Brick Workouts: A Game Changer for fitness athletes and bodybuilders?


The concept of 'Brick Workouts', or Brick training, originating from the world of triathlons, has profound implications for the training regimens of fitness athletes and bodybuilders. Traditionally, a 'brick' workout is a biking session followed by a running one. However, in the context of fitness and bodybuilding, the idea is to engage in two different forms of aerobic exercises back-to-back. The objective is to boost overall daily energy expenditure, which is particularly beneficial during competition preparation.

A typical brick training session for a fitness athlete might involve a 10-minute stint on a cross-trainer, immediately followed by a 10-minute session on the stairmaster. Both of these exercises target different muscle groups and challenge the body's energy systems in unique ways.

The Science Behind Brick Training

The body is an adaptable machine capable of adjusting to various training stimuli. However, shifting from one form of exercise to another rapidly causes temporary inefficiency as the body scrambles to redirect blood flow and recruit different muscle groups. This inefficiency, while challenging, has a silver lining: it enhances energy expenditure.

The human body uses oxygen to convert stored fat and carbohydrates into the energy required for exercise. When you stop a bout of intense exercise, your body needs more oxygen than usual to restore itself to its resting state - a phenomenon known as Excess Post-exercise Oxygen Consumption (EPOC), or the 'afterburn' effect. Brick workouts, with its rapid transition between different exercise modalities, can maximize the afterburn effect, thereby burning more calories overall.

Ventilation Control During Exercise

  1. Initial Response (First few minutes): At the start of exercise, your brain signals your body to increase your breathing rate (ventilation). The central command and feedback from active muscles drive this anticipatory response. It results in rapid, shallow breaths, which allow your body to increase the oxygen supply quickly to meet the sudden rise in demand.

  2. Submaximal Steady-State Exercise (10-15 minutes): As exercise continues at a submaximal, steady-state intensity, your body enters a more sustainable mode of oxygen consumption. Breathing rate and depth adjust to a more rhythmic pattern. Ventilation is precisely matched to the metabolic demands of the working muscles, and there is an equilibrium between the uptake and demand of oxygen.

However, in brick training, as you rightly pointed out, the body does not get a chance to reach this steady-state equilibrium. When an individual switches from one type of exercise to another (e.g., cross-training to stairmaster), the body must adapt to the new activity's unique demands. This means the body does not settle into the steady-state mode but remains more oxygen-demanding, keeping the heart rate elevated and continuing to burn calories at a higher rate.

Implications of Brick Training on Ventilation Control

Brick training involves a continuous state of transition, making the body work harder to adjust to the changing exercise modalities. The body doesn't reach a 'steady-state,' where the oxygen demand equals the oxygen uptake.

Instead, the body constantly plays 'catch-up' to ensure enough oxygen is delivered to the working muscles. This process results in higher overall energy expenditure as the body works harder throughout the workout session.

Moreover, because you're continually transitioning between exercises, your body has to recruit different muscle fibers and redirect blood flow, leading to a more diverse and comprehensive workout. This constant variation also keeps your cardiovascular system on its toes, helping improve your overall cardiovascular fitness and endurance.

Implications for Fitness Athletes and Bodybuilders

For bodybuilders and fitness athletes, particularly during competition prep, the primary goal of aerobic training is to increase daily energy expenditure without sacrificing hard-earned muscle mass. Brick training can be an efficient way to achieve this.

Brick workouts can promote fat loss while preserving muscle by keeping heart rates up without the muscle-wearing effects of prolonged steady-state cardio. Additionally, the variety in training can stave off the monotony often associated with cardio training, making the workout experience more engaging.

Moreover, the quick transitions between exercises mirror the muscle confusion principle, which suggests that continually challenging muscles in different ways can enhance strength and growth.

Implementing Brick Training

To implement brick training in your regimen, start by selecting two different aerobic exercises that you can perform back-to-back. The transition should be swift—ideally, no more than a few minutes—to reap the maximum benefits. Begin with a comfortable duration for each exercise and gradually increase it as your endurance improves.

Keep in mind that brick training can be quite taxing on the body, especially for beginners. Therefore, it's advisable to gradually incorporate it into your training program, perhaps starting with one brick session per week.


In conclusion, brick training can be a Game Changer for fitness athletes and bodybuilders, especially during competition preparation. By incorporating this training style into your regimen, you can increase daily energy expenditure, make your workouts more varied and exciting, and potentially see better results in your performance and physique. Remember to listen to your body and adjust the intensity and frequency of brick training sessions as needed.