Many people think that conditioning is just cardiovascular work. However, to have complete conditioning, one must have not only cardio, but also muscular conditioning, strength conditioning, and power conditioning.
So, how to train these different modes of conditioning?
There are several different ways you could train each of these qualities individually, but there is a good way that you can get a better “bang for your training buck”.
Circuits (also called “complexes”) can do train all three at once. Circuits are pretty simple – just perform several exercises back to back with no rest. Now, when you hear the word “circuits” you might conjure up ideas of somebody doing endless reps on an old chrome universal weight machine, wearing some sort of ’70 jumpsuit. Nothing could be further from the truth.
The types of circuits I’m talking about are done with barbells, dumbbells, medicine balls, and/or bodyweight exercises. These circuits can either be done very high volume with several exercises, lighter weight, and higher reps to tax muscular conditioning. Or, they can be done with a medium number of exercises (say 4-6), heavier weights, and medium reps (say 6-8). This will tax not only muscular conditioning, but will tax strength/power conditioning more. Both will greatly tax cardio conditioning simply because you’re doing so much work without resting.
Another way is to do single, alternating-limb exercises. These are best done with full-body exercises, and, because of the nature of the method, heavier weights can be used, with higher reps. For example, take the Dumbbell (DB) Clean & Press. Grab a heavy DB, and Clean & Press it with your left arm. Set it down, and grab it with your right hand. Clean and Press. Set it down and grab with your left. Keep repeating until you do 20-30 reps per side. This allows you to keep your form tight, use high volume, and use a much heavier weight that if you were doing 20-30 reps consecutively. This method will tax not only strength/power conditioning, but muscular and cardio conditioning as well.
Probably the most beneficial aspect to these types of circuits is that they are such great cardio workouts. You get as much – or more – cardio benefit as you would any sort of “traditional” cardio (jogging, various machines, interval training, etc.), but you never have to do any direct cardio workouts. All the extra cardio you get is simply a by-product of all the work you’re doing.
Train Hard, Rest Hard, Play Hard.