We’re all going to get tired when we train, but mitigating that sense of tiredness or fatigue goes a long way.
It could mean doing that extra set or rep in order to hit your numbers for the day ,without full exhaustion. This leads to more quality reps and work done, which leads to gains; not to mention reducing the chance for injury.
This is where CONDITIONING comes into play.
The better condition we are in, the more quality work we can do, and the more stress and work our bodies can handle.
Think about it like this…
Imagine a bottle of water as your energy storage. Whenever you do work some of that water is poured out of the bottle. The less water you have in the bottle the less energy you have to do the work you need to do.
Now, imagine that the wider the water opening the faster flow of energy that takes place. In other words, the bigger the opening (lid of the bottle) the faster our energy is drained. Based on that, what if there was a way to manage the flow of your energy better, by changing the size of the lid where the water flows out?
Conditioning will help us use our energy more efficiently and effectively because our energy won’t be drained as soon as things get tough. Essentially, instead of a Gatorade-like bottle (with a big opening) we will have a smaller lid (think squirt bottle) that will manage the flow of our energy better. This will cause less energy drainage, while sharpening our energy flow into something more concentrated making us have the potential to do more meaningful work.
So, what, how, when do you do conditioning?
Let’s break it down.
What is Conditioning
In my own words…
CONDITIONING is anything that gets your heart rate and blood pumping. Essentially, putting your cardio and body to work, typically with demanding bodily movements or activities.
This goes beyond just running or jogging. It’s more of getting a task or activity done.
- Circuits/Interval training (HIIT)
- Giant sets
- Super sets
- Functional movements: tire flips, farmer walks, sprints, shuttles, sled/prowlers, circuits, etc.
Basically, anything that will challenge your endurance — your ability to perform at a sustained level of strength over-time. It will also work on your aerobic and anaerobic capacity to do work, leading to greater general fitness levels.
The great thing is that conditioning, and the tools/implements you use to accomplish this, will add excitement to your training routine, beyond just going on the treadmill or elliptical for 20 to 30 minutes at “x speed” and “x % of incline”.
There’s benefit beyond just lifting that will carry over into the real-world and sport.
What Are the Benefits?
The benefits are many and you could go on and on.
What first comes to my mind is that it will aid your effort to lift more weight, handle more work load and volume, while helping you recover faster between your sets and workouts over-time.
Once you start conditioning, it may INITIALLY impact your “STRENGTH” or “STRENGTH GAINS” negatively (because it will shock your body to a degree), but LONG-TERM it will pay dividends and your strength will come back soon after.
For example, CONDITIONING WILL IMPROVE:
- General cardio-respiratory health.
- Support a healthy body composition (muscle to fat ratio) and weight.
- Help you recover better.
- Helps boost your metabolism throughout the day.
- Increase strength potential because you can handle more work capacity (increased sets/reps (volume), weight, or decrease resting time, etc.).
- Make your workouts more efficient by doing your work in less time.
- Add excitement beyond the typical training style you may be following for strength and muscle building.
For these reasons and more make conditioning a key part of your training program.
How to Incorporate and Structure Your Conditioning
Conditioning does not have to be complicated.
It could be as simple as resting a shorter time between sets, doing super or giant-sets, performing circuits (HIIT: high intensity interval training), and the use of conditioning tools (battle ropes, sleds/prowlers, stairs, sprints, etc.), into your workout/training routine allowing your body to increase its work capacity (more sets, reps, and weight).
All these things allow for PROGRESSIVE OVERLOAD leading to more gains (more lean muscle mass, increased strength, increased endurance, increased athleticism, increased general health).
In addition, I think how you incorporate conditioning is more important than what you use to condition with — at least most times. For instance, you could use your body and run hill sprints until you drop. That said, however, when and how you incorporate that into your training routine matters more. It matters because if performed too much or at too high intensity for too long, it can negatively impact your main training goal (building strength, increasing lean muscle mass, etc.). If done correctly however, there should be no problem.
This will mater based on the stage of your training, as in hypertrophy, general strength, power, etc. If you’re in a hypertrophy stage, for instance, it might be best to do moderate conditioning every-time you workout. Yes, you’ll be doing a lot of volume, but since the intensity of the exercises is at a lower intensity, you should be able to handle some sled pushes, stairs, sprints, battle ropes, tire flips, and the like.
