As I wrote in Strength, Life, Legacy -- strength is king, but conditioning is the queen. And every good king needs a good queen.
The strongest guys in the world, professional strongmen (not powerlifters) have to place an emphasis on conditioning in order to compete at a high level in their sport. Yet somehow they manage to be stronger in virtually every way than other strength athletes. Namely powerlifters, who place such a low value on doing hard conditioning work. This should be an indicator that you can be in shape, and be strong. Getting fat and out of shape is not a requirement to move big weights.
When I first started writing on this blog, one of the things I tried to drive home was the need to have a certain level of conditioning, and maintain a base of conditioning, no different than a base of strength. If your strength is only good for waddling up into a squat rack or monolift, and doing a single rep, then it's not good for a whole lot. How much application can it have when you breathe heavy on a short brisk walk?
The answer is pretty easy. Not much.
Let me put you in a situation where you are oxygen deprived, and we'll find out how strong you really are.
For those that scoff at that, imagine yourself in a parking lot with two skinny guys that go to car jack you, or simply want to take your money. After you throw a couple of your fat armed heavy punches, you're done. "Well all I have to do is connect one time." I love it. I'll rely on chance rather than preparation to improve my odds.
Ever see the big fat guy in a fight that is tired, who trips and falls because of fatigue? Yeah, that'll be you.
But hey, that scenario is unlikely. So how about a game of flag football? Or walking around the zoo with your kids? Don't think I've haven't known of guys that couldn't walk around the zoo very long without having to stop to catch their breath. That's pretty sad isn't it? I think so.
What good is all of muscle and strength in the world, if you can't do anything with it besides perform a single rep of a movement?"
"I'm a powerlifter, I squat, bench, and deadlift with it."
So you don't do shit with it. Thanks for clarifying. You use it to do some singles in a fringe sport that 19 people follow. Awesome.
A few years ago at the Arnold, I was told about this world record bencher who couldn't get around without an oxygen tank. What good was that giant bench press when ol' boy couldn't breathe without assistance??? It wasn't worth shit. If someone had attacked his woman they could have banged her right in front of him, and he would have been totally incapable of defending her. So again, what good was all of that "strength" that was bottled up by an oxygen depleted body? Not a damn thing.
Fat guys don't condition for the same reason douche bags don't do legs.
It's hard. They suck at it. It beats the shit out of their ego.
"I get weak when I do cardio."
I know you do. Because you're out of shape, fatty. Did you know that after you get into shape, your strength returns?
"I only care about strength and powerlifting."
Fat doesn't have a functional application in strength sports. It doesn't contract, it doesn't do anything except take up space. It just sits on you. Pudz won the Worlds Strongest Man 5 times ripped to shreds. Captain Kirk went over 2K raw at 242 with sub 10% bodyfat.
Lots of guys can, and do stay in shape, while getting stronger.
"Yeah but those guys are on the sauce."
So was everyone else. And they lost. Case closed.
Being in condition allows you to do more work, recover faster, keep bodyfat down, allows for better nutrient uptake, keeps blood pressure lower, your heart and lungs in shape, and more shit than I can list here.
In other words, getting your ass in shape allows you to train harder, more often, and all that does is make you better, faster. Last time I checked this whole physical culture thing was supposed to be about getting better.
I had someone tell me one time "be the strongest small person you can be." She didn't mean to be "small" she meant, don't get fucking fat to lift a couple of pounds more. It doesn't make a lot of sense.
You should be setting aside so many days a week for conditioning. Period. If you are a lifer, and you're training has a big picture view, then conditioning is a huge part of that big picture view. It doesn't matter what that conditioning is; hill sprints, sprints, sled work, tired hammering, truck or car pushing, bag work, whatever. Just make time for it, and take it seriously.
Plus, I don't care what anyone says, being jacked looks awesome. Especially if you have go with your show. Part of having the "go", is making sure you actually can.........without a Wal-Mart scooter.
