T Nation

Powerlifter Cardio


I need to begin incorporating some conditioning work into my program to both maintain general health and to keep some bodyfat at bay (I'm about 5-7 pounds over my weight class limit of 242). I've been doing two 20 minute sessions per week after my bench sessions at a pretty low intensity. I'm wondering if these are appropriately placed -- perhaps it would be better to do them on off days.

Any thoughts on duration, intensity and placement of the conditioning work in the training week?


Do sprints on your off-days. The more intense the better.


for a 240-plus powerlifter? i don't think so. sprinting on his off days would royally cut into his recovery.

squat one day, the next day on his off day sprint? and then the day after do deadlifts? that's not going to turn out well.



Hill sprints work well. As does intervals on the rower. Circuits are good. I'm a fan of the crosstrainer too.

I've actually a fairly decent body of conditioning work in my log if people wanna check it out.


I'm more of a power-builder, but a good mix of HIIT and steady state cardio a couple times per week for like 20 mins should do you some good.

I agree with not sprinting.


There are quite a few options for GPP depending on how much time you have and what equipment is available.

  • Perform complexes for your accessory work (There was a good article about this published recently). Note: This does not mean barbell complexes or 'crossfit' type of work.

  • Long distance sled drags. You can do harness pulls or sled drags with light weight for long distances. This works great for active recovery and building GPP.

I can try to post a link to the article for you if you are interested.


For intense cardio, the day after is likely better. For easy cardio it probably doesn't matter as much so do it when you can. You certainly don't need to do a lot of intense lactic work since this energy system isn't stressed at all on the platform. Aerobic work is good as it will aid in recovery.


Intense cardio is a poor choice for strength athletes.

For body composition low intensity cardio or interval training are best. For GPP you can do interval work or the complexes / strongman training (sled drag, tire flips).


I started riding my bike for 30 to 60 minutes on off days (low intensity).

Good/bad idea?


I mountain bike on "off" days. Has no negative effect on my lifts in fact as long as I don't go balls to the wall I actuall believe I do better because I think it helps flush out the soreness. It's kind of hilly here in the Nashville area so its more like interval training. I occasionally road bike too. As long as I keep it under an hour = 20 miles or less I'm fine.

And yes chicks dig me in my spandex cycling clothes...yes I probably look like a giant homo but who gives a fuck



I have an old BMX Schwinn bike from when I was in high school. I love that bike to death. Makes it more difficult off roading, but it does help.

I agree with keeping everything under and hour.

Its fairly flat in Louisiana, so no hilly areas to even try that sort of biking on.


I would suggest either walking if you like the slower, more long distance thing but for that to work it should really be 30-60 minutes long 2+ times a week, probably around 3.5-4 mph. Or you can do some higher intensity cardio type stuff but keep it short (under 5 minutes and often under 2 min) but do more than one round, like do 2-3 rounds of 2 exercises. Good choices in general could be
Jump Rope
Row Machine
Step Mill
Kettlebell Swings
Farmer's Walks
Tire Flips
Sled Drags
Sprints (use caution with these at your weight)
Frog Jumps
Jacob's Ladder
Battling Ropes or Rope machine
Sprint on bike
You can also some assistance stuff with very short rest (30-60 secs max) to get a better pump and EPOC effect. Have fun with it.


Some great advice here, thanks guys. I'm not going to be doing any sprinting, haven't run anywhere in more than 6 years so jumping into sprints would probably kill me. I'm definitely more of a low intensity type person when it comes to cardio, although I'd be interested in reading about the complexes. My plan is to start with two days per week after my squat sessions. We'll see how this goes.


Basically the gym complexes method is a program where progressive exercises can be linked together to give you a balance of power work and higher volume/time under tention (GPP). A lot of strongmen train like this and an example might be doing something like a heavy compound movement with a barbell, then a medium weight hammer machine, then a light isolation movement with no rest between them. The gym complexes are a fun way to switch things up and improve GPP/hypertrophy while still doing your normal power work.

Another alternative would be barbell complexes where you perform multiple movements with the same barbell (clean, press, squat, etc.) - these can be quite exhausting and make for a good way to change things up with your conditioning. TMUSCLE has recently run a good article on these.


I'm recovering from a hernia surgery and decided to use my heavy lifting restrictions to my advantage and concentrate on some overall conditioning. I've been at it since the begining of September and have primarily been doing complexes, pushing the Growler (my prowler clone) and some walking at a brisk pace.

My log is at westcarybarbell.com/toms_log/ and it details my progress and experiences with the complexes. I haven't really lost much weight, my diet isn't exactly clean, but I'm feeling and looking leaner.