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buff guy liftingby: Wesley Silveria AKA Iron Addict
But can you use it?

The sad truth is that many lifters don’t want you to know is that while they look great they are in horrible health and are for the most part non-functional.

I have hung out with many, many lifters over the years that looked great but had ZERO flexibility, couldn’t walk up two flights of stairs without becoming extremely winded, and outside of doing a set and resting had extremely poor ability to do anything physical in the real world. I do not advocate violence but it is nice to be able to defend yourself. I watched a friend that weighed a semi-solid 260 and was strong as hell get his ass kicked by a guy that he had 40-50 pounds on; simply because he got so winded while grappling he could barely move and the guy proceeded to pound the shit out of him.

If you are a Romeo it’s nice to be able to dance. A large percentage of bodybuilders simply can’t because their conditioning is so bad. A large percentage of aspiring bodybuilders are in such poor CV shape, that anything outside of one set and rest and repeat, they are not going to do with any degree of either comfort or performance.

Powerlifting has welcomed conditioning training in a big way due to Louis Simmons introducing the sled and other conditioning methods to his lifters and seeing progress get better across the board. Bodybuilding has been slow to catch on due to the extreme obsession with anything that may be construed as being possibly, potentially, maybe catabolic. In many cases this belief is totally unfounded. Hopefully Bodybuilders will start to catch on.

The biggest reason this situation exists is because lifters are absolutely convinced that cardio is catabolic and will short circuit any potential mass gains before they happen. And in the worst case scenario they are correct, but with intelligent programming nothing could be further from the truth. Here is something I wrote awhile back about my early understanding about cardio and energy expenditure relative to bodybuilding progress.

Never run when you can walk
Never walk when you can stand
Never stand when you can sit
Never sit when you can lie down

This was a popular saying in the bodybuilding world when I was in my late teens. I never forgot these so-called “words of wisdom”. And in all honesty after hearing them and other such advice about never using your bodily resources for anything other than ‘growing muscle’, I took them to heart. I tried to become the laziest, most useless bastard I could be. My only real energy expenditure other than basal metabolism was when I was at the gym. I turned down jobs because of potential physical activity, would turn down invitations from friends for outdoor activities and was generally useless. But, oh, was I ever in a great position to grow! But…….I didn’t……….

As a trainer I come across people all the time that have the same mindset I had in my youth. They are ‘dedicated bodybuilding bums’. Cardio? AHHHHHHHHHH, you will shrink like a new cotton shirt on the highest dryer setting. Recreational sports? Are you kidding? It will interfere with recovery. Dancing with the girlfriend? Are you nuts? I did legs two days ago!

And it goes on and on. People trade in lots of what makes this life enjoyable for a perceived benefit of extra anabolism. THAT THEY DON’T RECEIVE! Your body was made for motion. If you believe lying on the couch sets you up for big gains in the gym think again. IT SETS YOU UP FOR FAILURE! All you get from this approach is a weak sluggish metabolism and poor overall health. Unless your job has at least a reasonable physical component to it such as walking, bending, intermittent lifting, you should be doing at least low intensity cardio 1-5 times a week, and high intensity cardio 2 times a week Yes! This means all you guys out there with desk jobs.

 

When I say low intensity, I’m talking about a brisk walk, or a reasonable paced bike ride. If walking at a fair clip for 45 minutes interferes with recovery, might I suggest bodybuilding gains are the least of your concerns. High intensity cardio is a little harder to peg because there are so many modalities and some are quite compatible to conditioning without impacting gains, and others (ones that cause DOMS) that are not.

Before I talk about how to go about it, a bit of clarification is in order. The goal I have for my trainees is to:

Achieve a level of conditioning that will HELP gains in the gym, and make them a healthier individual. I am not looking for the endurance of a marathon runner, nor the ability to perform HIGH intensity cardio levels for long periods of time. I want my lifters to have a good solid conditioning level that makes life easier and improves performance.

Use sport specific methods if possible to enhance recovery and help with lift performance. This is best achieved IMO with a pulling sled—more on that to follow.

Start the conditioning when adding mass, NOT when dieting and working into it at a pace that does NOT impact performance with the weights.

Use methods that encourage the lifter to do it on a long term basis.

Now lets get to my sled obsession. Many of you have never hear of using the pulling sled for conditioning and recovery purposes.

