Powerwalking - Big Man Cardio Training article by Marty Gallagher

Powerwalking - Big Man Cardio Training

Powerwalking - Spike the heart rate, break sweat, burn off body fat, get fit – and all just by walking!

A lot of guys are checking in with me while they are stuck at home. For a lot of my friends, exercise is buried deep in their DNA. When a strength athlete is deprived of the big weights, or any weights, their thoughts turn to alternative progressive resistance strategies and simplified cardio routines, such as powerwalking.

I have written extensively about the outstanding results incarcerated prisoners are making with the worst possible strength equipment or no equipment at all. Clever strength athletes will figure out strength training alternatives and substitutes.

To lift big weights, you need access to big weights. When deprived, necessity becomes the mother of invention: a lot of guys are turning to training that can be done without gym equipment or with a minimum of equipment.

Smart lifters with time on their hands are getting serious about cardiovascular exercise. A lot of lifters realize they need aerobic exercise – but they just never got around to doing it. These are times to take up things and activities that we have been putting off or are counter to our character. The appealing thing about cardiovascular exercise is that in a pinch all you need is your feet.

Many good lifters make the mistake of going from no cardio, or sporadic cardio into doing too much of the wrong kind of cardio too quickly. I recommend all my big guy friends start with powerwalking: not jogging, not trotting and certainly not running – walking, walking with focus, purpose and concentration.

To turn walking into a valid form of exercise requires you treat it like exercise. Mainstream personal trainers mindlessly insist untrained or out-of-shape men, people with zero cardio capacity, commence cardio with jogging.

When the untrained, the out-of-shape and those with no running experience are suddenly forced to run on hard surfaces tendons, ligaments, muscle insertion points and spinal discs are stressed to the breaking point. Running is a high-impact cardio exercise, particularly when those that don’t know how to run are forced to run. This is the very definition of fitness malpractice and completely unnecessary.

If the fundamental goal of cardiovascular exercise is to elevate the heart rate to a predetermined level for a protracted period, other less harmful methods are available. Heavy people (and apparently their personal trainers) are unaware that they can generate a high heart rate simply by walking – walking with authority and purpose.

Powerwalking is different from Mall walking. Powerwalking is technique and locomotion amplified by velocity resulting in the goal of all cardio: the elevated heart rate. A big man can achieve 80% to 90% of their age-related heart rate maximum, 160 + beats per minute, simply by walking at an accelerated pace and pumping the arms on every stride.

If a large untrained person can generate an elevated heart rate simply by walking – why would you force them to run? This is a rhetorical question: most personal trainers have no earthly idea the heart rate their clients are generating. If you are serious about cardio exercise, wear a heart rate monitor during aerobic sessions.

A heart rate monitor enables the trainee to see how hard the heart is working in relation to the work being done. A heart rate monitors enables the trainee to assign a numeric value to aerobic intensity. With a heart rate monitor, the trainee can periodize, stairstep, into greater degrees of fitness, systematically and safely.

The good news is that there are many free fitness phone apps designed to capture heartrate. Connect the App to a $20 chest strap. My App (Wahoo) relates session duration and average heart rate plus a GPS graphs your route and relates changes in elevation, exertions and calories-burned. This is invaluable data and allows us to periodize (preplan) cardio efforts.

                  Frequency       duration   % of age-related HR max   calories burned             bodyweight

Week 1            3 x per week  20 mins     60%                            250                              233

Week 2            4x                    22              62.5%                          270                              231

Week 3            5x                    25              65%                             300                              229

Week 4            6x                    27              67%                             330                              227

Week 5            6x                    30              67.5%                          370                              225

Week 6            6x                    32              70%                             420                              223

Week 7            6x                    35              72.5%                          470                              221

Week 8            6x                    37              75%                             510                              219

Week 9            6x                    40              77%                             550                              217

Week 10          6x                    40              80%                             600                             215

If you are heavy or out of shape, it doesn’t take as much effort to generate an elevated heart rate. The goal of cardiovascular exercise is to elevate the heart rate to a predetermined level in a systematic fashion and maintain the elevated heart rate for the duration of the cardiovascular training session.

Powerwalking cardio training for powerlifters, bodybuilders and athletes
Powerwalking cardio training for powerlifters, bodybuilders and athletes


Strap up and see where you're at: a heart rate monitor enables the cross-comparison of cardio activities – how does 20-minutes of jumping rope compare to 20-minutes of powerwalking or riding on a stationary bike? Once you are hooked up, you will be able to quantify aerobic effort and cross-compare different types of exercises using the impact on the heart rate as the determining factor. Big Men! make powerwalking your entry-level cardio: periodize and use the heart rate monitor to get fit while cooped-up. Why not?? No more excuses!

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About the Author
As an athlete Marty Gallagher is a national and world champion in Olympic lifting and powerlifting. He was a world champion team coach in 1991 and coached Black's Gym to five national team titles. He's also coached some of the strongest men on the planet including Kirk Karwoski when he completed his world record 1,003 lb. squat. Today he teaches the US Secret Service and Tier 1 Spec Ops on how to maximize their strength in minimal time. As a writer since 1978 he’s written for Powerlifting USA, Milo, Flex Magazine, Muscle & Fitness, Prime Fitness, Washington Post, Dragon Door and now IRON COMPANY. He’s also the author of multiple books including Purposeful Primitive, Strong Medicine, Ed Coan’s book “Coan, The Man, the Myth, the Method" and numerous others. Read the Marty Gallagher biography here.