“Exercise which trains the heart and lungs to pump blood more efficiently”
By Michael King
For some reason over the years powerlifters in particular have developed fears about doing conditioning work. There are severals reasons for that which I will not get into because they are just not important and couldn’t be further from the truth.
The bottom line is that whether you are a powerlifter, strongman, weightlifter, bodybuilder or just a regular gym rat – adding conditioning work to your training will make you a better, healthier and stronger Ahlete. Yes, I said athlete! And yes, I said Stronger! If you train, you should look and feel like an athlete with a supporting physique.
So, here we go… the following conditioning workouts have been designed for Powerlifting in order to work the most important and the strongest muscle in your body – the heart! Additionally, you will also end up doing more volume for the day and you will without a doubt open up your lungs and get blood flow throughout your entire body, ultimately making your self stronger.
Your goal is to train your ass off during the strength session. Once you are done, take 5-10 minutes to recover and get your self together for the conditioning session. It is important to pick proper movements and weights in order to accomodate the intent of the day. I recommend nothing less than 2 movements and nothing more than 3 in order to be efficient, unless its only a sled pull or a prowler push. There are also days when you will do 1 exercise for the entire conditioning session, but more on that later. Additionally, these conditioning sessions should be between 4-10 minutes only. If you are a little more athletic and conditioned then you can push it to 15, but I do not recommend anything more than that as it is just not necessary.
Remember, your primary goal is STRENGTH regardless of which day you are on. If you push the conditioning too long then you will take away from the strength session. Also, do not blow your load by going all out right away. Pace your self and try to complete the session as fast as possible without taking big breaks and keeping your heart rate more or less constant. If you are getting close to the end of the session feel free to push it more since you are almost done and won’t need to keep going much longer. If you find your self taking breaks, try to control them. By that I mean always take an equal amount of rest no matter what. It doesn’t matter if it’s 5, 10, 20, or 30 seconds, just make sure no matter what that once that time is up you are doing work. I usually recommend to measure time by deep breaths. So let’s say I’m a bit tired and need to recover, I take 5 deep breaths and my brain knows that after that 5th breath I’m going no matter what, even if it’s only for a few reps. Train your brain to be a machine and this will carry over to every other aspect of your life.
If this is new to you then start with one session per week for the first three to four weeks, then add one more for the next three to four weeks and eventually try to wave 2-3 conditioning sessions per week. You don’t really need any more than that to keep your heart healthy. Depending on the length of your strength session you can skip a conditioning session. I always try to do two per week and three on a good week. We train our athletes the same way.
Once you start to incorporate these conditioning sessions into your training you will begin to notice results as fast as two weeks. You will be able to push your self harder and your recovery will be a lot quicker. Needless to say this will also carry over to your strength sessions as well.
Important Training Points
Remember the intent of the day – what body part are you working that day and are you taking heavy singles/doubles (85%+), working reps (65-85%) or doing speed work (40-65%)?
If you are working speed that day, you don’t want to max out on the weights used in the conditioning portion of your session.
For example, if you had speed deads or squats DO NOT do near max farmers walk or yoke. Stay lighter.
Squat Day – You are going to do mostly lower body exercises – nothing over head and/or pressing. You want to stay fresh for upper body day.
Bench/Upper Day – You are going to do mostly upper body exercises – obviously no deadlifts, squats or other straneous exercises for lower body to stay fresh for Deadlift Day. Jumping jax, jump rope and other super light exercises with super light volume is ok, and is actually recommended to get some blood flow throughout your legs for recovery from Squat Day.
Deadlift Day – You are going to do a combo of lower and upper body exercises. This should typically be a Friday so that you have 2 days off to recover
1. 2-3 Exercises Per Session (unless doing a sled pull or a prowler push only – for distance)
When selecting your exercises keep in mind that ultra high volume is NO good. We recommend doing 2-5 rounds with 5-10 reps for each exercise. The reps can be higher if you are using a kettlebell or other easier (for you) movements. The bar weight should not feel like every rep is a max effort and at the same time the weight should not be light. You have to earn each round. On days when there is no heavy weight being used just try to move faster.
***Before you read the exercises below please keep in mind that these are options and some food for thought in programming your own sessions. You do not have to follow any of these to get the same results. Additionally, you do not have to follow the same round and rep scheme. This is just a guideline to give you some ideas. At the same time, our athletes have done every one of these and the results are obviously there.
