Beyond Running: Simple Conditioning Pt. 2


As Jace discussed in the previous conditioning article, sprints and hill sprints are one of the fastest, cheapest and most effective ways to increase conditioning and initiate fat loss. However, not all of us can sprint, and this short article will outline some of my preferred ways to build conditioning for those of us who cannot sprint.

Something something conditioning

There are a few reasons why people are unable to sprint or run for long periods of time. Right now, I know mine is a combination of gaining 100lbs, lots of yoke walks, and funky chicken valgus issues when I step that causes all kinds of fun pain in my hips during sprints. Others may have trouble sprinting due to issues caused by carrying a rucksack for months on end, soccer injuries, shin splints, etc. This does not serve as an excuse to get you out of conditioning work, however. Instead, we must pursue other avenues to get the work in. Below are some of my favorite ways:

1: Rowing Sprints

Sprints are great because they incorporate the whole body (wow, I hate that tagline), but the impact can be less than desirable for those recovering from knee injuries. Instead,  rowing sprints is my go-to for a full-body movement that will leave you sweating harder than a paleo blogger who just discovered the paleo brownie they ate actually contained a gram of sugar (eeek!). As evidenced in the video above, I have a halfway decent rowing time, especially for weighing 287lbs. 

Just like sprint on your feet, rowing sprint intervals is a great way to increase overall conditioning, and I like it because I don’t have to row 1000-2000m to do it. There are two ways I like to approach rowing:

1: Row as fast as possible with the damper set to 10 for 60 seconds, rest 60 seconds, repeat 5 times.

2: Row 30cals as fat as possible, and rest the same amount of time the row took, repeat 5 times.

Either option is going to leave your conditioning fairly well covered for the day. Like Jace said for hill sprints, Tabata intervals aren’t great for rowing sprints because of the time it takes the damper fan up to top speed. Try the two above methods for better results.

2: Kettlebell Swings

Don’t go there, girlfriend

KB swings are another one of those movements that incorporate the whole body, and help you utilize the ever important power of the hips to move weight over a certain distance. You can go either Russian or American style swing on these. I personally prefer the Russian swing not only because it is Russian, but also because it makes more sense: there isn’t really anything to be gained from taking the KB overhead, and I want to remain under tension the whole time. The Russian KB swing allows me to stay under that constant tension, as well as use a heavier weight and get more reps in.

Below is a halfway decent video explaining the difference between the two in greater detail:

For conditioning movements like the KB swing, I like to fairly heavy. Some KB handles are too small for big meat paws, so you can do single arm swings and switch arms at the top of the swing in front of your face. Try to hit max rep sets in 60 seconds, resting 2-4 minutes in between sets, repeating for about 5 sets. Remember to use the hips to pop that KB up. This isn’t a curling session.

3: Timed Barbell Complexes

I have stated before that I don’t believe a barbell belongs in a lengthy metcon for the majority of people, and I still stand by that. However, I do think that well-educated barbell complexes can be utilized for conditioning work, while still allowing proper form to be used. 

For example, I can do a power clean + front squat + 3 push press, every minute on the minute for 10-15 minutes. This will keep your fast twitch muscles firing in the proper way, keep your heart rate up, while still allowing you to get just enough rest so your form doesn’t go the direction of Hanky the Christmas Poo. The weights used on these can typically be fairly heavy (80ish%) of your max, otherwise it is just too light to be effective. This type of training is also very useful for Crossfitters who want to get better at Grace or Isabel. All you have to do is go heavier on the same movements and take short rests in between the sets to make 30 reps at 135lbs feel like playing Operation  with no batteries in it.

When it comes to conditioning, sprinting is probably king. However, there is life beyond running, and these are just three substitutes to implement into your training to achieve better conditioning and fat loss. What are some methods you use as alternatives to sprinting?

  • Ah, the good ole’ row. Those things are over-rated and I’m not sure why more people don’t do them. I love them after a set of weights.

  • Anonymous

    Another good alternative to sprinting I use is the AirDyne. You can use very similar if not the same intervals as you do for rowing.

  • Anonymous

    push a sled