‘Conditioning’ is definitely the new ‘cardio’. Not only does it sound better, but its implications are better; when you think cardio, you’re seeing endurance, time investment and plenty of repetition. When you think conditioning, you see intensity, cool exercises (which are often functional), lean physiques and athletic muscle.
The mere mention of cardiovascular work opens up a can of worms large enough to support a bird sanctuary for a year!
Must I do cardio?
What’s the optimal frequency per week?
H.I.I.T. or steady state?
Cardio before weights?
Weights before cardio?
Separate sessions for weights and cardio?
Can cardio be done everyday?
Is cardio the only valid ticket to ‘leanville’?
Welcome to the mad house!
Cardio should be done by everyone in some way, shape, or form. How long, how intense and how often will depend on the individual. At the end of the day, I don’t endorse a sedentary lifestyle for anyone. And I mean anyone. We hear stories of people restricted by all kinds of debilitating conditions, yet finding solace in doing whatever form of exercise they could. If you’re 700 lbs, cardio to you might be clapping your hands together in bed. That’s cool with me. You do what you can.
As far as when to do
cardio conditioning, it should always FOLLOW your resistance work. The worst thing you can possibly do when entering a lifting session is bring fatigue with you. Getting warm isn’t the same as getting tired. Sure, you could walk in the morning and lift later in the evening, I’ve done that. But running a 5k before your lifting is a one way ticket to being the one who always asks………..”aren’t there any lighter weights?”
Introducing 10 minute interval based finishers!
The following 7 options can be performed on a 30 on, 30 off (seconds) basis – or you can go 20 on, 40 off or vice versa. Make them work for you. Doing this in a strict 10 minute block will give you a wonderful ‘EPOC’ (post exercise oxygen consumption) effect; otherwise known as the notorious ‘afterburn’. Additionally, doing these AFTER your main workout stops you going ape-shit crazy with the intensity and injuring yourself, because in an ideal world, your actual workout would have taken enough out of you to stop the hyper inner three year old surfacing at the wrong time.
1) Kettlebell swings
The ultimate heart rate booster! Don’t be afraid to use appreciable load with these either. Male or female, 10 kg + is automatic.
I’ve touted the power of sprints before, but they really work for a short and intense finisher. You can do them on a beach, up a hill, you can partner up and make a competition out of it (which I LOVE). The options are endless. If you give these a spin, do them for distance instead of time. Sprinting for 20 seconds straight is asking for problems if you’re new to it. Start with 30-50 yards.
A staple of EVERY circuit class. The reason you adore burpees so much is because the constant shift of blood flow and the explosive nature, makes your poor heart scream for mercy. But that doesn’t matter, we both know you love them really – and they love you. They show their affection for you in the form of a huge afterburn effect long after you show them who’s boss.
Bonus tip: A great way to do these is to try and add more reps to an existing time frame. 10 burpees in 30 seconds? Try and get 15-20 in future. Only increase the time-frame when you can do at least 5 more than you originally could.
4) Battle ropes
Things are getting a little more specialised; battle ropes are an amazing conditioning tool and they lend themselves well to those with creative minds. Not only can you thrash around like crazy with alternate arms, you can incorporate other exercises into your battle rope use. Check out the video below if you’re a variety junkie;
5) Hammer & tyre smash
If this one is specialist, how do I have the necessary equipment at home?! True story. The hammer and tyre smash not only looks cool, but is a blinding conditioning tool too. This is where being a member of warehouse gyms really pays – a gym can’t be real a warehouse gym without the equipment for this.
6) Boxing/heavy bag work
Boxers aren’t some of the best conditioned athletes on the planet for nothing, boxing demands the cardiovascular system to step up big time. I’ve personally witnessed much fitter than average guys do intervals on a heavy bag for no more than 20 minutes and come out sweatier than they would have if they’d done a 60 minute spin class. This one really puts hair on the chest. Obviously it’s partner friendly too. Competition is never a bad thing.
7) The push up and box jump ‘ladder’
Those of you haunted by burpees will love this one. The methodology is simple: you work your way up the ladder from 1 – 10. You do a box jump (which can be substituted with a squat jump) and then you drop straight to the floor and do a push up. When you get back to the jump, you do 2 and 2 for the push up. Keep repeating until you get to 10 – then work your way back down!
How much rest? As little as possible. Your goal is to get up the ladder and back down as fast as you can. Set a timer and try to beat it each time. Every second counts.
Cardio conditioning made interesting.
Listen to Bruce Lee, absorb what’s useful, reject what isn’t. Maybe you can utilise all of these. Maybe you can only really do one (burpees?) You’ll be astounded how these 10 minute finishers add up and equate to better calorie tolerance (more food!)
There’s no excuses now. None at all.
The 'brains' behind StraightTalkingFitness, a site all about discovery that leads to strength in all formats; fitness, mental, emotional and spiritual. Everything starts from within and projects outwards. Master the body, master anything and everything.