Cardio Is Making You Weak!

Over the years of coaching I get so many questions that require more details about the athlete before we can answer. Cardio or how to stay “fit” while powerlifting is a big one. The main detail we need to start with and you always need to keep in mind is; “what are my goals?” This followed by athlete experience and training age. Once we understand what your goals are we can address how and when we can prescribe your cardio programming.

For the majority of us strength or building muscle is near the top of our priorities of why we train. Now given that I do typically recommend a nice warm-up which would involve some type of cardio-bike, walk, elliptical as I believe majority of strength athletes spend too much time trying to use a useless foam roller instead of truly warming up through movement. As far as cardio itself, it is used for 2-main reasons in my eyes.

1) To help train our cardio-vascular system. Keeping healthy blood flow, training our heart and lungs.
2) To burn more calories in order to get leaner, lose weight or be able to eat more while maintaining weight.

Both of these go hand in hand for many of us. When programming cardio, a majority of the time, I like to put it in directly after our workouts or later that day after a lower body training. This allows us to do steady state cardio while still prioritizing our mental and physical energy towards our heavy lifting. I personally am a fan of low intensity cardio for most applications as I think it is a good balance on the body to get moving without causing as much local fatigue which may have a negative effects on our training.

The one time I would put my cardio first in my day or programming is if you are a seasoned athlete or if you are an endurance athlete. If this is the case then often times strength training becomes an accessory to your goal. You may of heard many coaches stressing “the law of specificity” when it comes to choosing exercise variations for powerlifters. This “law” also applies and expands to all of our goals. If you are a runner or a soccer player conditioning should likely be higher on the list than your deadlift max.

Long story short, adding in moderate amounts of cardio will often get strength athletes in better shape and sometimes help recovery and make them feel better in the long run. Making it a consistent “cool down” or part of their training day has tons of added benefits. Doing a small amount before training would also be fine but I would leave HIIT cardio more designated depending on athletic goals as it may be detrimental to our performance in the gym.

Like many of your questions our answer is “it depends”. Majority of the answer lies in your overall goal and training history. Its hard to make a blanket statement about any training/nutrition question; thats why we just created this new survey that will lead you to the best program for your individual needs. Check it out HERE!