Training Series: Conditioning

This week we will keep working towards finishing up our training series. So far, we have covered mobility, stability, strength, and power. If you have not had an opportunity to review our past few posts that cover these topics in depth, I would encourage you to go back and review these in their entirety. Today, we will be discussing conditioning. Next week, will be our final training series post, where we will discuss balance.

Some might think “conditioning, is not all training conditioning”? and in saying this would not be incorrect. However, the conditioning portion of our training plan is to focus on cardiovascular conditioning more specifically with a focus on using multiple muscle groups while elevating the heart rate. Think of it as if strengthening the heart muscle by making it work harder to deliver oxygen to and carry waste products away from muscle tissue, the more muscle that we are working the harder the heart will have to work to perform its job. The other focus of conditioning is to help stress our different energy systems to help improve how efficient we can produce energy. We have three primary energy systems, to help produce energy in a rapid, moderate, and prolonged time frame based upon the primary activity that we are attempting to accomplish.

All of these energy systems work simultaneously at any given time; however, we can train and prioritize certain systems to help us better prepare for a given activity or sport. For example, if you were training to run a sprint, let’s say a 100-meter dash, you would want to prioritize your rapid energy system as this type of activity requires a short burst of energy. Comparatively, if you were training for a marathon you would want to prioritize your prolonged (endurance) energy system. In simple terms, our short, rapid energy systems are anaerobic in nature, meaning we do not require oxygen to create these very explosive forms of energy and prioritize carbohydrates (sugar) as their primary fuel source; whereas our slow, sustained energy system is aerobic in nature, meaning that it requires oxygen to create energy and prioritize fat as their primary fuel source. It is great that we have both types of systems. If we needed to run from a tiger, we certainly would not want to be concerned about having enough oxygen to get away, whereas our daily lives would be very tiring and fatiguing if we did not have our aerobic systems to produce energy. Our rapid anaerobic systems can last for a time frame from seconds to up to 2 minutes in duration, prior to us needing some time to replenish these systems prior to them being able to function optimally again. Whereas our aerobic systems are just about infinite in their duration of being able to create energy. However, the energy produced from our aerobic system is lower in its intensity than that which is produced by our anaerobic systems. Ultimately, as stated above these systems all work simultaneously throughout the course of our day and the activities that we are performing give us the best opportunity to optimally function throughout our day. Training for conditioning is highly used in sports to assist in building speed, capacity, and endurance.

Sled Exercise

Conditioning usually involves moderate to high intensity that incorporates the entire lower body and occasionally some combined upper body work with the lower body. When we perform moderate to high intensity work that utilizes the entire lower body there is a higher metabolic demand on our cardiovascular system to feed the larger muscles of the lower body. For conditioning, we predominantly use three methods of training: weighted sled, assault bike and running/sprinting. Sled work we utilize in the form of sled pushes, which are a full body, higher metabolic exercise. Sled pushes are very effective in building strength and power to the lower body in a very safe and effective manner. This exercise has a high metabolic demand, which creates the conditioning effect that we are looking for on our heart.

Assault Bike

The assault bike we use to create an anaerobic to aerobic demand on our body, based upon the intensity that we train at and the heart rate that corresponds to the level of intensity at which we are working. For higher intensity, anaerobic training that has a high metabolic demand in short durations we utilize interval training, where we will typically us a 10 second on (high intensity), 20 second off (low intensity) or a 20 second on (high intensity), 10 second off (low intensity) form of training with the assault bike. This form of training favors aerobic strength and power and typically burns more sugar than fat. When training for a more aerobically dominant effect, we will train longer durations (15-20 minutes) at approximately 70% of max heart rate. This form of training is more cardio friendly and tends to build aerobic endurance where we will burn more fat compared to sugar at the lower intensity.


Our running/sprinting training follows similar training effects to the assault bike. However, with sprinting we will often perform for a certain distance, instead of timed intervals. With sprints we will often focus on 10 yard sprints with a 4:1 rest to work ratio to work speed conditioning. For running, we can use sustained efforts at a percentage of maximum heart rate to train at lower or higher intensity. Obviously, the lower the intensity the longer the duration we can perform the activity of running, which favors fat over sugar for fuel allowing us to perform the activity while reducing fatigue.

Conditioning helps us to be better able to perform strength and power training as a healthier and stronger heart helps to feed our muscles better during strength and power training. Therefore, it should be a portion of any training plan. Other ways that you can incorporate conditioning into your workouts are with treadmill training, elliptical training, rowing, stepping, etc. When we are more efficient with our aerobic and anaerobic systems, we are better prepared to create energy more rapidly during high intensity activities and better able to endure prolonged low to moderate intensity activities. Favoring one system over another would be prioritized depending upon a client’s activities or sport. However, it is preferred to have strong and efficient aerobic and anaerobic systems, even if one system should be prioritized over the other. The understanding of these systems also plays a role in being more specific in one’s nutritional plan to help support their body to be best able to create the required energy needed as energy comes from the food we eat. This topic is beyond the scope of this article, however it is an important factor to understand when properly training for conditioning.

Our next post will conclude our training series where we will focus on training for balance. Thanks for reading and we will be back soon…

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