It Aint Strength Training Unless You’re Gettin’ Strong – By Jason Ferruggia
I can’t take it anymore. It’s gone too far. It’s driving me insane. I hate it. No, I loathe it. Like Newman did Keith Hernandez. I’m sure Doug Young (pictured) is rolling in his grave. And Kaz would probably puke in his mouth if he ever saw or heard of such a thing. It’s this overwhelming obsession with metabolic conditioning and it’s ruining real strength training.
I know I’ve said this countless times before but I can’t repeat it enough…
You lift weights to get bigger, stronger and more explosive. That’s it.
Not as your primary method of fat loss or conditioning. There are far better, less detrimental ways to achieve both of those goals. The problem is our entire society has been polluted with this bullshit movement. Everyone these days thinks that a strength training workout should be more grueling than going five rounds with GSP or Brock Lesnar. That is not remotely true, my friends. You should always leave the gym feeling better than when you walked in; not completely wiped out in a pool of your own blood and puke.
How did everything that was so good get so bad?”
– Rocky Balboa, Rocky III
It’s all gotten way too out of control. Every single workout does not need to be a conditioning fest. That’s not to say that building a small conditioning component into an effective strength program is a bad thing. Bill Starr was a fan of doing this way back when he was preparing the Baltimore Colts for Super Bowl V. But there is an enormous difference between doing heavy sets of five on a bench, squat and clean in a three exercise circuit with appropriate rest periods and a workout that includes following up your five rep set of cleans with a 400 meter run, 20 kettlebell snatches, 35 box jumps, 10 kipping chin ups and a set of burpees. That’s not strength training. That’s just fucking retarded.
Finishers & Off Day Conditioning
What about the concept of finishers? Even a lot of the smart guys who haven’t allowed their strength training to turn into an aerobics class still feel compelled to always do a finisher these days. I’m here to tell you that you can let go of the guilt and that it’s okay if every single workout doesn’t include a finisher. Even if it’s a well thought out finisher that won’t have a negative effect on your joints or your training. And if your goal is to build muscle you probably shouldn’t be doing them anyway.
In the old days (hell, even 10-15 years ago) no one did finishers. You lifted weights to get jacked and then you went home and ate.On off days you did some conditioning or played a sport. Now I have guys asking me 20 times a week what kind of bodyweight circuit they should do on their off days. NONE! It’s your OFF day! Go for a walk and take it easy on the joints. Or get a life and play a sport. Go surfing or hiking. Do anything other than more (low quality) strength training. “But I have to do something! How about a circuit of kettlebell swings and snatches?” Uh… no.
To be a bad ass you should be strong and you should have a decent level of conditioning. You don’t wanna just be a fat ass who can only waddle up to the bar for a single and can’t make it up a flight of stairs. That goes without saying. But how friggin’ conditioned do people need to be? Seriously? When and where do you plan on using that elite level of conditioning you are training for? Unless Dana White signed you for his next Pay Per View main event I think you can tone it down a notch. I honestly don’t remember people thinking like this a decade or so ago.
When did everyone become such a manorexic, metrosexual pussy?
Playing yourself into shape is a far more honorable and manly pursuit than setting up a sandbag and kettlebell circuit in between two heavy strength training days. When men were still men people moved big iron to gain size and strength and they walked or ran on off days to maintain their conditioning and bodyfat levels. Nobody did four weekly 30-minute circuits of swings, burpees, mountain climbers and snatches in between their lifting days. You know why? Because that shit makes you small and weak, pumps you full of cortisol, wears out your joints, and negatively affects your strength gains.
The Man Maker Formula
There’s a very simple formula for being awesome that people have followed with great success for many, many years:
• Lift heavy
• Run (or walk)
• Incorporate Flexibility/ Mobility/ Soft Tissue Work (Foam roll, ART, massage, etc.)
That’s the whole ballgame in a nutshell.
If you want to get lean you simply diet by cutting carbs and calories and you add in a 30-45 minute walk 5-7 mornings a week on an empty stomach. And don’t worry about what some study quoting geek told you about it not being effective. Anyone who spews that bullshit should not be taken seriously when it comes to training advice. Just about every bodybuilder in the history of the planet has walked to get ripped. I’ve used it with numerous clients for almost two decades and it always works. That’s why I’ve been telling you to do it for years and I keep repeating myself. In fact, I recommend it to all skinny-fat hardgainers who are trying to pack on muscle.
