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Let's Talk About Context . . .

  • Powerlifters shouldn't do cardio.
  • Long distance runners should avoid heavy lifting.
  • All explosive athletes should be doing plyometrics, snatches, and cleans.
  • To get fit in all areas of fitness, you should train by doing everything.

Most of us know that the above statements are bombastic nonsense.  However, depending on where you are in the training cycle they can be partly true (which is why a lot of people believe them).  But, for the most part, as general statements about these activities as a whole, they are overwhelmingly false.

I encourage my powerlifters to do cardio.  It increases their work capacity during training sessions and helps recovery, not to mention general health.  How much and how often?  Well, its generally not a lot unless they have a concurrent endurance training goal (which we know will mean they will need a lot more time and managed expectations).  Go for a short jog, a walk, or a bike ride a few times a week, don't sit all day, and don't eat like you're on an unending bulking cycle.  When we peak, yeah, we are going to dial everything back a bit.  This is not the time to add anything new, diet needs to be dialed in, and sleep should be a priority.

Long distance runners?  Yes, strength helps immensely.  Being strong means they have improved postural strength which means they can run efficiently for longer distances and times.  They have more power to push up hills and hit the speed when its advantageous.  Lifting heavy also combats osteoporosis (a common problem in high volume endurance athletes) and preserves joint integrity, which helps prevent injury.  However, when its time to peak for a race, resistance training needs to become more of a maintenance activity while running specific strength and speed develops.

I train a lot of explosive athletes, but they all need a foundation of strength and conditioning if they are going to be able to train effectively for the long term.  If your football player gets tired after his first hour of practice, he needs to run more.  If your thrower has great technique, but can't seem to break past her current plateaus, she probably needs to build a bigger squat, ie stronger hips and back.  Power specific exercises can help these athletes, especially those who have more general needs, but those for whom power is a specific expression (weightlifters/throwers/sprinters), a lot of their power work needs to be sport specific.

What if you need to be good at everything?  Before you spend too much time chasing all the rabbits, start with basic strength and endurance.  If you can't run 3 miles without stopping, squat or deadlift your bodyweight for reps, or do a few pullups or pushups without help, you've got some work to do.  Work on those before you declare your training at a standstill and decide to throw ALL the tools into the mix.

In conclusion, training in all formats can be helpful, but it depends on a lot of factors.  Timing, goals, foundation, training age, and experience will dictate which tools are more useful than others.  And getting stronger almost always helps.  As does hiring a good coach who knows what tools you need to be successful.

To practice what I preach, I am looking forward to learning a lot this year when I try something I've actually never tried before.  And I've already hired my coach.  Stay tuned!

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