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November 20 2012
Right there is that word Elite again
Well most people aren't and have no intention of being Elite even though your elite is Euopean Youth stardard,
Instead your article will now convince a bunch of sheep who think they're Elite not to do any cardio in the fat US
Nice work
November 20 2012
I am a newbie lifter and I don't do any cardio AT ALL, just weightlifting, and I go 105/126... Feels bad man... I am just weak even though I am not doing cardio instead of squats.
Matt Foreman
November 20 2012
Larry, I feel your pain. I had a twenty kilo split between my SN and C&J for my first two years of competition. Hell, I went to a meet in 1991 and did 110/125 once. It wasn't because I was weak, it was because I hadn't learned how to C&J properly yet. When I made some technique changes in the jerk and gained some experience, the gap got wider. You'll make the same progress if you keep working at it. Keep hammering and don't get discouraged.
November 20 2012

So no more 5's in the squat either? Cause I'm pretty sure that constitues cardio...
Martin Bingisser
November 21 2012
There are two main reasons why, if your goal is to be the best you can be a lifting (or any power sport) cardio should not be a focus. The first reason is just as Matt explained: the cardio exercises itself hurts your training. It uses different energy systems and can result in a loss of muscle and various other effects which will reduce your power and strength while increasing endurance (something that is not needed, except unless the lifter is so unfit that they cannot make it through a normal workout).

But the second reason is the opportunity cost. Each athlete has a limited amount of time and energy. When you spend it doing cardio it is not only harmful, but in addition you are missing out on spending more time lifting and getting the benefits related to that. Spend that extra time and energy lifting and you'll get a double bonus.
Travis Cooper
November 21 2012
So there have been a ton of arguments about body composition and optimizing your body composition. Do you believe that the right weight class is the weight class in which your bf% is the lowest? If someone has a strict diet already and they have a relatively high bf% do you think that doing cardio to gain a better bf% would be beneficial. I personally don't know what I believe, but I think this is a great discussion.
Matt Foreman
November 21 2012
Hey Travis,
You’re right, great topic. If a person has a strict diet and a high bodyfat percentage, I guess cardio would be a good idea because it doesn’t sound like the OLifts are that person’s main issue anyway. A person like that should probably make it the top priority to just get their body under control before they start focusing on weightlifting progress, in my opinion.

The question of, “Do you believe that the right weight class is the weight class in which your bf% is the lowest?” is a good one that’s been discussed a lot, like you said. I guess my basic answer would be “yes” but there are several variables that come into the picture. I’ve always thought a person’s height had a lot to do with picking their optimal weight class. When I was a junior, I was 5’11 and weighed 88 kilos, and my lifting was going nowhere for over a year. I switched coaches and my new coach told me, “At your height, you need to go up two weight classes.” I started gaining weight (which my body was definitely ready to do) and within a year my total had gone up almost 40 kilos and I was ready to move up to senior national level. I was definitely adding some bodyfat in addition to muscle, but it all benefited my lifting. 120 kilos was where I eventually did my best lifting, both on Sinclair and in terms of national ranking.

I think it’s a best-case scenario for a lifter to have the lower possible bodyfat in their weight class, but I don’t think reducing bodyfat should be a top priority for a lifter. I don’t know if that makes any sense or not. I think there’s an intuitive sense of when a lifter is in the right weight class, and it’s largely determined by height and the basic body structure of the athlete. Good coaches can usually make solid determinations on this. From what I’ve seen in weightlifting, moving up in weight class is almost always a better idea than moving down. Most of the lifters I’ve seen who moved down in weight class lost most of their leg strength. Obese people are exceptions to this, obviously. I’m basically talking about athletes with a level of basic conditioning and body composition that’s somewhat normal.

Superheavyweights are just a whole different conversation. They’ve basically gotta stay big at any costs, unless their positions are being destroyed by excess bulk (as happened to Chemerkin after 1997). I don’t think I’ve ever seen a SHW move down to 105/110/108 and have more success.

