CrossFit? Perfect. Any of those will do. If you combine a lifting sport with CrossFit, make sure the movements in your metcons line up with your lifting program. Doing a high rep deadlift and burpee workout the day before a heavy deadlift session is a bad idea. A good rule of thumb from Louie Simmons of Westside Barbell: don’t repeat a lift for 72 hours.
Sprint repeats have been shown to improve both speed and cardio. Running expert Brian MacKenzie is one of the original champions (if not THE original champion) of this approach. Christopher Solomon of Outside Online writes about his experience training with Brian in his article, Brian MacKenzie’s Controversial New Approach to
Marathon Training. I trained for a long race with Brian back in 2010. Surprising to me at the time, I continued to make gains in my deadlift although I was on a “running” program.
In CrossFit, we love to program sprint intervals with just about anything. Running is obvious, but what about kettlebell swings? Let’s do it. Air squats? Totally. Any effort with a set work/rest interval can become a sprint interval. hat means any monostructural (running, rowing, skiing, biking), bodyweight, or weight lifting movement — or — any combination of these will do. Any sustained effort has aerobic benefits as well. How about 35 minutes of nonstop Kettlebell swings? Sure, you might rhabdo yourself, but not without getting some cardio!
You can improve your aerobic base by running something longer and slower once every week. Long slow distances (LSD) are pretty uncool these days, but they have value. They will improve your cardio and your recovery. It’s not neces
sary to jack your heart rate up to the max every session. In fact, doing so will lead to chronic inflammation and possible adrenal fatigue. Going with the old school “220 – age” formula for determining your max heart rate, and then going 60% – 70% is good for these type of workouts.
Not only will improved endurance help you get through your training sessions faster, it will help you get through tough lifts to set new PRs on the platform. Your body will do a better job of using oxygen and delaying CO2 build up in the lungs. It’s not because you’ve blown through your ATP that you feel like passing out a quarter of the way to finishing a record-setting Back Squat. Train aerobically. It will make you a better lifter.
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