10 May

Advance program design: Optimizing performance by matching resistance and cardiovascular programs

     Can cardiovascular training improve muscular endurance and strength? Can resistance training improve cardiovascular endurance? What about HIIT workouts? Ultimately performance improvements rely on the same systems of the body: cardiovascular, respiratory, musculoskeletal, and neurological. If we want to maximize improvements, we can ensure that resistance training programs and cardiovascular programs send consistent messages to the body systems at specific times to create optimal outcomes. There are many models of periodization, or ways in which to vary a program over time for optimal gains. Many of them focus on either resistance training or cardiovascular training. Let’s explore how to match them together, and why.


Resistance training can improve lactate thresholds, muscular coordination, glucose utilization, muscular endurance, muscle fiber recruitment, and hemoglobin/myoglobin functional capacity (Aaberg, 2007). All of these factors lead to improved cardiovascular performance.

Cardiovascular training can improve all of the same elements. (Katch, et al, 2011).

Resistance Training Phases

After developing an initial base and level of comfort with training, resistance training progressions can be grouped into three basic phases: endurance, hypertrophy, and power. Each of these phases demands that the acute variables of sets, repetitions, rest, intensity, and tempo match in order to achieve the primary goals of each phase.

This ensures that the adaptations that occur in the energy systems, muscle fiber types, and neuralmuscularmetabolic continuum match. This then allows the body to receive consistent messages from all of its systems to maximize predictable outcomes.

Matching Resistance and Cardiovascular Training

Now that we have summarized the primary adaptations in each of the body systems in each phase of resistance and cardiovascular training, let’s match them to deliver predictable and progressive outcomes. Power resistance training and zone III cardiovascular training revolve around similar physiological adaptations. This pattern can also be seen for hypertrophy training paired with zone II cardiovascular training, and endurance training paired with zone I cardiovascular training.


Aaberg, E. (2007). Resistance Training Instruction. 2nd Ed.  Human Kinetics: Champaign

Clark, Lucett, Sutton, 2012.  NASM Essentials of Personal Training. 4th Ed. Wolters Kluwer Health: Philadelphia.

Katch, VL, McArdle, WD, Katch, FI. (2011). Essentials of Exercise Physiology. 4th Ed. Wolters Kluwer Health: Philadelphia

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