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3 conditioning training mistakes when doing serious strength training


Gone are the days when all you did was either strength training or cardio training! Now with MMA fighters taking the meaning of being fit and strong to a whole new level, everyone wants to be equally strong and conditioned at the same time. The dream of trainees these days is to be able to squat atleast double bodyweight while also being able to do conditioning circuits that would make others puke! And while you can be strong and really conditioned at the sametime, it is also true, that its not likely to happen for everyone.

Ok, so now that I may have broken your dream, let me explain. One common characteristic of any great athlete, is that they can make what they do, look ridiculously easy. However what you cannot make out when you see them perform, is how hard they trained earlier to get so good and efficient. You cannot see how many hours, yes hours and not minutes that they spend each day to get that good. For eg a week back or so I was reading an interview of kettlebell great Valery Fedorenko, where he talks about how he used to train for 7 hours each day during his competitive days. Of course, it involved more than just training with kb's, but the point is that it took many hours of training each day to be that good, and thus explains why recreational kettlebellers around the world who train for about 30-45 minutes, 3-4 times a week should not expect to match a professional's levels of greatness.


Of course this is not something for recreational trainees to be ashamed of, after all training is not their whole life, but only a part of it. And due to such limitations, the recreational trainee needs to be more intelligent about their training approach. Training to improve strength, conditioning, body composition all at the same time will not deliver the best results for each goal, so its important to know what you need to focus on most at a particular time. Thus, if you are fat then first focus on getting rid of the fat, and if you are weak then first focus on getting strong. Doing too much conditioning training when you are trying to get strong will leave you too tired and eat up precious recovery time to let you get strong. And the weaker you are the less "extra" conditioning training you should do, which in some cases may even mean doing no extra conditioning training at all, till you add atleast some basic levels of strength.

What some people dont understand is that getting stronger itself improves conditioning levels to some extent in individuals. As you get stronger you require much lesser effort to do tasks that earlier took a great deal of your strength, and thus made you tire faster. And for the regular guy who's daily life only requires conditioning levels to be able move around, and lift some light grocery items, bags and such, conditioning levels of an elite MMA fighter are not really required to get the job done. Basic strength training will do the job in most such cases. And those who think that lifting heavy weights has absolutely zero effect on the cardio system, try to remember and tell me when was the last time that you a did a 5 rep max set of squat or deadlift, and also maintained a heart rate below 75 beats per minute?

Do you really need their conditioning levels?

However, somehow it is not something that is easy to get through to some people, and especially those who are already doing some conditioning training. The response will be something like "What! Are you sure that I should not do a few hundred burpees? Are you sure that I will not get fat if I stop doing them?" And you know the strange thing, this type of question is often asked by those who are the skinniest, and who do not put on an ounce of fat even when they binge a lot. Look, a good strength training program with a good, clean diet will make sure that you do not get fat (unless you are fat to begin with). After all, real strength training builds muscle, which burns much more calories in a day compared to what 30 minutes of an intense circuit would burn. On the other hand with all the extra conditioning work, if you fail to grow stronger, then you will not get anywhere, and remain a weak and frustrated person.

That being said, its not a sin to do some amount of conditioning training in the week, as long as you dont let it ruin your strength days., infact, done correctly it can actually help you recover a bit faster. So unless you are really weak and cannot even deadlift your own bodyweight, you can do some amount of conditioning training in the week, however be sure to avoid the following mistakes and get strong:


1) Too much soreness and intensity- while the thought of puking and pushing to your upper limits when you do your conditioning training may seem to be ideal, in reality that will only hurt your your next strength training session, as you would not have recovered in time for it. For eg doing 500 bodyweight squats or long distance running the day before you do lower body strength training, will leave your legs too sore to be able to lift heavy weights. The same goes for high repetition kettlebell exercises too, so ditch the plan to do 500 swings in between your strength sessions to avoid too much soreness in your posterior chain muscles before your strength sessions.

Preferably choose activities that cause minimum soreness like sprinting, rope jumping. Of course if you have never done them before then initially they will cause some soreness, but after sometime these activities will cause much lesser soreness compared to other activities. You can also do some complexes, circuits to get the job done. However be sure to keep the overall work between 5-15 minutes for best results. Doing circuits for an hours is just taking it too far.


2) Going at a very low intensity- this may sound a bit confusing after reading the first mistake, but what I mean to say is that while too much intensity is bad for recovery, going too easy is also not going to help improve your conditioning levels. For eg if you choose slow activities like walking as your conditioning method, then it will not really help improve your conditioning any more than strength training would do for you.Yes, these light activities can be restorative, but they are not going to improve your conditioning levels any more than strength work would do. You need activities that get you breathing hard and are fairly challenging for you to do, without of course, overdoing it.


3) Doing conditioning work more than 3 times a week- remember, your primary goal is to get strong and conditioning training should not harm your strength work. So even if you keep the intensity and volume under control, you still need to keep the frequency in check. For most skinny and weak trainees, 1-2 sessions a week would be ideal, and 3 should be the max. Anymore than that and it is likely to interfere with your strength workouts, after all you do need to get in atleast 3-4 strength workouts a week too.


As I said, done correctly conditioning workouts have some benefits, so an odd session or two a week could be a good idea. After all, the thought of being able to bench 300 pounds while unable to walk 1 mile is not acceptable any longer, for anyone. Even top powerlifters in the world add some GPP to their training, so why should'nt you too.


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