When it comes to a CrossFit workout, there’s a difference between the strength session and the conditioning session. However, sometimes the two get blended together and you have someone going too heavy in a conditioning session.
As I’m sure you know by now, strength and conditioning should be treated as separate training stimuli, ‘lifting weights faster’ is not cardio, and cardio is not doing a set of power cleans to failure with bad technique, resting a few seconds and then attempting to go again.
There’s nothing wrong with using a lighter weight barbell, kettlebell or dumbbell in a conditioning workout. If anything it’s better to go lighter than too heavy in a conditioning workout. Here’s why:
- Lowering injury rates! If people use a lighter weight that they can move efficiently, we can increase mobility, as well as keeping the heart rate lower to facilitate recovery for the next training session. For example, going to heavy in a Thursday conditioning workout will negatively impact the quality of your strength training on Friday.
- You’re not really getting stronger! Doing sets of power cleans in a strength setting with the appropriate weight, number of reps and rest in between sets, does make you stronger. Doing that same weight (or something close to it) during a conditioning doesn’t really work. It will certainly give you DOMs, but as you know from previous posts that is not a reliable indicator of muscle growth.
- You’re negatively impacting your conditioning! Energy management is big piece of conditioning. If you develop poor movement quality under fatigue, you are performing worse precisely because you’re expending more energy to achieve a given level of power output. Also, our brains learn movement patterns in a context specific manner, meaning you will develop different technique/patterns at low heart rate, low power output vs. high heart rate, high power output.
- Eccentric hypertrophy of the heart! This is perhaps the most important. There are two main adaptations that occur in cardiac tissue, concentric and eccentric hypertrophy. Concentric hypertrophy is a thickening of the walls of the heart, where eccentric hypertrophy stretches those walls. Eccentric hypertrophy (which ONLY occurs at 60-70% of max heart rate) improves our ability to recover, our work capacity, and is directly correlated to longevity.
So the next time you are setting up your weight for a conditioning workout at No Excuses CrossFit, keep in mind that heavy is not always better. You don’t need to go heavy because you want an Rx workout or you workout buddy has a certain weight on their bar. Remember the tips above so you can see better health benefits.