Pretty sure this guy has a few multi-ply bench records.
The old strength athlete is dead. We will no longer tolerate the proliferation of puffy, wheezing lifters, foreheads damp and salty from the energy expended pulling the straps of their triply ply kevlar squat suits up over their engorged, water-logged shoulders. The consumption of ultra-processed foods as a means of constantly keeping insulin levels at diabetes-inducing levels will no longer be tolerated as valid nutritional advice for overcoming stagnate numbers. Specialization in your field is no longer something that takes precedence over the most basic standards of health, hygiene, or basic usefulness as a human being. And most importantly, being a deconditioned sack of shit who collapses after anything over 5 reps will henceforth be considered a crime against your sport and punishable by death.
I may be a bit behind the curve in writing this. Thankfully, the alarming trend of the overweight 90s lifter has taken a turn for the better. Elite strongmen are regularly incorporating conditioning work and competing at lower body fat percentages, powerlifters are taking GPP seriously as a means of improving work capacity and recovery, and Crossfit(yes, Crossfit) has compelled one of the best Olympic Weightlifters in the world(Klokov) to apply his talents to a different field and smash the stereotype of the exclusively alactic lifter. So things aren't all bad.
However, there still persists a stigma behind doing regular conditioning work in the general lifting community. To average gym-goer Joe Bro, Crossfit is seen as 'gay' and cahdio is shunned as it will surely be detrimental to precious gainz. I'm not trying to convince anyone that they need elite fitness in their lives, but I am Hell bent on convincing all trainees that the avoidance of any and all endurance based activities is not based in some sound training ideology, but rather a result of laziness and ignorance. Yeah, I said it.
Let's start with the reasons that conditioning work is important for even the most recreational of lifters.
1.) Strength is only valuable in the context of the activity being done.
There are very few worthwhile tasks that rely on strength as a primary contributor that do not also have a conditioning component. Powerlifting and Olympic Weightlifting are the only two that come to mind. Other competitive avenues such as Strongman and Football don't just benefit from, but demand a solid endurance base. Real world activities, from engaging a drunk opponent in a street fight to helping your buddy move from his 2nd floor apartment into his 4th floor apartment across town, are impossible(regardless of your world class bench press) if you do not have the most basic bit of staying power.
2.) Conditioning improves work capacity and recovery ability.
This means that a more conditioned athlete will be able to put in a higher volume of meaningful work in each training session without falling to pieces. Initially used to describe the preparatory phase of training before more sport specific activities, GPP(general physical preparedness) is know used as a catch-all for doing general things that make you generally suck less. The reasoning is that if an athlete, world class or otherwise, is unable to display a basic amount of physical versatility then they leave something behind at every training session and will not make optimal gains. Calisthenics, sled drags, hill sprints, and the like should be staples in the training arsenal of any serious lifter.
Having served as an Army Ranger, Strongman Will Dinwiddie cites superior mental strength as the driving force behind his ridiculous strength/endurance feats. He also pulls over 700lbs, weighs around 225, and is very vocal about being drug free.
3.) Endurance work teaches mental fortitude.
For years I made excuses to justify my hatred of endurance work. The reality is conditioning work resulted in pain that I was not accustomed to and this caused me to shut down mentally. When you are in the middle of an important task and your body starts to ache and burn from the stress of it, there is a point where a decision must be made to continue to the end at all costs or shut it down. I don't want to say that your decision serves as an analog for how you will behave in any other important life situation, but it does. I can't think of any human quality that has as much carryover to other activities as perseverance. Learn how to take the pain and keep moving forward, and nothing will stop you.
4.) Regular conditioning work will help maintain a reasonable body fat percentage.
I understand that looking good naked isn't a priority to everyone. But it should be. This isn't shallow at all, it just represents this fact about the human psyche: when you know that you look good, everything in the world becomes much easier. You have more confidence, approach tasks with more certainty, and, married or single, you will get laid more often. There is a lot to be said about the laziness that comes with complacency and how it slowly erodes other important things in your life. Going the extra mile to take care of yourself shows to the world that you give a shit, and that radiates a type of strength that affects clients and significant others alike. Make your spouse happy and do some goddamn burpees.
5.) “Being fat and having to catch your breath after tying your shoes or walking up a flight of stairs is lame” - Chad Wesley Smith
I'm not a fan of jumping in feet first and crushing yourself like it's the first day of Hell week. When taking on a new and unfamiliar task, the forming of positive associations to said task is paramount in making sure that you actually come back the next day and do it again. Make damn sure the first few sessions are highlighted by the euphoria that comes after finishing the workout that day, rather than the actual suck of the workout itself. Then, just like any rudimentary lifting program, taper up the amount of work while reducing the rest periods.
Also, don't get hung up on variety. There are millions of ways to condition, some more specific to your sport than others. Get your heart rate up for 30 seconds or so and rest until it comes back to normal. Classic modes include Olympic weightlifting complexes, timed intervals of hill sprints, cycling, or sled pushes, high rep sets of calisthenics or explosive weighted movements, or supersets/circuits mixed with all of the above. Personally, I enjoy some of the 1-2 minute, barbell based Crossfit metcons like Grace and Isabel. In fact, 30 consecutive hang snatches with 95lbs is a staple warmup before heavy squatting and deadlifting. It takes about 45 seconds, jacks my heartrate up for the rest of the workout, and makes my joints feel better than 10 minutes of foam rolling. Here is a very concise article from JTSStrength.com that covers the sport specific nature of conditioning for strength athletes and gives a few good ideas on programming.