Do you get tired just walking to the monolift? Consider anything more than 5 reps cardio? Do you shudder at the mention of prowlers or burpees? Yeah, that used to be me too. When I first started strength training I had the main goal of losing weight. My trainer programmed cardio into my sessions, usually in the form of rower or treadmill sprints at the end of each session. Did I ever do it? Nah, ain’t nobody got time for cardio and the beginner gains were strong. I didn’t want to ruin that.
I’d done boot camps before that sort of pushed you into that high intensity zone but at the risk of being shunned, it was actually CrossFit that really opened my eyes to the world of conditioning. We’d show up, normally lift some heavy stuff then smash out a workout that’s primary goal was to ruin you. I was definitely humbled. I thought I was fit until the first time I tried that. My new goal was to get strong AF and also be able to do more than 10 burpees without becoming so delirious I could see God.
Being a powerlifter you may be wondering what relevance does this have to me? Conditioning is not only important for general health but it’s also important for specific sport performance too. To be strong, you need to be able to do a lot of work. To do a lot of work you require a high level of conditioning. There are huge benefits to having an increased work capacity, not to mention staying closer to your weight class, having less body fat, and joints that are in better condition.
Though powerlifting itself is purely an ATP/CP sport (meaning the system that provides energy for maximal intensity, short duration exercise), improved aerobic capacity can lead towards greater overall work capacity and training volume as well as faster recovery between sets, providing you can manage the potential effects of depletion with proper strategies for nutrition and rest.
I’m not saying that you need to go and do hours of boring cardio. Quite the opposite in fact. By simply adding in some basic conditioning to the end of your workouts you could greatly increase your body’s ability to perform come “game day.” Think anything from 5 to 20 minutes of high intensity work that’s going to increase your heart rate and push the body past its lactate threshold and into the aerobic zone. Or to simplify it even further, you could just lift weights faster.
So next time you finish your strength program for the day, pick 2 or 3 exercises, mash them together in a circuit/ EMOM / AMRAP / tabata or whatever you can think of. Do this consistently and if you don’t see an improvement in your overall performance then I’ll eat my hat.