Fuck yeah, you're preaching to the choir here. I'm definitely not a "strong man" or power lifter, but I'm in shape. I actually prefer my conditioning workouts to my strength workouts. My workout yesterday:ReplyDelete
10 dumbbell swings w/ each arm
10 plyo pushups
10 knee tucks
Repeat as many times as possible in 20 minutes.
do you have any standards for being in shape? similar to you and wendler's "what constitutes strong?"ReplyDelete
Yup. IN the conditioning chapter of the book.Delete
Me and fellow student here in india used to run 5/3/1 without the conditioning work, because we felt it was too hard to get the materials. Out here its hard enough to find a gym with any decent amount of equipment, our plates are made out of shit crumbling rubber, our bars bow like plastic past 100 kgs, etc.ReplyDelete
Out of all the gyms in my town, i've found 1 that had a squat rack. We can't afford membership there so me and my buddy rack our squats on a dips station at a local gym here... anyways.
Anyways bitching aside, we used to always stumble and get stuck in the program... a month ago we were out of ideas and my friend said fuck it lets get a tire and some rope... we went to a yard and bought the the biggest tire they had... it was fucking tiny compared the gym tires we see in defranco and ironsport videos... the size of a big rig truck tire...but we bought a rope, cut a hole in the tire and started dragging it every morning... it was way too light on its own so we stuffed it with plates and dumbells...
This has been the single greatest thing we have done with our training. We don't worry about diet, we just drag as much as we can every morning. We're getting bigger, stronger, faster, less fat, and we're starting to suck less in general...
Everything is coming together. And we have guys with buckets of integrity like you, wendler, and that angry fellow jamie to thank for it. My life used to suck, its awesome now. I'm turning chicken shit into chicken salad. Thank you guys. Never stop writing. Young guys like me need it.
when i was in prison, a lot of guys would just do bar(pullups) dips and pushups all as a triset usually 20 reps a piece. my first workout partner was a huge sonofabitch. he would lifts hard and heavy all winter long in the pit, but then when spring came he would just do bar-dips-pushups all summer long , paired with handball everyday. dude was cut the fuck up too. I'm sitting at 236lbs right now big and lean as ive ever been, and strongest to. 30 minutes cardio usually on the elliptical 5-6x week.ReplyDelete
Right on. Just like Wendler said, when he squatted 1000 lbs, he was good for nothing but waddling up to the monolift and squatting. There are pictures of Arnold swimming and cycling, can you imagine Jeff Lewis doing that?ReplyDelete
I had a question or general topic I was wondering if you could cover on Chaos and Bang, which I had thought of before I even saw this post. What do you think the effects of cardio is on your strength? You hear a lot of shit about how it's detrimental and you'll lose strength, but then you're saying it'll improve recovery by allowing better. You're obviously referring to sprints and shorter forms of conditioning, but what about endurance events such as 5k runs? Would eating more defeat the "gains killing" effects of these sorts of events?
Some general discussion on this would be appreciated. Cheers.
I took up Australian football for my conditioning. I find conditioning boring as FUCK so a team sport was perfect for me. 2x a week I'll do sprints, jogging, handball and kicking drills with a game on Saturday. It's been working greatReplyDelete
I just do cardio on a stationary bike twice a week at 60% of my Maximal Heartrate for 30min and I already feel much better and recover faster between sets. It is awesome.ReplyDelete
Pudz looks like a super hero. I mean sauce or no sauce he's BIG AND Lean.ReplyDelete
All the other benefits aside I wouldn't mind looking like (a smaller version of)that.
Slightly off-topic, but pretty great:ReplyDelete
Very cool. I think Hannah can end up being a very top deadlifter for women if she stays at it.Delete
I seriously need to get some tires and a sledge so I can get some conditioning work in while giving my legs a break. Sprints with sore hamstrings this morning was a major drag. Did them anyway though.ReplyDelete
I do sprint intervals 2x a week, and steady state for 30 minutes an additional 2x per week. It's a pain to do all that when you've just finished a hard workout, but I think it's important so I make time for it, and in all honesty I feel 1000 times better when I do it than when I cut it out.ReplyDelete
I've been training for a Tough Mudder, and I have seen the light when it comes to hill repeats. Killer workout, and fat is just falling away.ReplyDelete
Hi Paul. I've been following your lrb template for a few months now and am the strongest and leanest I've been in a long time. Thanks for all the hardwork you put into this blog.ReplyDelete
I'm getting married in 6 weeks and wondered if you could give me some advice on tweaking my workout for more "show" for these few weeks. I was thinking of running one of the two day lifting programs from the book with more emphasis on conditioning. I'm currently at about 12% bodyfat, any thoughts?
Up the conditioning.ReplyDelete
Go to twice a week lifting.
Get the diet in check better. Cut out all sugars and fats. Yes fats. I will write about this more later, but I think people have now swung too hard towards "getting good fat in" by adding shit.
