3 Fully Customizable Conditioning Workouts
Strength athletes can sometimes fall into a weird category of fitness.
On one hand they’ll be able to pickup an inhuman amount of weight from the ground. On the other a flight of stairs could be just enough cardio to take them down.
Regardless of if this is you or not, I feel safe in saying that the vast majority of the strength community could use some more conditioning in their lives.
If I can’t sell you on the fact that some basic cardiovascular work will be great for heart health. You know…that ticking thing in your chest currently keeping you alive (overrated really).
I should be able to sell you on the fact that with as little as 2-3, 10-15min sessions per week, you’ll be able to increase your overall work capacity for your strength training as well. That means you’ll more easily be able to handle more reps, more sets, and more weight. Netting you some extra gains for your troubles.
Maybe your current excuse is that you just don’t know how to write a conditioning workout for yourself the way you do a strength workout. Maybe you’ve been telling yourself you’d do conditioning if only you had more workout ideas.
I’m here to take that excuse away from you with some simple, customizable, conditioning workouts.
“What is this crossfit?”-skeptical gym bro
Kind of, yes.
EMOTM style workouts or Every Minute on the Minute style workouts are a staple in crossfit boxes as a basis for their daily WODs (Workout of the day).
But don’t let your preconceived notions towards crossfit scare you away.
EMOTM workouts are just a great way to get a lot of work done in a short period of time. Which, if you don’t like conditioning in the first place should sound at least slightly appealing.
The main idea behind the workout is every new minute you will have a certain amount of prescribed “work” to get through. Once you complete that work the rest of the minute is yours to rest. This can be a great incentive to keep your pace up if you find you tend to sandbag conditioning workouts. The faster you can get through exercises the more rest you are going to get.
The other great thing about EMOTM workouts is there’s no real rule to how these have to be setup.
You could do one exercise every minute for 10 minutes, you could do 2 rounds of 5 exercises every minute for 10 minutes, or you could just do 10 different exercises for each of the 10 minutes. Whatever is most appealing to you really.
Likewise, any exercises can be used. Even your basic strength movements like squatting, dead lifting, and pressing could be utilized (so long as weight is properly adjusted) making this a great choice for a gym bro who is resistant to conditioning, but likes strength movements.
Normally these workouts have prescribed reps to them so Minute 1 could be 5 power cleans, Minute 2 could be 10 front squats, and minute 3 could be 10 overhead presses. However, if you don’t feel like counting reps you can also do EMOTM workouts with time. So instead of counting reps you could make it a 30 on/ 30 off workout. You’d do power cleans for 30 secs and rest for 30 secs. Front squats for 30 secs, rest 30 secs, and OHP for 30 secs, then rest for 30 secs.
These workouts usually land in 8-16 minute range. Longer ones do exist but for a strength athlete that’s not something you really need to be doing. Keep in mind the shorter the workout the more intense it should be. So if you are only doing an 8 minute EMOTM workout, it better be a quality 8 minutes.
Finally, the key to build a good EMOTM workout is keeping yourself in the conditioning “sweet spot”. The effort level should be just past being able to hold a conversation with someone while doing it, but not so far gone that you’re in the red. Your exercise/weight selection should generally allow you to finish each minute with around 20-30 secs of rest to spare. If you find yourself continually landing with only 10 secs of rest each minute, scale things back.
For starters, tabata workouts that you will see plastered everywhere in the fitness industry today are a shell of the former tabata protocol.
The original protocol was done by Izumi Tabata at the National Institute of Fitness and Sports in Tokyo. It involved highly trained endurance athletes on a bike ergometer, performing 8, 20 second all out intervals with 10 seconds of rest between each interval (Cool study if you want to look it up). Tabata workouts that we see today lack this same “all out” intensity level, especially considering it was high level endurance athletes being used in the study.
That being said, I still believe the tabata variations used today are excellent. Just… don’t let a trainer fool you into thinking all of the insane benefits purported by the original tabata protocol, fall true for say 4 minutes of switching back and fourth between mountain climbers and some air squats.
Tabata workouts like EMOTM workouts are great to get in and out of your conditioning workout. There’s no extra fluff, just work.
The way they are made today it will still be those 8 rounds, 20 secs of work 10 secs of rest between (4 mins total). But it doesn’t necessarily have to be bike sprints. You can do any exercise of your choosing really, biking, sprinting, swimming, any resistance based exercise, body weight exercises, core work, whatever.
Pick an exercise and get after it for 4 minutes it’s really that simple.
If you want to switch things up a bit. Pick two exercises and switch back and fourth between them.
These types of workouts are my go to if I don’t have time for a longer conditioning workout, and because they are downright simple.
Just pick an exercise and get after it. Doesn’t get easier to make a workout than that.
The hardest part to get across with tabata workouts is the intensity level. If you want the true “tabata experience” you should be right up against that line of all out effort for every single round. Do that, and I guarantee you are going to be blasted by the end of the four minutes. If you autopilot your way through however, then yeah 4 minutes isn’t going to feel like you did all that much work.
As a side note, this tabata set-up works weirdly well for ab workouts too.
These are usually an easy sell for people who love strength training but hate conditioning.
You still get the fulfillment of moving something heavy around, but set-up properly you’ll be able to get some basic cardio in as well.
The main way I see this messed up is people say they are going to go do sled pushes for conditioning. Or they say they are going to go do sandbag carries for conditioning, but it never happens.
What happens is they do one heavy carry, then sit on their phone for 5 minutes. Another heavy carry, then sit on their phone for 5 minutes. Finish up with a half-assed final carry to put the bag away and call it a day.
Try not to tax yourself too much their big guy.
If you intend on doing any sort of carry, sled drag/push, or prowler workout for your conditioning I highly recommend keeping yourself honest with strict rest times. You’re going to get a lot more bang for your buck this way. If you are looking to do these movements as strength movements and you need the longer rest times that’s cool to. Just don’t walk around saying you did conditioning today because you kinda sorta moved a sled every 5 minutes.
My favorite way to do movement events for conditioning is to just use the EMOTM style workouts we already talked about. 10 minutes has been the sweet spot for these in my opinion.
If you want to do all 10 minutes as just the carry/sled that’s fine, you’ll probably get stuck going a little bit lighter which is the only problem.
If you want to get some heavier carries/sled work in AND conditioning at the same time my favorite way is to still do that 10 minute EMOTM, but instead of all carries/sled, swap in a body weight movement as well. So minute 1 would be your heavy carry/sled and minute 2 could be something simple like 30 seconds of mountain climbers.
This keeps your heart rate up. Keeps you in that aerobic state. But also gives you just enough rest to get heavier carries in at the same time. Make no mistake though this won’t be a walk in the park.
I like to set any sort of “moving event” to be around 100ft in distance. Anything less starts to feel like you didn’t really do much, and anything more can increase the difficulty exponentially and make judging a proper workout difficult.