Here's what you need to know...
- Seasoned lifters don't try to max out every single day. Conditioning should be no different. Leave the extremes for the newbies.
- Superset jump roping with assistance lifts to avoid shin splints.
- Combine four assistance lifts with either stationary biking or treadmill running to create a conditioning circuit.
- Do about 20 treadmill sprints using a 3:1 ratio. Rest for thirty seconds and sprint for ten.
Metcon Without Maxing Out
I like being "in shape." When the other option is "a fat turd that smells like ranch dressing," I think it's clear to even the thickest tongues what side you should want to be on.
I also like doing some pretty stupid conditioning challenges. Not only are they fun, they also force me to dig deeper and go to a place, mentally and physically, that's probably illegal in most states above the Mason/Dixon line.
But like anything in the fitness and strength world, we have a tendency to swing the pendulum abruptly and rarely does it stay in the middle. From diets (seriously people, stop the madness) to fitness trends, extremes rule. And for some very obvious reasons, the madness that is extreme conditioning has recently reared its red-faced head.
For the average person, this is fine as they rarely stick to anything in the fitness world for very long - a couple of runs, a few squats, and a skinned shin on a box jump and they're gone.
But for people with actual goals, conditioning doesn't have to be balls out. Just like you don't max out everyday, you don't have to "max out" on conditioning every day. Yet it's absolutely amazing what happens when one performs good, consistent work.
Related: Conditioning 101
The methods below are great for people that want to get stronger, have limited time, and find themselves stuck to indoor conditioning. Each of these examples can be done for three to six weeks. The latter is more than enough time to get your ass into shape.
Just remember that these workouts don't have to leave you dead or with your friend filming and timing you so you can post/brag about it on social media.
Note: Where you want to end (your goal) is going to be determined 100% on where you start, which is something you'll decide. Take some accountability and raise your expectations.
Jump Rope Circuit
Jumping rope is probably the easiest, cheapest, and most space efficient way to condition. Unfortunately, it also has a drawback: shin splints.
The amount of jump roping you have to do to get any sort of conditioning is high enough that your shins will suffer, so the best way around this is to combine your weight work (specifically your assistance work) with jumping rope.
There are a couple of ways to do this but the most effective is also the simplest. For every set of assistance work you do, perform 1 "set" of rope jumping. Do not jump rope between your first two exercises of your workout.
Here's a sample:
Main Exercise: Squat
Supplemental Exercise: Leg Press
Perform the above two exercises as normal. For assistance work, let's say that you're doing three assistance exercises - lunges, hanging leg raises, and kettlebell swings. For simplicity sake, say you're doing 3 sets of each exercise. Here's how the rest of your workout would look:
Lunge: 6 reps/leg
Jump Rope: Double-leg, 100 jumps
Hanging Leg Raise: 15 reps
Jump Rope: Single-leg, 50 jumps per leg (100 total)
Kettlebell Swing: 15 reps
Jump Rope: High knee "sprint," 50 jumps
Repeat the above circuit three times. The rest between the exercises and jumping rope is going to be largely based on your conditioning level.
Also, the less weight you use on your assistance lifts, the less you can rest (and vice versa). There's no exact or proper rest period and you don't need to kill yourself because there's no gold medal for the winner of the jump rope circuit.
The number of jumps you do and the style will depend on your skill level with the rope. One thing I've learned about jumping rope is that a little bit of practice goes a long way. This circuit may leave you frustrated the first couple times with bruises on the back of your head, but you'll be fine after a few weeks of practice.
I always get asked about what kind of jump rope to use. I have one that I got at Wal-Mart. It's a jump rope. Don't make this any harder than it needs to be.
This is an old way of getting in shape, although I'm not quite sure if anyone still uses it anymore. Like the jump rope circuit, we keep the strength work intact - never sacrifice getting stronger for being a Burpee Queen.
The key to doing this is to keep a "normal" pace during the bike/treadmill work. You don't need to be doing a sprint or riding the bike in such a way that your arms and head resemble a coked-out Ray Charles.
