The Cold Hard Flabby Truth
Fact: You can get as strong as you're ever going to get without doing any cardio.
Also a fact: You'll be one of those amazingly fat strong slobs like I used to be. Then you can spout off dumb shit like, "Anything over 5 reps is cardio!"
That's the mating call of the brutally out-of-shape powerlifter and those who don't compete in powerlifting but still call themselves powerlifters.
My favorite story was the time when I had to walk across a big parking lot and had to stop halfway through the trek and lean against a car. You know, to allow my low back pumps to subside. I don't miss those days.
Now if you're a defensive powerlifter you'll say something like this: "I don't care about abs! I only care about strength! And I have better leverages when I'm heavier!"
You mean when you're fatter. Okay fat boy, you know what else improves your leverages? More muscle. And it's also "functional" because, you know, it's muscle that lifts the freaking weight. Fat doesn't do that.
To be fair, I see a lot of jacked and lean powerlifters now. Apparently you don't have to get super fat to get strong. Who knew? Also of note, once I decided to implement serious conditioning work, I felt better overall and lifted better too. In fact, I hit PRs in both the deadlift and the bench press on my way back DOWN the scale.
So How Important is Cardio?
If you want to feel awesome and recover better, then it's pretty important. Steady-state cardio has awesome restorative effects for both mood and sense of well-being. And intervals will help to increase work capacity in the gym. Here's the breakdown:
- Intervals = You can do more work and need less rest between sets.
- Low Intensity Cardio = You can recover faster between hard training sessions.
I recommend that 80% of your cardio work be of the steady-state, low-intensity kind. Walking outside is best because it reduces anxiety and stress. Try 30-45 minutes with the heart rate at 120-130 BPM.
For intervals I've always loved sprints. Try 40-60 yards at 80% of a full speed run. You're not trying to be Usain Bolt here. Neither am I. My rest is just the 40-60 yard walk back.
If you're not good at math, that means you're going to do 4 steady-state sessions for every 1 interval session. Reason being, interval work is recovery intrusive. Too much of it will increase fatigue and detract from performance in the gym, rather than enhancing it.