The Importance of Conditioning and Cardio as it Relates to Strength Sports

The Importance of Conditioning and Cardio as it Relates to Strength Sports

Say the words "conditioning" or "cardio" to a strength athlete and the most common reaction will be of disdain, apathy or simple indifference. Unfortunately this is the common theme among most strength athletes. The thinking being they will just simply add a little volume on a few days and this checks the box of conditioning. This couldn't be further from the truth. 

The first thing we need to do with conditioning and cardio (we will simply refer to it as conditioning for the remainder of this article) is change the way we look at it. The immediate definition that comes to mind is fat loss, muscle loss, boredom, etc. The truth is, conditioning will change your strength in ways most people never realize.

Besides the flawed programming styles of SBD days and trying to measure RPE (we will cover those in a later post), lets look at why we should incorporate conditioning into every single training day. 

1. Recovery - Active recovery through continuous movement is one of the fastest and most efficient ways to recover from a workout. The main job of the strength athlete should be to become a recovery expert. An athlete can train to the extreme but if they don't know how to recover properly, they will not see the fruits of their labor. Conditioning allows for increased blood flow, which means increased nutrient flow. The faster and more efficiently we can get the proper nutrients where they need to be, the faster an athlete will get stronger. 

2. Strength - That's right, strength. Conditioning makes you stronger. If you took a career rower, an athlete who has spent time on the water and on a rowing machine for a sport, and you taught them a deadlift, they would start off on the first day with one hell of a number. Why? Think of the mechanics of rowing! They know the intermuscular coordination of pushing with their feet and pulling with their upper body like it's second nature! They have powerful biceps, back and legs, not to mention oxygen management! (Ever pulled a heavy deadlift and you were out of breath? After ONE rep?)

Add sled pulls and pushes to your routine everyday and watch the explosive numbers that come out of your squat and deadlift. Nothing crazy, 10 - 15 minutes of sled work per day. You will break through numbers faster than you realize. 

3. Oxygen - As a strength athlete you NEED to be efficient at using and controlling oxygen. Moving heavy weight requires A TON of oxygen. The more muscles we use, the more oxygen we require. What is the best way to increase oxygen efficiency? You guessed it, conditioning. The best strongmen in history were fast, agile and "in-shape". The days of the fat strength athlete are fading fast. 

4. Heart - Last but not least cardio means cardiovascular exercise. Exercising your heart! Your heart controls nutrient flow via how much blood it efficiently circulates. What if we made this key essential to strength as perfect as possible? Recovery speeds up, injuries repair faster, and oh yea, you won't die as early. (Small benefit.)

Conditioning should be a staple in your programming. There are more advantages than what I have listed here but I don't want to lose your attention. If you are programming without conditioning you are leaving pounds on the platform. 

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