***If you don’t have certain equipment don’t worry about it and try to sub out the best you can keeping in mind the intent of the day.
***Lastly, if you are out of shape or someone just starting out – “I can’t do pull ups”, “I can’t do push ups”, and other lame stuff like that is simply unexcusable. Get a band or jump off of a box to complete a pull up. Go to your knees and do pushups. Figure out a way to assist you accomplish a certain task. No excuses! Man up and get it done!
*2-5 rounds of 15 kettlebell swings, 10 box jumps, 250m rower (if you don’t have a row do 10-15 air squats or jumping jacks)
*2-5 rounds of 5 lunges per leg, 10 goblet squats, 5 long jumps
*2-5 rounds of 5 front squats, 20m prowler push
*2-5 rounds of max weight sled pull for distance
*2-5 rounds of 500m row, 25m sled pull (switch how you ull the sled – forward and backwards), 25m prowler push
*2-5 rounds of max weight prowler push for distance
*21/15/9 of each: push press, pull ups, push ups
*2-5 rounds of 15 dips, 15 pull ups, 10 kb presses (each arm)
*2-5 rounds of 10 rows, 10 power curls, 10 front raises
*2-5 rounds of 200m “run” (don’t have to go all out but some attemp to run or speed walk should be made), 15 push presses, 15 inverted rows
*2-5 rounds of 5 kb clean and jerks each arm, 100-200 jump ropes (don’t have a jump rope do jumping jacks), 10 up and downs to a chin up (drop down to the ground, jump up and do a chin up)
*2-5 rounds of 250m row (don’t have a row do 15 push ups), 15 overhead kb swings, 10 chin ups
*2-5 rounds of 25m yoke walk, 5 power cleans, 15 overhead kb swings (if you don’t have a yoke use a barbell)
*2-5 rounds of 25m farmers walk, 5 ground to overhead (clean and jerk or clean and press), 5 up and downs
*2-5 rounds of 25m prowler push, 10 kb clean and presses each arm, 5-10 kb goblet squats (same kb)
*2-5 rounds of 25m sled pull, 5 power snatches, 5 sumo deadlift stance high pulls (use the same bar)
*2-5 rounds of 5 back squats, 5 power cleans, 5 power snatches
*2-5 rounds of 5 ground to overhead, 5 deadlifts, 15 kb swings
Everyone should have time for this as it will only take you 4 minutes.
It is broken down by 8 rounds of 20 seconds of work and 10 seconds of rest. In other words you begin when you start the clock and work for 20 seconds. At 20 seconds you stop and rest for 10 seconds. At 30 seconds you start again and stop at 50 seconds, and so on.
Pick one exercise that you can perform between 6 and 12 reps each 20 second round.
No matter what kind of shape you are in, this will absolutely smoke you.
Pretty much any exercise you choose can be worked into the Tabata format:
Upper Body: pull ups, push ups, curls, up right rows, front raises, side raises, press variations, tricepts, rows, db press, bench press, military press, etc.
Lower Body: air squats, leg extensions, good mornings, calf raises, lunges, back raises, ghrs, kb swings, etc.
Core: sit ups, leg raises, side bends with weights, twists, etc.
You can be as creative as you wish on this just keep one thing in mind – your goal is 6-12 reps. Anything more is ok, but not much more. Anything less is just too little resulting in too much down time and no work being done. Its only 2 minutes and 40 seconds of work.
There is one cardinal rule: “Never Despair.”
That word is forbidden.
Sir Winston Churchill
Michael King is the owner of the Playground Gym – CrossFit Ft Lauderdale (www.CrossFitFtLauderdale.com) since 2010. The Playground gym is home to over 250 CrossFitters as well as over 20 Powerlifters. The gym’s specialty is strength training and the gym prides itself as being the strongest CrossFit Gym. Over the years Michael has had the opportunity to meet and learn from some of the best strength athletes in the wold. Michael is currently being trained by Josh Bryant. Additionally, Michael has a BBA in finance and Masters in Criminal Justice.
Have trouble with proficiency in body weight movements? Jailhouse Strong provides progression for the green beginner that cannot do a push-up to the advanced trainee.
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