Genetic misfits like that (myself included) usually gain as much fat as they do muscle when eating for size. Adding in the morning walks keeps the fat gain at bay while they gain size and it doesn’t have any negative effect on their training whatsoever.
Your heart rate for these walks should be around 60-70% of max. Again, don’t listen to dweebs hopping around with their clipboards shouting that the “fat burning zone doesn’t exist and it’s HIIT time for everyone!” Trust me, it aint. Do what Yates did and start hoofing it. If you’re a hardgainer whose primary goal is to gain as much size and strength as possible, then walking is probably all you will want to do for conditioning right now.
If you also want to be in shape and athletic then you should add in sprints (with a sled or prowler, on a hill, or on flat ground if you’re an experienced sprinter) and/or jump rope a couple days a week. But not every single day!
And remember that you can’t be Ed Coan and Michael Johnson rolled into one. You have to pick one or the other.
Just Do It
The inevitable next questions to follow my “run sprints” recommendations are always:
“How many sprints?”
“What’s the work to rest ratio?”
The honest answer is I have no clue. I don’t know what kind of shape you’re in. I don’t know how much grass you have in your neighborhood, how long your hill is, how much experience you have running, how much you weigh, etc.
If you’re training for football or the 100 meter then we can get more specific. But if you’re just training to be an in shape, athletic, badass then heed Nike’s advice and just do it. Get outside and start sprinting. Always do a thorough warm up and start slow and easy. I wouldn’t run more than 20-30 yards your first time out. Over time you can add distance to each sprint if you want. Or you can add more reps. Or both. You can also decrease the rest time. There are a million options. The point is to just get it done.
Two 15-30 minute sessions per week will do the job for most people. How you set up the distances and rest times within that 15-30 minute time frame is up to you. Sprinting is something that everyone should be able to do with at least a decent level of proficiency. It’s a basic, fundamental human skill. Snatching a kettlebell for 200 reps is not. Doing a tempo run up a hill for 15 minutes on an off day will not have a great detrimental effect on your strength training. Snatching a kettlebell for the same 15 minutes probably will. That’s just providing more repetitive stress to the joints and I certainly wouldn’t want to go in for a pressing session the day after doing that. Jumping rope is another skill that I believe all able bodied human beings should possess. I’d rather see you do that any day of the week instead of some crazy bodyweight conditioning circuit of mountain climbers and whatnot that’s just stressing your joints and delaying your recovery from the workouts that really matter.
Putting it All Together
You lift weights (and do real bodyweight strength training, meaning hard sets of 5-10 reps, not 50 rep nonsense) to get bigger, stronger and faster. If your goal is fat loss the training doesn’t change. The only thing you might do is cut down the volume a bit or add more rest. This is the complete opposite of what most people would think but it’s what you need to do if you want to maintain size and strength while dieting strictly. Walk in the mornings and run sprints twice per week. Or just walk. It’s up to you and dependent your goals.
If you want to incorporate “conditioning” into your strength training sessions do some strongman training- log clean and presses, farmers walks, heavy sled pushes and drags, rope rows; that kind of manly shit that will build size and strength while also cranking your heart rate up through the roof.
Train For Strength, No Matter What Your Goal
Strength training is quantifiable and produces measurable results. “Fat loss” or “metabolic conditioning workouts?” Not as much. But you can always get stronger and see your numbers going up. Dieting is responsible for 90% of your fat loss. I’ve seen fat asses train their balls off and never lose an ounce because their diet sucked. I can name a couple dozen of them off the top of my head right now. You simply can’t out train a bad diet.
Think about what type of training is going to have the biggest positive impact and focus your efforts on that. It’s Pareto’s 80/20 Law. Believe me when I tell you that real, old school strength training will make a bigger difference than anything else, no matter what your goal. Not circuits of kettlebells or battling ropes or burpees or whatever other “met-con” bullshit you can come up with. Keep it old school and always remember…
It aint strength training unless you’re gettin strong.