Can You Build Both Elite Strength and Fitness Concurrently?

Hey Everyone! I’m new here to the T-Nation forums, but am really looking forward to spending more time on here to both learn and share as much helpful information as possible! Just wanted to get this conversation started and thought I’d discuss two topics that I’m passionate about which are strength and fitness! Please chime in with any questions or comments as I would love to get a dialogue started!


What would you define as “elite” strength and fitness?

If you are asking can someone be a 1000lb dead lifter AND run 5k in under 18 minuets. Then no. However if you asking can someone be a 1000lb dead lifter and compete the Grace WOD in under 120 seconds. Then yes.

What are your test and bench marks?

FYI - my opinion is it is easier to get very strong when you are very fit. When done correctly conditioning is complimentary to recovery and even getting stronger.

Yeah I think we’d need a definition of “fitness.” It’s interesting to me that you would consider strength and fitness two different things. I would contend that they are not.

I also need to decide if I agree with the premise that a 1000 lb deadlifter couldn’t run a sub-18 min 5k…

I would be amazed to see a really very serious lifter break 18 mins for a 5K. Not saying nobody can/has ever done it, but it would be a serous outlier.
The genetic make up, type and volumes of totally non compatible training make it incredibly difficult.

To me, elite means someone who is at national level, not club or regional. In the case of 5k that means a sub 14 mins. 18 mins is decent recreational runner. . When I looked up the heaviest deadlifts I could only see about 10 men had ever deadlifted 1000lb. So comparing apples to apples the 1k deadlift is equivalent to a 5k time of 12.47 or faster (top 10 ever) !

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Are we to interpret elite fitness as a standard of runtime and elite strength as relative strength?

I would argue that the only people who are extremely strong AND extremely “fit” are crossfitters at the pro level. Not saying BBers or PLers can’t be strong and fast, but they are usually lacking HEAVILY in the cardio department.

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How do you define extremely strong? Because even the very best Crossfitters wouldn’t make it out of the “suck” category as powerlifters.

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“Elite” powerlifters have definitive totals for every weight class. That isn’t a very large percentage of lifters. So, my guess is that “Elite Powerlifter” is not the “Elite” level on this thread

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Relative strength meaning weight lifted relative to bodyweight.

A 400lbs dude deadlifting 800lbs is not as impressive as a 200lb dude deadlifting 600lbs.

Agree that crossfitters would still be sucky at powerlifting, but they’re probably better at powerlifts than powerlifters would be at the cardio required for crossfit.

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Not really - that is my point. I’d say Tom Stoltman was “fit”. The train push last year (and truck pull this year) will require a deep level of fitness. As do loading events. But even Tom is “odd”. I bet Tom (and most top strong men) could compete with the fastest 500m times on an indoor rower*. But open that up to 2000m or more and it’s not even going to be close.

Fair point - the days off 1000lb lifters being 350lb monsters with 50 inch waists are over.

    • Brian Shaw broke the 100m indoor rowing WR by a fairly large margin on a whim a while back. WR was 13.3 second. Brian did 3 rows in one work out. All under 13 seconds.

How about world-class decathletes?

As opposed to crossfitters? Sure. They too are extremely fit. But would you argue they are extremely strong? IMO they are nowhere near as strong as crossfitters or powerlifters.

Very fit for sure though.

I mean, yeah. But no-ones claiming the majority of elite powerlifters also have elite fitness.


It’s the word “Elite” accompanied with the word “Both” that needs clarification and quantification.

Maybe “Elite” combination of fitness and strength would be more accurate. But the target needs to be quantified. There should be body weight consideration (maybe Schwartz Formula)

Otherwise, this will all be just bar bragging over a few beers.

Rich Froning clean and jerked 370 lbs and snatched 305. Matt Fraser has done more than that. I define that as extremely strong, for sure.


That’s a great question and I should definitely have been more specific! I am new to these forums and I appreciate you taking part Carl!

I would define “elite” as being able to squat/deadlift 2-3x bodyweight and while also having a sub 7 min mile or sub 7 min 2k row. I think those are worthy tests of displaying both strength and fitness that most people have the ability to try and do.

And I would agree that it’s easier to get stronger when you are very fit, simply because your work capacity is better and you’re literally able to perform more work in your training sessions. However, getting really strong takes a LONG TIME (years) whereas it really only takes weeks/months to develop aerobic fitness. So I think a strong athlete who’s not fit, it always more impressive than a fit athlete who lacks strength. Just my opinion


Thanks for taking part and answering the question!! In my opinion someone who’s strong and fit should be able to squat/deadlift 2-3x bodyweight and run a sub 7 min mile or do a sub 7 min 2k row. For this discussion, those would be my parameters of “strong and fit”

Personally I know a lot of “strong guys” that are not fit at all (they struggle to walk up 5 flights of stairs) but I also know a lot of crossfitters that are very fit, but embarrassingly weak compared to some gymnasts/strongmen/powerlifters.

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Thanks for taking part in this discussion! I was actually referring to absolute strength for “strength” it’s not that hard IMO to have great relative strength and also be a good runner since you’re just moving your own bodyweight.

I would consider “strong” being able to move heavy barbells and “fit” being able to run/row/bike moderate distances fast.

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I could not agree with you more Carl. I’ve seen a lot of the elite level strongmen compete in person here in Dubai. And they have a respectable level of fitness for intense effort lasting 20-90 seconds tops. If you took a true test of fitness like a 2k row or mile run, then basically all “elite” strongmen and powerlifters would get crushed.

Extremely strong? Decathletes or crossfitters: Hell no! Powerlifters, anyone competing in Sacramento this weekend, and I’m guessing most elite shotput and discus guys are extremely strong.

I suspect that the world-class decathletes who are a little better in the throwing events than the running and jumping competitions are every bit as strong as the world-class crossfitters; however, I have no proof.

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This is very achievable for most as long as you are not carrying too much excess fat. Would 2-3x bw squat and dead and 7 min mile be classed as elite though?

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