This is long-winded, but I should probably write a separate blog about it because it’s an important issue. In a nutshell, I don’t think bodyfat reduction should be a high priority for a weightlifter. That’s a simplistic statement though, and there’s much more to it than that.

dj bobo
November 22 2012
Just to clarify - there isn't a single elite or world class weightlifter in US with the exception of a certain Russian guy in Boston area.

Some foreign elite lifters do jog, maybe half a mile per day, or play soccer, or swim. They don't call it cardio though. They are professional athletes. If you can't run a mile and maintain strength, you are less than mediocre athlete.
dj bobo
November 22 2012
Sorry, just noticed Mr Andrew explained it already.
Greg Everett
November 23 2012
Travis -

I would say that the athlete's height is a much more important factor in determining weight class than BF. How lean (or not) an athlete is is more a function of genetics than anything else, so for many athletes, chasing after an unnatural level of leanness just keeps them confinually weak and underfed and performing below their potential. There's also something to be said about training in the weight class you naturally fall into as well as possible - significant changes in bodyweight can be very difficult and taxing to maintain, both physically and psychologically. However, to be competitive based on height, often this has to simply be disregarded. And of course, you have to take into account how the athlete performs and feels at any given bodyweight - this is not always what you might expect. So I I guess I would say the bottom line is that BF% is something to consider, as of course the more muscle mass a lifter has at a given weight, the more potential he/she has to lift more weight, but it's only 1 part of the issue and arguably not the most important.
November 25 2012
Thanks for the article, lots of fantastic info! I'm a crossfitter and I spent a few months this year training for the Melbourne Marathon. I wrote a blog on the pros and cons and the effect that it had mostly on my lifting. I can't seem to add a link here but it's the Grow Eat Run blogger (just google it) if you want to check it out. I'm still running 5-8km, but no more 28km for awhile! I hope this gives a perspective on a huge cardio increase in training and its effects.
November 26 2012

While we are on this topic, does anyone here have any suggestions on how to get rid of the "power belly"?
December 19 2012
I am an ex crossfitter who has made the switch to Weightlifting and I still do one short met con a week (except during a comp phase). the purpose behind it is to help promote some solid blood flow and I find it actually reduces fatigue and soreness and allows me to train a little harder on the platform because it makes me feel better. so I think a little bit is good for over all wellness. I would love to hear some feedback on this observation of mine
Matt Foreman
December 19 2012
S M- For losing the belly, I think changing the diet, reducing portion size and, unfortunately, cardio are probably going to be necessary. If getting rid of the gut is a priority, I think you'll probably have to do a combination of these things.

James- What you described (one short met con a week when you're not close to a competition) doesn't sound like anything that would cause a problem. That's probably not enough cardio to hurt you and it sounds like your body responds well.
December 20 2012
I also pray that it will help me avoid becoming a super heavy weight which is something I want to avoid as silly as this may sound
February 5 2013
I actually just watched an interview on YouTube (can't seem to find the link) of Ivan Abadjiev saying that cross country skiing was an important part of training for his athletes and that he believed that cardio changed the physiology of the muscle in beneficial ways for Olympic weightlifters. He did not specify how often cardio was implemented in the training cycle.

This was an interview conducted in Swedish(i think) through an interpreter and then translated to English, so it should be taken with a grain of salt. I watched it on YouTube, so it's there somewhere. I apologize for not being able to find it.
Greg Everett
February 6 2013
Justin -
I'm not aware of that interview, but I would be very skeptical. Abadjiev's whole philosophy is based on specificity. XC skiing couldn't be further removed from the demands of weightlifting. What I have been told by him and some of his former and current athletes would suggest that this was either an inaccurate translation, a joke, or is so old it preceded his move toward the training methodology he became known for.
Justin Tungate
February 6 2013
I found the link after a little searching. I believe the interview is actually conducted in Finnish.

