High Intensity or Low Intensity?
Short bursts of intense training or slow, continuous heart rate based training?
Over the past 5-10 years, the effectiveness of cardiovascular methods has been debated about and has been a hot topic in the training world. Steady state aerobic work has been getting beat up and has been deemed ineffective for burning fat, so everyone and their Mom decided that high intensity, short burst training is the way to go. After all, you can burn 9X the amount of fat using the Tabata method? Right?
It’s true, studies have shown that high intensity activities and short burst training have been effective at burning fat and increasing the overall demand of your workout. Years ago, after reading some articles and referring back to some research, I decided that the only conditioning method needed was this high intensity method. Why would anyone choose to do the traditional “steady state” aerobic work anymore? It takes more time to complete “steady state” aerobic work. It’s been proven to burn less fat. There have been pictures posted of skinny ass marathon runners next to Olympic sprinters saying, “What body do you want?”
Today, I’m here to argue that building an aerobic base is good for anyone. Sprinters, soccer players, powerlifters, football players, and any other athlete can benefit from “steady state” aerobic training. We like to refer to this type of training as “Slowbo.”
Slow. Boring. Cardio.
Slowbo training, along with building a better base of movement, is typically where I want to start with an athlete or client. If I’m going to invest my time and effort into a client or athlete, I want them to have an AMAZING base to work from. A poor foundation is going to lead to decreased performance and higher injury rates. However, if you take the time on the front end to enhance the foundation, you’re going to build athletes that can outlast their competition, perform at high levels from start to finish, and also have the ability to recover faster from each bout of exercise (training or competition). You can’t build a mansion on a shitty foundation. If you’re going to invest your time, money, and energy into something, you better make sure the foundation is sturdy enough to build upon.
Here is a list of some of the benefits you can expect from some good Slowbo training:
Eccentric Cardiac Hypertrophy – This is where the left ventricle of the heart actually becomes more elastic and has the ability to fill up with more blood. Eccentric cardiac hypertrophy is going to increase your stroke volume by allowing the chamber to fill up with more blood, allowing more blood to be pumped to the working muscles with each beat. As the eccentric cardiac hypertrophy begins to happen, you’ll notice a dramatic drop in resting heart rate, as well as recovery time between bouts of higher intensity. This is the foundation that will allow for better strength session, quicker recovery between sets, quicker recovery between training sessions, and will give you the energy you need to outlast your opponent.
Improved Stroke Volume – By allowing the left ventricle to fill with more blood between each heart beat, you’re working on improving the volume of blood that will be distributed with each pump. If your stroke volume is low, you’re going to have a tough time getting oxygen to your working muscles. Improve your stroke volume, and you’ll perform better, guaranteed!
Lower Resting HR – If you’re looking for a cheap and easy way to see where your conditioning levels are, check your resting heart rate in the morning. If you’re above 60 bpm, cardiac output work is going to be beneficial for you…no matter what sport you’re in to. Also, checking your resting HR is a decent way to see how well your body is adapting to the training you’re doing. If you’re consistently seeing increases in your morning resting HR, back down on your training and do a de-load week. Chances are, your body is trying to tell you something. Your recovery isn’t where it needs to be, so the heart is working harder at rest. Back off a little and watch that number fall back down.
Faster Recovery from Training Sessions or Competition – If you’re a strength or power athlete and you think you need very little cardiovascular development, think again. If you’re wanting to be competitive in O Lifting, Powerlifting, the 100-m dash, or any other event relying purely on a different energy system, you still need to recover between lifts, sprints, jumps, etc…If your struggling to recover to the fullest, your next attempt may not be as good as it could be. This is the immediate impact of how cardiac output can help DURING the session or event. It also helps BETWEEN training sessions by allowing the body to recover and adapt to the training you’re doing. In order to get good results, you’re going to need to have great recovery.
Just because you’re training a speed and power athlete doesn’t mean you have to neglect the aerobic system. After reading the list of benefits above, you should be able to see how a powerlifter can benefit from building an aerobic base and making time for a little Slowbo training.
Sure, powerlifting isn’t an aerobic sport. However, powerlifting does require a high volume of training to make continuous improvements. Nobody gets really strong by sitting on his or her ass. Improving recovery and allowing the athlete to be prepared for the next hard strength session will enhance results. You’ll then be able to stack more intensity into your training without overdoing it. You’ll be able to lift heavy, more regularly. If you’re serious about getting stronger, build an aerobic base first, and then stack on volume and intensity. It may take a little longer on the front end; however, you’ll be rewarded for the time invested later in your program.