The dreaded cardio! The one guaranteed method to make your muscles fall off. Nearly as fast as not having a protein shake no later than 12.5 minutes after training. There seems to be a common consensus that if you are not repeatedly lifting heavy objects you will have noodle arms and spaghetti legs.
I used to be one of those people above (no, not the noodle arms), I used to fear cardio thinking that I would lose all of my gainz from my efforts in the gym. I have since found a new passion for endurance training and now understand how including it within my training can help. There is no point having big muscles if you can’t run the length of your own shadow. Being fit is so much more than looking good on the beach and you should get the most out of your body by being strong, fit and fucking awesome!
Can you be fast and strong at the same time?
Training for endurance and strength at the same time is called concurrent training. If we look at this meta-analysis (a group of studies looking at the same topic), we can gather some useful information.
The first point to mention is that with concurrent training all measures of fitness increased. Muscle size, strength and power all increased when training with both weights and endurance type training. So, if you were wondering if you can get bigger, stronger and more powerful with concurrent training, then the answer is abso-fucking-lutely!
The only caveat to that point is that by carrying out concurrent training, they didn’t get as strong or as big as the group that carried out just strength training. But you could argue that the group that carried out just strength training missed out on all the benefits of endurance training.
Before you go and slap loads of running, cycling or swimming into your program, there are a few considerations you need to make. I have broken them down into handy sections below.
What is your goal?
Before we decide if you need to increase your cardiovascular training, we need to determine your reason for training. Why do you go to the gym? Why do you run or cycle? If you goal is to be the next Mr Olympia and pose in your pants on stage, then training for an ultra-marathon probably isn’t for you. If your goal is improve fitness, look leaner and build some strength for a sport, then a combination of lifting weights and cardio is going to be applicable. Your training needs to be specific to your goals.
Decide what you want to achieve and then reverse engineer your training plan from that. Don’t let your training plan dictate your goal but your goal should dictate your training plan. There is nothing wrong with having multiple goals. If you want to be as fast and as strong as possible, that’s fine. Just be aware that you are not likely to be as fast as you possibly can be or as strong as you possibly can, but a compromise between the two.
This relates back to the first point. You need to consider your original goal and your training program and diet should align with this target.
If you are trying to increase muscle and strength, you will need to be in a calorie surplus (eating more calories than you burn). Therefore if you are carrying out lots of cardio, you will be burning more calories. These will need to be catered for in your diet and added back in to ensure you are eating in a calorie surplus and supporting recovery.
If you are trying to lose body fat, adding in cardio is a great tool to burn calories. When losing body fat the main goal is to retain as much muscle as possible to prevent you looking like a sock filled with custard. Your training plan needs to contain as much weights as possible, whilst factoring in some cardio to increase fat loss (if needed).
If you are trying to just be fitter healthier and happier and have no immediate goal in mind, then I would 100% include cardio into your program. Being fit, strong along side muscle definition has to be the ultimate goal for most. Include a balanced mix of strength training, long cardio sessions, shorter more intense sessions and ensure it fits in your schedule.
Another consideration to make when making changes to your training is recovery. How is one form of training effecting the other type? If you have a sprints session planned, I would probably recommend not putting it straight before a heavy legs day. Try to keep your intense sessions (cardio and weights) separated by as much time as possible to ensure you are maximising your recovery time. If you are feeling sluggish, still aching lots and have lost your get up and go, it may be a sign you are training a bit too much for your current ability.
Ensure your workout plan is following a structured approach which incorporates regular planned rest periods. Instead of trying to lift more and more weight every week, alongside running further and further each week, follow a plan that pushes hard at times, but then eases off at others. Work hard, just recover harder.
To apply concurrent training to your weekly workout schedule you need to be aware of the topics covered above. Does the type of training, the intensity and frequency of training align with your current goals? Does your diet align with this goal and support the type of training you are carrying out? Are you able to recovery and adapt to both types of training? If you can sensibly apply these principles to your training program, you will be in a very good position to be meeting your goals.
Even after looking at all of the research, you are the master of your own body. Nobody knows how certain types of training is going to affect your body, we can only take an educated guess. Try things out, experiment with your training, see how this has an impact on your body, mindset and results. Do what you enjoy and keep striving to make improvements. Our bodies are capable of so much more than we give it credit for.
If you need help implementing a training plan that contains both strength and endurance training, get in touch today and let’s discuss it together. Also ensure you are following me on Facebook and Instagram so you don’t miss out on all the latest fitness stuff!
The brains, brawn and beauty of Dackattack (basically it’s just me). A personal trainer with a private gym in Norwich, dedicated to giving out simple, actionable advice that will give you outstanding results.