It is common for strength athletes to disregard aerobic training while pursuing maximal strength. Admittedly there is cause for concern when training becomes too varied. Since specificity decreases so do the results from any single adaptation. Additionally, there is also concern about an interference effect that could potentially blunt adaptive processes through various molecular mechanisms (1). Although this is cause for concern, most people view the relationship as an on-off switch (if you do cardio, your results will be destroyed) when in reality it is more of a spectrum. Running ten miles four times per week is not the same as doing aerobic conditioning via resistance training. Then there is the question of how much you are doing, the intensity, frequency, and so on. But how can aerobic fitness improve strength, and more importantly how can we avoid performance degradation? Below we will highlight a few of the important adaptations that occur during aerobic conditioning and its implications for strength training.

As the heart rate goes up, blood flow increases causing venous return to increase accordingly. As venous return increases, the heart fills up rapidly which stretches the tissue in the heart. Because of the elastic properties of the tissue they respond by contracting more forcefully due to the increased eccentric stress and increase the stroke volume. Some of the chronic adaptations to aerobic conditioning are increased left ventricle size and strength, decreased heart rate, greater venous return, increased capillary density, and increased stroke volume which means you are getting more blood out per pump. 

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Aerobic conditioning enhances capillary density, which plays an important role in the transport of oxygen and nutrients to the muscle while simultaneously removing metabolic waste products (2). This increased efficiency can improve work capacity allowing for more productive training and better recovery. Glycogen repletion also appears to be improved via aerobic conditioning (3). So not only can enhanced aerobic conditioning improve performance within a session, but it can also enhance recovery for subsequent training bouts. 

Carbohydrates, Na+ pumps, and pH all impact the nervous system. Through exercise, we create metabolic byproducts like carbon, lactate, and hydrogen ions which can alter our pH. Our ability to buffer these waste products can meaningfully impact our ability to sustain performance at a high level. As discussed previously, the various adaptations that come with improved aerobic capacity enhance the clearing of these waste products and extend the time to exhaustion so to speak. 

So does this mean you need to run on a treadmill for an hour every day? No. As mentioned previously, there are several ways to skin a cat. For simplicity, I will share a non-exhaustive list of potential options you can use to gradually increase your aerobic capacity that can be beneficial for strength. 

Decrease Rest Times

For instance, instead of taking seven minutes of rest, you can reduce it to four minutes. Initially, your fatigue may spike, but over time, you will adapt and will be able to recover faster.

Increase Work Density

This is similar to the above recommendation. For instance, if you have four sets of eight with five minutes rest between sets, you could instead do eight sets of four with 90 seconds rest. 

Increase Your Daily Step Count

I would say, at a bare minimum, everyone should be taking at least 8,000 steps per day. But you can go up in steps from there or gradually increase your walk's speed.

Do Conditioning

With some of my strongman athletes, I will include a conditioning circuit at the end of some of their training sessions. Since strongman competitors need to have a decent aerobic base to perform some of the events. A simple example could be: 

  • Farmer carries 30 meters
  • Stone to shoulder 5x per side
  • Sled drag 30 meters
  • Assault bike 20kcal
  • Take a break and repeat X number of times 

As I mentioned previously, there are several ways to skin a cat. Do not take these as the only potential options available. Also, do not assume that this random circuit is special. It is just an example to give you an idea of what conditioning might look like when executed. But as you can see, none of these examples diverge drastically from your regular training. So, specificity can be preserved, and the likelihood of interference is very low. Good luck, and lift big!


  1. Velazquez, Jordy. "Interference effect review: the grand paradox." Exercise & Sport Nutrition Reviews. 2019.
  2. Egginton, S. Invited review: activity-induced angiogenesis. Pflugers Arch - Eur J Physiol 457, 963–977 (2009).
  3. Greiwe, Jeffery S. “Effects of endurance exercise training on muscle glycogen accumulation in humans.” Journal of Applied Physiology, vol. 87, no. 1, July 1999, pp. 222–226,

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Daniel DeBrocke is the director of education curriculum at Kabuki Strength. He's a competitive powerlifter and strength coach with over ten years of experience in the field. He has coached athletes ranging from novice lifters to world record holders, national champion BMX racers, and professional soccer and MLB players.

Daniel is a published author and writes for several renowned publications such as elitefts, Kabuki Strength, T-Nation, Bar Bend, Breaking Muscle, and Evil Genius Sport Performance. He has presented at international conferences alongside industry experts. Daniel is also the creator of the Stacked Strength Podcast.