T Nation

How Intense Should Conditioning Be?

Hi everyone. Plenty of authors recommend submaximal loads for progression. Here on T-nation CT and Wendler advocate using 90% of true maxes on percentage based programs, or “never” going to failure on big movements.

But what about conditioning? Usually I go all-out on these, and then after some weeks I burn out. Should there also be a “90% rule” for stuff like sprints or complexes? What are your experiences?


These are the four levels of training intensity (it’s a spectrum really) and even within each class there is a range of intensity.

Pushing all-out during conditioning work (up to the point of puking, being dead of the floor after, being nauseated, etc.) is “competition” intensity. And as such should only be used when testing yourself or competing.

I work(ed) with tons of Crossfit competitors, several who went to the Games. And the best ones have one thing in common: they VERY rarely go all-out in training. The hardest they will go normally is a 8.5 - 9/10 on the rpe scale, and that is not frequent.

Training is meant to improve physiological capacities. And you don’t need to push a system to its limit to accomplish that. Just like you don’t need to always work up to a 1RM in training to get stronger or go to failure all the time to build muscle. In fact pushing a system to its limit might hurt progression in the medium and long term.

Conditioning should be hard, no question, but it shouldn’t be so draining that it hurts your capacity to perform and especially not make you crash after a few weeks.

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Thank you. I’ll keep that in mind. I guess I had a distorted vision of conditioning from when I was doing football…

I get ya… played for 9 years and coached for 8, last year I coached college and HS. And the old mentality of “making a man outta ya” is still very present, yet counterproductive in those circles

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Here’s something I just wrote that might help. I’ll adapt it to include conditioning/cardiolevelsoftraining


To figure out how fast this could be be, this might help; go fast enough so that a conversation would be difficult.