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Building a High Level of Conditioning


i wasn't really sure where to put this so i decided to post here because i have heard Jim Wendler and even Dave Tate start to talk more and more about conditioning.

my main question is, what is the best way to develop a high level of conditioning (starting from a low level of conditioning)? also, this conditioning shouldn't interfere with my muscle/strength gaining, b/c that is my primary goal.

i exercise 5 days/week mon-fri and i'm not looking to change that. so, i was thinking, maybe i should do cardio sessions on saturday and sunday (2x/week).

Is this frequency adequate? also, what type of cardio? High-intensity, low-intensity, intervals, etc? i have access to a stationary bike and a grass hill.

remember my goal isnt fat loss but rather a high level of conditioning


A high level of conditioning can be attained through many different types of training. I try to condition 2 times a week. On the track, Interval sprints are great (walk 100/sprint 100 or any distance). Any sort of interval, suicides on a field, repeated hill sprints. Doing various drills on a football field like bear crawls, hops, sled pulls, etc. In the weight room, bodyweight exercises can make a great conditioning session.

Dumbbell or KB swings are great too. The tabata method is great (and only takes 4 minutes) and can be done with pretty much any exercise of your choice. Barbell Complexes for time are great too (I do a pretty killer one that I got from Parisi School that they do for MMA athletes). If you want any other info, just ask man. Hope this gets you going in the right direction.


I'm almost afraid to ask; how would you DEFINE 'conditioning'?
(Yes its a serious question, no sarcasm.)


I think this is the point. What do you want to be able to do?


lots of ways to define it buy mainly being able to recover faster in between sets, being able to run faster harder and longer, having a stronger heart, etc.


Well what has worked for me has been starting out with three 30 minute sessions a week of steady state cardio. I keep my heartrate between 120-130 generally(ala what you hear over on elitefts all the time) and now that I have been doing it for a few months I feel better than I ever have. I sleep better, feel better during the day, and recover MUCH faster in between sets.

Also if you havnt seen this yet, you may want to check it out, pretty interesting stuff: http://www.elitefts.com/documents/cardiac_output_training.htm


Hill sprints.

5 seconds all out up hill then 25 seconds of walking back to where you started from and then repeat over and over and over again for 15-20 minutes.

Could also do (flat or hill based)
10 seconds of all out then 50 seconds of walking

and if you think you're in really good shape try 15:45

This should get your heart rate into the 150-180 range depending on your level of conditioning. I have had great success using it as a fat burning aid as well since it rev's the shit out of your metabolism.


I think a really important point, no matter which specific training you go with, is to make your conditioning progressive. We all know about progressive overload in the weight room, but I see some many people who do the same lame ass cardio/conditioning work for weeks and months at a time. Conditioning is in my experience, something that increases really quickly when you start to pay attention to it, so IMO, progression is king.

I described one of my favourite conditioning sessions in an earlier thread...

"I've been doing a killer conditioning work out a couple of times a week which involves nothing but suicide sprints. I set up cones on a football field (five cones - 0, 7, 14, 21 and 28m). I started off with the rule that all suicide sprints must be completed in under 38 seconds (easy enough for the first few), then rest 60 seconds and repeat. As soon as you go slower than 38 seconds, end the session.

I built up like this for a couple of weeks until I could get out 15 without being any slower than 38 seconds. Now that I can hit 15 I've started to shave down the rest periods. Monday morning I did 15 suicide sprints in total, with 55 second rest breaks, the slowest suicide being 37.2 seconds... This workout absolutely kicks my ass and it's done in around 30 minutes including a warm-up."


How much carryover would the 10:50 sprints have to aerobic fitness?

I want to be able to run 6 laps as fast as possible for a military fitness test. But I hate distance running.


Sprints are very build fast twitch muscle and regardless of the amount done have a hard time carrying over to 6 laps (I'm assuming 400 meters is a lap). That involves primarily slow twitch muscles since it is long distance. The sprints may help a little bit but shouldn't be your focus of training at all if you are trying to run 6 laps as fast as possible.


How do you time your suicides? Do you run with a stopwatch in your hand or do you have someone with you?


Yeah I just hold a stopwatch if I'm not training with a partner (which is most often the case). I finish the suicide, quickly check the time to make sure I'm under my 38 second limit, then restart the stopwatch to time my rest break and repeat.

