Conditioning Guidelines

Posted by Jason Ferruggia

Question: I am a little confused about how to set up my conditioning workouts and what the guidelines and parameters should be. Could you help me out with that?

Answer: Ok, when discussing conditioning the first thing that needs to be asked is what is your primary training goal at the moment?

If it is to get huge and strong, then conditioning must be limited and can not interfere with your main workouts.

If you are training for a sport and need a mix of both strength and conditioning, that is another story.

And if you are just looking to get shredded that is a whole other scenario.

For athletes, which is how everyone in my gym trains, you will do strength/power workouts MWF and conditioning 1-3 other days (usually two). Maybe Tues and Thurs or Thurs and Sat. Whatever. It depends on exactly what is more of a weakness and what is a main priority, strength or conditioning.

When you are choosing this option, the conditioning workouts shouldn’t interfere greatly with the strength days, but the fact is they will have some small negative impact. Unless you are just looking to become a big, fat, unathletic powerhouse, any conditioning will have some negative impact on strength and explosiveness. The key is to get the conditioning you need while limiting the negative impact. If your diet is perfect and you have great genetics you could become big, strong and explosive while doing absolutely no conditioning and remain quite lean. You won’t have great conditioning, though. Which is fine if you’re ok with that. Some sports, like shotput and hammer throwing,  don’t require it. Most of us, however will need to do some sort of conditioning to stay lean and in shape.

In this case you don’t want to do a lot of heavy sandbag work or bodyweight circuits that will interfere with your strength training. You don’t want to get sore from your conditioning workouts. Also, if you are stressing the CNS on MWF, you should back off a bit on your other training days.

Conditioning days could make you very slow and sap your power in no time if you use the wrong loading parameters. The duration of each set, round or circuit you do should be fairly short with a short break in between. The best way to turn fast twitch fibers slow is to drown them in lactic acid for 20-30 minutes straight.Do that and watch your vertical jump (one of the best tests of power) and plummet in no time.

What you need to do is hit it hard for 20-30 seconds and then take a brief rest. You can do this for 15-30 minutes but it has to be done intermittenly in interval style. Doing intervals on a bike are terrible for power athletes because the lactic acid buildup is too severe. If you wanted to you could sprint on the bike, hop off, rest for 10-30 seconds, then jump rope, rest, swing a sledgehammer, and then get back on the bike and repeat in that fashion for 15-30 minutes. But you can’t just pump away on the bike non stop and not expect it to effect your explosive power output.

Also, remember that the human body is not designed for doing any sort of repetitive steady state exercise for any long duration. So you are better off mixing up your conditioning workouts and using a variety of drills.

As I said, for most athletes, I like to keep the duration of each drill rather short. But depending on the individual and the exercise, you could go up to 2-3 minutes per interval. For example, you could jump rope hard for 2-3 minutes straight and then take a minute break and continue on for 20-30 minutes. I find that jumping rope is a great way to improve your conditioning, foot speed, coordination, etc. without draining your power or making your sore and highly recommend it to everyone.

Now, if you are training strictly for fat loss, all bets are off and the rules basically go out the window. I wouldn’t let your power drop off significantly but it’s not your main focus at the time so don’t obsess over it. You still need to get your strength work in but the rest of the time should be spent jacking your metabolism and burning calories.

Hopefully that clears up some of the confusion.

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