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
480-241-4112
Drew@HenleySP.com
Twitter.com/DrewBHenley

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Simple Strength & Size Workout

One of the best lessons I’ve learned is simpler is almost always better. With that in mind, here is a program I have used off and on with pretty decent results. I call it “On the 5’s and 10’s” and it’s pretty simple – pick two exercises and do one for 4 sets of 5, the other for 4×10. I have also played around with 5×5 & 5×10, which works, but I don’t notice a big enough difference to dedicate the extra time for the sets. If I have the time to do two lifts for five sets each, I can usually make a better workout.

There are two common ways this can be utilized – either you’re pressed for time each day and can’t spend an hour in the weight room, but still want a quality lift, or you want to improve a movement/muscle group that is lacking.

Example 1

You can get to the gym every day, but only have about 20-30 minutes, but still want to focus on mass and strength.

Set Up – After a warm up, these two lifts are done as a superset, with only as much rest as needed between rounds to get the reps at your weight.

Lift 1: Deadlift – 4×5
Lift 2: Military Press – 4×10

Lift 1: Bench Press – 4×5
Lift 2: RDLs/Glute Bridge – 4×10

Lift 1: Squat – 4×5
Lift 2: TRX Rows – 4×10

Lift 1: Chin Ups – 4×5
Lift 2: RFE Split Squats – 4×10

With Lift 1, we hit the king exercise of each movement, then use less demanding exercises for reps. Is it perfect? Absolutely not, but if you only have time for two exercises, you can do much worse than deadlift and military press.

Example 2

For whatever reason, you’re not where you want to be for your squat. You can deadlift a semi, but struggle coming out of the bottom of your squat.

Set Up – In addition to your normal workouts, add this in on an extra day where squat isn’t emphasized (while still allowing recovery – remember, the issue may be overtraining and under-recovering anyway).

Lift 1: Barbell RFE Split Squats to Airex Pad – 4×5
Corrective 1: Hip Flexor Stretch

Lift 2: Dual KB Goblet Squat w/ Pause at Bottom – 4×10
Corrective 2: Ankle Mobility

In addition to improving strength out of the hole, the corrective work will help with mobility and limit internal resistance during the movement.

All the best,

Drew Henley, CSCS, USAW, CES
Drew@HenleySP.com
Twitter.com/DrewBHenley

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A Better Way to Test Power

Two weeks ago, I was fortunate to attend the Perform Better Summit in Providence, RI and was constantly putting pen to paper in an attempt to bring as much to my training as possible. One of the most fascinating lessons I picked up at the conference was from Greg Rose of Titleist Performance Institute. During Greg’s hands-on session, he showed us four power tests he uses with his athletes, how they relate to performance, and what they reveal in the athlete.

Important note: for male athletes, use a 4kg med ball and for female athletes, 2kg.

Test #1 – Seated Med Ball Chest Pass

This is a common exercise that I have used with hundreds of athletes, both as a test and in training. Have the athlete sit on a plyo box (about 18″ seems to be right for most people), and throw the med ball as far as possible while keeping their hips on the box the entire time. Distance in feet = #1

Test #2 – Supine Chop Throw

Begin in a sit-up position while holding a med ball, arms extended overhead on the ground. Perform a crunch/sit-up/chop throw, while keeping feet and hips on the ground throughout the throw. Distance in feet = #2

Test #3 – Vertical Jump

Nothing fancy here, a standard counter-movement jump for height. Feel free to use whatever equipment you have at your disposal – Vertec, Just Jump, etc. Height in inches = #3

Test #4 – Rotational Shot Put

Similar to the MB chest pass above, this is one of my favorite upper body power exercises (though, as a former thrower, I always hesitate when labeling it as a shot put…feels wrong on some level). With the athlete in an athletic stance, body perpendicular to the direction they will be throwing, have them throw as far as they can. There is no step into the throw or jump while throwing, the feet can turn and the back leg can come forward, but remember this is a test – tests are only beneficial if executed properly. Repeat with each arm.┬áDistance in feet = #4

Here is where things get interesting, those numbers should all be connected. #1, #2, and #3 should all be equal or close to it, and #4 should be about 1.5 of the other numbers. For example, if an athlete has a 20″ vertical, they should have a chest pass and chop throw distance of 20′, and their shot put distances should be right around 30′.┬áThis shows a well balanced power profile of an athlete. If one or two of these numbers are below this ratio, it shows where training should be modified to improve total body power.

This is another demonstration of the body being a single unit instead of a collection of pieces – everything is connected. If you want powerful athletes, be sure they are powerful throughout their body and not just in common movements. If an athlete can generate sufficient power with their legs (let’s say a 30″ vertical), but are unable to transfer that power to their upper extremities (due to weak core/rotational power), their performance will suffer. We will always be limited by our weakest link, these tests can help reveal and remedy those weak links and improve performance.

All the best,

Drew Henley, CSCS, USAW, FMS-1
480-241-4112
Drew@HenleySP.com
Twitter.com/DrewBHenley

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Perform Better Summit – Quick Recap of Day 1

As expected, day 1 provided an excellent group of speakers on numerous topics. Unfortunately, the internet in my hotel isn’t cooperating, so I’ll be brief in my recap as I’m writing it on my phone.

  • It was great seeing Mike Boyle again. Last year at spring training with the Red Sox, Mike was an excellent resource and mentor to have. As expected, his lecture on functional coaching didn’t disappoint.
  • Thomas Myers had several amazing insights, but his top moment was his explanation that “bones ‘float’ in a sea of soft tissue, not stacked upon one another as a single structure.”
  • Jon Torine shed some light on the “why” of programming in the FMS “Every ‘what’ needs a ‘why’ to flourish.” Hopefully I can explain that better next week with my full article on the conference.
  • Gray Cook broke down the three basic movements against resistance: locomotion – moving yourself, manipulation – moving an object, and combative – moving another person.
  • Finally, Dick Vermeil was an incredible finish to the night with some of the best lines I’ve heard. Excellent motivator and easy to see why he had the success he did as a coach. “There is no such thing as a coach without problems. However, a problem in the right hands is a wonderful asset because it leads to a solution.”

That’s all for day 1. On the docket for tomorrow – Charlie Weingroff, Duane Carlisle, Al Vermeil, Nick Winkleman, and Martin Rooney.

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Perform Better Summit Introduction

Just arrived in beautiful Providence and wandered around the convention center where the Perform Better Summit will be held the next three days. This will be my first PB Summit and I am looking forward to an amazing lineup of presenters.

Here’s a short list of presenters this weekend:

  • Michael Boyle
  • Alwyn Cosgrove
  • Thomas Myers
  • Lee Burton
  • Gray Cook
  • Mark Verstegen
  • Jon Torine
  • Charlie Weingroff
  • Al Vermeil
  • Robert Dos Remedios

And that’s not including the keynote speaker who was just revealed recently – former NFL Coach of the Year and Super Bowl Champion Dick Vermeil.

It’s shaping up to be quite a weekend. I look forward to sharing as much information as I can pick up from all these great minds.

-DH

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