A question I often get is if it’s possible to gain more muscle and strength while also building up some solid endurance at the same time??
Well, I think it is very possible!
In fact, I just got done running 6 400m sprints this morning…
And to tell you the truth, it feels like everything I’ve eaten today has just been burned up within seconds after ingesting it! I was pretty much waxed after I was done but, now I feel great and I’m ready for more.
And in addition to that, I’ll be hitting a strength session later today, but I thought it would be good to explain how a person can continue to gain strength, pack on lean muscle and get highly conditioned since a ton of my readers out there have sent in emails for the past few weeks asking if it can be done.
For those of you that have sent this question in (some of you multiple times 😉 ) here you go!
The short answer is YES.
But why would you want to gain more endurance??
Well, this type of “cardio endurance” training is mostly ideal for MMA fighters, Military Athletes, Wrestlers, Rugby Players, Soccer, and those who want to simply be SHREDDED and overall badass! Any sport that requires a good amount of strength and power endurance is ideal.
Most of the sports specifically listed above have more longer goes and extended play times. For instance, an MMA fighter is constantly hitting burst of all out goes over the course of 5 mins. It’s good to have a high anaerobic threshold build up for that sport (meaning you can go at HIGH INTENSITIES for longer durations). Same goes for Military Athletes (SEALs, Marines, Rangers, ect) as they need to be ready for anything! Having strength and power endurance is key.
One of the things about this type of training that really chaps my ass is the fact that most guys think that endurance / cardio is the absolute devil when it comes to adding more muscle to your frame. With this thought, most people stay far away from any type of real cardio training in fear that it will make them shrink in size and lose strength.
Look at some of these 800m and 400m sprinters….
Yeah these guys are top athletes and had to train and eat at an elite level but a physique with both strength and power can be achieved by anyone!
The only thing I would say that’s bad about cardio endurance is when it comes to hard gainers, AKA “ectomorphs“, as with these guys, I would avoid most cardio just because it’s hard to gain muscle anyways…
But, for most guys, endurance cardio will help get you lean while helping you retain muscle and strength.
Most people’s idea of endurance training or “cardio” is running on a treadmill for 45 mins or jogging a mile or two. Those two types aren’t the best when it comes to helping you retain muscle and strength.
When I think of endurance type cardio, the best forms is anything under an 800m run. When you start getting over 800m, you start getting into more of an “aerobic” dominated state of training.
If you don’t know, “aerobic” training refers to training at a lower intensity and longer duration so, longer races and distances would account for this type of running.
In fact, I would actually say that for most guys, unless they have a background in running mid distance sprints, the 800m and even the 400m run would be more of an aerobic cardio exercise for them because they wouldn’t be able to sustain a high enough intensity throughout the whole run.
For the longer endurance cardio runs including the 400m up to 800m, you would want to progress to over time. Most guys will never need to do 800’s…
But, for more conditioned folks, if you can sustain a high speed stride and sprint for at least a whole 400m, you can make it into an anaerobic exercise, or higher intensity, mid distance sprint.
In order to retain the most strength and muscle, you’ll want to focus in on doing anaerobic type cardio and running. For these, you should be able to sustain a high intensity. I say at least 80-90% speed throughout the whole run or anything under 3 maybe even 4 mins.
Perfect distances for most people running these are the 400m down to a 100 yard sprint.
I say this because with these distances, most guys can go close to ALL OUT for the whole distance, which is what you want in this case…
I’ve been experimenting with myself and some of my ELITE clients with 400m repeats to help build up some serious cardio endurance and fat loss. It’s worked wonders thus far…
I’ve been personally doing 400m and 100 yard repeats for the last 8 weeks or so. I’ll run either an 400m or 100 yard sprint at about 85-90% speed then rest for about 2-3 mins and repeat for anywhere from 5-8 rounds. To really push it, I’ll time myself and make sure I hit that time or below each round.
I haven’t seen any loss in strength or size nor have any of my clients.
The best and worst cardio endurance runs are by far the 400m repeats…. Usually for me, it’s about 75 secs of pure hell! You could of course run these at 100% but you would only have enough in ya for one or maybe two after a 10-15 min break!
