Unconventional Cardio for Lifters
Cardio. Hate it or love it, it’s a vital piece to keeping base conditioning in check and can really
aid in taking strength to that next level. Face it, most lifters couldn’t care less about checking a
half marathon off their bucket list and don’t get amped about the prospect of riding a trans-
continental bike ride, but simply putting in a consistent 20-30 minutes a few times a week can
improve on some weaknesses without losing your gains. Read on for a few unconventional
cardio methods for lifters.
Better Conditioning = More Strength
Intensity is gauged by the amount of central nervous system fatigue and/or overall soft tissue
damage accumulated during a workout. The higher the intensity, the longer the recovery
required. Shocking to some, cardio workouts can also be considered “intense”, so lifters don’t
want to push it. The whole argument of this article is that better conditioning can aid in
recovery and increase strength, when done at the right intensity.
Conditioning, or “Cardio” training, for most lifters should be lower in intensity, which makes
many roll their eyes and shrug it off as lame. While most people turn to HIIT workouts as the
more interesting solution to conditioning, they’re not effective if strength is the goal. Yet,
walking or cycling can get old fast (even with a good podcast), so below are some interesting,
yet effective conditioning methods that push on weak points and aid in recovery from those
harder lifting days. First, there are two main benefits of conditioning for strength.
Weak point training
Common weak points for lifters are posterior chain, core, quads strength, upper back strength,
grip strength, and overall work capacity (toughness). Pick one or two points to emphasize for a
month, build up the time or frequency of that work and then move to another set the following
month. It really can be that simple to produce some nice results.
For progress, recovery is the name of the game. The faster and more effective a lifter is able to
recover, the more frequent and intense the training can be. This is where low intensity cardio
comes in. Using the same intent mentality as weak point training, target movements that work
around muscles you engaged that day (or the day before), giving the body some much needed
blood flow to the area for quicker recovery. The additional movement also helps in removing
metabolites and waste products, building a stronger work capacity to handle more overall work
and can even improve body composition!
Key points to consider:
For weak point training, try to put these movements towards the beginning of the session, linking a couple exercises together for 10-15 minutes each. This keeps the boredom factor low and focus high.
Recovery work can be done right after the workout, but needs to be shorter in length; no more than 10-15 minutes. Try doing this recovery day the following day for best results.
Keep the HR in the 60-85% of max range. This is not HIIT cardio. This is not adding any intensity that will take away from the recovery or program goals.
Less is probably more. 20-40 minutes Is plenty on an off-day, especially if the HR is in range. If muscle mass is the goal, shoot to perform these movements on separate days from lifting.
For loaded work (sandbag walks, ruck walks, sleds, med ball marches) keep the weight light. About 20-30% for recovery work, and 25-40% for weak point training.
There you have it. Getting some extra cardio work in doesn’t have to be boring; plus, it can feed
into your strength program very well if done correctly. Let’s get to work.