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Blog 4/50. Strength or Cardio?

02.09.2020

I realize that this is a pretty “click-baity” title but I think it’s an interesting topic to discuss. And this is my blog post. And I’ll cry if I want to. I think if you asked the average person whether they should focus on strength or cardio they would probably either say “They’re both equally important” or they’d pick cardio. I think most of the population still worries about their heart health and of course, lifting weights isn’t good for your heart. Only cardio gives your heart a good workout. WELL THEY ARE WRONG. Ok. Good blog. Bye Bye.

Just kidding.

From the very beginning of my CrossFit journey, the idea of it appealed to me. Strength and cardio blended together? That makes sense! Turns out, that’s exactly what Greg Glassman thinks too. He believes that nature has no regard for the distinction between the two and that your training should seek to blur the line between them and blur it often. Each end of the strength-cardio spectrum should be addressed as well, but most of your training time should be spent in the middle. However, I think the “middle” should be a little further towards strength than most people think.

When you think of cardio, how long of a workout are you thinking? 15, 20 minutes? Longer? If you are going based off of the energy systems our body uses to do work, it only takes a few minutes to get to a time domain that requires aerobic metabolism instead of anaerobic. So all of those traditional CrossFit workouts that take 8-15 minutes are great! But they actually bias conditioning probably a little more than you think. Yes, most people will improve their strength doing these workouts, especially if moderately heavy weight is involved. But I think people in general should spend a lot more time developing strength than they do.

For all of you reading this who do CrossFit, you are likely stronger than 99% of people in your demographic. Great job! So this blog isn’t necessarily meant as a recommendation for you guys to change anything. But you can totally use it to try to get your friends and family to lift heavy things a lot more often!

Luckily for us, we don’t have to choose between strength or cardio. CrossFit does the best job of blending the two together. But IF you had to pick one or the other or if you had to bias towards one or the other, I would choose strength 99.999999% of the time. The only exception would be very high level strength athletes like Strongman/woman competitors since, obviously, they are already very strong.

 

Why would I pick strength for almost anyone? The simplest explanation is that strength has far more carry-over into the real world than cardio. I’m not saying cardio isn’t important. If you have a huge deadlift but you can’t walk around the park without breathing heavily, you have a problem. We also want to have balanced strength but more strength is almost always better. I have never slipped and fell on ice and felt glad my VO2 Max is high. I’ve never been walking my three dogs (totaling ~230 lbs) when they all see a cat and lose their minds trying to get to it, stopped them from dragging me across the street, and thought, “Shew! Working up to that 50 mile bike ride really paid off!” You can find tons of stories online about people who CrossFit getting in bad wrecks and their doctors saying they would be dead if not for the strength they have developed. Developing strength by lifting and moving heavy things also creates a more resilient skeletal system. It allows people to live independently for longer. More muscle = a higher metabolism and less of a chance of carrying excess body fat.

I have been dealing with back issues on and off (mostly on) since high school. I played a lot of high-impact sports and had very little core strength. Over the last 10 years of me actively trying to fix it, the only thing that has permanently worked was getting stronger. Not stretching, not rolling, not smashing, not sleeping with pillows stacked up under my legs, and not even doing nothing. If you want to be better at CrossFit, you have to be strong AND you have to hammer those horrible 8-15 minute workouts. But for anyone who just wants to improve their quality of life, be more resilient, improve at their sport (no matter what that sport is), feel better, look better, sleep better, etc. they just need to get stronger.

author: Jacob Watts

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