Posted On August 1, 2017

Athletes over age 50 need all the clever tricks they can find to stay on top of their game. In this newsletter, Ill discuss one of the more overlooked (or actively ignored) areas of assistance training for building power.

It is a secret? Not exactly. Its just that most powerlifters I know would sooner eat a fully loaded diaper than do this.

By now your curiosity may be engagedor you are pissed off.

The magic assistance training Im going to discuss is aerobic training.

Once I mention the a word, half of you have probably quit reading. For the other half who keep reading, Ill try to avoid sounding preachy like so many fitness articles around today.

Why do this?

Like a lot of lifters, I admit to classifying people running on treadmills as doing gerbil training. In the past, I often felt a sense of superiority as I looked at the treadmill runners with disdain. My (flawless) reasoning was that if they were real runners, they would run outside (like me).

As I age, I may have accidentally learned something. I also did research on the value to strength athletes of doing some (not necessarily a lot) of aerobic training.

Bottom line: the performance value for strength athletes of doing a modest amount of aerobic training is:

  • Enhanced athleticism
  • General physical endurance

Oh, there are some benefits you get from a little aerobic training that may seem less important than adding 10 lbs to your bench press, but Ill mention them anyway:

  • Health of your lungs, veins, and capillaries
  • Brain health
  • Heart health

Some of you will agree, none of these is nearly as important as increasing your deadlift.

However, bear with me and Ill try to explain why it might be valuable for you to add some aerobic training to your workouts.



Performance Benefits

A modest amount of aerobic training will work sets of muscles in athletically demanding ways that you dont normally get when training with weights. For example, even a slow running stride is quicker than any move you do in gym.

Doing movements (eg. Swimming) that are different from weight lifting can help us keep athletic movement skills that enable us to enjoy a variety of recreational activities.

I have found that using muscles in a coordinated manner while moving heavy objects (such as my ass) helped me build resilience for weeks and months of heavy weight training.

Although it is hard to measure, I always found that having a base of good overall physical endurance really helped me recover quickly from doing heavy lifts in training. I could do a 90% plus lift, and be ready to go again quickly.

Having good physical endurance always helped me in meets. Even if you only do 9 attempts in a contest, the grind can leave you exhausted at the end of the deadlifts. I always felt that my endurance helped me stay fresh and lift with max effort through the entire contest.

Maintaining overall athleticism is probably the least important benefit of doing a little aerobic training.


Health Benefits

Keeping your heart strong, your lungs efficient, and the circulatory system in proper working order is right at the top of the list. I have known some lifters who got winded walking up a flight of stairs. You may be able to get away with this at 40, but a for poorly conditioned person the chances for a stroke or heart attack increase exponentially past age 45.

One of the most powerful and compelling effects of aerobic training is the huge positive impact it has on brain health. In the past five years, the medical community has come out strongly in support of aerobic training to prevent brain decline, and boost brain function.

Interestingly, weight training does not appear to have the same beneficial effect on the brain as even modest amounts of aerobic training.

You may notice that I didnt include fat burning in the list of benefits. This is because, modest amounts of exercise burn very little fat.

Without going into the details of how many calories different activities consume, Ill just say that the rough rule of thumb of caloric burn for running (as published in Runners World magazine) is 100 calories per mile.

That isnt much per mile when you consider there are 3500 calories in a pound of fat.

But, lets look at a program that will actually give you some benefit.


Aerobics for Weightlifters

I know that some of you already do significant aerobic training. I have been a devoted runner since the 1960s, and actually competed in running for 22 years before doing 25 years of powerlifting.

But, what about the lifter who hates running, or most other forms of aerobics?

For openers, the goal is to enhance your stamina, and build up your heart, lungs, and circulatory system. It is NOT to prepare you to run a marathon (or even a 5K).

Second, running may not be a good idea if you weigh over 200 lbs. (90 Kilos). Your knees, hips, feet, etc. may not benefit from the pounding.

Third, the cardio portion of your workout should take very little energy. Your principal focus is training for strength and power. The ideal aerobic training for you should not detract in any way from putting out max energy in weight training.

For this reason, if you are one of the many lifters who cringe at the thought of aerobics, the program I would suggest for most lifters would be as follows:

  • Done at the end of a weight training workout as a warm down
  • Ten minutes maximum
  • LOW impact, slow pace
  • Your choice: device as stationary bike, rower, stair climber, or treadmill
  • If you like running outside, jog outside
  • If you like swimming (and have a pool) do some easy laps

The program is basically a warm down from your work with the weights. It is done at an easy pace that gets your heart working at a steady level. The benefit comes from circulating a lot of oxygen rich blood to all your muscles and internal organs.

In short, the aerobic training helps you recover from your heavy weight training, while building up your circulatory system.

Why do I suggest a 10-minute maximum for this program?

Simple, if the program demands a lot of time, about 90% of the people will quit after a week.

Would you get more benefit by doing a greater amount of aerobic training?

Some may argue with this, but back in my days as a competitive runner several studies were published that said the health benefits of running came from very minimal amounts of training. Preparing for a competitive sport is a different deal.

The mode of training is up to you. The most important thing is to select something you will actually do on a consistent basis.

No benefit comes from something you know about, but dont do.


For those who want a more ambitious program

As you might expect from someone who had been a competitive runner AND a powerlifter (not at the same time), I have some more extensive thoughts on aerobic training for weightlifters.

I put together a lot of training routines that I have used over the past several years into a book available from Amazon. You can check it out here at Aerobic Training for Weightlifters

Written by Richard

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