Using multiple protocols or modes within your training program, can help you achieve different goals. Concurrent training is a training protocol that involves improving cardiorespiratory performance, as well as strength, muscle mass, and power, through both aerobic and resistance training combined.
For some, resistance training is an accessory workout to your primary athletic endeavors. However, a large body of evidence has proven that resistance training is necessary for increasing strength, power, speed, and explosiveness, to maximize all aspects of your physical performance.
Let’s dig into the details of what concurrent training is, the benefits of concurrent training, and if this specific training modality will help you achieve your goals.
What Is Concurrent Training
Concurrent training involves using multiple modes of exercise, typically endurance and resistance training in your training program, to achieve more than one goal. This type of training can be perceived and modified multiple ways, dependent upon your goal, whether you want to improve physical performance, speed, power, strength, or muscle hypertrophy.
Benefits Of Concurrent Training
If your goal is to maximize physical performance, whether for sport, or simply to challenge yourself, concurrent training can take many shapes and forms and be modified to your specific preference.
Research consistently demonstrates that a combination of both, resistance training and cardiovascular training, is ideal for health, longevity, and body composition.
However, concurrent training can be beneficial, or detrimental, dependent upon several key factors, which include your nutrition protocol, as well as your recovery. Overtraining can impose negative effects, as well as muscle catabolism. There are diminishing returns to training, when you do not provide yourself with the proper performance nutrition and ample time for recovery. Therefore, concurrent training must be methodically programmed for maximal performance.
For example, intense physical workouts, such as prolonged endurance training, (I.e. running, cycling, or high-intensity interval training (HIIT), followed by an intense maximal effort and heavy resistance training, can lead to a higher incidence of overreaching and negatively impact hypertrophy and strength gain.
The important dynamic, in concurrent training, especially when training intensely, is to listen to your body. High volume endurance training paired with heavy strength training can make recovery difficult increasing overtraining and risk of injury.
To fully improve and maximize athletic performance, training strategy is crucial for success. For example, this could mean, that you run, or cycle three days a week and incorporate resistance training between those days, for better rest and recovery. Or perhaps, you could incorporate cardioacceleration between your lifting to improve both aerobic and anaerobic performance pathways, and go for a long run or ride two days per week.
Another example could be that you incorporate high-intensity functional training, such as CrossFit and pair that with resistance training.
In terms of performance, it really depends on what your specific goal is, allotted time, nutrition, and recovery. The main premise of concurrent training is to enhance both endurance as well as strength. Personally, I use a training methodology, in which I have created, called High-Intensity Functional Bodybuilding [HIFB].
The goal of this type of training protocol, is to increase endurance capacity, improve functional strength, as well as muscle hypertrophy and optimize body composition.
It’s a hybrid training protocol, that uses multiple workout modalities such as high-intensity functional training methods, functional bodybuilding, accelerated cardio and interval training. By combining these training methodologies, you can build more muscle mass and strength, burn more body fat, and optimize your athletic performance.
HIFB is also a form of concurrent training. As you can see, there are many modifications as well as training methodologies, you can use to enhance both aerobic and anaerobic training capacity.
Varying modality, intensity, frequency, and volume of training, directly effects molecular signaling pathways such as mTOR and muscle protein synthesis.
Despite conflicting evidence and theories, a meta-analysis which included 15 studies, published in the journal Sports Medicine, investigated The Effects of Concurrent Aerobic and Strength Training on Muscle Fiber Hypertrophy, found that concurrent training of aerobic and anaerobic exercise does not compromise muscle hypertrophy and maximal strength development.
However, a small negative effect was only found on strength and hypertrophy when the aerobic exercise was running as compared to cycling, yet only on type I muscle fibers [R].
Other studies, have found that plyometric exercises and training, can also enhance strength, power, speed, and endurance capacity. These exercises, which typically involve a jump, (also known as jump training), can be incorporated into your resistance training program, to help with functional strength, and to enhance aerobic capacity when performed at high volume, or through specific timing intervals such as an EMOM (every minute on the minute) or TABATA.
A study published in PLoS One, found that concurrent training, separated by 3 hours, concurrent training, regardless of the exercise order, presents a viable strategy to improve lower-body maximal strength and total lean mass comparably to resistance-only training, whilst also improving indices of aerobic fitness [R].
