Aerobic Work For Powerlifters By Brandon Smitley

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While commonly seen as competing demands, most strength sports athletes tend to think last about their aerobic capacity training. I can understand this, as all we really want to do is lift some heavy ass weight a couple of times on the platform, chase PR’s, and go home. But when I was at my strongest, I was also in the best shape of my career in terms of aerobic capacity.

How was this accomplished? Quite simply actually. I merely took just some basic low intensity-based training (mainly walking), and my recovery and records did the rest of the talking for me.

I like to bring most powerlifters up into two separate groups, those over 70 beats per minute, and those under 70 beats per minute.

If you’re over 70 beats per minute, our focus needs to shift to being just in a little bit better shape. This doesn’t mean you can’t strength train, but your best numbers might temporarily see a bit of a hit so that we can increase recovery and worry about our overall health.

For this group of lifters, I like to see them aim to get in 3-5 days of walking for 10-15 minutes per session.

While it’s not much, it can help improve our general physical preparedness which will allow us to recover quicker from training, and at the end of the day train more if we so need it.

I also recommend that we use supersets on the majority of our accessory work to increase training density and build up that base even more while we’re training but to also optimize our time.

For those that are near the 60 beats per minute range, improved recovery is all we’re really after. I can see why some choose to avoid it, but if you can implement some simple intensity circuits or use a hi-low fashion a la Charlie Francis, I think you’ll find your long term gains will be quicker and advantageous to improving your total.

I like to have lifters superset their accessory work or trunk work with some pre-hab work at the end, use sprints or prowler work on heavy days, and lighter and higher rep work on the dynamic effort days to increase training volume and total workload while CNS output tends to be lower due to the decreased loads used for the training day.

I’ll also add that using sled work and standard conditioning circuits are also a huge benefit if possible once to twice a week during down days of training.

You can call this active recovery, but really it’s just good to get up and move if you’re more of a sedentary person (which is entirely okay if that’s what your day job calls for).

This can also be a time when you get out to do active things (hike, play with your kids, take the dogs for a walk, etc.) to stimulate a minor big of lower intensity-based work to aid blood flow for the coming session but also to drive nutrients to the affected systems after a hard day of training.

At the end of the day, just getting around and moving with purpose can help you not only feel better but improve your total.

Here is a list of strategies to optimize your conditioning even if your only goal is to get stronger. These are the exact strategies with employ with our Conjugate x Conditioning program.

Aerobic Work For Powerlifters Plan With A RHR >70 BPM

  • Walk 3-5 days a week for 10-15 minutes – implement nasal breathing during these walks
  • Accessory work done in ‘superset’ fashion to improve training density.
  • Add additional conditioning work in the form of sled work
  • Sledsprint work can be added to as ‘anaerobic work’ at the end of ME or DE session.

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