1

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What is the actual biological/biochemical difference between a strength workout versus an aerobic strength workout?

Answered on August 19, 2014
Created November 28, 2011 at 3:44 PM

This is a difficult question to phrase clearly, but let me try and lay it out.

WORKOUT X:
Run 1 mile then 5 sets of:
15 pull-ups
60 jump-ropes
15 press-ups
60 jump-ropes
15 air-squats
60 jump-ropes
WORKOUT Y:
5 sets of the following:
15 pull-ups
15 press-ups
15 air-squats

Both workouts were done as required with the same level of intensity: each rep done in < 5 second and if needed a < 60 second rest period between sets. Pre/post-workout nutrition is the same for both.

Now my question is driven from a conversation I had this morning with two friends, who mentioned that my significant weight-loss versus muscle gain may most likely be related to doing more of a (X) workout rather than a (Y) workout. That I needed to notch back on the intensity and focus on max reps to failure. Although I am already doing max reps to failure in workout (X).

My question is, what is the actual biological/biochemical difference between these two workouts? If both use only body-weight, the strength reps are equal and the only difference is that (X) has an obvious increased aerobic element (running/jump-rope); is there anything actually going on differently in the body in terms of muscle and strength gains? Is there an anabolic/catabolic difference between the two and thus one effects muscle and strength development differently and less or more efficiently than the other?

Edit: Understandably these are probably very low rep workouts for the fitter amoung you, but my question should remain the same even with increased reps, dumbell presses, weighted squats et al or even a hypothetical workout routine. My question really is not about how to gain more muscle, that is quite straight forward. My question is what is the biological/biochemical difference between these two exercises if any and if and why one would be more effective than the other if the weight and reps are the same but one just has added aerobic?

Simply I am trying to find out if there is actually no difference at all in terms of strength gain, but rather one simply has added aerobic benefits. Or perhaps the added aerobic does have a negative effect. This is the question. Thanks. :)

0f32ad570e3bf419432429d3ac842405

(235)

on December 01, 2011
at 07:55 AM

@Mash: what is your goal, then? Without weights you will not gain significant strength or size... you can lose some fat and increase your "overall fitness", but even there you will hit a wall somewhere in the near feature whithout some sort of equipment (which in the cheapest case would be the backpack or a self-constructed weight vest)

E34fbfa1bca9ae970c9c7313bf9de9f8

(1436)

on November 29, 2011
at 06:24 PM

I agree. Strength training pretty much requires working against resistance (weight). If you're able to do 15 reps per set of an exercise, you're outside of the anaerobic threshold. http://i296.photobucket.com/albums/mm180/BangoSkank1/repetitioncontinuum.jpg

510bdda8988ed0d4b0ec0b738b4edb73

(20898)

on November 29, 2011
at 04:13 PM

I was just trying to keep the rep scheme close to the original workouts but add weight and lower the volume to make it a better strength-based metcon. It's true for pure strength you'll want heavy 5x5s and things like that. I do both slow heavy 5x5s and lighter fast sets of 15 or do and have never injured myself. I've even done a bunch of 21-15-9 workouts at 85% 1RM without issue. It's about having good form and knowing your body.

Ca2c940a1947e6200883908592956680

(8574)

on November 29, 2011
at 03:00 PM

Thanks Adel. I need to read up on some definitions of what is actually going on within the body. "Conditioning" as a word means to me what it would mean to any novice, merely "getting fitter" but this is kind of the reason for the question, to understand what quite is going on physically between the different exercises.

Ca2c940a1947e6200883908592956680

(8574)

on November 29, 2011
at 02:40 PM

Saiklón, thanks, yeah I am taking about 2 minutes rest after the run before starting the 5 sets, but have only around 20 secs of rest between sets. What you alluding to is what I am wondering about in the detail.

5b69a02dadcae753771921d913909215

(1457)

on November 29, 2011
at 07:58 AM

Are you properly conditioned for running/jumping rope in this "what-if" question? Or are you seriously fatigued after say running 1 mile? I ask because this will affect the physiological situation in your body greatly (e.g. muscle fiber type, lactic acid, etc)... which is what you are asking about it seems.

Cf32992bfa1907147c7cdc451bba9c63

(2890)

on November 29, 2011
at 07:10 AM

Sets of 15 will only increase strength in novices. And 3x15 squats to failure... that just sounds brutally painful, likely to cause an injury, and without significant benefits.

Ca2c940a1947e6200883908592956680

(8574)

on November 28, 2011
at 06:33 PM

Thanks for that, though not specifically the answer I'm looking for it is still very helpful, and I am going to look at your rep scheme. I suppose in the context of your answer whether or not there is much benefit in a "beat-down" other than just the 80s air-punch at the end is debatable. BTW do you know of any links which discuss rep scheme breakdowns and what is most effective and why?

C471216c9fb4fcf886b7ac84a4046b49

(1371)

on November 28, 2011
at 05:30 PM

http://suppversity.blogspot.com/2011/11/intermittent-thoughts-on-intermittent_27.html

Ca2c940a1947e6200883908592956680

(8574)

on November 28, 2011
at 03:57 PM

Surely there is muscle/strength gain even just with bodyweight exercises albeit slowly. I.e. Being able to increase pull-ups reps in a single set from 15 to 30, 45 etc. The question is though quite what is happening here and if one or the other has a negative or positive impact, why and how.

1ec4e7ca085b7f8d5821529653e1e35a

(5506)

on November 28, 2011
at 03:48 PM

I don't think either of those workouts are designed for muscle gain. Just my .02.

