We have a saying here: everything costs something. If you want to enhance some part of your performance, you should be prepared to suffer some short term (or even long term) consequences to other aspects of fitness and performance. There is almost always a trade off.
In my case, I decided over the summer (as I was fixing a problem with my nutrition) that it would be an ideal time to focus on building some size and strength. In late 2016 I injured my back and really hadn’t been able to do much weight training through most of 2017.
I felt good enough last January to start incorporating some weightlifting into my training again. Over the course of my injury I’d dropped from 175lbs to the high 160s, losing a lot of strength and muscle along with the weight.
The Cost of Specificity
In order to maximize my ability to put on size, I had to drop my cardiovascular training. I simply couldn’t afford the caloric expenditure inherent in high intensity power endurance work. This is the cost of specificity.
As an experienced, trained athlete, I couldn’t optimally chase two things at once. To get bigger and stronger, I had to sacrifice some elements of my training and pour my energy into my nutrition and especially my recovery practices.
So, I tracked every meal I ate and I tracked every rep of every workout I did. I put my bike away for the summer. I walked a lot less. I commited myself to getting at least 8 hours of sleep every night.
Basically, I lifted weights, I ate food, I rested, I recovered, and I took two days off every week. As a very active person who is passionate about fitness, this was not easy for me to do. But it was necessary for me to achieve my goals.
I knew that putting on 20-25# would be hugely beneficial to me in terms of strength and power. After all, it takes mass to move mass. I knew I would see some immediate results, and I have.
I was expecting a short term drop in my power endurance and cardiovascular fitness, but interestingly, I’ve PR’d most everything I’ve attempted during this massing phase, including my 100m row (15.5) 250m row (39.8) 500m row (1:27) and 10 minutes of max calories on the assault bike (205). I wasn’t necessarily expecting this kind of performance after taking nearly four months off from any kind of cardiovascular training.
But, these are mostly short, power events. The 10 minute test on the assault bike was very surprising as it’s a longer power endurance event, but there have been some definite trade-offs as my power to weight ratio has changed, so workouts like “Jonescrawl” and “Jonestown Sprint” would be much harder than they were four months ago.
Workouts like these will eventually improve with targeted training as I make adaptations to my new size and strength. After all, you have to carry your engine. Yes, my engine is pretty big, but my frame has just become that much bigger.
Any specialization phase will result in some temporary tradeoffs. To make specific adaptations you must be willing to make short term sacrifices.
Commit yourself to making the progress you want in the area of fitness (or aesthetics) you’re targeting, and then bring up the other attributes when appropriate. Beginners can make adaptations across the board concurrently, but experienced, trained athletes will have to sacrifice something in the pursuit of the desired, specific outcome.