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The Poliquin Principles
Should I Do Cardio?
Q: I'm thinking of adding cardio to my strength training to help me drop to 7 percent bodyfat. Do you think this is the best approach to for me to take?
A: NO! Definitely NO! Especially if you're interested in strength training and wanting to increase your poundages. There is plenty of evidence to point out the interference of aerobic with strength development, particularly when power (fast-strength) is sought. In other words, aerobic training is more harmful to the Olympic lifter or shot putter than it is to the powerlifter. Powerlifter is ironically a misnomer as the powerlifter expresses strength very slowly.
Would damage result from your aerobic work? Damage would be too strong of a word. Geekly adapted would be a better choice of words. There is research out of Finland, Australia and Canada, that has shown that prolonged training with endurance will make fast-twitch fibers take on contractile properties of slow-twitch fibers. There also appears that neural adaptations are biased to slower velocities of contraction which again lessened the power output of slow-twitch fibers. What happens with prolonged endurance work is that the brain arranges contraction patterns to slow rythmic ones instead of the ballistic ones required for weight lifting. That is why doing aerobic work for the upper body worsens your vertical jump.
There are other issues arising from doing aerobic work concurrent with strength training. One of them is that amino acids are required for recovery from aerobic work and strength training. When you are doing both, optimal recovery is compromised as some of the amino acids that would be used for the synthesis of contractile proteins are diverted to the biological adaptations associated with aerobic training.
Furthermore, aerobic training is associated with increase cortisol production with is catabolic in nature, and clearly associated with increased storage of central trunk bodyfat. On top of that, anytime you increase your cortisol output, you are stealing some pregnenolone from the DHEA pathway, further decreasing the anabolic status of your body. Sitting on a bike doing aerobic work, is damaging to the testes because of the pressure and heat. If you don’t believe me, ask the Uniballer Lance Armstrong.
Any client who trains with me has to submit samples for a 16 hormones saliva test. Invariably so, the ones with low androgen reserves (low DHEA) and great catabolic state (high cortisol) are the ones who have the greatest mileage per week of aerobic work before coming to see me. Genetically we were designed to throw rocks at rabbits, not run after them all day long.
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