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High Intensity Conditioning Methods

Written by Jason Ferruggia Topics: Uncategorized

Here is part 2 of the recent interview I did for Craig Ballantyne. Click HERE for part 1.

Craig Ballantyne: Tell us a little bit about some of the unique conditioning that you do? Obviously you’ve got the prowler, you guys do sprints, but what else do you have in Renegade Gym that you guys do?

Jason Ferruggia: First of all, it should be noted that not everyone needs to do conditioning. Typically the most explosive athletes do the least amount of conditioning. These would usually be throwers. But if you want to be in shape or play a sport you are going to need to do some conditioning. The key is not to overdo it. Or do it just for the sake of doing it.

As I said, we do zero cardio. Traditional cardio goes against evolution. You weren’t designed to do that and it’s counterproductive; meaning it causes cortisol release, over use injuries and saps your power.

As far as the methods we DO use- the prowler is one of the BEST things you can do. We use that quite a bit. You really have to experience it to even appreciate it. You do 10 to 20 of those with minimal rest and it’s gonna be far superior to any kind of cardio machine you could possibly do. That’s a great finisher or can be used on off days. There’s no eccentric component so you really don’t get sore from it.

How far should you push the prowler? It really depends on how much room you have. Anywhere from 20-50 yards should be good for most people. You’ll know when you’ve had enough. Trust me.

On top of that we’ll drag sleds pretty much the same way, same parameters. With the sled you can do a variety of different drags.

We’ll also do high rep kettle bell swings and snatches. I’ve recently become a big fan of snatches. Well, I was always a big fan of snatches, but recently became a very big fan of kettlebell snatches. In the past I always thought they were a good exercise but nothing special. Recently I’ve fallen in love with them, however. A lot of it has to do with a new technique I use to do them.

It can be somewhat difficult to master but once you really get tight form down on the snatch, it’s a very fun exercise to do. I am definitely a big fan of tight snatches… so to speak.

Swings and snatches for high reps or timed sets are awesome as a finisher. You could do 3-4 sets of 10-25 reps or just set a clock for 8-10 minutes and try to get as many reps as possible. Then each week you would try to get more reps in the same amount of time with the same weight.

The battling ropes are great if someone has any kind of knee injury, if they can’t push the prowler or they can’t sprint. There’s very little stress with the battling ropes so they allow people with any kind of injuries to get a great workout in. I like to do 4-6 sets of 20-30 seconds of work as a finisher. And there are numerous patterns you can use with the ropes.

My all time FAVORITE are hill sprints. I love to do hill sprints. I recommend hill sprints for everyone who needs to lose body fat.  They’re awesome and you don’t need any special equipment at all; just a hill. The reason I like hill sprints better than flat ground sprints are for the simple fact that they are less injurious, a little easier on the body and you don’t need to warm up as long.

But any kind of sprint; the prowler, sprints with a sled, sprints on flat ground and sprints on a hill are definitely going to be far superior to any cardio machine you could do.

The human body was simply not designed for long duration, repetitive, steady state activity.

If you are sprinting for conditioning and to cut weight you don’t have to be overly concerned with work to rest ratio and total volume as you would if you were training for speed. Simply run hard for 40-100 yards and rest as long as you need to. The whole workout doesn’t need to last more than twenty minutes.

Sometimes after a workout I will drive ten minutes over to the high school and sprint on the field turf immediately after training. I’ll do reduced warm up, since I have already just trained and then run about eight or ten 50-100 yard sprints.

I can’t recommend sprinting highly enough. I honestly believe that EVERYONE should be doing some sort of sprinting twice per week.

It’s what the body was designed to do and nothing will get you in better shape faster.

Please leave your comments below.

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28 Responses to High Intensity Conditioning Methods

  1. Alyson June 4, 2010 at 9:26 am #

    These are all great conditioning workouts that i’ve luckily been introduced to when i started at Renegade.. i cant say which i “love” the most because they all seriously kick my ass, maybe thats what i love about them ;).. we recently started the kettlebell snatches at the end our our workout.. 20 seconds each arm.. 20 seconds rest.. for 6 minutes.. BRUTAL but AWESOME…. :)

  2. Clement June 4, 2010 at 9:36 am #

    Hi jay, great post here! I was just wondering if it was alright to do 100m repeats for 20min with as much rest as possible an if it would be considered as conditioning. I know that it definitely improves fitness, but would the gains be as much as interval training for 10min with a 24sec on, 36sec off shuttle sprint format? It also does develop conditioning and burns fat
    while improving endurance, doesn’t it?

