5 Killer Conditioning Drills


Riding a stationary bike sucks. Sure, it’s convenient and often the only option for a lot of people, but let’s be honest; enduring 30 minutes of water boarding would probably be more fun. If you can ride a stationary bike, you can ride a real bike; and that would be a much better choice. Sprinting would be far superior to either of those. Doing so on a hill or with a sled or Prowler is often even better. Below are some of my favorite conditioning drills that I do myself and with all of my clients.

All of these can be done at the end of your strength workouts as a finisher for 10-15 minutes. Most of them can also be done on off days; either alone or in a circuit with one or several of the other conditioning drills. If you choose that option you would train for 15-30 minutes and be sure to choose exercises that won’t interfere with your next day’s workout. Therefore you probably wouldn’t want to do band sprints the night before a heavy squat day, for example.

Battling Ropes- There are several different ways to do the battling ropes- alternate, double arm snaps, side to side, windmill style, with a squat or reverse lunge between reps, etc. Whatever ways haven’t been done yet will be invented, tested and tried at Renegade Gym sometime in the near future; you can be sure of that. The benefit of this exercise is that it causes zero joint stress or soreness. This is huge! Because of this it can be done frequently and on days between heavy training sessions without fear of it interfering with your size or strength gains. This is also great for anyone with any kind of knee or other lower body injury.

Prowler Sprints- I say Prowler sprints and not “pushes” because when we load the Prowler up heavy I consider that strength work or strength endurance. For conditioning I like to keep it a little lighter and do a large volume of work with minimal rest periods, or until the Prowler flu strikes and vomit appears.

Sled Sprints- These can be done forward or backward and with a belt attached to your waist or by grabbing the handles. Again, if you do these heavy, I consider it strength or strength endurance. For more of a grueling conditioning workout I keep the sled light and recommend doing 40-100 yard sprints. If you have limited distance, as we do at the gym, just do more sets with less rest.

Band Resisted Sprints- This one is awesome if you have limited space. The lactic acid build up in the legs is enough to drop anyone to their knees after thirty seconds if it’s their first time doing this. Use two to three bands (average or strong, depending on the weight and strength of the athlete) and keep constant tension while using short, choppy steps. Be sure to use spotters in front in case someone slips or you have any mishaps with the bands. Always resist on the eccentric portion and then fire out as quickly as possible when you return to the start position. A spotter in the back is a good idea as well, just in case some takes a wrong step or misjudges something and gets slingshotted through the wall like Elmer Fudd. If you are not used to these, start with 15 seconds per set and work your way up to 30 or even 60 seconds. Rest only long enough for the lactic acid to clear and for you be able to perform the next set with good form.

Farmers Walks- This is one of those conditioning drills that can also be a great strength exercise as well. Load it up heavy and it will increase your grip strength and build and iron core and stability in your lower body like nothing else. In the process it will also improve your conditioning. That’s one way to do it- heavy for short distances. Or you can go lighter on it and walk longer and further. You could bring a pair of 72-97 pound kettlebells out the field with you and walk 100 yards down and back with them. In between you could run sprints or push the Prowler and then grab the bells and go for another walk. You could also do two arm/two kettlebell swings and immediately at the end of the high rep set, walk as far as you can without dropping them. The options are limitless.

With all of these methods weather is never an excuse. If it’s 95 degrees in July or 5 degrees in January, any of these can be done by anyone who actually has some balls and is willing to work.

Get after it.

Please leave your comments below.

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15 Responses to 5 Killer Conditioning Drills

  1. John Z. December 8, 2009 at 11:52 am #

    Jason,

    Great Post. Could you please describe how to set up battling ropes on a power rack? Amount of rope needed, guage, and any other pieces of equipment required… Thanks a lot and Merry Christmas…

    -
    John Z.

  2. shib neddeff December 8, 2009 at 11:55 am #

    A great finisher / conditioner is prowler / FW / KB or DB Swings will have you huff n and puffin :-)
    Always get funny looks from folks don’t know if it’s the exercises or a 56 yr.old doing them

  3. Billy December 8, 2009 at 10:40 pm #

    Hey Jay,
    Wicked informative posts!
    Quick question: you say you can do these drills for 1 minutes at the end of a training session. I know you’re big on keeping your training sessions less than 45 minutes, so if you’re at 45 mins would you still do these drills or best to keep them for non-training days?
    By the way, when will you have some more posts on music?
    Word.

  4. Billy December 8, 2009 at 10:41 pm #

    1 minutes = 15 minutes (oops)

  5. Zach December 9, 2009 at 1:36 pm #

    Hey Jason nice post! How often in a week do you have your clients who are trying to gain weight (mostly muscle) perform this type of conditioning and is it usually on training days or other days? Thanks

  6. Mac December 10, 2009 at 1:45 am #

    sick post, I like to do drills like these after my workouts too. The heavy drops in our gym always stare with their mouths open, that’s always a good indicator of how awesome the actual exercise is.

  7. patty January 10, 2010 at 9:22 am #

    “If it’s 95 degrees in July or 5 degrees in January, any of these can be done by anyone who actually has some balls and is willing to work.”

    As I left my 7:30 am swim workout (which included a killer set of 3×200 yards, 3×150 yards, 3×100 yards, 3×50 yards… not to mention the water polo kicking drills at the very end), my hair froze. I didn’t care. An neither did my (imaginary) balls.

  8. Bradley Grunner Registered Dietitian January 10, 2010 at 1:10 pm #

    Thanks for this exercise menu, Jason.

    Thirty to forty-five minutes of cardio on machines is torture, which is why I opt for jogging outside in the winter, unless it’s deathly cold!

  9. Mickey January 11, 2010 at 6:28 am #

    Thanks for posting these. This will definitely add some variety to my training

  10. Michael January 11, 2010 at 6:30 am #

    I like those band sprints a lot. I’m going to have to give those a shot. Keep up the good work.

  11. Quinner January 19, 2010 at 6:42 am #

    Jason,

    How much width do you need for “ropesgonewild”. I have the right length in my house, I am just not certain how much width is needed to get the full range of motion from the proper movements.

    An approximation would really help.

    Cheers.

  12. jasonferruggia January 19, 2010 at 6:49 am #

    You would need about five feet or so if you wanted to do them side to side. If not, and you only want to do snaps and alternating, etc. you could get away with three feet.

  13. jasonferruggia January 19, 2010 at 6:54 am #

    @ John Z- We just loop them around the bottom of the rack. You would need 20-30 feet of rope.

    @ Billy- We do them for 5-15 minutes at the end. Usually the strength training portion of the workout will be done in 30-40 minutes and then we use these as a finisher. They could also be done on off days. I will get on the music thing soon.

    @ Zach- About three times per week for 10-20 minutes. There are positives and negatives to doing it on training days and doing it on off days. But since most guys won’t make it to the gym more than three or four days per week we usually just do it at the end of a strength training session.

    @ Patty- AWESOME!

  14. Quinner January 19, 2010 at 8:06 am #

    Thanks for the response.
    My ropes just arrived less than 5 minutes ago.

  15. Greg September 3, 2013 at 8:00 am #

    Mos def going to try the sprit variations.

    Battler ropes are the devil, serious conditioning tool. I love farmers and have seen real improvement in size, grip, strength, since using them, and other loaded carries. Although looks to me the form shown in the farmer walk video isn’t good. Chest should be raised and back neutral, that guys back is rounding.

    Not mentioned are burpees, proper burpees with a push up. Aim for 100 AQAP after your workout. Asses. Will. Be. Kicked..