Month: November 2013

Conditioning vs. Cardio

Chris Shugart put up an entertaining article last week on T-Nation about conditioning vs. cardio. This got me thinking of some of my favorite conditioning exercises and how I implement them into my athletes’ training. Rather than calling it predator conditioning (though I could be persuaded with a kickass name like that), I generally stick to metabolic conditioning, METCON, or blitz workouts.

1. Ropes – Two hand slams, alternating slams, jumping jacks, mini waves, side to side, internal/external rotation, and wax on/wax off circles are some of my favorites to use with an anchored rope. Other drills I like are rope rows (with a sled or heavy kettlebell), fireman’s carry, rope chin ups, and tug of war, but these typically require a lot of space.

2. Sleds – Great for pushes, forward drags, and sprints. Sleds become an even greater conditioning tool when combined with a TRX – walking TRX rows, chest presses, rotations, and walking anti-rotation holds.

3. Sledgehammers – Overhead and rotational slams are great for developing upper body power while taxing the entire body.

4. Sandbags – A 50 pound sandbag always seems heavier than a 95 pound barbell. Front squats, offset (on one shoulder) squats, Zercher squats, lunges, or even just carrying the bags without handles are excellent ways to incorporate sandbags into conditioning.

5. Slideboards – Great for lateral shuffles, they can also be used for push up variations, ab rollouts, body saws, reverse lunges, and mountain climbers.

These are just some types of equipment I use with athletes, depending on their ability level, sport demands, and time of season. If you’re looking to build a strong conditioning plan, start with the basics (push, pull, squat, carry), try a variety of tools (any of the above, plus dumbbells, barbells, TRX, landmine, etc.), and make a circuit out of it. A simple solution is to pick a couple of exercises and go :20 on, :10 off for a few rounds. Other work:rest ratios I like to use are :15/:5/:15 with :30 between exercises (so two rounds of one, then switch) and :30/:10/:30/:60. One other way is to pair up and go for a specific number of reps, but when in doubt, I stick with the Tabata protocol.

Personal Favorite METCONs (with rounds before switching exercises and reps/rest or time on/time off/time on/transition):

Upper Body Blast (:20/:10/:20/:10)

  • Overhead Rope Slams
  • TRX Rows (or TRX Sled Pulls)
  • Slideboard Push Ups
  • Rotational Med Ball Wall Slams

Legs & Lungs (1 set of marked reps/distance, then next exercise, resting after each round. Can also be done with partner, 2 sets, switch exercises, then 2 minute rest after each round)

  • Heavy Sled/Prowler Pushes – 25 yards
  • Zercher Sandbag Walks – 20 yards & back
  • Stadium Farmer Walks – 3-5 flights (partner goes at same time, no second set)
  • Sprint – 50 yards, walk back
  • Total Body Shredding (best with partner – as many sets as possible in 5 minutes per exercise, 1:30 to switch)
  • Over the Shoulder Sledgehammer Slams – 5 each side
  • Zercher Hold Walking Lunges – 20 yards & back
  • TRX Sled Rows – 25 yards
  • Rope Jumping Jacks – 20

There are an infinite number of possibilities to play around with, which should help eliminate the boredom typically associated with conditioning. It’s important to remember to recover – if you’re training heavy & hard every day, and trying to add in these METCONs, it can result in overtraining or worse. Be smart in your training and allow your body to recover between training sessions.

All the best,

Drew Henley, CSCS, USAW, FMS-1

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