I long struggled with improving how much weight I lifted for lats, chest and shoulder exercises. Things were much better with legs, calves, upper back and core.

I long suspected that my body responded better to aerobic exercises than anaerobic, even when it comes to strength. However, I now strongly suspect that rowing machines, running and jump ropes provided those muscle groups with conditioning that other muscle groups simply did not get; My bench improved once I started doing pushups on my off-days.

My question is, can my suspicion be justified? How important is conditioning for weightlifters?

  • 2
    Anecdotally, I would say “Yes.” I weight lift to support my aerobic hobbies. Before I started swimming, I struggled with pull-ups: BADLY. I never could put a dent in the weights I was using either. After swimming A LOT over the course of a few months, not only could I crank out pull-ups but I found that a lot of the small stabilizer muscles had noticeable growth too. I honestly think that the aerobic conditioning helps with the smaller stabilizer muscles that help you when lifting heavier weights
    – Frank
    Commented Jun 12, 2018 at 19:41

2 Answers 2


Aerobic conditioning is important for strength training and overall fitness. Though depending on current fitness level, excess conditioning may not be necessary or at worse detrimental.

I've answered something similar to this in the question Can you effectively put on mass while being highly active/fit?.

Basically, there have been studies that show that increasing cardio conditioning can improve recovery in between lifting sessions. Improved recovery means you can lift heavier each training session which means faster gains.

Additionally, improved conditioning also improves performance per training session. This will allow you to perform at a higher capacity. This is also important as weightlifting can be exhausting. An added benefit is you'll also get injured less (Ever try to push through a set because it scheduled, but you were really tired? Bad things can happen).

A person just starting out can probably get away with skipping conditioning. They get enough of it in the normal training session, and their conditioning will improve along with strength. As time goes on, the conditioning that you get during training is not enough, so you will need to supplement it with more. The catch is, you need to make sure that the additional conditioning is not so intense that it takes away from the lifting. It's a balancing act.


Let's start from the question and work our way into your suspicions.

How Important Is Conditioning For Weightlifters?

By weightlifter, I presume, you mean a person who works with weights for the purpose of increasing strength.

That's it! If you only care about that - conditioning, namely cardio, is not really important and doesn't affect your strength gains.

Starting Strength book talks about it and is a generally good reference for building strength for beginners (and unless you actually do strength competitions - you are a beginner).

Now, there are a lot of unknowns here. We don't know your program, your rep range, your schedule, your working weights, etc. It could be that you are doing some movement incorrectly, or working in the rep range that doesn't benefit strength gains in some particular areas. You also mentioned that you have problems lifting more weight with lats, but ok with "upper back". It's a bit confusing because, generally speaking, lets are a part of your upper back.

Nevertheless, I suspect that you care not only about strength gains, but for other things as well, like hypertrophy, health, mobility, general fitness, etc. Cardio may be useful in several of those areas of fitness and well being. But that's another question :)

In order to fix any plateau that you may have in strength training, I strongly suggest the book in the link. It is very detailed and thorough with basic barbell movements and programming.

Best of luck!

  • would be nice to get some feedback from the downvoters as to why exactly they think they is not a good answer... otherwise, we don't learn :)
    – Roman
    Commented Jun 12, 2018 at 19:56
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    I didn't down vote but I assume it's because you said that conditioning didn't matter without any evidence, then moved on to something else that wasn't really answering the question.
    – DeeV
    Commented Jun 12, 2018 at 20:07

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