Conditioning - It's A Wrap

So after all this talk about conditioning, and even methods of conditioning I want to simply discuss strategies of how to incorporate it during your training. This way you can remain in the best shape of your life. 

If you've missed any articles; check them all out here...



Cardiac Capacity      

All this to say it needs to be appropriately timed.  The biggest mistake I see is people realizing their out of shape and then going all out right away.  This is a recipe for quick and easy burnout. 

So here are some simple guidelines to follow for athletes no matter what time of year. 

"I said it's simple not easy" - Dan John

Immediately after the season - Rest, active recovery, foam roll, stretch, do mobilities. But take a couple weeks off and just decompress.

Off Season Training pt. 1 - We call this the General Preparation Phase (GPP) in the biz.  At this point you should just focus on movement and strength. Making sure that you reinforce the base that you should have already created by now.  

Conditioning during this time should be on off days and should be low level.  Cardiac Capacity is a great method to use. As it will help active recovery, and help reinforce your base of the aerobic energy system.

Off Season Training pt. 2 - In this portion of the GPP start to think about maintaining movement and strength but now we're building more athleticism; power, speed, quickness, etc.

Conditioning again should be on off days, but can be 4 to 6 hours after a training session, and now you're going to up the intensity.  Strategies like Hill Sprints or Sled Pushes are great during this time.  Just don't overdo it with how much and how often you train, and make sure you allow yourself to rest on occasion.

Pre Season Training - Everything now should be at maintenance mode. If you've been training right all qualities and skills should be higher then when the off season started.  By now you're starting to practice with the team and you've moved in to what is called the "Specific Preparation Phase (SPP).

Your conditioning should be on "lighter days" or "off days" if you have it, focusing even more now on sports specific type training/work to rest intervals. 

i.e.) Football Players

  1. Hill Sprints 8 to 10 seconds
  2. Rest 30seconds between reps
  3. Repeat for 6 to 8 reps per set
  4. Rest 4 to 5 minutes per set
  5. 4 to 5 sets per workout 

If you notice the work to rest ratio of this example mimics that of an actual football game. While it won't be as long lasting as an actual game it does help get your body ready for the demands of the season.

In-season Training - Intensity should be kept low with a premium on recovery.  At this point you should be full blown maintenance mode. There's nothing wrong with movement and strength training but don't expect any personal records. Depending on how often you play, you don't need more than 1 light strength training session a week, emphasis on light. Focus on movement and don't go crazy.

Conditioning should be very low level cardiac capacity, and similar to the GPP phases.  Maintaining a heart rate between 120 to 130 for no more than 45minutes.  The numbers are somewhat arbitrary but the key is to feel fresh. 

So there you have it, conditioning and training for all year round to keep you at the best and safest for the longest. I hope you've enjoyed this series on conditioning and I hope I've helped make sense of everything.  

As I mentioned, the biggest mistake we make with conditioning is thinking the best way to do so is go all out.  It really takes a lot more and isn't so cut and dry; when done right you will see major improvements, especially in competition.


Cardiac Capacity

So, to recap, I've discussed conditioning and why it's been so confused. Then I discussed fatigue and why it's an important defensive mechanism for our body.  If you've missed them check them out here.

Conditioning -

Fatigue -

All that being said, it should go without saying that the better conditioned you are the longer your body can produce energy before it needs to fatigue.

The thing with conditioning is that it's so complex that I could spend days upon days writing about the topic.  In the previous two blogs I just wanted to introduce you to a couple principles, and now I want to introduce a method that you can start incorporating right away.

I learned this method from the conditioning master Joel Jamieson.  Called different names whether Cardiac Capacity or Cardiac Output it's a very effective method, that could and should be staple in your training. 

Our heart is a muscle, and like any muscle it goes through a concentric phase and an eccentric phase. Concentric simply means when the heart is contracting and thus becoming a little smaller, whereas eccentric means the muscle is relaxing and as a result becoming bigger.

