Training Log

Starting Strength in the Real World

Conditioning for Novices

by Mark Rippetoe | April 05, 2022

underweight novice under the bar preparing to squat

You guys need to get a big misconception out of your heads: you cannot run your belly off. The media has proven to you over the past 2 years that everything they say is a baldfaced lie. And their constant typing and talking and pretty-girling you into believing the nonsense that running and cycling and ellipticalling and high-repping your training burns off the fat has prevented lots of you from getting strong, growing the muscle that does burn the fat, and has redirected your focus from your performance to your appearance. Narcissism is not a good look for anybody. Especially you.

“Conditioning” is work performed at an elevated heart and respiration rate for the purpose of adapting you to function under a sustained elevated heart and respiration rate. If you're an old guy like me, some conditioning work is good, because I no longer play sports or perform physical labor that involves an elevated HR and RR. So I have to create those circumstances artificially. And I'm not a novice to strength training.

You, on the other hand, are a young man who can run and work hard by virtue of having not accumulated the injuries that prevent me from doing it. And since you're young, you can run 7-minute miles without having to train for it. Since you can already do the activities that “conditioning” is supposed to prepare you for, without have to take valuable recovery resources away from your strength training, running etc. accomplishes nothing other than preventing your optimal acquisition of strength. This horrible flaw in military preparation cannot be addressed with the current paradigm in place – that we have to run 5 miles even in the presence of a perfectly good truck, and that the strong 225lb guy carries his heavy kit no better than his 165lb buddy that beat him by 8 minutes on the 5-mile run.

But even more importantly, you cannot Sculpt Razor Abz with a bunch of cardio. And you already know this, because you've tried it several times. Bodyfat is managed with diet, and that's all. Running and the stationary bike do not burn enough calories to make a difference in your bodyfat levels unless taken to competitive-endurance-athlete extremes. And then you're not training for either strength or muscle mass.

So I'm telling you that novices should not do conditioning. You're only a novice once, for a few months, and after you're strong you will understand that increased strength increased your useful work capacity far more than running ever could. There will be a place for conditioning in your training – later. Much later. Now, just get strong while you can pick the low-hanging fruit.  

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