Maximizing Strength: The Best Cardio for Powerlifters

Written by the Boostcamp staff
Jan 27,2024|11 min| 267

Why cardio is great for powerlifters

Powerlifting is a strength sport that revolves around three key lifts: the squat, the bench press, and the deadlift. Traditionally, powerlifters have focused primarily on strength training and neglected cardio exercises, stating that cardio kills your gains. However, this is not true at all, and incorporating cardiovascular training can bring about numerous benefits for powerlifters, enhancing overall fitness, recovery, and performance. But what is the best cardio for powerlifters to do?

In this article, we'll explore the best cardio exercises for powerlifters and how they can complement their strength training regimen.

What is Cardiovascular Exercise?

The first thing to discuss is exactly what cardio is. Cardiovascular exercise puts a strain on your body’s cardiovascular system, causing your heart rate to elevate and requiring your body to pump blood efficiently, which is absolutely beneficial for all athletes.. As a result, cardio can lead to improved overall health in the long term.

Let’s take a look at how cardio can benefit powerlifters, and what the best type of cardio for powerlifters is.

Benefits of Cardio for Powerlifters

There are several different benefits of cardio, and it is not just for bodybuilders who want to cut weight and be shredded on stage. Powerlifters can benefit greatly from cardiovascular exercise.

Improved Recovery

While things like diet and supplementation are great for recovery, cardiovascular exercise increases blood flow and promotes better nutrient and oxygen delivery to muscles. This enhanced circulation aids in the removal of metabolic waste products, reducing muscle soreness and speeding up recovery between intense lifting sessions. Recovery is where you grow and truly make progress, without a good recovery protocol, you are only hurting yourself.

Enhanced Conditioning

While powerlifting is predominantly an anaerobic sport, having a solid cardiovascular base improves overall conditioning. Not that you need to be absolutely shredded to step onto the powerlifting platform, but improved endurance can contribute to maintaining optimal performance during longer workouts or multiple sets, especially in high-intensity training phases.

Weight Management

It is not a secret that powerlifters typically are a bit bigger and heavier than your average human being, holding a good amount of muscle mass and body fat. That being said, the high weight can take a serious toll on the heart, which is not good at all and could literally be the death of you. Cardiovascular workouts are effective for burning calories and supporting weight management so you do not have that extra strain on the heart. Not only is it beneficial for heart health amongst powerlifters, but it is also crucial for maintaining an appropriate body weight is crucial for powerlifters, as it ensures they compete in the right weight class without compromising strength.

Heart Health

As stated above, powerlifters typically are heavy individuals that hold a good mix of fat and muscle that can strain the heart, that being said cardio is essential. A healthy cardiovascular system is fundamental for overall well-being. Engaging in cardio exercises helps to strengthen the heart, reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases, and improve circulation, which is vital for transporting nutrients to muscles.

Best Cardio Exercises for Powerlifters

Now without further ado, let’s take a look at the best cardiovascular exercises for powerlifters. Keep in mind, we don’t expect you powerlifters to be doing full on marathons, but there are some options that will suit your training style.

Low-Intensity Steady-State (LISS) Cardio

LISS cardio involves performing low-intensity exercises like walking, cycling, or swimming for an extended duration, just something to get the blood pumping in a healthy manner, without killing your gains. Powerlifters can benefit from incorporating 30-60 minute LISS sessions, as it helps improve aerobic capacity without causing excessive fatigue that may interfere with strength training.

Rowing

Rowing is an excellent full-body cardio exercise that engages multiple muscle groups. It enhances cardiovascular endurance while also targeting the back, the legs, and the core. Rowing can be a low-impact alternative, reducing stress on the joints while providing an effective workout. 

Cycling

Stationary or road cycling is another low-impact cardio option, and it can be very relaxing on the mind. It aids in improving leg strength and endurance, making it a suitable choice for powerlifters, as the squat is a leg movement that requires a great amount of strength. Cycling can be easily adjusted to different intensity levels, allowing athletes to tailor their workouts to their specific needs.

Sled Drags/Pushes

Sled drags and pushes are functional and strength-building cardio exercises. They mimic the pushing and pulling movements involved in powerlifting, providing an opportunity to work on cardiovascular fitness while reinforcing specific muscle groups used in the sport. The use of sleds can also help to strengthen the joints, making it ideal for powerlifters hitting those heavy one rep maxes.

High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)

While powerlifting is primarily anaerobic, incorporating short bursts of high-intensity cardio through HIIT can be beneficial. This type of training can improve metabolic conditioning and help powerlifters maintain a high level of intensity during their workouts.

Incorporating Cardio Into a Powerlifting Training Routine

Now it is no secret that powerlifters often follow a solid workout routine, as this is not a sport where you can max out every single day. That being said, how do you incorporate cardio into a powerlifting training routine? Do you do it before or after your workouts? Well, we would advise to do it after, or even on your rest days.

Doing cardio before a powerlifting workout could be good for a few minutes to warm up, but doing your entire cardio regimen before you lift can take away from your actual workout, and no one wants that. So, we advise you to do cardio after your strength training, or even on your rest days to avoid taking away from your strength training.

Where to Find Powerlifting Programs

When looking for some quality powerlifting programs, Boostcamp is the ultimate app for lifters, offering free science-based workout plans for bodybuilding, powerbuilding, and powerlifting. The Boostcamp app is a top of the line workout app, that offers free science-based workout routines, advanced custom program builder, and a workout tracker to help you stay on top of your progress, and make sure that you are hitting your goals and getting where you need to go, so there is no reason to not make progress.

By using the Boostcamp App for your training routine, you'll have all the tools you need to develop a strong mind-muscle connection and break through plateaus, continuing to make progress. Download the Boostcamp App today and take your workouts to the next level!

Conclusion

Incorporating cardio into a powerlifting training program can offer a range of benefits, from improved recovery and conditioning to overall heart health. The key is to strike a balance between cardiovascular exercise and strength training, ensuring that one complements the other rather than interferes with progress. By choosing the right cardio exercises and incorporating them strategically, powerlifters can optimize their performance and elevate their overall fitness level.

Boostcamp has plenty of free programs that help with both strength and hypertrophy, be sure to check them out and follow Boostcamp on Instagram and subscribe on YouTube!