How do you know if your conditioning is getting better?
Yes its easy when you do the same workout over and over again. If you are running then you know you’ve made progress when your times go down. If you are doing a set of kettlebell snatches or bodyweight squats you know you’re better if you can do more reps.
But does it really mean your overall conditioning is better? Perhaps you’ve just increased your skill in the exercise and built up the muscular endurance that was previously holding you back.
You may not really increase your wind or cardio capabilities.
You’ve likely heard of the SAID principle in training. That is Specific Adaptation to Imposed Demands. This means your body will get better specifically to what you make it do.
And what this can mean is that even though you are training hard, you could be getting better at one specific exercise, but if you’re not careful you can really be sliding back in the grand scheme of things.
There is no great example of what conditioning is.
One concept I shoot for is to be able to go into any arena of training and perform well, if not dominate. Obviously, I won’t be winning a powerlifting meet one day and running an ultra-marathon the next. But that’s a guiding principle for my training.
Back on the SAID principle we realize that there isn’t 100% carryover from any one thing to another. Much of the time there won’t even be 50% carryover depending on how you do things.
Are you conditioning yourself hard or are you building muscular endurance?
When we step away from the cardio machines and get into bodyweight exercises, kettlebells or whatever we start doing exercises for our conditioning that have a muscular component. This is a good thing. But you have to be careful.
You want to build muscular endurance and you want to build conditioning. You can build both at the same time. However, there is ALWAYS going to be one thing that fails first.
Pushups can get you breathing hard but unless you are one of those guys that can do them non-stop your muscles are going to force you to give up way before your lungs would.
Here’s a different example. I just finished a set of kettlebell snatches with the 53 lb. bell a couple hours ago. I hit seven minutes with a 25 rep per minute pace. That’s 175 reps in 7 minutes. My goal is 250 in 10. Something stopped me.
Was it my conditioning? I was sucking wind big time but no I could have kept going. Was it my muscles burning? Nope. With swings and snatches the load is fairly well distributed so no problems here. In this case it was my hands which tend to be the weak point for most people in this exercise. They tore open and in order to preserve myself from more damage I stopped.
There’s a problem when you rely on one means of conditioning. If I only did kettlebell snatches (or swings) I could never fully push the boundaries of my conditioning. I could increase my ability but not as well as if I did something else.
Let’s use the example of a guy that lifts weights in low rep sets. He also runs long distances to get his cardio. Do you see the missing component here? Will this guy be able to apply any strength and conditioning at the same time? You throw him into an intense circuit style training and he’ll crap out fast.
My case is to use a variety of conditioning exercises and methods to eliminate this problem. Variety is good here. Yes you should have goals and regularly do the same workout trying to progress. But on top of that add more.
Also you need to work different levels of conditioning. There’s a big difference between sprint level conditioning and longer term conditioning.
Think about the difference in running a hill sprint versus flipping a large tire for two minutes non-stop. Doing a ten minute snatch test versus a bodyweight exercise circuit that lasts an hour.
I have to credit Bud Jeffries primarily to opening my eyes to this. His Twisted Conditioning 1 & 2 go into more details on these concepts and much more.
If you missed the previous announcement check out the new www.Strongerman.com where we are working together to bring you to very best training information. And if you haven’t got those books yet do it now. They’ll make you train harder and in a more complete manner.
In the near future I’ll give you more on this subject including some complete workouts.