Conditioning: The Backbone of Strength Training
In today’s increasingly fast-paced and competitive world, strength athletes tend to allow conditioning to fall by the wayside in lieu of sole focus on weight training and recovery efforts. Many even have the idea that conditioning actually harms strength and recovery, thinking that it will cause them to lose bodyweight.
However, conditioning is the backbone of strength training and it rewards those conditioned with the ability to workout longer, lift more weight and recover faster. Of course, you don’t want to push condition training to the point of falling over, but proper conditioning can add a significant advantage to the performance of powerlifters.
The main problem with those involved in powerlifting workouts is that they mostly require exercises with low reps which aren’t sufficient for conditioning. You build strength through such powerlifting exercises, but suffer in areas such as cardio and endurance.
Therefore, to increase these areas and, thus, increase your overall performance, consider adding one or more of the following conditioning exercises into to your strength training program.
Fast Paced Walks
Taking fast paced walks is a good way to condition without dropping much bodyweight. It is also very easy on your joints. The idea of walking for conditioning includes moving at a fast enough pace that you increase your heart rate over an extended period of time. Therefore, talking a leisure stroll through the park is not sufficient.
You can do your walking either outside or on a treadmill. Just make sure that you are challenging yourself by either briskly walking along uneven terrain outside or by using difficulty adjustments on a treadmill. If you’re not used to conditioning, start with a 30 minute walk 2-3 times a week and increase the time, distance and frequency as you progress.
Riding a bicycle is another good form of condition training which provides good cardiovascular results without much joint stress. Again, the idea is to push yourself hard enough to raise your heart rate for a prolonged period of time (at least 20 minutes).
Also, like walking, cycling can be achieved either indoors or outdoors. By physically riding a bicycle outdoors, you can also enjoy the scenery which helps reduce stress and makes your workout less grueling and tedious. Of course, you may also choose to ride a stationary bicycle indoors but, as with walking, you should vary the speed and difficulty levels in order to best benefit from your condition training.
Pulling a weighted sled or other weighted object is not only a good conditioning method, but it is also one of the more popular types of training in the powerlifting arena. This is because weight pulling significantly builds leg strength as well as increases endurance, both of which give you an edge in competition.
You can purchase, borrow or build a sled for sled pulls, or you can simply tie a rope around an appropriate weighted object for weight pulling. Head to an open field and pull the weight around for 10-15 minutes. You can do this either on your off days of training or you can combine it with other condition training exercises. Just be sure to monitor your gym performance so that it doesn’t suffer from too much condition training. If you see a drop in gym performance, lighten up on the conditioning.
When you’re ready to take conditioning to the next level, hill sprints will provide a greater cardiovascular workout as well as build strength and endurance. The main strength gain is in your legs which is a key element for powerlifting. Therefore, by doing uphill sprints, you will be able to handle more weight when strength training at the gym.
To perform this conditioning exercise, simply locate a hill near where you live or work and run up it. Keep the distances short (around 10-15 yards) and run as fast as you can. Walk back down during your rest period and repeat until your leg muscles are burning. Do not run down hill as it can overstress your knee and ankle joints, causing weakness or injury. Uphill sprints are a good training exercise for when you’re ready to move to more advanced conditioning exercises.