If your aim is to put on size and strength, does cardio and conditioning work even matter?
Yes, it does.
A false mental model around cardio and conditioning has been formed. It says this: Anything over 5 reps will ruin your muscle growth.
This type of thinking is outdated and largely the by-product of herd behavior (a mental framework that is a mentality characterized by a lack of individual decision-making or thoughtfulness, causing people to think and act in the same way as the majority of those around them). Just because a lot of people say conditioning inhibits muscle growth, doesn’t mean it’s true.
Conditioning work is not only about being shredded — it’s about being healthy and having a high work capacity. I’ve noticed an obvious misjudgment that is easy to fall victim to when you’re trying to bulk: Abandoning everything including your health to make gains.
The irony here is that cardio and conditioning might be the missing link to your successful bulk.
What if you could pack on slabs of muscle and develop punishing power all without that round, bloated and puffy look?
Enter conditioning surge exercises.
Conditioning surge exercises utilize the benefits of HIIT (high intensity interval training) but are strategically placed in a strength based workout to support muscle growth while minimizing fat gain while on a bulk.
CSE (conditioning surge exercises) are performed in a 1:2 work ratio. You’ll perform 20 seconds of work followed by 40 seconds of rest for three total sets at the end of each main lift in your workout. Here’s an example:
Bench Press 4x5 @ 80%
CSE: Assault Bike - 3 sets for 20 on, 40 off.
Incline Dumbbell Bench Press 3 x 12-15
CSE: Russian Kettlebell Swings - 3 sets for 20 on, 40 off.
Dips 3 x 10
CSE: Burpees - 3 sets for 20 on, 40 off.
Push ups 1 x failure
CSE: Jumping squats - 3 sets for 20 on, 40 off.
I like to suggest no more that four total rounds of CSE during a strength based workout. This equates to 12 working sets of 20 seconds on, 40 seconds off.
Here are five big reasons why conditioning surge exercises are beneficial to your bulk program:
Conditioning surge exercises boost protein synthesis
Research shows that sprint work boost protein synthesis by up to 230%. This means that the process by which your body arranges amino acids to build muscle tissue happens faster. Also, sprinting dramatically improves your hormonal environment in favor of muscle building. Studies reveal that sprint work increase testosterone and decrease cortisol which is a favorable ratio when it comes to building muscle.
Conditioning surge exercises help you recover faster
Conditioning surge exercises sprinkled into your strength based training is hard work. But the payoff is worth it. Here’s why: A 2008 study at the University of Santa Cruz revealed that conditioning work that was done between strength based sets decreased muscle soreness that typically follows weight training. With an increased heart rate and improved blood flow shuttling nutrients to your muscles from the conditioning surge exercises, you’ll blunt the intensity of the delayed onset muscle soreness allowing you to recover faster and train harder.
Conditioning surge exercises improve insulin sensitivity
Studies show the high intensity interval work improve insulin sensitivity. When you’re insulin sensitive, nutrients (glucose and amino acids) can be easily shuttled into muscle cells — this is a good thing for muscle building.
On the other hand, insulin resistance, promotes fat storage. Not the look you want. Conditioning surge exercises help you stay insulin sensitive so that the caloric surplus you’re eating is mostly used for muscle growth and not stored as fat.
Conditioning surge exercises improve work capacity
In 2013 I went through the Westside Barbell Strength Coach program. I made a fascinating discovery: The Westside Method places a high value on conditioning work.
To the untrained eye, you would assume that Westside Barbell lifters don’t do any cardio or conditioning work. However, they do A TON of conditioing work.
Becasue the greater the work capacity of a lifter, the more volume he or she can move in the same (or less) amount of training time they were using before.
Building muscle requires you to be in shape. Hypertrophy work demands that you can handle high volume work at moderate loads with relatively shorter rest periods. If you can’t consistently train this way, muscle building becomes really difficult.
By embedding conditioning surge exercises into your strength training, you’ll improve your work capacity. This will allow you to do more work in less time with more weight, and increase the likelihood of additional muscle growth.
Conditioning surge exercises keep you mentally sharp
The basic function of our mitochondria is to pull energy from nutritnes to produce ATP — the energy currency of our body.
Here’s what you need to know: More mitochondria equals more energy for your brain.
Conditioning surge exercises will not only improve brain function but enhance mitochondrial biogenesis which in turn will help your brain perform better.
The flip side might reinforce why conditioning surge exercises are important for cognitive health: Mitochondrial dysfunction zaps your energy, lowers your willpower (self-control) and is associated with obesity — all of which aren’t favorable to a successful bulk or healthy lifestyle.
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