So no butter, oils, etc. This will cut calories tremendously and you will shed bodyfat even faster.
This is what I do and I'm down quite a bit from my last meet, from 242 to 225 on the scale this morning(though I must admit had a bad week last week with the 4th and a big cookout on Sunday, I was 223 heading into last week). Some may not totally dig John Sheaffer or the Strength Villian site, but I basically got the idea from there, sticking with old-school bodybuilding principles. Lean protein, good carb sources, minute amounts of fat (essentially just fish oil). Recently I traded a little bit of protein for a little bit of fat because the amount of protein was causing some gastro issues, but it's not a big deal.Delete
Some people seem to take well to low-carb dieting. They never have energy issues or anything. They train hard and get ripped eating meat and veggies and oils. And then they scream from the mountain top that it's the only way to shed bodyfat. But I really think most people lose too much energy and get too sluggish and it ends up causing a relapse in bad habits because they get so discouraged when their low carb stint fails.
Protein to preserve the muscle mass. Just enough carbs to fuel the workouts and recovery. Minimal fats to keep calories down. Walk a lot and do conditioning. It's working so far.
This Paul, appreciate itDelete
Will there be a podcast this week?ReplyDelete
Not sure yet. Jamie had to work late last night, is out tonight, and has a meet this weekend. We'll see.....Delete
I love your blog, its very helpfull so thanks for that.
Why do you recommend lifting twice a week, if someone's goal is fat loss?
- Sep -
Because you're not going to be getting any stronger during a calorie deficit. unless you're upping the sauce. Even then it won't last long. And lifting has nothing to do with fat loss.Delete
Recovery is such a valuable thing that it's often under emphasized, even by those who think they are emphasizing it.
If you are trying to shed bodyfat, conditioning and diet should be the two main factors. You're just trying to maintain a much strength as possible through that phase. The more you lift, the more reserves you tap into, and the faster your energy will fall, and the shittier you will feel.
Great article and I agree! A month and a half ago, I purchased a set of farmer walk handles! Every Monday and Friday evening, I load only 130 on each handle and walk with them for .3 of a mile! Yeah I could use more weight and go a shorter distance but I like the idea of less weight and going the distance for time! A month and a half later, my conditioning has improved, my forearms have gotten bigger, getting leaner and my upper back and traps have gotten thicker! Best investment I have made in terms of lifting! I just walk till I have to drop them and shoot for a certain time to complete the course.ReplyDelete
I've been busting out a drivers window with a headbutt each week in anticipation of Lattimer. Needless to say, paying that deductible every time is getting costly.ReplyDelete
When's he coming??
STARTING DEFENSE, PLACE AT THE TABLE!!
I never heard back from Andy after our initial conversations. I will hit him up against this week.Delete
Great article and timely for me. I'm 3 weeks away from finishing up Wendler's 5/3/1 BBB 3 month challenge and not sure what to do next. At what point would you tell a chubby guy like me who isn't very strong, to stop trying to gain muscle and start shedding fat as a priority? If someone was around 20% BF? Or would it be more of a strength thing first? For example, once I could dead lift 400lbs, then start shedding some fat...ReplyDelete
not to be a dick (great pun, since this question is to you), but the whole lifer series is about having the big picture.
you should always be conditioning, eating only quality food, trying to get stronger, and just massaging each of those around according to goals.
if you are 20+% bodyfat what it is that you think you should be doing right now?
This was very good for me. My conditioning has fallen off as of late.ReplyDelete
I agree about the fats. A good diet puts you in a caloric deficit which requires limiting BOTH carbs and fats to the appropriate low level. People just don't want to admit that dieting inevitably involves some suffering to achieve a greater end.ReplyDelete
"lifting has nothing to do with fat loss". Is this a serious comment?ReplyDelete
Of course it is.Delete
You shouldn't be lifting to "lose fat". You lift weights to get stronger and build muscle mass. You do conditioning to get in shape. And you change your diet based on either fat loss, or mass gain.
The biggest factor in fat loss is diet. Use the right tools for the right job.
Great strongman comparison.ReplyDelete
Been very very slowly starting up conditioning again as of late. The biggest difference I've noticed when going for a run is how much mental fortitude I lack in pushing myself to keep going. That is, when I compare myself to the days where I primarily ran and had never touched a barbell.