Furthermore, it is important to do some form of conditioning that incorporates what you trained for that day. For example, if you did legs, then some sled pushes or sprints will suffice. For upper body, battle ropes are great or some form of body weight exercises in circuits, like push-ups, to pull-ups, to dips tabata style. Takeaway, be smart but work hard.
Guidelines for Conditioning
Since we’ve went through why conditioning is important, it is time to make sure you follow some good practices to make the most of it.
FOLLOW THESE GUIDELINES FOR YOUR CONDITIONING REGIMEN:
- Determine the intensity (how hard you exert yourself) for your conditioning based on what stage of your training cycle you’re in (hypertrophy, strength, power, active recovery/de-load, etc.). Generally speaking…
- Hypertrophy = moderate to high intensity
- General Strength = low to moderate intensity
- Power = moderate to high intensity
- Pair conditioning exercises and activities that relate closely to what you worked on for that day (upper, lower, core, full body, etc.) with an appropriate tool(s) or implement.
- If you did upper body a good tool might be battle ropes or a body-weight circuit.
- If you did lower body a good tool might be sled pushes or running stairs.
- Pick something that makes sense!
- Spend an adequate time, but don’t go overboard and kill yourself to exhaustion.
- There’s a fine balance, and you have to find it
- A good rule of thumb is when you feel like you can’t do anymore do another set or round and take it from there.
- A good place to incorporate conditioning is toward the end (sometimes start) of your workouts for about 10 to 15 minutes
- The less frequent you condition (1 to 2 times of your total workouts/week), the greater the intensity and/or duration.
- Vice versa, for the opposite. Higher frequency (3 to 4 times of your total workouts/week) results in lesser intensity and duration.
- Total conditioning days should be at least 2-3 times per week for a significant benefit over-time.
- Have 1 Circuit/Conditioning day be itself.
- Allows you to put what you train into use.
- This workout is typically shorter than your normal training days, lasting about ~30 total minutes.
- Be creative with your circuit/conditioning day with unique tools/implements like: tires, battle ropes, prowlers, farmer walks, yoke carry, sprints, shuttles, challenge workouts, etc.
- Can be used as an active recovery day or a sport specific activity day.
Follow these 5 guidelines and it will help you lock up your conditioning for your training, regardless if you’re training for strength, powerlifting, or bodybuilding.
Example Circuit/Conditioning Day
To give you guys an example of what a circuit/conditioning might look like I’ll give you an example of my own.
I have a full day for circuit training, and I highly encourage it because it’s a way to put everything you’ve been working on for the week in action.
From workout challenges, to creative circuits you make up on the fly with what you have available to you, it’s a great way to challenge yourself.
It will force you to adapt to unfamiliar stimulus with “functional based movements” (i.e. flipping a tire, or a prowler push), as well as stimulate fat burning and boost your metabolism.
For me, Sundays are typically my circuit days, and here is a workout that I recently made up that I really liked (I like it after it was done, not particularly during, haha).
Below is my HIIT workout:
TOTAL WORKOUT TIME: ~30 MINUTES
|1. KB Swings||
|52.9lbs (24 kg)||
|2. KB Clean & Jerk||
|52.9lbs (24 kg)||
|3. Sled push||
|90lbs (weight on sled)||
|4. Body Squats||
|6. Battle Ropes||
There you have it!
Nothing too complicated; just a workout that demands your focus and commitment to get it done.
And, if you notice, the whole workout is only 30 minutes.
If you’re doing a circuit-conditioning day correctly, you will be done in 20 to 30 minutes on average. Nothing more and nothing less. The reason is that you are constantly working for the whole time, and not taking minutes of rest between sets or rounds, like normal workouts call for.
(Click HERE for another circuit that will kick your ass in 20 minutes).
Regardless, make it a point to have one circuit day per week, if not every other week.
Conditioning is an integral part of your training, and is vital to perform in some way, as you progress in your strength or muscle building training. The benefits are numerous, and there is no replacement. From fat loss to significantly increasing your anaerobic and aerobic potential to help with gains, you HAVE TO DO IT in some way.
Let me know what you do in the comments, and we can bounce more ideas around.
As always, thanks for stopping by, and subscribe if not a subscriber.
Until next time, be strong and be you.