For these “repeat” sets, you want to have incomplete rest but just enough to where you can continue to push hard. Usually 2-3 mins of rest is enough.
As far as reps go, if you’re doing 800m – 400m, usually anywhere from 4-8 rounds is enough. Depending on your fitness level, 4 x 90% – 800m runs will wipe you out!
Now the question is, WHEN should you be doing this type of training??
Here’s where you can fit in endurance cardio….
- Before your Strength Training – I will many times perform my repeat sets of 100 yard sprints or 400m runs early in the AM, before my strength session. These training session usually only last about 30 mins so if you can get up in the AM early, you can fit it in and get it done and over with. I would say this is for more ADVANCED guys that already have a solid cardio and anaerobic base.
- During your Strength Session – If you’re familiar with Crossfit at all, you would know there are many workouts that involve running a 400m, maybe even 800m run, or even fast 100 yard sprint while being paired up with some heavy lifting. This will CRUSH you endurance wise but, you will still be able to sustain strength and build muscle while doing this. You have to acclimate yourself to this type of training first but, trust me, it works! Again, this is for ADVANCED guys.
- After your Strength Session – I rarely do this but, if you’re short on time, you can still fit in your endurance cardio after a strength session. I would recommend you keep it short and sweet and try to get it in right after your strength session so you give yourself more time to rest when you’re done. This is probably the worst time to do it but if your schedule only allows for this, then so be it, you’ll be fine.
- ***On separate days from Strength Training***- I would say that for mostly guys, this is the IDEAL way to go for adding in longer endurance type cardio. This gives your body a chance to rest and you can strategically schedule these sessions in around lower body and upper body days. I like to get these days in when I know my next strength session is an upper body dominated session OR rest day. These longer sprints will tear your legs up pretty good, especially when you first start so you’ll want to keep rest and recovery in mind while adding them in.
Other things to consider…
- Like I mentioned before, you’ll want to build yourself up to the longer distances. If you don’t currently sprint, start with 20, 30, even 40 yard sprint starts and build up from there.
- You want to stretch and foam roll like a mo’ fo’!!! After your first time or even after you’ve grown accustomed to doing these sprint workouts, you’ll want to stretch and foam roll like crazy after and even before any training session. You should already be doing this anyways… 😉
- Finally, if you truly want to get SHREDDED, build more STRENGTH, and gain MUSCLE while building up more ENDURANCE, you’ve got to eat right! I would first recommend following a Paleo-Like Diet while cutting back 99.9% of your sugars and processed foods. This will help you get on track while getting healthier. Just keep it LEAN and CLEAN and you’ll see results!
So, here’s a sample very basic template of what a typical weekly plan may look like that you could start implementing into your program that will help you start building up more endurance cardio while still building more strength and muscle!
Day 1 – Full Body Strength
Deadlifts, Push Ups, Pull Ups, Kettlebell Swings, Farmer Walks
Day 2 – Cardio Endurance
5 x 400m Run at 85% OR 8 x 100m sprints @ 85-90% w/ 2-3 mins rest
Day 3 – OFF
Day 4 Upper Body Strength w/ Sprint Work
Overhead Press, recline rows or bent DB Rows, Weighted Dips, Cheat Curls, Core Work
40m Sprints 6-10 x 90-95%
Day 5 – OFF
Day 6 – Lower Body Strength
Front Squats, DB Walking Lunges, Single Leg RDL’s, Rotational Core Work
Day 7 – REST
As you progress over time, you can start building up your endurance cardio sessions to longer runs such 600m, 800m, longer hill runs (60+ yards), and 100 yard sprints at near maximum speed.
Also, as you become more advanced, you can begin to include endurance cardio on the same day as your strength training or even within it.
This is just a sample for the average guy starting out. When you get more advanced, it gets more way more complex, creative, and fun! 😉
QUESTION FOR YOU – When Do YOU add in sprinting and cardio endurance work? If not, WHY????
Live Aggressive and Get Strong!
PS – If you want to get a system that put all of this together for you, CLICK THE LINK BELOW for more details.