    • Andrew Lowry June 6, 2010 at 8:04 pm #

      @James I suggest your friend clean up your nutrition to drop those 20 lbs to get into the Navy. The simplest and fastest way that I have dropped weight (fat and excess water) is 24 hour fasts. I highly recommend Brad Pilon’s book Eat Stop Eat. It is expensive but the results are well worth it and it is the one form of ‘dieting’ that is free.

      @Jason F, great post. I listened to your interview on CB’s podcast but it is good to read the stuff for added emphasis. I am having to get ready for some intensive activity this summer so I am adding more conditioning into my program. I look forward to using some of your ideas.

  3. Stephen Holt June 4, 2010 at 9:55 am #

    Preach on, my friends. Eventually we’ll get rid of this love affair far too many people have with long, slow cardio.

  4. phil June 4, 2010 at 10:04 am #

    couldn’t agree more, sprints rule. kettlebell snatches 15 sec work 15 sec rest, switching arms each set with a weight that allows 7-8 per set. go for 8-10 min or as long as you can, watch your conditioning go through the roof.

  5. jesse June 4, 2010 at 10:11 am #

    Your “finishers” always kick my A$$ Jason but they are getting a tad easier . . . OK not really maybe my conditioning is finally improving.

  6. Jim Milito June 4, 2010 at 10:13 am #

    I couldn’t agree with this more. I have been doing bicycle criterium racing on Weds. nights. A one mile loop in a parking lot with a small hill. One hour plus two laps with a sprint finish. I find on the good days I peddal less and go faster. A couple good explosive cranks and I am coasting along allowing my legs a quick recovery. The final lap you hit the hill with everything left and take it to the finsh line. thanks for your insight into this aspect of training. It is very helpfull. PS. a little upper body is helful fighting for position, you have to stay out of the wind and grab a good wheel.

  7. Michael June 4, 2010 at 11:24 am #

    Dude, what about the jump rope? All time greatest piece of conditioning equipment. I’m not talking about lazy, easy breezy jumping; I’m talking double-unders and sprinting in place as fast as your legs and arms can turn over type s**t. Improves accuracy, balance, coordination and stamina. But you already knew that.

  8. Carey Yang June 4, 2010 at 11:31 am #

    I couldn’t agree with you more.

    The problem is that most people are still too lazy to go for real high intensity training. They would rather do slow and steady running or biking while watching TV, reading papers or chatting up with neighbors.


  9. James June 4, 2010 at 11:41 am #

    Ok so sprints are great for losing weight. What other tools should i use? I have a friend trying to get into the navy and he needs to lose 20lbs or so in about a month and i’ve been trying to train him. He’s gotten stronger, but no real weight loss.

  10. Sean June 4, 2010 at 12:24 pm #

    I love all the above suggested alternate conditioning exercises – it’s just tough to get that type of equipment and environment around where I live.
    Not that I’m not looking!
    I think I’m going to try and incorporate some sprints and stairs at the local high school field.
    Thanks for the great info!

  11. Vytautas June 4, 2010 at 1:07 pm #

    Jason, can we see you kettlebell snatch technique? Maybe on yotube?

  12. Brandon Cook June 4, 2010 at 1:14 pm #

    I need to find a good hill for sprints. My conditioning workouts now include the following:

    Jumprope 30-60 seconds hard 30 seconds rest
    Sledgehammer swings 30 seconds each side 30 seconds rest
    Burpees to chins (stole from you) 60 seconds 30 seconds rest

    Repeat that circuit a couple times and then go to work on the heavy bag.

    Sometimes I’ll do complexes or swap out drills like farmer walks or bodyweight stuff.

    Great interview!

  13. Chris S June 4, 2010 at 6:33 pm #

    Nothing like a tight snatch….


