You’ve probably seen yourself that a lot of coaches and personal trainers like to call themselves ‘strength and conditioning coaches’. I’m no different. I remember changing the information in my Instagram bio to say the same thing. However, in all honesty, most coaches are a lot more confident with the strength side of things rather than the conditioning side of things.
One of the main reasons behind coaches preferring the strength side of training over conditioning is usually down to the bashing that conditioning gets on its negative effects on getting stronger. That is just not true though. When conditioning is programmed intelligently alongside a strength training programme, it can actually improve your strength gains.
Like anything though, there are some guidelines that need to be followed if you want to combine strength and conditioning in the same programme. Here are the top 3 points to consider;
- DON’T TRY TO DO TWO THINGS AT ONCE
To effectively balance strength and conditioning in a programme, you first need to decide which one is your priority. Unless you are a complete beginner, it’s very hard to improve strength and conditioning at the same time. You can have both in the programme but one must take priority. If that doesn’t happen, you can go down a slippery slope of not improving either. The reason behind this is energy.
Building bigger, stronger muscles takes up a lot of energy due to the body needing to repair, rebuild, and remodel the muscle throughout the body. The same goes for improving conditioning. The body has to use energy to improve the cardiovascular system and delivery of oxygen to the working muscles. This is why energy can sometimes be referred to as the currency of the body. You have to spend it wisely as you can only produce so much each day.
With all that being said, if your goal is to improve conditioning, spend the majority of your time focusing on just that and spend the minimum amount of time necessary to maintain strength. The same rule applies if your goal is to improve strength. Spend the minimum amount of time necessary to maintain conditioning.
As I mentioned in the start of the article, most coaches struggle with the conditioning side of training compared to the strength side. Therefore, if your goal is to get stronger, here are some guidelines on how you can maintain varying levels of conditioning;
- High Level of Conditioning: include some form of conditioning at least 4-5 days per week for 30-40 minutes
- Moderate Level of Conditioning: include some form of conditioning 3-4 days per week for at least 30 minutes
- Low Level of Conditioning: include some fork of conditioning 3 days per week for at least 20-30 minutes
2. DON’T MAKE YOUR TRAINING COMPETE AGAINST EACH OTHER
To understand how to choose the right conditioning method when focusing on getting stronger, it’s important to first understand where strength comes from.
Getting stronger is the result of four main factors;
- Improving your Central Nervous System (CNS) to increase the number of muscle fibres recruited when lifting
- Building bigger muscles to increase force production
- Greater sympathetic nervous system activation to increase the levels of hormones released
- Improving technique
When you lift heavier, this is designed to improve the CNS. When you increase the volume of your strength training, this is designed to increase muscle size. This is important to know because these methods rely heavily on the anaerobic-alactic energy system for energy production due to their short, high intensity duration.
As the anaerobic-alactic energy system doesn’t work for very long, it’s up to the aerobic system to clear out the by-products of the anaerobic metabolism and restock the substrates the anaerobic-alactic system needs to be able to produce energy again. When this happens there is also an increase in blood flow through the fatigued muscles which is really beneficial for recovery and reducing soreness. Therefore, it would make sense that the conditioning included alongside a strength training programme would be more aerobically focused.
3. SEPARATE THE DIFFERENT TRAINING METHODS BASED ON YOUR FITNESS LEVEL
When you’re trying to combine strength and conditioning in the same workout, or the same day, it’s very important to know how to organise your training. This is because of what I mentioned before when I was speaking about energy. If no thought is taken into organising training, this can have a massive impact on the results you will see.
How to organise your training comes down to what your starting point is. This is because this will dictate how much conditioning you will need to do, and how your body responds to training in general. Here are the guidelines I would recommend you follow;
- Low Fitness Level: you can combine strength and conditioning in the same workout. However, conditioning should be done at the end of the workout.
- Moderate Fitness Level: where possible, conditioning should be separated into a different workout from your strength training. Ideally this should be 4-6 hours after strength training to help promote recovery.
- High Fitness Level: it’s best to separate strength and conditioning workouts so they are on different days. This is to reduce any negative interference the differing workouts may have on one another.
As you can see from the points I’ve mentioned above, combining strength and conditioning becomes a lot more to think about the higher your fitness level becomes.
Take Home Points
Hopefully from reading this article has shed some light on the fact you can combine strength and conditioning in the same programme, and that it doesn’t have to be all or nothing when it comes to getting stronger or improving your conditioning. Remember the points I’ve mentioned; make sure you pick what your priority is, don’t make your energy systems work against each other, and think about how you’re going to organise your training depending on your fitness level. If have any questions on this, or feel like you need some support with your training, you can message me on Facebook or Instagram, and I’ll be more than happy to help.
Thanks for reading,