A great deal of the programming I do for my clients, and for myself personally, has a bias towards strength. The primary reasons are as follows: 1) Strength is a general adaptation and its development improves a number of physical attributes and skill sets (Power, Coordination, Balance, etc.). So if you want to get better at life, getting stronger is the best place to start. 2) As humans age we lose bone and muscle mass which leads to numerous chronic conditions later in life. The stronger we are, the less these musculoskeletal issues affect us, and the greater our quality of life.
I am a big believer that a base level of metabolic conditioning (cardiovascular endurance) is necessary for optimal strength training, but if a strength-biased program is undertaken, the incorporation of conditioning must be done carefully, particularly if one is new to training. During training we must always manage the stress we impose and how we recover from that stress. Therefore, if our conditioning imposes too much stress on our body, we may not be able to recover in time for our next strength training session. And that means no gains.
Conditioning can be dialed in at manageable stress levels fairly easily if we stick to monostructural activities like rowing, biking, and sled pulls/pushes. However, this type of training can get monotonous, particularly for individuals who have done more varied types of conditioning in the past. Consequently, I have decided to launch a programming series named “Metcon Strong” which will highlight conditioning pieces I find or create that can be done with minimal to no negative consequences on one’s strength training.
These pieces of programming can be found on my Science for Fitness Instagram account (@scienceforfitness) and will be posted several times a week during periods when I am running my class-based strength cycles. They can be viewed in bulk by searching for the Instagram hashtag #metconstrong. Feel free to try them out if you want to add some conditioning to your program, but before you do, please keep the following in mind:
- It should go without saying that if you are not eating and sleeping enough to conduct your strength training program with optimum results, adding conditioning is going to be an even rougher haul. If you have these kinds of issues, it’s probably better to omit conditioning. Similarly, if you are brand new to strength training and/or embarking on a linear progression, especially with little to no familiarity with the lifts, conditioning will likely be too much of a stressor to combine with your strength training.
- Ideally, your Metcon Strong conditioning should be done on your strength training days after your strength training. This leaves your rest days as rest. Remember, you don’t get strong by lifting weights, you get strong by recovering from lifting weights.
- The Metcon Strong programming pieces will invariably be very light for weighted movements. Remember, the idea is that you are doing serious strength work at least 3 times a week, so adding heavy weights to your conditioning would be counterproductive.
- For the most part this programming series will have no running. I feel the risk is a little bit too high. A bad step and you could twist something, setting your strength training back quite a bit. Further, the eccentric component to running is substantial and this can make recovery hard to manage.
- For EMOMs, I recommend doing a test round to see if you’re being left with enough rest to complete the full EMOM. If not (remember fatigue will creep in as the rounds progress), scale the number of reps and/or rounds down to something you can manage.
- Some programming may not be appropriate for certain days of your training or may not be appropriate at all. For example, completing a conditioning piece with Wall Balls two days before your heavy squat (Intensity) day likely won’t allow you enough time to recover. Further, you may find that certain movements you can’t really recover from at all. Make the changes you need as you discover more about how your body responds.
- Be extra careful with conditioning that uses your shoulders or triceps. These muscles are smaller than your leg and back muscles and tend to be more sensitive to overtraining.
Finally, remember that I do not know what strength programming you are doing, nor what level of conditioning you have. So, you may need to adjust the Metcon Strong programming in other ways. This is fine. The best programming is always that which is tailored to the individual, so make modifications as needed.
If you have any questions, feel free to drop me a line.