T Nation

Incorporating Conditioning Work?


Hi --

Been lurking/reading on here for a couple of years... after going on and off a bunch of programs I've decided it's time to get serious. I'm on my summer break from a graduate degree, so over the summer I'd like to plan a program or series of programs for the next 12 months.

Once I get back in school in the fall I won't have time to be working out new programs, and I know from past experience I find it much harder to keep exercising if I don't have a program.

About me: I'm 34, 6'4", 215 lbs. Definitely on the skinny side; my main goal with this program will be to build strength. Obviously that will also mean adding some mass but I'm not interesting in bulking for its own sake. I have tried Mark Rippetoe's Starting Strength and Alwyn Cosgrove's New Rules of Lifting programs and I think I'll start my program off with one of those, probably back to Starting Strength. I also have Cressey's Maximum Strength, which I haven't tried.

I also do a lot of outdoor sports, though (skiing, surfing, kayaking, climbing), I play squash (badly) from time to time, and I've been playing some amateur rugby over the last year. So, in addition to having a serious strength program I'd like to incorporate conditioning work into the program on the off days to improve my overall fitness and agility, particularly for skiing but for the other sports as well.

So I have two questions.

1) Is it possible to make progress towards both of these goals simultaneously? If so, can you give any advice or reading recommendations as to how to do it without undermining my main goal of building strength?

2) How should I go about planning a long-term program like this? Most programs I've seen recommend staying on for ~8 weeks then doing something else, but they never say what.

Thanks for any suggestions. This is a great site and I'm looking forward finally to getting into strength training seriously with your help.


Well good luck with the lifting!

1.) Yes, it’s possible, but not optimal. I think 90% of people will suggest just focusing on strength to start off with. Cardio takes alot out of you, and with starting strength you will be squatting 3x week, which is draining enough. Strength training will help your fitness abit. If you already do alot of outdoor sports, it’s unlikely you need the extra conditioning, at this point. Cardio will burn alot of calories too, which is counter-productive to gaining mass/strength. Try and stick with just the strength stuff, and play/do your sports. I’m sure you’ll be fine!

2.) Do you mean, planning the strength program, or planning the conditioning + strength?
As far as the strength goes, as a beginner there is no need to be changing programs every 8 weeks. Stick with starting strength. If you hit a plataeu in one of your lifts, I suggest de-loading the weight by 10% and building back up.

If you hit another plateau, consider dropping the weight even more. Once you have deloaded on your squats 3-4x or more, or if you are squatting 1.5xbw for 3x5, then it’s time to move onto something different. Texas method I think is what Rip reccomends after SS, it’s got a heavy, light, medium day and I think you hit PR’s every week.

If you really want to incorporate cardio/conditioning work into your over-all program, I guess you could try stick with just strength for 8-10 weeks, then just do strength maintenance for 8-10 weeks (or what-ever) while working on cardio/conditioning.
I’m not really sure about this one. For me personally, I only do strength workouts 2x week, and do MA’s for three days a week, which gives me all the conditioning I need. However the strength gains are slower this way.
You really need to prioritise one over the other.

Hope this helps a little bit!


Thanks for the advice! That’s definitely helpful.

Can I ask another beginner question: what are MAs?

I think I’m making a typical beginner mistake and getting ahead of myself. So I’ll just do Starting Strength until I get to those benchmarks. It sounds like that’s the best thing I can do at this point.

Do you see any problem with doing some light steady-state cardio or short-duration high-intensity cardio (eg. jumprope, 30 sec on, 90sec off, 15 minutes) on off days?


Haha, not really a beginner question, you’re just not into the same “scene”…

MA’s are martial arts. So MMA is mixed martial arts, TMA is traditional martial arts. I’m from the latter :wink:

Yeah it’s hard to know how much you need to know. Starting strength is good stuff, just stick at it and eat right, you’ll see good gains.

I’d personally go for the light steady-state cardio if you really feel that you need it. You could do it after your weight session if you wanted, I think that is what Mark suggests in the book. I’m really not a fan of even short high intensity cardio for people on strength programs. That might just be me, but I think it’s just too draining. Stick with the light stuff.

Like I said, you’ll see a drop in BF, a gain in strength and a gain in fitness from the strength program anyway. “Light” steady state cardio isn’t going to do any harm to your recovery, it might actually help alleviate some DOMS, stiffness etc. that you would expect from strength training.


Cool – thanks for your advice. I appreciate it.