  14. Raymond June 5, 2010 at 12:53 am #

    Fantastic comments about cardio.
    I was so scared to reduce cardio in case the body fat would never leave me. But now I’ve got the confidence to reduce it down a fair bit.
    Love the sprinting recommendations. I’ll replace my cardio with that style.

  15. Jose June 5, 2010 at 3:56 am #

    Hi, what do you think about sprinting in soft sand? I’m asking you that because i live in front of the beach and there’s no really hills near my house

  16. Joe June 5, 2010 at 5:55 am #

    Hi Jason,

    Big fan, love the info and couldnt agree more. I just want to play Devil’s Advocate for a moment though. You site that traditional cardio goes against evolution, which I wholeheartedly agree with, yet you are also a vegetarian, which also goes against evolution. How do you reconcile this conflicting belief system?

    Thanks again, keep up the good work.


  17. Chris Cannon June 5, 2010 at 8:41 am #

    Great interview, looking forward to seeing if Men’s Fitness does a piece documenting Sean’s transformation.

    I’ve never been to Jason’s gym,but would love to check it out sometime!


  18. Jack June 6, 2010 at 6:09 am #

    just wondering what are your opinions on running a mile in the fastest time that you can for conditioning?

  19. Norm Hill June 6, 2010 at 2:25 pm #

    Hill sprints feel good. For fat burning purposes I often hear that cardio activities should be done in the morning or a fasted state for the best results. Would you say this is true for sprinting as well, or is it better to have some food energy to be able to push the sprints harder?

  20. Chris June 6, 2010 at 3:35 pm #

    “The human body was simply not designed for long duration, repetitive, steady state activity.”

    Do you have any links to articles that substantiate this statement?

    It seems that the human body is capable of incredible feats of endurance. This capability is nicely illustrated by persistence hunting, which is still done by the Kalahari in Southern Africa and the Tarahumara Indians in Mejico:

    “Since they could not kill their prey from a distance and were not fast enough to catch the animal, the only reliable way to kill it would have been to run it down over a long distance.”

    “In this regard one has to bear in mind that, as hominids adapted to bipedalism they would have lost some speed, becoming less able to catch prey with short, fast charges. They would, however, have gained endurance and become better adapted to persistence hunting.[1] The evolution of the distinctively human sweating apparatus and relative hairlessness would have given hunters an additional advantage by keeping their bodies cool in the midday heat.”

  21. James June 7, 2010 at 7:57 pm #

    Thanks Andrew, I considered that idea as well after looking at a nutrition book and that the human body burns fat from 5-24 hours, and after 24 hours goes into acute starvation. I wasn’t sure if it would work until you said that.

  22. James June 7, 2010 at 8:07 pm #

    And one question, still drink a lot of water even though he’s fasting?

  23. wrestler strength November 2, 2010 at 4:34 am #

    LOL, I too have recently become a fan of…Kettlebell Snatches. But yeah, I definitely think high reps with this and/or for timed sets is brutal!!

  24. Max King January 6, 2011 at 6:35 am #

    Great Article Jason!The snatches are great finisher to rev the metabolism up and my clients love them!Keep those articles coming

  25. Matty C October 20, 2011 at 3:05 pm #

    I’ve worked out why people love LSD running. Once you get relatively conditioned to running slow, it’s not hard at all. People rarely try to improve their 5 or 10km running time. They just go out and run to ‘keep fit’ (not get fitter/faster). It’s generally not hard for them nor do they feel hammered by it.
    Sprinting on the other hand ALWAYS makes you feel hammered. We all know the superior benefits of sprinting but unfortunately the large majority of the population avoid hard work like the plague and is why the slow long distance run will always be a staple in most peoples programs.
    If only they had a really good look in the mirror and saw the frail, weak, atrophied, loose skin bodies they are producing by doing this.

  26. tommy November 16, 2011 at 8:55 pm #

    I have to disagree that humans aren’t built for long duration type stuff. I have read and am a fan of “born to run” about ultra high mileage running, and the ideas behind it. Don’t get me wrong, I agree with high intensity short burst type work also. I use it when I run even if all I do is sprint across every side street I cross and continue on my way.BTW I do look in the mirror and don’t see a weak atrophied body.

    • rusty February 23, 2013 at 1:36 am #

      I agree with you. We evolved for ultra high endurance.