Today is all about MOVEMENT, specifically the benefits associated with being aerobically fit.
I'm assuming a lot of people reading this love to crush weights, push there bodies hard with some heavy duty intervals (HIIT), and may occasionally forget their long run or their 5k row they had scheduled. I've been there plenty of times of myself, however recently have been trying to incorporate more low and high intensity aerobic work into my training week for a few reasons...
1. Increase in Work Capacity
Of the three energy systems, the aerobic system produces the most ATP (by a long shot). Being able to stay aerobic before switching to your higher demanding energy systems allows you to perform more work. So, whether developing your overall aerobic capacity (long, slow, steady work ie cardiac output) or local muscular endurance of specific tissues (tempo squats, pushups, etc.), having a large gas tank to repeatedly perform your athletic endeavor allows you to perform more repeated efforts of your lift and to recover quicker between bouts of training (intraworkout or interworkout) due to the increased ATP production rate.
2. Facilitate Recovery
Having just touched on this- a lot of time on your day off between sessions it may seem tempting to sit around and do nothing. Sometimes, this is what you need. However, a majority of the time it would serve you much better to get a sweat going and get your heart rate up. Getting blood to damaged tissue brings a host of nutrients they need to repair themselves, while also helping to alleviate some of the inflammation.
One of my favorite methods after a heavy lift is some HICT (high intensity continuous training- see Joel Jamieson) to facilitate recovery to all the fast twitch fibers that had gotten smoked the day before.
3. Increased Capillary density (and better mechanics)
Charlie Francis spoke a ton about this for training his athletes. If we can develop our capillary density- we can stay warmer, longer, and also won't need as much time to warm up as the blood can reach the deeper muscle quicker and more efficiently. This also allows us to inhibit different muscles, which as we've seen with higher level vs. novice athletes, the better athletes always relax antagonists more efficiently then novice (high vs. low threshold strategies).
4. Increased Brain Functioning
For anyone who has ever coached a group of middle-school aged kids, you know sometimes they are just too riled up to pay attention to anything your saying (much less perform different drills you'd like). A super simple and quick fix to get their attention is to line them up and run 'em (sport science word). While coaches use this as punishment, they may actually be improving their kids motor learning abilities.
With low level aerobic work (maybe not quite the same as run 'em admittedly), a variety of growth factors gets released in the brain to improve cognitive capacity and promote stem cell division (BDNF, IGF-1, Vascular Endothelial GF, Fibroblast Growth Factor, etc). Great for your focus and motor learning abilities.
5. Increased Vagal/ Parasympathetic Tone
For everyone that has ever been stressed, going for a run, swim, etc usually helps relieve the stress and gives them enough space from it to continue on with their day. When we get to that stressed state, our sympathetic nervous system kicks in, creating a cascade of hormones sending us into our fight or flight state. This is great when we actually need it (fighting off a lion, running after someone who stole our wallet) but to have this constantly cranked up is a terrible way to live life (STRESS IS A LEGIT KILLER).
With an increased parasympathetic tone, we can live at lower heart rates, with less fight or flight responses and more rest and digest responses (our bodies natural state to function daily).
I implore you if you aren't already to add some of this conditioning to your own training. It doesn't have to be too intense and doesn't have to take away from your training. It should support whatever your routine currently looks like (sprints after max effort squats would be too demanding on your system, vs some cardiac output work or HICT the day after your max effort squats to facilitate recovery).
A great resource is Joel Jamison's Ultimate MMA Conditioning. This book has a ton of great methods and rationale to help you improve your own training.
I will be writing about some of his methods and spin offs myself and a few colleagues have used in our own training and training clients. In the mean time share some of your own methods you've been using on yourself or clients!