When it comes to conditioning, there are many different ways to approach this area of your fitness.
However like most things in fitness, scientific principles tend to be discarded in favor of the latest trend or cool gadget.
This makes outcomes in your fitness uncertain.
Yet, coming back to basics and focusing on the fundamentals can be a pivotal moment to help clarify what areas need fine-tuning in your conditioning results.
Regardless of whether you have access to a gym or have no equipment at all, this article will help clarify your conditioning needs, create a clear path to your goals, and even improve your strength training goals.
But before we dive in further, a quick reminder - as human beings, we are multifaceted creatures with a plethora of moving parts in our fitness and lives.
Understanding this helps us realize that fitness is NOT solely dictated by one specific tool or training method.
Rather it’s a holistic approach that sees the whole human being.
With that being said, let’s take a look at what exactly conditioning means.
With cardio being promoted for decades, it seems like the idea of cardio training, or conditioning as referred to within the strength and conditioning world, is more than just a quick way to burn off unwanted calories.
Conditioning when done properly can help improve heart health, blood stroke volume, resting heart rate, endurance capacity, along with a slew of other benefits.
This however, does not mean you have to spend countless extra hours in the gym or running outdoors to receive these benefits.
According to ACSM (American College of Sports Medicine), the average adult needs about 150 minutes of cardiovascular training each week in order to activate the above benefits on a consistent basis.
While many people may aim for more (which is fine), the key is balance.
Do too little and you won’t see the benefits or results you want.
Do too much and you may find yourself fatigued or unable to work towards your strength goals (which is equally important).
The key to balance is finding what works for your body while applying evidence-based principles to your training.
However, that means first understanding what the principles are and how to apply them.
Moderate intensity (8-12 rep range)
Lower intensity (longer endurance range)
Conditioning Exercise Example
HIIT exercises, power movements, hill sprints
Interval runs, shuttle runs, cone drills
Running, biking, swimming, dancing, walking
Using the table above we can begin to see how cardiovascular training works in different ranges and adapts using specific training protocols.
Think of each energy system as a different system inside your car. While they’re all running simultaneously, they also work more intensely within each time frame above.
For example, if you were to start with hill sprints and went 90-100% HR max in your first 10 seconds of the first sprint, your ATP (adenosine triphosphate) system would immediately kick in and start working.
After 10 seconds or so, your glycolytic system would then start to work.
Using the example above, if you were to continue using hill sprints for another 90 seconds, the glycolytic system would continue to be the main energy system that would be fueling your body.
Well, you’d probably be pretty tired but most likely wearing a smile on your face.
Yet if you were to continue to train using the example above and decided to use the next 5 to 10 minutes to do a bit less intense work and work on your endurance at a moderate to low intensity, your oxidative energy system would then begin to supply you as the main energy source.
As you can see the spectrum for explosive to slow energy systems is based on a continuum - as you progress from one energy system, another one kicks in automatically.
So what does this look like in application?
First, clarifying the outcome from your training is imperative.
While all forms of conditioning are helpful and have their benefits, no options will lead to effective results without clarity in your outcome.
For example, if you’re keen on building up a strong base of endurance for your body, then spending more time working within the oxidative energy system would be beneficial.
Using the exercises above, you can begin to piece together an energy system program which is tailored for your goals.
Even if your main goal is to focus on training explosive or moderate intensity movements (ATP + Glycolytic), long-term endurance can still place a crucial role in your fitness development.
According to studies done on energy systems training, long-distance endurance training using the oxidative system can help improve athletes explosive movements by focusing on building a strong overall base of endurance levels.
The key takeaway?
Focus on your goal but let each energy system have its place in your training program to reap the fullest benefits from each one.
Do you know someone who would benefit from reading this?
Please share this with ONE friend who needs creating their own conditioning program.
It would mean the world to us if we could help touch one more life each day. Thanks!
References and Further Reading