The Strength Sensei on Aerobics
Clearing up some misconceptions about energy system training
Charles R. Poliquin was not a fan of steady-state aerobic training, and not just because he didn’t like activities that train you to run away from a fight. Another issue was that the Strength Sensei did not believe aerobics was the most effective way to lose fat, which is the primary goal of the general population.
Having established full disclosure, let’s look at four strong opinions the Strength Sensei had about aerobic training.
First, the Strength Sensei did not believe in performing aerobic training before resistance training for two reasons:
- There is a misconception by many trainers that doing cardio before lifting is more effective for fat-burning. Not quite. If you lift weights first, you deplete glycogen stores, priming the fat-burning process.
- Aerobic training makes you weak! Aerobic activity alters the blood pH, making it more difficult for the body to recruit high-threshold muscle fibers. The high-threshold fibers are the strongest, and their involvement determines how much weight you can lift. If you use less weight, you reduce the strength training effect.
Second, it is a myth that steady-state cardio is superior to high-intensity interval training for fat loss, particularly subcutaneous (just under the skin) fat. If you must do steady-state aerobics and want to get leaner, mix in some high-intensity intervals, such as sprinting.
Third, the Strength Sensei helped prepare the Canadian Alpine Ski Team for the 1992 Olympics. One phenomenon his colleagues discovered was that aerobic fitness (measured by VO2 max) increases for about six to eight weeks, then plateaus. It takes several months before another increase in VO2 max occurs.
During this plateau period, if a high level of training is performed, the training volume can be reduced by approximately two-thirds without any decrease in aerobic fitness. This gives the athlete more time to work on other aspects of athletic training, such as strength training.
Fourth, it is not necessary to perform a brief period of steady-state aerobic training to warm up before strength training or to cool down after a workout. The Strength Sensei believed the best way to warm up for weight training is to use lighter weights for the exercises you’ll be performing and that there is no value in a cooldown. In fact, he said his warm-down consisted of mixing the ingredients of a post-workout shake!
If you like steady-state aerobic training and want to do it, fine. Just follow the Strength Sensei’s guidelines so you can go stronger, longer! (TSS)