I was recently emailing back and forth with a friend discussing his conditioning needs and workouts.
Due to a huge amount of stress in his life from various issues along with recent illness, he found himself at a point where he hadn't been training as much and was feeling out of shape and deconditioned. I addressed some of those other stresses and issues in his life and then began to discuss his training and current levels of fitness.
He showed me a plan of how he was going to improve his conditioning over the next several weeks with walking, burpees, interval training and strongman conditioning. After giving him some suggestions on how to progress, I noticed that he never mentioned his resistance (weight) training program during this time. After further inquiry, I realized that he had decided not to focus on resistance training until after he increased his conditioning.
I felt that this was a huge mistake, and I encouraged him to focus on his strength before his conditioning, as it makes no sense in trying to become more fit without becoming stronger first. He would only be a more fit version of his "weaker" self which in the end would not result in much improvement with his conditioning.
Not only that, but resistance training is a form of conditioning. Resistance training not only strengths the muscles, tendons and ligaments, but it also strengthens the heart and cardiovascular system. Resistance training with short rest periods or performed using supersets, tri-sets, circuits, complexes and hybrids can also be used specifically for conditioning purposes while strengthening the body.
Alwyn Cosgrove wrote a wonderful article about conditioning for mixed martial artists (MMA) where he said this:
Before we get into the actual exercise prescription, I should point out that I still believe that maximal strength levels should be achieved prior to endurance or energy system development. My theory is this: when we are talking about endurance – we are talking about power endurance or speed endurance or strength endurance. If we haven’t built up appreciable levels of power, speed or strength, then what the hell are we trying to endure? A low level of power? A low level of speed?
Conditioning coach Mike Boyle once pointed out that “It is significantly easier to get an explosive athlete ‘in shape’, than it is to make an ‘in shape’ athlete explosive. The first will take weeks the second may take years.”
This was exactly the point I was trying to make in my conversation, and it reinforces my belief that strength is the most important quality to build with your training. I also mentioned this in a previous blog.
Unfortunately, many people who begin training to lose fat or to "get in shape" tend to start from the opposite direction. They may start with steady-state aerobic exercise (walking, jogging, biking, etc.) and then work toward interval training and resistance training. When this approached is followed, it usually results in little to no progress and frustration. However, if someone were to begin with resistance training they would make more progress in strength and overall conditioning. This is also mentioned in Alwyn Cosgrove's article and blog about the Hierarchy of Fat Loss.
Whether your goal is to lose fat, gain muscle, increase strength, or become more fit or healthy, always begin with resistance training to accomplish your goals. Get stronger first, and everything else will fall into place. But don't forget that the number one step you should take is: NUTRITION. Everything starts with a proper nutritional program. Be sure to read my previous blog posts for tips on how to improve your nutritional plan.
Get on a good resistance training program such as Turbulence Training by Craig Ballantyne, Muscle Gaining Secrets by Jason Ferruggia, No-Nonsense Muscle Building by Vince DelMonte or Real Man Fitness by Zach Even-Esh.