I love this workout, it's quick and brutally effective. The only trouble I had at first was losing count of how many sets I'd done. I always have a tape measure there to set out the cones, so now what I do is simply pull the tape out 1 inch after each sprint, then all I need to do is check how many inches the tape is pulled out. Makes a good "stupid proof" counter.


Well, if you choose steady state cardio like running, 3x a week is a minimum. Jeff Galloway has a great book about running, check that if you're interested. Basicaly, you run 2x a week some short distances (like 3-4 miles, tempo as you like) and once a week you go distance running, increasing that every week. e.g. first week you'll go 3x 4 miles, the next 2x4 miles with 6 miles, next 2x4+8 and so on.

Whatever anyone told you, running builds good endurance, I was in a better shape that basketball players, I could play team sports all day long without winding.

Just a suggestion, don't run the day after deadlifts.


I would build a tire sled, you can make one for under $25 and sled dragging is one of the top things that you can do to build conditioning.

Along with this you can also include conditioning work in your gym training. Things like complexes, drop sets, supersets, and giant sets will all work conditioning. Throwing in an occasional high rep (20 rep) squat or high rep set of cleans are also great for building cardio.

If you are looking to use traditional methods (running, cycling) then keep your workouts short and sweet. Interval training or sprinting would be your best bet as to not interfere with your other weight training goals. If you start running 5K's every weekend it will definitely inhibit your gains in the gym.


Not if he eats enough.


Glad you liked my article and that it's working for you.


Conditioning for what? What type of sport are you training for?

A well conditioned mixed martial artist is different from a well conditioned marathon runner.


i dont play any sports, i am just looking to be "fit" in the general sense of having decent cardio

i decided that i am going to do skip lacour style 16 min High intensity cardio on saturday, and steady state for 30 min on sunday

each week i will try to increase either distance or speed

once i start becoming more fit, i will try hill sprints and regular sprints because i think those will have an added benefit of carrying over to my speed (not a primary goal but who wouldnt want to be faster???)

i tried to cover both anaerobic and aerobic cardio. i dont think one 30 min session of steady state is going to interfere with my bodybuilding. plus i think it will have health benefits and the article posed by MikeyKBiatch piqued my interest. later i will increase the 30 min to 60 min. i will eat so as not to lose weight

what you guys think of this plan?


First step would be to drop the CARDIO.

Unless you are really fat, and really strong, cardio is somewhat counderproductive IMO.

Conditioning is a different thing all together though. The way the guys at westside and elitefts address conditioning is differnt than most others. Its considered GPP and work capacity. Read articles about it on both those sites, it will start to steer you in the right direction.

There isn't really a right or wrong way to do it, but there are a ton of options. Over there, they are big on pulling the sled, and "extra workouts" Its something that takes time to build, but the whole point is to allow you to train harder, more frequently, and recover faster.

Look into the article "EDUCATION OF A POWERLIFTER" The guy in the story wanted to lift with the "big boys" but they had him pulling the sled, doing pushups, and ab work everyday. This was to get him in shape to lift. GPP.

Another thing to think about, is that STRENGTH is a major component of conditioning. If you aren't strong, there is really no way you can demonstrate a high level of conditioning. Sure you can run around all crazy like a rabbit (think soccer) or you can be very strong and fit (like a strongman competitor) It kinda depends what you would consider is a greater showing of conditioning between the two. But just think about the women in a typical aerobic class bouncing around for 45 minutes. This may be considered high intensity to them, and the may consider themselves fit since they can handle it, but for most of us this cardio is just useless.

So make your conditioning match your goals.

A good way to condition for a powerlifter, and maybe a bodybuilder is this. You'll often hear that you should try to complete your workout in 45 minutes or less. But as a beginner, sometimes this is very tough, even with just a few exercises and a few sets, because you get winded from things. A highly conditioned lifter is able to fit more exercises, more sets in the same amount of time or less. This is the aim for conditioning.

Just make sure you dont turn your weightlifting into conditioning. A highly conditoined lifter can go from set to set, exercise to exercise with minimal rest, and little strength drop off, but if you were to try, it would be likely your strength would go to shit, and the workout would be counterproductive.


I would HIGHLY recommend sled pushing/dragging. Dragging a large tire with a rigged-up rope harness is a cheap and easy alternative. You can also use the tire for another purpose: get a sledgehammer and hit the tire for a given duration.

Both of those would probably be much less counterproductive than steady state cardio... oh yeah, far less boring also.