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4 Answers

2
0f32ad570e3bf419432429d3ac842405

(235)

on November 29, 2011
at 06:48 AM

in all honesty, if you had shown me the two example workouts without the question, I had said the first is a conditioning workout, the second is a something that will allow you to maintain a basic level of conditioning... I don't see a strength workout there.

in other words with the first workout you will get more conditioned, with the second you will (if anything) increase the reps on the moves you do... that being said the use of a bagpack with weights and reps in the <10 range on pull-ups, push-ups and squats could turn it into a "strength workout", which - with the addition of the rope-jumps could actually help you buid a decent physique

in the end, you are always operating on a continuum, but strength comes with lifting heavy and progressively increasing weights (not reps)

Ca2c940a1947e6200883908592956680

(8574)

on November 29, 2011
at 03:00 PM

Thanks Adel. I need to read up on some definitions of what is actually going on within the body. "Conditioning" as a word means to me what it would mean to any novice, merely "getting fitter" but this is kind of the reason for the question, to understand what quite is going on physically between the different exercises.

E34fbfa1bca9ae970c9c7313bf9de9f8

(1436)

on November 29, 2011
at 06:24 PM

I agree. Strength training pretty much requires working against resistance (weight). If you're able to do 15 reps per set of an exercise, you're outside of the anaerobic threshold. http://i296.photobucket.com/albums/mm180/BangoSkank1/repetitioncontinuum.jpg

0f32ad570e3bf419432429d3ac842405

(235)

on December 01, 2011
at 07:55 AM

@Mash: what is your goal, then? Without weights you will not gain significant strength or size... you can lose some fat and increase your "overall fitness", but even there you will hit a wall somewhere in the near feature whithout some sort of equipment (which in the cheapest case would be the backpack or a self-constructed weight vest)

0
244e1f82efb3fd15d2da39397488fb24

(549)

on November 28, 2011
at 05:39 PM

I don't know the answer for sure, but I'm pretty sure that you need to go for tougher, heavier pumps and focus less on reps. Then eat some good "recovery" foods including some carbs for muscle gain (otherwise they get smaller, I think). I'm not sure on the specifics, but all the gainers in the health food store I work at are carb-loaded (well, not LOADED) and have lots of proteins and l-glutamine for muscle/tissue repair. If you want to keep it up, you can just take l-creatine which helps add bulk and strength to muscles, but I think if you stop taking it, it goes away.

0
244e1f82efb3fd15d2da39397488fb24

(549)

on November 28, 2011
at 05:35 PM

I'm no expert, but I am an advocate of "paleo-esque" exercises. I prefer intermittent training, whereas you push yourself really fast and hard (almost to your limit) for as long as you can manage, and then go back down to a pace to where you can comfortably talk while doing the exercise, and then when you've recovered, you pump it up again and go full throttle for as hard as you can and as fast as you can. Studies have shown that people get better results from doing those types of exercises, and also I like them because they just seem more paleo.

Say you're doing intermittent running - to me that's like running away from a sabre-tooth tiger (paleo-style!). I really can't see our ancestors going for a light jog. I think the other cavemen would have looked as us funny. I think we exercised when we really needed to, fight-or-flight response style. That's my take. I really enjoy it. I also like the stress release I get from it. Our stress goes up because of that primal instinct. Running (flight) gets rid of all of that toxic cortisol. It makes me feel really good when I just go for it vs using science and numbers to base the workout program and just jog at 6mph or whatever for 45 minutes while looking at my heart rate.

In conclusion, I think that makes the most sense, or at least common sense, biochemically, although I don't have any research on it myself. But, if anyone has a clear answer to his question, I am definitely curious. I am becoming more and more interested in the biochemic effects of exercise.

-1
510bdda8988ed0d4b0ec0b738b4edb73

(20898)

on November 28, 2011
at 06:06 PM

To me workout X is a long beat-down that you should only do for two reasons. 1) it's fun for you, some people (me included) like to do stupid stuff, but my guess is that you're pushing 30-45 minutes on that workout and you're getting into beat-down territory. 2) you want to train the mental part of doing something hard.

Workout Y is a quick metcon, good for building some of the high-intensity energy burning pathways, probably pretty decent for weightloss, but the only strength gains you get from it are going to be from the "novice effect" and you'll plateau pretty quickly.

I suggest workout Z which I think is better for you in both strength and fitness than X or Y.

3 rounds of 15 pull ups 15 barbell shoulder to overhead (press, push-press, jerk, whatever) 15 back squats

The weight on the barbells should be at a weight that it's a real struggle to get all 15 in one set, with some failure on round 3.

That will get you the high-intensity pathway and the strength pathway. 3 rounds is better because you're not going to go too long.

Also, I generally like 21-15-9 rather than 15-15-15 just because the rep scheme seems to fall off just as fast as you get tired and each round is equally as hard.

Cf32992bfa1907147c7cdc451bba9c63

(2890)

on November 29, 2011
at 07:10 AM

Sets of 15 will only increase strength in novices. And 3x15 squats to failure... that just sounds brutally painful, likely to cause an injury, and without significant benefits.

Ca2c940a1947e6200883908592956680

(8574)

on November 28, 2011
at 06:33 PM

Thanks for that, though not specifically the answer I'm looking for it is still very helpful, and I am going to look at your rep scheme. I suppose in the context of your answer whether or not there is much benefit in a "beat-down" other than just the 80s air-punch at the end is debatable. BTW do you know of any links which discuss rep scheme breakdowns and what is most effective and why?

510bdda8988ed0d4b0ec0b738b4edb73

(20898)

on November 29, 2011
at 04:13 PM

I was just trying to keep the rep scheme close to the original workouts but add weight and lower the volume to make it a better strength-based metcon. It's true for pure strength you'll want heavy 5x5s and things like that. I do both slow heavy 5x5s and lighter fast sets of 15 or do and have never injured myself. I've even done a bunch of 21-15-9 workouts at 85% 1RM without issue. It's about having good form and knowing your body.

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