Here are Dave Tate’s comments on sled pulling benefits:

• The sled is easy to use and doesn’t require a special trip to the gym.
• The sled is specific to the development of the special skills necessary for maximal strength. (and by the way, we never run with the sled.)
• Many movements can be trained with the sled, some of which are listed below. There are movements for the abdominals, shoulders, hamstrings, etc. Virtually every muscle can be trained with a sled.
• The sled is a great way to induce active restoration. In many of the upper body dragging movements, the eccentric is eliminated because of the nature of the sled. This in turn is great for recovery because the tearing down of the muscle is much less in concentric-only movements.

I constantly have lifters that have poor conditioning and in most cases very poor work capacity and get them pulling the sled. After a few months, we end up with a trainee that reports back that EVERYTHING in life is just easier and energy levels are way up. We also end up with someone that can do more sets, more lifts and often increased frequency because we have enhanced his/her work capacity level.

A picture says a thousand words as to what a pulling sled looks like so here one is:

 

sled
 

 

You load the sled with plates, attach a rope to it, and run the rope to your weight belt, hands, or ankles dependent on the type of pulling you are about to do and PULL! Grass, concrete or dirt all work, concrete is the most consistent and is my preference but it all works.

Most people get sled happy when they first pull and while the sled can enhance recovery it can also destroy dependent oh how it is used. The first time I pulled, I started with 135, did a couple of passes, added a 45 and pulled 185 for a pass (50 yards) put on another plate, pulled a pass, then put on one more, did a pass and a half, having to stop every few feet to recover from the pump and catch my breath. I finally stopped and puked all over the street—NOT the way to break into pulling.

Here is a solid way to break into sled pulling without impacting recovery. Yes, you can just start out dragging 200 lbs for 15 minutes a couple times a week, but expect to potentially grossly overtrain and watch your lifts go down. If you implement a schedule much like the one outlined here you will get into shape pretty fast, and most importantly, your weight training sessions will not be affected.

If you are a 150-300 lb squatter:

Two days a week, your choice of days. But try to at least pull the day AFTER you do squats.

Use 50-65 lbs on the sled, assuming a sled weight of 40-45 lbs for all days

Week one-two for 5 minutes with only 1-2 very SHORT breathers.

Week 3 seven and a half minutes.

Weeks 4-5 ten minutes.

Week 6, 12.5 minutes.

Weeks 7-8, 15 minutes.

Weeks 9-10 add 20 lbs.

Weeks 11-12, either go up in frequency, or up in minutes. This means either go to 20 minute sessions, or add a day. At this point, you may also add a heavy day. That is defined as pulling a weight between 150-350 lbs for four 50 yard passes.

If you are a 300-600 lb squatter:

Two days a week, your choice of days. But try to at least pull the day AFTER you do squats.

Use 70-90 lbs on the sled, assuming a sled weight of 40-45 lbs for all days

Week one-two for 5 minutes with only 1-2 very SHORT breathers.

Week 3 seven and a half minutes.

Weeks 4-5 ten minutes.

Week 6, 12.5 minutes.

Weeks 7-8, 15 minutes.

Weeks 9-10 add 20 lbs.

 

Weeks 11-12, either go up in frequency, or up in minutes. This means either go to 20 minute sessions, or add a day. At this point, you may also add a heavy day. That is defined as pulling a weight between 150-350 lbs for four 50 yard passes.

If you are a 600-900 lb squatter:

Two days a week, your choice of days. But try to at least pull the day AFTER you do squats.

Use 90-115 lbs on the sled, assuming a sled weight of 40-45 lbs for all days

Week one-two for 5 minutes with only 1-2 very SHORT breathers.

Week 3 seven and a half minutes.

Weeks 4-5 ten minutes.

Week 6, 12.5 minutes.

Weeks 7-8, 15 minutes.

Weeks 9-10 add 20 lbs.

Weeks 11-12, either go up in frequency, or up in minutes. This means either go to 20 minute sessions, or add a day. At this point, you may also add a heavy day. That is defined as pulling a weight between 150-350 lbs for four 50 yard passes.

Other methods can be used if the trainee is not willing to pull the sled. Waterbury recently printed a GPP schedule doing all body-weight movements and I have had a few lifters use it with OK results. The elliptical can be used using a 1 minute FAST, 1 minute slow alternating tempo. You can sprint for one minute, walk/jog for a minute (NOT recommended, but better than nothing, or use one of the full-body rowing/push-pull machines using a one minute heavy, one minute light method. The biggest thing to watch for is any movement that causes DOMS, that can halt progress in the gym fast.

Pulling, or using one of the other methods the day after training the bodyparts trained will reduce or eliminate soreness and increase recovery. That stated, I still like to start most lifters simply doing 2 lower body pulling sessions a week and adding upper body pulling after they are already in shape.

Get in shape and use it!

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