"Bulgarian Training System Part 6 Questions and Answers"

The salient part begins at 8:30 into the interview. He talks about how they would go to high altitude training camps in the winter and do cross country skiing to help with lung development, which he believes is important to support muscle function in the olympic lifts.

In this segment he's specifically talking about the training progression from the late sixties to the late eighties and it's possible that I'm misinterpreting what's being translated (it's somewhat hard to follow in places), but to me it looks like Abadjiev is very much a believer in developing "lung function".
Justin Tungate
February 6 2013
To be clear, I have not watched the rest of the series, and I don't believe that he's talking about lung function in the sense of true cardio at the levels of a runner or any other distance athlete.
Justin Tungate
February 6 2013
I would actually start watching from around 6:50.
Matt Foreman
February 10 2013
As Greg mentioned, I would be very skeptical about this. If there is any truth to it, it was probably done after the World Championships when their training wasn't as brutal as it was throughout the rest of the year. Some countries back off their top athletes for a while after the Worlds so their bodies can rest a little before they start training hard again for spring competitions like the European Championships. This would fit what I said in this blog about doing cardio during "some kind of down-time phase when your squats and competition lifts aren’t going to be too challenging." But still, I have doubts about all of it. Knowing how hard the Bulgarians trained year-round and what Greg mentioned about specificity, it's hard to imagine any type of cardio training being a high priority in their system unless it was done for a very short amount of time when the athletes weren't in a period of intense training.
April 10 2014
What about Sprints varying from 20-200m? I would call these anaerobic and not cardio/aerobic but what do you think? Could it be beneficial for power and strength in the lifts?

Great read btw!
Brandon Green
April 10 2014
I believe in the basic idea of your article. Having read all the old Soviet sports reviews and Charniga's translated books i do believe that some
form of cardio does help with recovery although at what cost ?
I don't think the Bulgarians use any cardio at any time of the year.
However there is some contradictory evidence-Thomas Kurz (if you know who he is)a polish martial artist and author has stated that ALL athletes need some for of cardio and Charlie Francis(the recently deceased track coach of Ben Johnson) has had great results with his sprinters with extensive tempo(running speeds below 75% of max.
December 22 2015
Old post back from the dead?

Matt, I think you need to specify cardio here. 20 min on a rowing machine at
March 9 2016
Okay so here's a questions for you, after reading the article and the comments. I'm 4'11" currently lifting at 58kg (last meet I weighed in at 56kg), newer to the lifting scene, and trying to get my totals up...which they don't seem to want to do. I had thoughts of trying to drop a weight class and lift as a 53kg, I thought it would be beneficial to be on the heavier side of a lower weight class than stuck somewhere in the middle of a heavier weight class. But now I'm thinking that dropping might be harmful to my strength? I usually try to get in some form of conditioning once or twice a week, mainly boxing or a short run, not sure which way I should go...knowing full way I probably won't make it to a National level (working a full time job and balancing work/life training, probably won't allow for that), but still wanting to compete at the highest level I can. Thoughts?
Lifters have been successful dropping weight classes and maintaining strength - two recent examples that come to mind are Travis Cooper and Cortney Bachelor. However, even more have cut weight and lost a lot of strength. If you're lean now at 58, it's probably not going to be great; if you're not super lean already and are willing to be very disciplined and consistent with your nutrition, it can be done. That said, generally altering bodyweight is best done primarily through nutrition rather than training - your training should support your performance goals overwhelmingly rather than be modified to address bodyweight. We have had a lot of success working with WAG for lifters.

Greg Everett
Sam McGinnity
March 15 2016
Hey, I have heard that cardio can benefit weightlifters as long as it's sprints. I do sprints at no more than 100 meters to build explosiveness. Would it stil hinder results? Thanks!
100 m sprints aren't cardio. That's anaerobic.

Greg Everett