How to Enhance Your General Condition Together With Weight Training
Updated: Dec 4, 2019
Weight training is a must. It makes our bones stronger, increases insulin sensitivity, reduces pain and inflammation from arthritis, and slows down the ageing process of muscles.
But what if we want to be able to use the stairs without getting breathless by the second floor or run a 5K?
Implementing cardiovascular work into your training routine can be simple or as complicated as a Rubik's cube. It all starts with your needs.
I’m going to give you three different scenarios that I typically see. These are all based on real people with different needs, and they all use Weights and Cardio training, but in different ratios.
I’ll explain Possible Pitfalls of the particular training style and the Solution for that.
At the end of each type of lifters I’ll add a success story from a real life example.
The Newbie is new to the gym - or maybe he’s been going for a while, but not seeing results. He wants to tone up, lose some weight, have a better diet. To improve, the Newbie has to learn proper lifting technique to gain strength and muscle; he needs to do cardio two times a week; and he needs to implement yoga/corrective exercises to his routine to fix his imbalances.
If you’re a Newbie, here is a plan for you:
Follow a Full-Body weight training workout two times a week, focusing on compound movements with good form
Do 30 minutes, low to moderate intensity cardio (running, swimming, cycling) twice a week
Sign up to a yoga class once a week
Possible Pitfalls: The Newbie wants to jump into the gym life and change everything from day one. After a couple of days, the Newbie will be tempted to skip logging his food, maybe go out on the weekend and forget his plan. He’ll probably miss some training sessions during the third week, and start to stress or become disheartened because he’s not seeing results.
Solution: Diet is the most important part. If you can’t do your shopping and meal preparation due to time restrictions, just skip your gym session, or walk to the shop. Weightlifting will work on your cardiovascular condition but you cannot outwork a bad diet. Allow some room for error: don’t ban your favourite food. Introduce new things slowly into your life, and think long-term.
I met Pete two years ago. He wanted to lose his beer belly, gain some muscle and be able to run with his five year old boy without getting tired. He used to play rugby and he went for a run occasionally. He was really focused and he said he could train five times a week. I told him we’d do two weight training sessions a week, run outside on Saturday, and do yoga on Sunday. I set up his calories to support his new active lifestyle with no banned food - he just needed to stay in between the numbers. After losing a few kilos, we introduced an extra lifting session with some sprints at the end of the workout. Pete was training with me for eight months. Now, he is training on his own, enjoying deadlifting and signed up for his first 5K run. He never gets tired anymore when playing with his son.
The Runner never leaves the treadmill. She exits the changing room and without hesitation, passes the weights room and jumps on the running machine. She wants to run a marathon because her colleagues signed up as well and she doesn’t want to miss out. She never ran more than a 10K and her knee already hurts. She needs to build up her condition to be able to finish the 42KM race, implement weight training to strengthen her muscles and avoid injuries.
If you want to get ready for your first marathon here is what to do:
800m intervals, Tempo Running 2 times a week; 60-90 minutes run on the weekend
Heavy weights at the beginning of the week
Progress the distance and run 2.5-3 hours once a month to experience the muscle breakdown and race conditions.
Possible Pitfalls: The Runner likes to run. She runs multiple times a week, but she doesn’t understand or like weight training. The lack of knowledge and confidence will hold her back with strength work. Bad running technique will also take its toll on her joints. It could mean that she quits before the race.
Solution: To be able to stay longer in the game, you need to lift heavy weights to increase joint stability. Shorter bouts of interval training are important to focus on correcting/keeping good technique. Once your form starts straining, the session has to end or more recovery will be required. If this is your first marathon, make sure you have enough time to prepare for the race. This can be achievable in 3-6 months if proper training is applied.
Kathy came to me with a request to help with her first marathon. She signed up for the Cancer Research Charity Run which was held six months from when I met her. She liked to run 5-10K once or twice a week, but never did more than a half marathon. Her technique wasn’t the worst, but she lost her form after 10-15 minutes and started heel-striking which was causing her knee pain. We started to train her legs with weights using trap-bar deadlift and lunges. We also implemented interval training with 400m, 800m and 1600m blocks to help her keep good form for a longer period. She also did tempo running two times a week, staying in the orange zone (read my article about training zones here). After six months, Kathy finished her first marathon. She’s getting ready for her sixth one this year.
The Weightlifter breaths iron. He hates cardio so much, he’d rather wait for the next bus than run 20 metres for it. He trains with weights 4-5 times a week, lifting heavy and moderate with high intensity. He is very good with weights, but his conditioning is so bad that once he reaches 8+ repetitions, his form starts to break down, he’s breathing heavily, and this is holding back his ability to build more muscle.
If you’re a Weightlifter, this is how to improve your conditioning:
Include plyometrics, supersets, and drop-sets into your training routine
Perform 100M sprints at the end of your workouts
Do ab exercises between your sets
Possible Pitfalls: The Weightlifter doesn’t mind going all out when it comes to lifting, and he does the same with his new training techniques. However, he notices after the second sets of plyometric that his strength is plummeting. When he performs supersets, he can’t do as many repetitions as with straight sets, and he gets tired very quickly.
Solutions: Only use one conditioning tool at the time and take plenty of breaks when it comes to performance. Train in blocks, this way you have four weeks to build strength, and four weeks to build more endurance before you go back to strength training. As your condition gets better, you can start increasing your weights again to keep progressing. Improving your general condition will help you recover more quickly and gain new muscle.
Try my Superset Training Programme:
I knew Joe from the gym, and he came here almost every day. We’d chat about sports and training every now and then. Joe always asked me about my athletic workouts, lifting heavyweights mixing with jumping or pairing different upper-body exercises together. I told him that the key to building some extra muscle is to go close to failure, and that the number on the plate doesn’t really matter. He was very concerned about his numbers so I introduced him to block training and the daily undulating method. He signed up for a three-month training block with me and we started to work on his conditioning. The only thing I changed in his routine was a stopwatch. I was timing Joe on every single set. Once the break finished, he had to start moving the weights. He was sweating without doing any extra work.
I said, “this is cardio, too.”
He said, “It’s tough, but I like it”.
Later in the program, we started to cover 15 seconds Deadmill Runs for 4 sets: (video)
Joe now is cycling to the gym, he can run 10 minutes effortless and he can finish his workouts in 60 minutes instead of 90 minutes or two hours.
Cardio is relevant. Depending on your needs and abilities, it’s important to do it together with weight training, and it will increase your general fitness and longevity. Your heart is a muscle as well, don’t forget to train it.