How Much Conditioning Do You Really Need?

STACK Expert Rob DeCillis warns that too much cardio can be counterproductive for athletes. Building strength boosts cardio.


Conditioning Workout

The music is blaring, the weights are flying and people are yelling, either from the pain or in an effort to motivate each other to keep going. At the end of the conditioning session, people are on the ground, looking like they're about to pass out.

This approach is all too common in fitness—but for athletes, it's the wrong approach. Even if you need to lose weight, you should avoid the typical conditioning workout of kickboxing classes and cardio machines. Strength is key. Too much cardio won't help in the long run.

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For athletes, two cardio sessions a week should be enough. Add more, and you probably won't see better results—and you might prevent your body from recovering.

What is the real secret to living healthier and improving your cardio? Improving your strength. Getting stronger will improve your conditioning. Here's how.

Say you perform a cardio session like this one. You perform it each week, and each week it gets easier, so you begin to plateau. If you add strength training into your weekly plan, you will, as you get stronger, be able to challenge yourself more (in the form of increased resistance) during your cardio sessions. This will tax your muscles, bump you off the the plateau and help you become more fit.

Here are a few additional suggestions:

  • Do two conditioning sessions and at least two strength sessions (one for your upper body and one for your lower body) each week.
  • A cardio workout that leaves you on the ground gasping for breath is not necessarily a good workout. Crushing yourself is easy. Following a program that actually causes improvement is more challenging and beneficial.

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