Screwing and Aerobic Capacity

Well, that title will surely get everyone’s attention. It has been a long period since my last post, and to the readers who have been with me from the beginning, learning and sharing; I apologize for the lack of work on my part.  When I was a kid I remember two months of summer lasting for what seemed an eternity.  Now, as a working adult and parent, four months are gone in the blink of an eye.   And the rather long to do list only gets longer, and very few things are stroked off complete.  What disappointed me the most was that I did not get though all the reading I anticipated.  However some reading was accomplished.  One comment I read in a book was the following attempting to justify this author’s method for hypertrophy training and a subsequent decrease in the amount or need for cardiovascular condition…

“If you are intent on improving your aerobic capacity, it’s important to understand that your aerobic system performs at its highest when recovering from lactic acidosis.  After your high intensity workout, when your metabolism is attempting to reduce the level of pyruvate in the system, it does so through the aerobic subjugation of metabolism… since muscle is the basic mechanical system being served by the aerobic system, as muscle strength improves, the necessary support systems (which includes the aerobic system) must follow suit.”

Do I agree with the above statement… yes to a degree?  Using weights to improve anaerobic capacity would be like building a house with only a Philips head screwdriver and a few hundred boxes of screws.  It can be done but it is going to take you a hell of a long time, much frustration will develop and it is not the most efficient way of doing it.   But, in the context of the literature that it was taken from, it was being used as a rationale to justify lack of cardio conditioning in a single set to failure protocol for increasing muscle size.  There is where I disagree with the justification.  The author used a perfectly good example of an adaptation to high intensity training, and stretched the explanation to suit the needs of his concept.  This is very common in popular literature and in some cases scientific literature.  Sometimes the numbers are stretched in the researchers favor, as is the concepts that are developed in the research.  I WILL NOT GET INTO BASHING THE TABATA “PROTOCOL” AGAIN,  but that sure is a great example.

As many of you know I love the old school lifting; cleans, snatch, squats, dead lifts, pushes and pulls (and all their variations).  You would think many of the old time strong men, who based much of their lifting on the basic movements and performing those lifts for mostly singles, doubles and triples would not be the group that would be hesitant to recognize the value of cardiovascular conditioning, but here is an excerpt from an interview with Arthur Saxon… one of the greatest lifters of all time.  (I am personally a big fan of Doug Hepburn, but that is a totally different post all together.)

Here’s what Arthur Saxon had to say about conditioning:

“The usual idea about strength–I mean the idea of the average reader of health magazines–is generally a wrong one.  Although a weightlifter (and weightlifters are supposed to be very narrow-minded in their views on this subject), I hope that I, personally, am broad-minded enough to recognize that a man does not prove himself an all-round strong man just because he is able to lift a heavy weight, especially when the weight is lifted once only. The following is my diagnosis of real strength:

Genuine strength should include not only momentary strength, as proved by the ability to lift a heavy weight once, but also the far more valuable kind of strength known as strength for endurance.

This means the ability, if you are a cyclist, to jump on your machine and ride 100 miles at any time without undue fatigue; if a wrestler, to wrestle a hard bout for half an hour with a good man without a rest, yet without becoming exhausted and reaching the limit of your strength.

Apart from sports, enduring strength means that the business man shall stand, without a break-down, business cares and worries, that he shall be capable, when necessary, of working morning, afternoon and night with unflagging energy, holding tightly in his grasp the reins of business, retaining all the while a clear mind and untiring energy, both of body and brain.

The man who can miss a night’s rest or miss a meal or two without showing any ill effect or without losing any physical power, is better entitled to be considered a strong man than the man who is only apparently strong, being possessed of momentary strength, which is, after all, a muscle test pure and simple.”

Beautifully said.  I as anyone who takes to the gym and trains do so with an intended purpose.  And in most conventional gym cases it is esthetic in nature.  I am at this time one of those who do so with the intent on hypertrophy.  However, as older posts of mine stress, I have a strong belief in the need for both aerobic and anaerobic conditioning (don’t confuse belief with like; I hate performing both aerobic and anaerobic conditioning but I do it).  What I worry about is people are going to read that author’s justification for little or no cardio and they are going to follow his/her word like a “gym lemming”.  I cannot stress the importance of conditioning to develop an all around fitness.  Fitness is not just looking the part, it is performing the part.


Once again, yours in health and performance,

Jeff Osadec, MKin, CEP, CSCS

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