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Strength and Cardio Lifting at the Same Time

Build Aerobic Power With Weights


Updated April 17, 2009

To acquire all-round fitness you need to improve the following aspects of fitness:

  • Strength
  • Power
  • Flexibility
  • Aerobic conditioning

Strength training and bodybuilding will provide strength and muscle, some flexibility, and only a moderate amount of conditioning of the heart and lungs -- the aerobic or cardio conditioning.

In this article, I show you how you can get both strength and aerobic fitness in a weight training workout. It won't make you a successful marathon or 10k runner, but it will boost your heart and lung fitness.

About Aerobic Fitness

Running and cycling and similar whole-body rapid movement exercises are traditionally the best way to achieve high levels of heart and lung fitness. Aerobic fitness is measured by the volume of oxygen you can process per minute for any task. This is called the VO2 max. For example, a typical elite marathon runner might have a VO2 max of 80, whereas a champion bodybuilder or weightlifter would be in the 50s or perhaps less in some cases. It is a big difference, but of course, the demands of the sports are different.

The Workout Strategy

This workout will have you doing traditional power training exercises in the gym or at home, using a combination of whole body movements, yet pushing the repetitions out to 20 rather than the more usual range of say, 4 to 12 repetitions that most strength and muscle trainers do.

To achieve this number of repetitions, you will need to adjust the lifting weight downwards -- and this may be anything from 20 to 60 percent of your 1RM, the maximum weight you can lift for that exercise.

Make no mistake, this is a demanding high-intensity workout, even at lighter weights. It exchanges the moderate intensity aerobic type of exercise like running or cycling, with a mainly anaerobic exercise set that places high demands on your heart and lungs. This will build aerobic (and anaerobic) fitness quickly to a certain level, but the downside is that you need a measure of existing fitness and weight training experience to make it work without exhausting or injuring yourself.


You should have experience and some conditioning to tackle this workout, but feel free to brush up on principles and practices.

Make sure you are in reasonably physical and medical condition. Cease an exercise if you feel pain or repetitive acute soreness in any body part, especially a joint.

The Exercises

Do these exercises with powerful movements, which means moving the weight with some speed.
  1. Warm up: loosen up as required with treadmill or cycle and light lifts.
  2. Squats: (front, back, hack or hanging front), butt to ground - 3 x 20 at 40%
  3. Push press: 3 x 20 at 50%
  4. Stiff-leg deadlifts: - 3 x 20 at 50%. Keep your back straight and only bend over as far as this allows.
  5. Hang cleans: 3 x 20 at 40%
  6. Refuel: with some carbohydrate and protein as soon as possible after the session.

Tips for Workout Success

  • You may need to experiment with the load so that you can get through the full 20 repetitions and all exercises. Don't be afraid to lighten the weights.
  • Don't do this workout on consecutive days, and no more than 3 times each week -- 2 days each week may be enough.
  • Repeat warning! This is not for beginners. Back off if you feel exhausted or unable to complete each set or the workout.

    Give it a try and let me know how you go.

Related Video
Quick and Effective Cardio Workout for Heart Health

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