5 Conditioning Workouts (For People Who Hate Conditioning)

I think we can all agree that conditioning workouts are crucial to both a healthy lifestyle and improved performance in the gym.

I think we can all also agree that we’ve skipped more than our fair share of conditioning workouts. Some of you may still be waiting on that very first conditioning workout ever (“you’ll get to it tomorrow” of course).

Conditioning often takes a back seat to resistance training because many don’t find it as enjoyable as they do their favorite hobby of picking up heavy pieces of metal. I get it. However, sometimes it just takes a bit of ingenuity to find the “right” kind of conditioning for you. So if all you’ve ever tried is spinning away on a treadmill for your conditioning, here are some workout ideas to get you to actually participate in some cardiovascular exercise.

(For some pre-made conditioning ideas check-out this article!)

1. EMOTM (Every Minute on the Minute) Lifting

This is for those of you who would legitimately rather die than do anything other than lift weights.

This is straight up lifting…as your conditioning (This is the best I have to offer gang).

Take any lift you want (full body movements like deadlifts, squats, and cleans tend to work best) and shoot to lift at about 50-60% of your one rep max. Set a clock for anywhere from about 8-12 minutes and aim to hit 8-10 reps of your given movement every minute. The rest of the minute after you complete your chosen reps is your rest time.

You may be laughing at the beginning of this workout since 50% of your 1RM is a joke, but I guarantee you will not be laughing by the end. Not only will you be lifting, and getting some solid conditioning in, working at lower intensity levels is also a great time for you to work on any new lifting cues you may have. This is truly conditioning, “for the bros”. 

2. METCONS 

Say what you want to about crossfit, the one thing they do undeniable better than anyone else is make conditioning fun.

Metcon is the abbreviation of “metabolic conditioning” and I’d go further into the explanation of what that is if it actually pertained to the topic at hand (*spoiler alert* it does not)

All you need to understand is that metcons are (depending on who you are talking to) fun. Instead of jogging on a treadmill or crushing that stair climber for an exasperating 30 minutes, metcons combine resistance training movements with conditioning principles.

Think things like sandbag carries/throws, farmers carries, dumbbell pressing, hammer swings, tire flipping, basically all the cool stuff you can do in the gym. You take these resistance training movements, add a time component to the mix, and boom…you have a metcon.

There are no hard and fast rules to creating a metcon. The basic idea behind a metcon is that it is high intensity exercise, often a repeating circuit, features resistance training movements, and has a time component to it.

You can feel free to choose whatever movements you most enjoy in the gym and then set a timer. Common methods of timing include doing exercises for 30 seconds on and 30 seconds off rotating through a circuit, using the tabata protocol, emotm workouts with rep requirements, and just straight up AMRAPS (As many reps as possible) where you complete as much work as you can in a given time.

Metcons have become extremely popular and there are entire websites dedicated to listing workout ideas if you feel stuck on how to create your own workout. Just make sure to choose metcons that you are actually going to enjoy. ALSO, good thing to note, while these workouts tend to be a lot more enjoyable than rolling along on a treadmill…that doesn’t mean they are easy…

3. Ruck/Hiking/Nature Walk

One of the less appreciated forms of conditioning in my opinion is anything closely related to hiking.

I think when you are in the realm of just “walking” people no longer consider it to be conditioning. However, walking is indeed a form of steady state conditioning by itself and when you add in variables such as the increased weight in a ruck, and inclined terrain on a hike, you get a form of exercise that rivals running in difficulty. Some hiking trails can be a humbling experience even for those who are diligent in their conditioning training already.

Hiking and getting out into nature in general is something I could recommend to anyone regardless of if you even care about conditioning. Getting outside and unwinding, just to enjoy some nature is something everyone should be doing and I would never not recommend it. This is also a great way to force you out of your house, out of your comfort zone, and out to explore some local spots beyond just your backyard. Don’t panic that you have to now go find some mountain to climb. You can do a simple google search for “parks/trails near me” and you’ll be surprised by how many amazing trails can be tucked away that you didn’t even know about.

AMRAP Lions Den Elite Training 1

4. Pick-Up Sports

You’ll often hear online coaches talk about how participating in things like a pick-up basketball games could impede your lifting progress, get in the way of your recovery, increase your chances of injury, etc…

Look, it’s not that these aren’t valid concerns…it’s more so that unless you are a high level strength athlete, who cares?

Could a game of basketball make you potentially more sore than you want to be for your following day of training, sure. Could you accidentally roll your ankle playing some backyard football, sure. These kinds of risks are always around us, and I don’t think we should force ourselves to live in a bubble of “lifting is the only thing that matters”. When it comes straight down to it, pick-up sports are a fun way to condition, and if you are the type of person that likes sports, you aren’t even going to notice that you are conditioning in the first place.

I think lifters can often-times be overly concerned with how “optimal” their training is, and like I said unless you are a high level strength athlete (where your lifts do matter in your professional life) there’s nothing wrong with some high intensity exercise that is outside of the gym. Try not to get up tight about your lifting schedule, and don’t go turning down your friends to a light-hearted pick-up game “because it’s totally gonna ruin chest day tomorrow bro…”

5. Combat Sports

This is often an easy sell as it goes right a long with the “lifter personality type”.

In fact, jiu-jitsu and resistance training are becoming increasingly intertwined, with more and more strength training athletes becoming interested in the sport.

Combat sports come with all the same “risk factors” as you’d expect with pick-up sports, in fact probably more so (ya know given the whole “combat” thing). But again, in a well balanced life, I don’t believe it matters. In fact Joe, owner of the Lions Den facility and current USS National Heavyweight strongman champion, actively participates in multiple jiu-jitsu sessions per week alongside of his strongman training. Does he occasionally get injured during jiu-jitsu, yes. Does it occasionally make him sore for his lifting sessions, yes. Is he sitting there complaining about, or questioning if it’s ruining all of his progress in the gym, no.

Now this doesn’t exclusively have to be jiu-jitsu, any combat sport is going to be cardiovascular intensive, and it’s quite easy to schedule out some combat sport training sessions on top of an already existing resistance training program as your conditioning.

At the end of the day, regardless of which of these conditioning routes you choose to go with it should be something you consider fun. The most detailed and “optimal” conditioning routine in the world is useless if you won’t actually do it, so take some time to figure out what it will take for you to consistently get your conditioning sessions in.

(For more fun conditioning ideas check out this sandbag workout!)

Matt Molloy

Matt Molloy

I'm a graduate the University of Pittsburgh with a major in Exercise Science. I’m a local guy (North Penn) and athletics has dominated my life. I've led teams in basketball, baseball, soccer, golf and my passion, long distance running. I've been strength training for 6 years with a focus in power-lifting but have recently stretched to strongman since joining the pride here at the Den. When I’m not in the gym I enjoy, spending time with my friends, music, and relaxing and playing some video games.