Concurrent Training: Aerobic and Strength

The active stereotype for the weightlifting community is that cardio is the devil that must be avoided at all costs to ensure the best gains, and to an extent, they would be correct. However, just like any training plan, if the variables of the training are manipulated appropriately then you can see benefits on both sides of the spectrum. 

We have discussed the energy systems with some detail in previous posts. If you haven’t had the chance to review them, now we be a good time to scroll down and take a look. We have three primary energy systems (phosphagen, anaerobic glycolysis, aerobic glycolysis) and all three of those systems play into each other and we use all three systems everyday. In my opinion, to neglect one system in totality is a poor decision and it can lead to a plateau in training effects or even detraining. If you have a goal in mind that you are training for, then your training focus should aim to accomplish that goal. A first baseman does not have to be able to run 1600m as fast as possible, but they do require the ability to play 162 games in roughly 170 days. 

Aerobic training is not just running miles on end and puking from exhaustion. It serves a greater purpose than bettering the ability to run long distance, it is a pillar in the ability to recover. When planned appropriately, cardiovascular training can facilitate strength and power advancements for the strength and power athletes. If that is the case, what does appropriate planning look like? It depends! If you are participating in a power dominant event (baseball, long jump, 100m sprint) training in the aerobic zone should be accomplished at different points in your annual plan. The further away from the  competitive season, the more aerobic based training you can include. Also, including aerobic conditioning in the middle of a competitive season can be appropriate in order to facilitate active recovery between events. These particular athletes require low level aerobic conditioning (50-70% BPM of HRmax) that does not interfere with strength improvements. Not only does this modality not interfere with strength training, but the athlete was able to simultaneously improve cardiovascular and strength abilities. The time between these two sessions was a key variable, and the overall consensus was a minimum of 6 hours between training bouts of strength and aerobic conditioning. 

Keeping the goal of training in mind, a stimulus that promotes a person’s recovery ability is something that cannot be ignored. The metabolic adaptation that occurs with aerobic training is an adaptation that lasts much longer than the adaptations of power and speed training, so once a foundation is established, it does not take much to maintain this adaptation. The improved cardiovascular ability facilitates blood flow to working musculature, the more blood that is pumped through your skeletal muscles, the greater the ability to resynthesis necessary energy substrates needed for explosive movements, improvements in fat utilization as an energy source so that carbohydrate utilization can be reserved for highly intense work, and increased clearance of biochemical stressors associated with strength training. I can write a book on the benefits of aerobic training, but to see advancements in your training goal, variables such as: frequency, duration, intensity, and modality must be planned carefully. 

Looking at this topic from the other side of the training spectrum, the long distance athletes that also strength train. Essentially, the training considerations of the strength/power athlete flip. The endurance athlete can benefit from strength training as long as it is planned appropriately. These athletes often see immediate improvements in performance because they are often not exposed to strength training. These improvements are due to the body's improved ability to absorb and redistribute force when running, and prevent injuries. Strength training the endurance athletes is not something I have spent a lot of time doing, but avoiding hypertrophy to keep the necessary body composition for the sport, and not spending too much time in the weight room to prevent unwarranted soreness, are two general rules I would use when training these athletes. 

I touched on the idea of plateauing and detraining in the introduction. This is because the body requires a different stimulus every at certain points to allow for recovery. Even the elite powerlifters do not lift heavy weight (90% 1RM <) all year round. Their body would never be allowed to recover and would never have to adapt to a new stimulus. I will discuss this topic in greater detail in the future. 

In conclusion, aerobic conditioning can do wonders for athletes and non-athletes alike. Rather than avoiding aerobic conditioning, it should be planned for accordingly in order to enhance your body's ability to accomplish the goals you have set for yourself. Recovery is just as important as training, and the better your body is at recovering, the greater the demand you can place on your training. 

-Thank you for your time! If you have any questions please let us know!

Coach Nate Garcia 


Instagram: tp_strength

Instability Training... Why?

There seems to be an increased popularity in the utilization of unstables surfaces in the weight-room to improve balance, strength,  core strength, and sports performance. Why add another variable to a skilled movement? What does training on an unstable surface enhance, and/or hinder? To what capacity should you incorporate this modality in your own training regimen?

In the rehab setting, when an individual is returning from injury, it is very common for the usage of unstable surfaces to strengthen all muscles associated with the area being rehabbed. Without going too far out of my scope of practice, the unstable surface promotes co-contraction of agonist and antagonist muscle groups to stabilize the joint and prevent future injury. 

Once someone is cleared from the rehab setting, the capacity to which someone would use instability training methods vary quite a bit. As I have discussed in previous posts, it all depends on what the goal of your program is! Let's look at two people: 1- a sprinter who has 5+ years training experience, 2- an average person not training for competition with < 5 years training experience. 

The sprinter has one goal in mind, and that is to get from point A to point B faster than everyone else. Peaking for these events require detailed programming in order to get the best out of the athlete at the time of the event. A sprinter needs to the ability to put a high amount of force in the ground in a very short amount of time. To aid in force absorption and redistribution, sprinters have the ability to disinhibit the natural inhibitors of muscle contraction. This is part of the reason why they look so fluid running down the track! This has a lot to do with co-contraction of muscles, sprinters want agonist muscle groups to shorten rapidly while the antagonist muscle groups relax. This increases the range of motion of the movement, allowing more time for force generation, and shortens the amortization phase of the stretch shortening cycle. I say all that because unstable surfaces promote co-contraction, thus fighting the results we are looking for! They also limit force production in one direction, meaning as you put force in to the unstable surface like sand, or a bosu ball, the force is distributed across the platform rather than back into the movement. Training to improve balance focusing on the usage of unstable surfaces for the sprint athlete would not be recommended. 

As an average person looking to improve overall fitness, I see no problem with using instability training as long as it’s performed safely with a purpose. Exercise should be fun for people, and if someone is inclined to use a bosu ball to do push-ups because they like the challenge… why not? Sure, they might be emphasizing efficient strength development, but there isn’t strength competition to prepare for either. Instability training provides a unique challenge, and easy way to track improvement with added variables to the exercise. As long as someone has a general strength foundation, and demonstrates that they can do the movement safely, I say go for it. BUT, you should know what instability training promotes if you are utilizing it in your program. If the goal of your program is to increase maximal power output, and one of your programs pillar’s is the utilization of unstable surfaces… I will shake my head in disappointment. 

People use unstable surfaces to promote balance ability, core development (abs, obliques, erectors, etc), a warm up to “activate” muscle groups before the session, rehabilitation from injury, and sometimes just to show off! These are all true statements, but are there better ways to accomplish these goals? For example, nothing has been shown to better develop core strength than performing standing, total body movement with an external load (LIKE A BACK SQUAT), and that includes the 30 minute crunch class. There is a time and a place for unstable surfaces, and IMO that is in the rehab setting, a warm up, a new challenge for someone not training for a competition, and to only be attempted safely by someone with training experience. 

Thank you for your time! If you have any questions, please reach out to us!

Instagram: tp_strength (Coach Nate)

Phone: 914-486-7678