Brie Larson’s 215lb deadlifts, 400lb hip thrusts, and pushups with 50lb chains illustrates the important distinctions between strength training, conditioning, and circuit training.
Captain Marvel Workout
Ok, obviously Brie Larson has been doing a ton of full body strength workouts, and has gotten legit strong. Things we saw Brie do in her instagram:
- 215 pound deadlift
- 5 Pullups
- 400 pound hip thrust
- Pushups with 50 pounds of chains
I totally have to say that I called this workout back in 2014: Predicting the Captain Marvel Workout. What’s cool is that superhero workouts have gotten really consistent. If you want to get Captain Marvel strong, we have a really good idea of what that workout program looks like.
We also know from other actresses that Jason Walsh has worked with, like Emma Stone and Alison Brie’s GLOW season 1 workout and GLOW season 2 workouts, that other movements like to have shown up include:
- Bulgarian Split-squats
- Sled Pushing
- Sled Pulling
- Farmer’s Carries
- Spiderman Crawl
- Single Leg Deadlifts
An interesting thing that we can learn from this workout is the difference between conditioning and strength training.
While Most of the Fitness World is Obsessed With Circuits… They’re Strength Training
Right now, most people in the gym assume that circuit training creates near magical weight loss and fitness results… because it feels hard.
On the flip-side, Brie Larson got strong doing straight up, oldschool strength training. Big movements, and enough rest to lift heavy.
Jason Walsh talked a lot about progressions, alignment, and not adding a lot of load until someone is ready. Walsh told Self Magazine that before Brie did pushups with 50 pounds of chains, she had to work her way up to a perfect set of 20 pushups. They started with normal pushups, and worked on variations like single-leg pushups and extra slow pushups before they started adding weight. And then, they started with just an extra 10 pounds.
- Solid pushup form
- Work up to 20 pushups with good form
- Single-leg pushups
- Slow pushups
- Weighted pushups
- Gradually increase weight
Simple, basic, progressive strength training.
If you want to get stronger (like Brie) it’s smart to strength train. While the fitness world appears to be currently obsessed with circuit training, many of the best trainers are keeping strength and conditioning separate.
You won’t work your way up to a 215 pound deadlift or to full pullups by doing circuits.
Conditioning as A Separate Workout
At Jason Walsh’s gym, Rise Nation, they have 30 minute classes with a VersaClimber. Think about it like a Spin Class, except your climbing instead of spinning.
Obviously the VersaClimber is cool because it’s so full body.
But there’s something even cooler than that — it’s what Physical Therapist Gray Cook calls a “self-limiting exercise.” In self-limiting exercises, it’s hard to hurt yourself. When you get tired, you just stop.
|Self-Limiting Conditioning||High Risk Conditioning|
|You can rock out without getting hurt. Awesome conditioning modalities.||Probably stupid to use in circuits, for conditioning, or under fatigue.|
|Airdyne or Air Assault Bike||Barbell Clean and Jerk|
|Ski Erg||Kipping Pullups|
|Sled Push||Box Jumps|
chest high kettlebell swings
overhead kettlebell swings
|Battling Ropes||Barbell Deadlifts|
*Note: Everything in the “high risk conditioning” column is awesome when done with good form, enough rest, and for low reps in other words, those are great movements for low rep power or strength work, not for conditioning work.
Contrast this with how some gyms do circuits — they’ll have people do repetition box jumps or barbell snatches under fatigue. These are complex enough movements that you’ve got a pretty good chance of hurting yourself, if you push it to the limit. If you’ve ever seen someone really going for it on box jumps, then you’ve seen someone catch a shin, take a tumble, and spill some blood.
On the flipside, things like a VersaClimber, a spinbike, battling ropes, one arm kettlebell swings, sled pushes, Airdyne Bike/Air Assault Bike — you can go all out without hurting yourself.
