Would a little cardio really eliminate all the gains you have worked so hard for? The truth is, most people, not all, in strength sports carry around a too much excess body fat. They call it leverage. There is truth to this statement. A little added girth will give a better center of gravity, which in turn allows better balance with heavy weights. The added size is also a badge of honor for many, a way to separate them from the “mirror men”. No matter how you justify, you really have to take a look at the true reason most guys carry that extra spare in the trunk. For most it comes down to poor diet and lack of cardiovascular training.
This article is in no way trying to convince the powerlifters and strongman competitors out there to start working on marathon training. That level of distance training will surely steal away a ton of your hard work. There are others to improve fitness levels that will not drain you and eat away your gains. Simply adding in some heavy sled dragging or pushing, heavy carries for distance, complexes, or every minute on the minute (EMOM) lifting can carve away some inches. Also, if done properly, this will increase your work capacity allowing better recovery and in the long run more gains in strength.
Sled drags and pushing is the main way strength athletes have added fitness to their routines for a long time. This can be anything from the standard dragging sled to the Prowler. The standard sled can be used in several different ways. You can pull it with a rope facing the sled, a rope facing away from the sled, a rope attached to a belt, etc. Every way will put stress in different areas of the body. The key is to add some weight and get moving. Six to eight trips with enough weight to make you strain will definitely get your heart pumping. If you can spend a few more dollars, you can get an upgraded version of the sled. Every company calls them something different. Elite FTS calls it a Prowler, Rogue has a Butcher and a Dog Sled, and you can find many other companies that make their own version. These all give you a few more options. You can use the same methods as the standard sled, but they add handles into the equation. These handles give you the options of using a high or low grip.
Heavy carries for distance are another option to get you breathing hard. Stone carries, weighted backpack, farmers walks, and carrying a loaded barbell are just a few of the many ways to carry a load. Whichever load you decide to carry, be sure to think about your current training. While the sled pulling can be used as additional training, the load carries will be more taxing. Heavy carries will have you dragging your tail very quickly. Start light and increase as your work capacity increases.
Barbell complexes fall into a love/hate relationship with a lot of people. Some people think this is a really good way to add conditioning, while others think they are a waste of time and are too stressful. Once you give them a try, you can decide for yourself. The best combinations for complexes mix four or five movements that can be done with the same weight and should be done without putting the barbell, or whichever weight you choose, down for the entire complex.
Every minute on the minute movements can do great for raising your work capacity. Don’t worry, no one will think you are a Crossfitter. You will be pouring sweat and heaving way too much for that to happen. Three deadlifts with 60% of your 1RM, two power cleans, or 2 clean and presses at the top of every minute for 20 minutes are a good place to start. You will start out thinking it is too easy, but by the halfway point you will change your mind. As it becomes easier to get in all the reps, you can start going on the half minute.
If you take these methods and start implementing them into your training you will find your waist shrinking and your work capacity rising. As your work capacity rises, you can move more weight, when you move more weight you will make better gains.