Conditioning for the Strength Athlete

Article written by Matt Mills I think it’s safe to say that most of us following LBEB absolutely hate “cardio.” Personally I don’t even like the “C” word, considering anything we do that raises our heart beat, and lungs is cardio. We can all agree a high rep set of squats is far more taxing then a brisk jog on the treadmill. I’m not covering traditional forms of cardio that we are all accustomed too, and seriously never do the Elliptical in the first place.

The conditioning I’m going to outline here is to be done on your off days, or for the non crossfitters it can be done as a finisher at the end of your training. My current training program is geared toward powerlifting at the moment so it breaks down to this: Day 1 is Bench day (I know typical Monday), Day 2 is squats, Day 3 is Overhead with more bench accessory work, and Day 4 is Deadlifts. After each compound lift I perform accessory work based on my weak points, in more of a bodybuilding/hypertrophy rep range (an article for another time). If you are like me, I would love to train hard every single day if I could recover from it. Unfortunately we are human, and need adequate rest to train hard another day. This is where conditioning will come in, to not only give you your training fix, but it will also promote recovery but pumping more blood into the muscles. I perform conditioning only 2 days a week because I believe we all need one complete day of rest, or at least to get out of the gym for a day to do your “cardio”

For the strength athlete there are a lot of benefits to improving your aerobic capacity. Powerlifters generally shy away from conditioning as they feel it will take away from their static strength, which can be true depending on the intensity. However, at the right pace, conditioning has many benefits for powerlifting. For those of you who have never competed in powerlfting, a contest can run as long as 10 hours. With a higher work capacity you will be able to perform more quality reps, without being as exhausted by the deadlift. I have seen many great deadlifters completely gassed by the time they get to their final lift, which can be up to 8 hours after your first attempt on the squat. For strongman, there is a greater demand on your aerobic system as you will most likely be sprinting, and carrying heavy objects to load. Again save the balls to the wall conditioning for the medleys when you train for events, and off day conditioning at a much lower intensity. I have done plenty of strongman contests that have started at 10am, and do not finish until after 9pm. It can be an extremely long day, and you have to be conditioned to keep you energy levels up for that long to give it your all on the final event. The conditioning you are going to do is very simple. You will choose a conditioning exercise, and pair it with a body weight exercise. I will outline a list to choose from, but feel free to get creative with your own favorites. Just remember this is supposed to promote recovery, and get the blood flowing. You are not to go balls to the wall, leaving yourself in a pool of sweat lying on the floor. Your heart rate should be slightly elevated, and you should be breathing heavily, but not gasping for air. I generally will perform 12 to 20 rounds depending on what the rest of my training, and goals look like. When I have to lose weight for a contest I will be doing 20 rounds to promote fat loss. At the moment I am 12, as I am trying to gain weight with as little fat gain as possible. For the moving exercises I will go for 100 feet, or 30-45 seconds. The bodyweight exercises will be for only 10-12 reps. One round will consist of a conditioning exercise, and a bodyweight exercise.

Conditioning (30-45 seconds) Sled Pushes Sled Drags (reverse, forward, belt) Farmers Walk (I prefer suitcase famers, or one arm carries) Airydyne Bike Jump rope Battle Ropes Sledge Hammer Overhead Yoke carry (I don’t like to do normal yoke here, as it loads the spine too much for an off day) Kettlebell Swings Med ball throw variation (side, overhead) Bodyweight Push ups Pull ups Inverted Rows Ab wheel Trx Fallouts GHR sit ups Dips Hip extensions Box Jumps (step down, do not jump off) Again these exercises are just suggestions, and some of the examples that I am following. Your options are limitless here, but again DO NOT GO TO EXHAUSTION! Typically I will start the circuit feeling pretty beat up, and tight from the past training. As I keep moving I feel far better, and by the end my energy levels are through the roof. For example following a heavy bench, and squat day, my conditioning went as follows: Round 1 Prowler Push high to low handles (100 feet) followed by ring push ups 10 reps Round 2 Belt Sled Drag 100 feet followed by Inverted Rows 10 reps Round 3 Jump Rope 30 seconds followed by fall outs 12 reps I repeated this circuit nonstop until I reached 12 rounds which took me 25 minutes. Start slow if you are new to doing any conditioning, and I guarantee that within a few weeks you will have more energy, better recovery, and a higher work capacity.

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