Here's a sample workout:
Main Exercise: Bench Press
Supplemental Exercise: Weighted Chin-Up
These two exercises are performed with normal rest times, sets, reps, and weight. These are not to be screwed with in the name of "ripped abs."
The assistance lifts and the bike/treadmill will be performed in a circuit fashion. For the sake of this article, let's pick four exercises. The circuit would look something like this:
Bodyweight Dip 20 reps
T-Bar Row 12 reps
Face Pull 20 reps
Barbell Curl 10 reps
Bike (or Treadmill Run) 3-5 minutes
Repeat the above circuit 3-5 times.
The rest time between exercises is going to be largely based on your level of conditioning and the weight used on the exercises. Because you're using this part of your workout primarily for conditioning, I wouldn't get wrapped up in the amount of weight used in the exercise (it's assistance work, after all).
Make sure that you're using a full range of motion and don't cheat the exercise because you have some spittle on your lips.
Reminder: The bike/treadmill "effort" should not be "all out." To make this very simple, it should be done at a pace that allows you to maintain your thoughts and not be grunting and growling your way to the nearest garbage can.
This is a great option for people that have access to a commercial gym or have a high-end treadmill in their home.
Note: Doing treadmill sprints on a low quality treadmill is not advised. You will break it.
Years ago, I worked with an individual that lived and died by the Frappier Treadmill and the whole training system, which at the time involved doing over-speed treadmill training, the 4-way hip machine, a supine leg press machine, and doing leg curls with a medicine ball - an amazing training program if you like programs that aren't good.
Lucky for you, the consumer, all these machines were conveniently sold as part of their total program.
Anyway, this coach used the Frappier Treadmill system with all his athletes, including golf, tennis, and soccer players. Athletes were put inside of a harness (like you would put an injured horse into water therapy) that dangled from above. If the harness wasn't used, the coach would manually urge the athlete on the treadmill to "keep the intensity up!"
As you can imagine, the number of athletes that fell while trying to keep up with the treadmill was only exceeded by the amount of eye rolling each athlete did while performing the 4-way hip machine.
It was also good to see golfers being able to showcase their world-class top end speed during critical putting situations.
Needless to say, this soured me quite a bit on treadmill running. However, if you're in a pinch, or in bad weather, the treadmill isn't a bad option. Doing sprints on a treadmill is remarkably easy and requires very little thought.
Treadmill Sprints: The Step-by-Step Process
Step One: Set the speed on treadmill so that you're performing a slight jog. Run for "X" amount of seconds.
Step Two: Rest "Y" amount of seconds. While resting, increase the speed of the treadmill by a few MPH.
Step Three: After resting, do another set of sprints on treadmill.
Step Four: Repeat step two.
Once you get to a speed on the treadmill that you're able to maintain for the chosen sprint duration, perform "Z" amount of sprints at that speed.
I use the following sprint durations: 10 seconds, 15 seconds, and 20 seconds. These change from workout to workout. For example, during one workout I'll do 20-30, 10-second sprints.
Generally, I use a 3:1 rest to sprint ratio. So if I did a 10-second sprint, I would rest 30 seconds. I always use an incline when doing treadmill sprints because it's easier on my knees.
Related: Predator Conditioning
The rest times are really up to you and will be based on your conditioning. If this is the first time you've done them, take a longer rest period and shorten it over the training weeks.
The speed of the treadmill will be based on how fast you are and your conditioning level. I always use the number of carries a football running back should get as the number of sprints I should do, so no less than 20 sprints per session.
A word of caution: If you feel like you're going to fall off, get off the treadmill.
It's Your Turn
Like most of you, I like pushing the Prowler, pulling the sled, running hills or doing other manly things outside, all in the name of being stronger and being in better shape. I like revealing my pants-dropping physique, pale skin and hairy chest to my neighbors, all in the name of strength.
But when the snow is covering the hills and your tax dollars aren't paying for snowplows, you either find a way or an excuse. And now that I've given you a way, you have no excuse.