Do You Have to Be Fat to Be Strong?By Mike WesterdalFor www.EliteFTS.com
Many of you know that I compete as an amateur powerlifter. One thing I’ve noticed over the past few years is that there are many guys who believe the bigger you get and the more body weight you carry, the stronger you’ll get. This was pretty much undisputed in the past. All you had to do was look up all the world records in the squat, bench, and deadlift, and you’d find that the super heavyweights weighing 300 lbs and more dominated all the record boards, regardless of age.
I’m not sure exactly when it started happening, but the tides are turning. When you look up the powerlifting rankings, you’ll see that today the top numbers at many of the biggest powerlifting events each year aren’t always held by the heaviest guys. In fact, on forums across the Internet, people are arguing that the strongest guys in the world today are representing the 198-, 220-, 242-, and 275-lb classes. And I’m not talking about short, fat guys who weigh less than their taller counterparts. These are lean powerlifters who look like they compete in bodybuilding.
Matt Kroczaleski competes in the 220-lb class, giving the heavyweights a run for their money, and I don’t see any stinkin’ body fat!
What does this have to do with lean, hybrid muscle? Well, there’s a new breed of powerlifters who are taking over, and they do cardio! Can you believe that? Powerlifters doing cardio? Well, they’re doing hybrid cardio or resistance cardio. Not only are they improving their fitness levels, but they’re increasing their overall or “absolute strength,” which carries over to their max strength powerlifting results.
It’s true. Times are a changing in the powerlifting world. Pretty soon the word ‘powerlifter’ may just bring to mind a lean, hybrid muscle machine instead of the stereotypical big, fat, bald guy with a goatee. In my opinion, hybrid cardio or type III muscle training has a lot to do with it.
Sometimes I train with Mike Schwanke, an elite powerlifter over at Tampa Barbell. Here’s another example of a lighter guy giving the heavyweights a run for their money. He squats over 1000 lbs and has deadlifted 800 lbs. Even though he’s a powerlifter, he implements cardio and hybrid conditioning so that he can reduce his body fat while building strength. Check out this video of his training footage prior to a meet earlier this year: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XZVtTAzMWpI
. Hybrid cardio isn’t a “style” of training but rather a component of training, and it doesn’t require any special training or fancy equipment.
If you’re interested in developing balance along with fitness, strength, and size, you should be taking a good look at hybrid cardio. A guy can lift and lift and lift until he’s as big as an ox with bulging muscles of steel, but he’ll be short of breath from a climb up a flight of stairs. If you’re into competitive sports, adding the hybrid muscle training component into your training mix can really give you a competitive edge. Guys also use hybrid conditioning to improve weak spots, be more adaptable, improve their overall fitness levels, and boost their body’s capacity to recover.
The sled pull, tire flip, farmer’s walk, wheelbarrow push, and plate lifting are some of the more common hybrid exercises around. In doing any of these exercises, start out with a goal of doing them for maybe ten minutes or so and a long-term goal of working up to about 30 minutes. Once you reach 30 minutes, don’t keep striving to be able to do longer stretches of time. Rather, enhance your capacity by increasing the weight, not the amount of time you’re doing the exercises. This is where you’ll really see improvements in your performance.
One of the great things about hybrid cardio as it relates to muscle building is that it involves compound exercises that require you to use multiple muscle groups and multiple skills (balance, coordination, etc.) at the same time. By doing compound exercises, you’re not only improving your all-around fitness level, but you’re also significantly lowering your risk of injuring yourself.
Many bodybuilders get caught up in building size, focusing on doing the same exercises over and over again. By focusing just on the muscles they see in the mirror (the “beach muscles”) and not training the core, they’re setting themselves up for injury. Powerlifters are equally guilty by concentrating on their maximum strength without paying much attention to their hearts or work capacity. If you can squat 700 lbs, you should be able to squat 225 for 15 reps without getting completely winded.
Many powerlifters, myself included, could use the fat burning benefits of incorporating some hybrid cardio training, which as a bonus will develop the type III muscle fibers. Maybe there would be a little more gas in the tank by the time the deadlift rolls around on meet day!
I’ve heard the excuses—doing this will make you weaker. Well, I’m calling bull**** on that one! How many of you have seen the DVD “242 Raw” featuring Jeremy Hoornstra? For those of you who don’t know him, he’s one of the top raw bench pressers in the world, having hit a 675-lb bench in competition right before my eyes! It was amazing. In Jeremy’s DVD, him and his buddies push his SUV up a hill for their early morning workout. So don’t tell me this kind of conditioning will make you lose max strength because if anything, it will make you stronger.
That’s another great thing about hybrid cardio muscle building exercises. You can do them with whatever you have handy. If you don’t happen to have a sled hanging around the house, no worries. Just push a vehicle around. And if you aren’t able to do that, maybe you can flip a tire or attach some rope to a piece of plywood, put a bunch of bricks on it, and start dragging it around. With lean hybrid muscle building workouts, you’re not tied to a specific routine or exercise.
It’s not a requirement that you do specific exercises or follow a particular routine. It’s more important that you do “Strongman” type exercises in addition to your current routine. That’s what is really going to challenge you. Even if you live in the heart of the city, you can incorporate hybrid muscle exercises into your training routine. The farmer’s walk can be done anywhere. Just grab a couple of heavy dumbbells and start walking. As you improve, use heavier dumbbells.
If the weather is lousy, you can do it at the gym. You can also carry around plates instead of dumbbells. Kettlebells are great for doing these exercises, too. You can use them to do snatches, the farmer’s walk, or any number of other compound exercises. You can even do these hybrid training exercises if you don’t have anything more than your own body weight. Jump squats are just one example of a body weight exercise that you can do. The point is this kind of training allows for a great deal of creativity, flexibility, and adaptability. Watch the Strongman competitions on television if you want some great ideas for coming up with your own routines.
By including hybrid muscle training exercises into your training routine, dangerous imbalances—and the injuries that often accompany them—can be avoided. Adding some of these exercises into the mix can also help keep boredom at bay and keep you from getting burned out on training. You’ll also be giving yourself a serious competitive edge. As an added bonus, because the body is in all-around better physical condition, you’ll also find that you recover more rapidly and will probably have more energy.
Thanks for letting me get this off my chest. I’m learning so much just from reading everyone’s comments. If you’re interested in building muscle and burning fat at the same time while keeping your strength levels high, visit http://www.leanhybridmuscle.com
to claim your free Warrior Physique report and Super Hero Hybrid Muscle online DVD. Mike Westerdal is the founder of Critical Bench, Inc. and a free online weightlifting magazine. Critical Bench hosts the Internet’s largest free exercise database and is the home of many workout routines, including the Critical Bench Program to help you increase your bench press. Elite Fitness Systems strives to be a recognized leader in the strength training industry by providing the highest quality strength training products and services while providing the highest level of customer service in the industry. For the best training equipment, information, and accessories, visit us at www.EliteFTS.com.