Strength and Conditioning in a Single Session?

I recently had a prospective member ask me, “what sets Viking Athletics apart from other CrossFit gyms?” And while there are many things that do (our awesome coaches, community, and facility to name a few), this athlete was particularly interested in our programming. He came from a gym that did not perform strength and conditioning in the same day, which is what we do the vast majority of the time. His previous gym’s approach is actually very common in the CrossFit world, and it deserves some explanation.

According to the CrossFit Level 1 and Level 2 certifications, affiliates are encouraged to program a general warm-up, a specific warm-up based on the metcon that day, the metcon (WOD), and a cool down. If it’s a lifting day, same deal, except the lift is programmed instead of the metcon. CrossFit pushes this method, because according to HQ, preserving intensity is key, as that yields the best results. Performing strength and then conditioning limits the intensity of the conditioning.

I have covered ad nauseum how strength is king, and how the body adapts to training. And, the best way to get stronger is through direct strength work, not repeated bouts of conditioning. Still, both have their place in a balanced program. So, is it a good idea to perform both in a single training session?

As with most things in the fitness world, the answer is “it depends.” In an ideal world, to get the best results for overall health, most people would need 4 strength sessions, 4 conditioning sessions, and 10 minutes of walking daily PER WEEK. Strength sessions would look like our strength + accessory days. Conditioning sessions would be 30-40 minutes of only conditioning – and eventually longer for our steady state cardio days. This could be continuous 30-40 minutes of work, or total time including rest/work intervals. Do the math, and that’s 8 training sessions and 7 walks every week, which would require multiple training sessions per day. Most of us don’t have that kind of time to dedicate to training – we have lives: family, jobs, and other responsibilities that require our time and effort. So, to get the most out of our training, and to cover all of our bases, we frequently combine strength and conditioning into a single session.

While this isn’t ideal, we can optimize it by focusing each training session on a particular energy system. When we perform a heavy or max effort lift, for example, we’re focusing primarily on our anaerobic energy pathways – specifically the phosphagen system. If we then perform an aerobically dominant metcon, we blunt our bodies’ adaptation from the strength training. So, on heavy/max effort days (and speed days for that matter), you can expect to see short, high intensity metcons – in various formats. And in doing so, we can get the most bang for our buck, without having to train multiple times per day.

Strength and Conditioning

Again, while this isn’t ideal, we do the best we can with what we have. And we get far more out of our hour of training than just performing a super long warm-up, a 10-15 minute metcon, and a cooldown. I hope this makes sense. See you in the gym.

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