Conditioning Confusion- Part 2

Posted by Jason Ferruggia

Choose Your Goals and Train Accordingly

I like kettlebell snatches. Only I don’t do too many of them because my workouts already include a lot of overhead work in the form of handstands, presses, barbell snatches, carries, chins, etc. When I throw in too many kettlebell snatches on top of all that my injured, surgically repaired shoulder gets a little flared up. So I’d rather jump rope, push the prowler or run hills like I have since ’84 when Walter Payton inspired me to start doing so.

That’s not to say that I won’t do a few sets of 5-20 once in a while, but I don’t get down with the marathon snatch sessions. Well… at least those involving any type of weight training implement, if ya know what I mean. HI-OH!!!!

Some people love to argue about just about anything. But if you can’t see how snatching a 44 or 53 pound kettlebell for ten minutes straight would be more taxing on the body than jumping rope for the same amount of time there’s really very little I can do to help you function in this society.

To me it’s more important that I get an extra ten pounds on my military press or another few reps on my handstand pushups than it is that I get better at high rep kettlebell snatches. You might get more satisfaction out of improving your score on the KGB Snatch test. That’s completely fine and you have every right to feel that way. Just know that strength will be compromised.

Everyone needs to assess their goals, train accordingly and know that you can’t achieve both maximal strength AND maximal conditioning. One has to suffer. I choose to place more of a 60/40 emphasis on strength over conditioning, even though I recommend 50/50 to most average people who aren’t competitive athletes.

You gotta do what makes you happy.

If you’re an athlete you gotta do what makes you better. That might mean more conditioning (hockey player) or it might mean less (thrower).

Everyone should take more of a minimalist approach and look to do the least amount of work required to achieve a desired goal, rather than the most.

And always remember your joints. When I tell guys that the 500 kettbell snatches they do per week might not be the best thing for their joints some of them will break down into tears like me watching the Giants blow a four touchdown lead in the fourth quarter. They take it very personally.

It’s not the snatches. And it’s not the kettlebell. I have no problem with either. It might not even be the 500 reps per week (although I suspect that’s just a taaaaad much). The main problem is combining that with overhead presses, pushups, chins, cleans, football practice, wrestling, etc. That’s the problem.

Less is almost always more. Take that into consideration.

Sport Specific Conditioning

In my opinion, the one situation where those “metcon” type workouts that I’m usually opposed to are sometimes called for is in the training of a combat athlete who is not already doing an inordinate amount of conditioning at practice/class each day. This athlete could benefit from kettlebell swings, sledgehammer swings, battling ropes, the prowler, sandbags, burpees, etc. set up in some kind of circuit fashion.

There is nothing that prepares you for fighting another man quite like the very act itself, but since it’s not practical or safe to be taking punches and kicks all day I think some metabolic conditioning workouts in the weight room (or outside on a field) could be called for in this situation.

So I usually have this type of athlete do a low volume strength training workout one or two days per week that would consist of a few sets of jumps, Oly lifts or throws along with 2-3 basic strength exercises. On one or two other days he would do a metabolic conditioning style workout with all the aforementioned tools. I would still be very careful in the design of this workout to ensure that it didn’t negatively affect his strength training or his skill work. Injuries and overtraining must be carefully avoided.

Football players are a different story. For these athletes I like a basic, low volume strength workout consisting primarily of barbell lifts and a bit of assistance work, followed by a strength based finisher or a challenge, like a farmers walk race, sandbag clean and press, etc. to build mental toughness, work ethic, camaraderie, etc. Each workout doesn’t necessarily need a finisher but if they’re only training three days a week it won’t hurt. Plus, it makes things fun and more competitive. It’s team/ character building.

Their conditioning should be more specific to their sport. In other words they should run. One day (the same day as weight training) should be speed work, the following day should be conditioning, meaning they could practice the 300 yard shuttle or do any number of different tempo runs or what have you. They could even play basketball.

Basketball players should strength train, run sprints and play basketball. That’s pretty much it.

Hockey players should strength train, drag sleds, run sprints and play hockey.

Baseball players should lift and chew sunflower seeds. They don’t need a ton of conditioning.

Golfers should hoist weight and sleep with hot chicks. It works for Tiger.

The Bottom Line

•    Conditioning is very important. Just how important it is for you depends on your weaknesses, your goals and your sport.

•    Determine your primary goals and train accordingly.

•    Understand that you can’t ride two horses with one ass. In other words you can’t train for the World’s Strongest Man and The Boston Marathon simultaneously, as so many people like to do. If you want to reach the highest level of strength or conditioning the other quality has to suffer. For most people a nice blend of both is optimal.

•    If seeing rapid improvements in maximal size, strength and power is your primary goal then conditioning should be almost non existent. Walking at a fast pace on an empty stomach,  first thing in the morning 4-6 times per week will be plenty to maintain a decent level of conditioning and to keep bodyfat in check.

•    Never seek fatigue in your strength training workouts.

•    Never judge an effective strength training workout by how much you sweat or how high your heart rate gets.

•    Train strength and then train conditioning. But always keep them separate. Non athletes and busy guys can do conditioning after strength training, athletes should probably do it the next day.

•    Don’t do more just for the sake of doing more.

•    Always seek to do the most with the least. It’s usually the most effective way to reach any goal.

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