Thanks for the reply. You're not being a dick, I'm Dick. I know I should focus on leaning up and getting my body fat down, but I'm not very strong yet either...or not strong enough. At 5'9", 210lbs, my lifts are Squat 1RM 275, Deadlift 1RM 330, Bench 1RM 230, Press 1RM 135. If I try to reduce calories my lifts suffer, but if I eat more for growth I gain weight really fast. My guess: I take the initial strength hit from some mild calorie restriction, clean up my diet and condition more. THat sound reasonable?ReplyDelete
Let me first say that I'm sitting at 5'11" and 268 with about 15-17% body fat... I seem to remember reading somewhere... "If you aren’t lean, don’t go into a mass building phase. I don’t know how much clearer I can be about that." and "So do some conditioning, push away from the table for 5-6 weeks and get leaner for a while." Once again, the answers are in the books.
These words completely changed the view I have toward working out. I'm trying (as much as humanly possible) to push away from the table and up my serious conditioning... I can't stand treadmills and I like more intense stuff.
I would even go so far as to substitute "strength building phase" above. My thought is to get lean and then see what you're working with so that any strength and mass gains can be readily seen/ appreciated. This is real hard advice for me to follow because my love is banging plates together not doing sprints or some other God-forsaken exercise...
Speaking of which... I need to get to dragging that damn sled around...
Just understand when you go into this undertaking, your strength will wane. Possibly for a while. It WILL return. IT WILL. But you have to be willing to eat shit for a while and leave your ego at the door while you are in a calorie deficit and/or doing hard conditioning.Delete
Thanks for your answer Paul.ReplyDelete
How much lbs fat/weight loss is safe per month?
That's really a big variable. The fatter you are, the more pounds that will come off early. As you get leaner and leaner it slows down. so early it could be 3,4,5 pounds the first week or two, then go to a pound or 2 a week, and then stagnate for a while.Delete
One of the things I've been doing, which I think has helped both my conditioning levels and hypertrophy, is to limit rest periods between sets. Like you, I like to do 5/4/3/2/1 + back-off sets, and I like to keep my rest periods between sets capped at ~60 seconds (maybe going a little longer right before hitting a new squat or deadlift 1RM). I used to wait ~5 minutes between sets, and I always felt like a clown sitting around that long. Initially, I had to use a lot less weight when switching to shorter rest periods, but my body eventually adapted, and now I'm moving respectable weights again while feeling a lot more athletic.ReplyDelete
This whole conversation has kicked off a bitter struggle in my mine... I desperately want to get rid of some extra fat and don't want to get any weaker. Knowing that this is not going to happen and thinking about a post that I saw here a couple of weeks ago (Dude's buddy is going to prison and wants to get jacked before he does so he's not a bitch)... I started thinking. Not necessarily a good thing but here goes.ReplyDelete
I got a book from a dude named Paul Wade called "Convict Conditioning" Basically it's a workout based entirely on body weight exercises. Makes sense to me.
Knowing that I can do a grand total of 2 good pull ups really pisses me off. So here's my thought.
I'm gonna retire from the gym for about 3 months or so. During that time, I'm gonna dedicate my entire existence to getting leaner AND "stronger". Sure my 315 pound bench will probably suffer and I might not be squatting 365 for sets of 15... But DAMMIT, I'm gonna be stronger in more functional aspects. By my way of thinking, that can only help my performance in the gym when I come back jacked at about 235 or so.
Do it. I always love a good journey like that. You learn a lot of things.Delete
Paul, what are your thoughts on advanced body weight exercises? Lately my only aerobic conditioning has come from walking every day (to work, school, the gym, etc.), but I've been dedicating anywhere from 4-6 hours per week on stuff such as handstands, one arm pushups, static holds, ab wheel, one arm fingertip pushups, levers, etc. Basic gymnastic techniques. My goal is to be able to do handstand pushups by the end of the year. Do you think this type of training constitutes "conditioning"?ReplyDelete
I like it. I know when I was doing military style training I "felt" spectacular. At some point I can see myself narrowing down things more and more and maybe even doing months where I do stuff like that.Delete
Thank you so much for this post. I'm a runner turned runner/powerlifter/crossfiter. I take my conditioning very seriously. I'm amazed that my legs can still run a sub 5:00 mile and can also squat 2x bodyweight for reps.ReplyDelete
YESSIR! Agreed 100%!ReplyDelete