Strength and conditioning professionals, myself included, have been very good at improving the concentric contraction of the heart.  Just go out and push a sled as fast as you can for as long as you can.  You'll love it... Okay maybe not... But in any case the closer you get to your max heart rate the stronger you will make your heart concentrically.  However, while this type of training is a must, this is just one piece of the puzzle. 

What we miss is the fact that if you make your heart, in a sense, bigger you'll thus improve the ability of your heart to get oxygenated blood to the body. (I bet you the Grinch became really well conditioned that one fateful christmas day). With more of this blood you're body can better tap into the aerobic system and produce energy for longer periods of time. 

So that's where Cardiac Output/Capacity comes into play.  By maintaining your heart rate between roughly 130 to 150 beats per minute for an extended period of time, over time you can increase the size of the your hearts left ventricle that makes up your hearts main pumping chamber. 

So by now you're probably thinking this is all well and good but what's the practical application.  Well, I'm glad you asked.  Here's the guidelines for how you can start to incorporate this into your own training.

  • Frequency: 1 to 3x per week
  • Duration: 30 to 60 minutes
  • Exercises: Low impact exercises
    • At HPI we typically like to alternate between exercises that "spike" your heart rate, and then correctives/movement pattern training to help stabilize your heart rate back down.

Pretty simple right? Typically we'll perform this in a circuit.  If you have a heart rate, that's even best, because then you can just continue to monitor your heart rate the whole entire time.  Sometimes I'll go a little low tech, and just have the athlete to jog over to an elliptical and check it there. If it's too high (above 150) then I have them slow down a little bit as they go through the circuit, and if it's too low then we up the tempo.

So here's an example of what it may look like.  To start just keep going through the exercises until 30 minutes are up. After a solid warm-up of course.

  1. Sled x20yds down and back
  2. RDL x10
  3. Bear Crawls x 10yds down and back
  4. Glute Bridge x10
  5. Ball Slams x15
  6. Planks x"20
  7. Elliptical (To check heart rate)

There you have it. It serves as both great conditioning and even a good workout to do for active recovery. Stick to the guidelines and have fun with it!


Fatigue (Or as we used to say in the 90's phat-igue)

If you recall, last week I began to start to sort out the crazy puzzle of conditioning.  If you missed it well then you can check it out here...

However, before we can keep talking about performance and energy systems we also need to briefly discuss fatigue. 

You've seen it before. An athlete gets exhausted and just can't compete for whatever reason.  As a result they get destroyed.  Well as the old adage goes, "fatigue makes cowards of us all".

That being said, fatigue is actually a natural safe guard our body imposes to protect itself from serious damage.  While it may hinder your performance, fatigue itself is actually a good thing.  In last weeks blog I discussed ATP and well bottom line is if our body ever truly ran out of ATP then it would cause catastrophic damage to our cells. 

However, fatigue isn't just cut and dry, there are actually two types of fatigue; central fatigue, and peripheral fatigue.  

Central fatigue is the fatigue of our central nervous system (hence the name).  When this happens our body sends out fewer signals to the muscles, so as to ensure that less force is produced. 

central fatigue.jpg

Most research on central fatigue centers around endurance runners.  If you've ever ran for long distance the tiredness you feel at the end is often this type of fatigue. Many times it can be seen in the acute hindrance of coordination. 

Peripheral fatigue is more akin to your muscles. This is most recognizable when think of lifting to failure.  You eventually get to a point in which your muscles just don't want to move.

muscular fatigue.jpg

So those are the two kinds of fatigue in a nutshell.  Truth is, that fatigue is a necessary evil, and as we continue in the series of energy systems and conditioning I'll continue to provide methods, and ways to train to help make sure that your body continues to increase in its ability to better utilize its energy systems.

We can never truly eliminate fatigue, but the better conditioned we are the longer we'll be able to last before fatigue fully sets in.