Strength vs. Circuits vs. Conditioning
I know this next table might seem silly and obvious to all of the trainers reading this… but most people in the general population have no idea. Lets take a look at what each one is for, and what it’s good for:
|Primary goal is to lift more weight||Primary goal is to compress rest periods
Secondary goal is to increase weight
|Primary goal is to cover more distance|
|Longer rest periods||Little to no rest||Continuous work, no rest|
|Effective for building strength||Moderately effective for building strength||Ineffective for building strength|
|Ineffective for conditioning||Moderately effective for conditioning||Effective for conditioning|
To make it even simpler:
- To work on strength, you should strength train
- To work on conditioning, you should do conditioning
- If you are short on time, and want a compromise that gets some of both, do circuits
What We Know About Getting Stronger
The research we have on strength training, in many ways, is still fairly incomplete. What we do know about strength training though, is that there are four things to think about:
- Progressive Overload
- Rest Intervals
Progressive Overload — For the same exercises, you want to lift more weight over time. This requires having enough continuity of training that you can see and track that you are lifting more weight over time. This is the ultimate foundation of how strength training works, and yet many people in big box gyms are still missing it.
Periodization — You should have some kind of plan about how to vary the rep ranges over time. For example: A month of 10-15, a month of 3-5 reps, and then a month of 5-10 reps. Or having a low rep day, high rep day, and medium rep day, each week. We don’t know exactly which kind of periodization is best, but all periodization plans beat random training or training that never changes.[2, 3]
Volume — For strength, there’s a dose-response relationship between number of exercise sets, and strength gain. What the research tells us is that doing more than 5 sets of an exercise per week is significantly more effective than doing less than 5 sets per week. There may be advantages to going up above even 10 sets per week, for people who have the time
Rest Intervals — People can lift more weight, and for more repetitions, when they rest longer between sets.
Captain Marvel and Brie Larson
I’m super hyped about Captain Marvel coming out March 8th. As I wrote about in the first Captain Marvel Workout Article, Carol Danvers is a really badass character, having been a fighter pilot and major in the Air Force, long before she ever got powers.
Though she’d worked out for years before, it’s awesome Brie Larson amped up her strength training prior to playing Carol Danvers/Captain Marvel. Her increases in strength are really cool, and also totally reasonable for someone who follows the four elements of strength training above. I hope Brie inspires you to take your strength training to the next level.
P.S. That Instagram post of Alison Brie and Brie Larson working out together is my favorite thing that has ever happened.
- Schoenfeld, B. J., Grgic, J., Ogborn, D., & Krieger, J. W. (2017). Strength and hypertrophy adaptations between low-vs. high-load resistance training: a systematic review and meta-analysis. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 31(12), 3508-3523.Williams, T. D., Tolusso, D. V., Fedewa, M. V., & Esco, M.
- R. (2017). Comparison of periodized and non-periodized resistance training on maximal strength: a meta-analysis. Sports Medicine, 47(10), 2083-2100.
- Rhea, M. R., & Alderman, B. L. (2004). A meta-analysis of periodized versus nonperiodized strength and power training programs. Research quarterly for exercise and sport, 75(4), 413-422.
- Radaelli, R., Fleck, S. J., Leite, T., Leite, R. D., Pinto, R. S., Fernandes, L., & Simão, R. (2015). Dose-response of 1, 3, and 5 sets of resistance exercise on strength, local muscular endurance, and hypertrophy. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 29(5), 1349-1358.
- Ralston, G. W., Kilgore, L., Wyatt, F. B., & Baker, J. S. (2017). The effect of weekly set volume on strength gain: a meta-analysis. Sports Medicine, 47(12), 2585-2601.
- Schoenfeld, B. J., Ogborn, D., & Krieger, J. W. (2017). Dose-response relationship between weekly resistance training volume and increases in muscle mass: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Journal of sports sciences, 35(11), 1073-1082.
- de Salles, B. F., Simao, R., Miranda, F., da Silva Novaes, J., Lemos, A., & Willardson, J. M. (2009). Rest interval between sets in strength training. Sports medicine, 39(9), 765-777.