Thus, adding cardio to your resistance training, at different times of the day, can greatly improve athletic performance and body composition. Double days, (two workouts completed in one single-day), comprised of aerobic and anaerobic activity, (I.e. cardio AM session, and afternoon resistance training) can be a great training regimen, to help you achieve your goals in strength.
Combining a steady state cardio session with resistance training, has been the recipe of bodybuilders for quite some time. Jumping on the stair climber for 45 minutes, after your resistance training, is standard protocol, when you’re staring that spring cut for summer.
Although, unlike concurrent training, the goal is not necessarily to enhance your aerobic performance, but to simply increase caloric burn and burn more body fat, to achieve a lean physique. Yet, with 45 min of steady state cardio, even if that’s just walking, although minimal, you will still enhance your cardiorespiratory performance to some degree.
Concurrent training, with endurance capacity and strength in mind, will also help you achieve better body optimization, so long as your nutrition protocol follows. You can never out-train a bad diet, and that is also true regardless if you’re hitting the pavement a few times a week and lifting.
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How To Maximize Concurrent Training
Some believe that strength and power is diminished due to a phenomenon called the interference effect.
The interference effect states that the adaptation to concurrent strength training and endurance training is diminished compared to separately training only strength or endurance. The phenomenon refers back to a study conducted at The University Of Washington.
Three groups of 23 participants were split into three groups.
A strength group, who trained 30-40 minutes per day, 5 days per week, with intense lower body training.
An endurance group, that exercised 40 minutes per day, 6 days per week, either running or cycling,
And a strength and endurance group combined, that performed both exercise modalities, in the same day, at 40 minutes, 11 workouts per week.
All groups were subject to exercise protocols, for 10 weeks.
The study found, several interesting and pivotal characteristics.
Those who combined strength training and cardio into a concurrent mode, gained as much muscle as those in the strength training group, yet not as much strength. This group also improved their endurance, just as much as the endurance group alone.
One MAJOR study condition or limitation to consider, is that the strength group, performed heavy lower-body resistance training, which will have a significant effect on endurance training such as running and cycling. As an avid runner myself, I rarely train legs on the same as a run. This workout design seems that it was created for interference.
This group also lost 2% body fat, as opposed to the strength group, which also shows they were in a caloric deficit, meaning this could have been a reason why they did not gain as much strength.
Considering that strength and endurance training was done on the same day, these modes of exercise can easily be optimized by providing more time in between training, for rest, recovery, and nutritional intervention.
Here’s some quick tips to consider while concurrent training
When it comes to cardio, stick with shorter time intervals, typically 30-45 minutes per workout, a few days per week. If you have longer run, make sure those are done without strength training on the same day.
I’ll typically run a few days per week, while also strength training, or strength training combined with high-intensity functional training. I normally perform a long 7-10 mile run on Sunday to get the week started off in a caloric deficit and rev up my metabolism.
The interference effect may be more pronounced when aerobic training is performed with running than cycling, if you engage in prolonged endurance training, for 2-3 hours.
Cycling can increase strength and power since you are confronted with resistance. Therefore, cycling before or after your workout, can help increase strength and compliment your resistance training.
With an increase in activity, you’ll need an increase in caloric intake. You need to eat for performance if performance is the goal. Running a constant caloric deficit can be hard on your body, and you will under-perform. Eat some quick natural digesting carbs before your workouts, such as dates, clean carbs from swolverine, banana, or dried apricots. You’ll get some good clean energy and keep your energy up, where it needs to be
If you’re training for body optimization, then engaging in 45 minutes of steady-state cardio 3-4 days per week after your resistance training, will help you burn more body fat and improve strength as well. Typically, the stair climber, walking, or cycling is best.
Perform your cardio in the morning, and strength training later in the day, if you have time and can do double days.
I will perform high-intensity functional training, typically a 20-minute WOD before training, then lift for 45 minutes to an hour. This can be a great schedule as well. Or, reversed, with resistance training, then joining a quick CrossFit class, with typically 20-25 minutes of max effort cardio respiratory work.
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