Powerlifting is a strength sport that measures a lifter’s best squat, bench press, and deadlift to achieve the highest possible total. A lifter has three attempts for each lift, to lift a maximum weight just one time. Seems pretty simple, right? A sport that focuses on three movements must be trained by focusing on those three movements. Of course, supplementary exercises must be incorporated to bring up weak and/or supporting muscle groups of the “Big three”.
But what about aerobic work? Doesn’t “cardio destroy your gains”? It’s time powerlifters take a closer look at their aerobic capacity and how it can benefit the pursuit of hitting the highest total possible with the Big Three. In this article, we will take a look at adequate aerobic work and its effect on recovery, injury prevention, and general physical preparedness.
Resistance training causes small tears in muscle fibers and can lead to delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) and a buildup of lactate in the tissue. Aerobic work can help push new blood that’s full of nutrients to the area and push out lactate, aiding the repair of the torn muscle tissue. This process helps get rid of DOMS from the previous training session and gets you back to training faster without soreness or stiffness that will interfere with the intent of your upcoming training.
This is also crucial for athletes because this optimizes the intensity at which they can train. Lifting maximal loads >90% requires the most amount of muscle contractions as possible, and the addition of aerobic work can aid this process. Along with repairing the actual muscle tissue, aerobic work can also help recover the central nervous system (CNS). Again, this optimizes the intensity an athlete can perform as it requires a lot of neural stimulation from the CNS to the rest of the body in order to lift a maximal load.
With more optimal recovery practices, comes higher prevention of injury. Aerobic conditioning increases the amount of blood flow to the muscles and connective tissue. This process helps lengthen fibers and prevents structural damage.
Again, lifting maximal loads >90% requires the most amount of muscle contractions, and these contractions can put stress on the connective tissue that attaches the muscle to the bone. Stress over time can lead to these connective tissues getting tight, and eventually leads to a possible tear. Keeping the connective tissues of your body mobile and healthy will develop resiliency in your joints, keeping you in the pursuit of lifting the required loads that are necessary in training and competition without setbacks.
General Physical Preparedness (GPP)
Lastly, aerobic conditioning can increase an athlete’s GPP. GPP lays the groundwork for Specific Physical Preparation. GPP usually takes place in an athlete’s offseason, as it works on general strength, flexibility, mobility, endurance, skill, and kinesthetic awareness. A good visual is that GPP is the base of an athlete’s pyramid. If you try and build a tall pyramid with a narrow base, the pyramid is unstable and will collapse; this is injury. When a pyramid has a very wide base, the height of the pyramid is only dictated by an athlete’s work ethic - but has much more potential to reach new heights.
Adding in aerobic conditioning to an athlete’s training program can ensure that the athlete is staying well-conditioned for the increased intensity that comes with powerlifting, leading to increased longevity in the sport and in fitness.
In conclusion, aerobic conditioning has tremendous benefits for powerlifters. Aerobic conditioning can increase recovery, aid in injury prevention, and increase an athlete’s general physical preparedness. All three of these factors will aid in an athlete’s endeavor of achieving the highest squat, bench press, deadlift, and total in the sport of powerlifting.
For most athletes chasing top-end strength gains, aerobic conditioning should focus on concentric based movements, repeatability and sustainability. These aspects are paramount for proper aerobic training to support recovery, lymph movement, CNS support, and ultimately continual strength gains. As with all forms of exercise, this is very dependent upon the individual. If you’re curious about what type of aerobic training is right for you, looking to increase your overall strength, or have any other fitness goals, schedule a FREE strategy session below and get a strong start on your 2020!