Conditioning Workout – My Simple Go To Combo that’s Brief, Brutal and Effective

Conditioning Workout Is there such a thing as being too informed?

I ask, simply because that seems to be the issue facing people trying to get fit.

We live in a world that is totally connected. Great minds can share thoughts, ideas and findings with like minded individuals. Unfortunately, the same token means those with “not so great minds” shall we say, can do exactly the same…

All the knowledge in the world is at the swipe of a screen, the click of a button or at the will of your finger tips.

The lack of regulation of this knowledge has made fitness a bit of a metaphorical wild west. Everyone has their own methods and opinions. Their own preferred equipment, preferred programs and are willing to fight about it with those of opposing thoughts.

Honestly, things can get a little weird in forums…

I’ve said it before – too much choice, leads to too many options. Too many options then lead to procrastination and confusion. This procrastination and confusion leads to nothing getting done. It’s a very real and viscous cycle.

Anyone who knows me or frequents this little space I have on the internet, knows that I thrive on the simple things. No unnecessary equipment. No frills – just hard work, basics, simplicity and all the while striving to get stronger, tougher and better at life.

This, my go-to conditioning workout is no different.

No equipment other than your body needed. The training will take you outside, in the fresh air, combing two powerful movements – the bear crawl and sprinting.

No need to complicate things.

No need to rush out and buy a specialized piece of equipment.

Just put in the effort and reap the benefits of your hard work.

Why those two exercises though?

Bear crawls

The bear crawl is a fantastic exercise. One that’s not new or groundbreaking by any means, but the once forgotten exercise has had a resurgence of late because, well, it’s a great exercise.

Primarily, it’s a strength movement. It’s actually best to think of the bear crawl as a moving plank. Your midsection will fire up just like in the plank, but because of the moving element to the exercise, the intensity is exponentially increased.

The muscles will have to work harder to stabilize throughout the movement and after travelling even a few yards in the crawl you’ll realize just how intense the exercise can be. It hits essentially every muscle in the body, which, in turn, will get your heart and lungs burning.

The slow, controlled nature of the exercise coupled with the burning lungs, pounding heart and every muscle in the body screaming, makes the bear crawl a true mental test along with the physical – perfect for a conditioning workout.

Although it looks like a simple exercise, it’s pretty easy to butcher it.  As always, the devil is in the details, so pay particular attention to your form throughout the movement.

  1. Set up on all fours – hands under shoulders, knees under hips.
  1. Tuck the chin, brace the mid section and lift the knees a few inches off of the ground. The back will be table top flat and parallel to the ground throughout the entire crawl. No asses up in the air!
  1. Take small, slow and controlled strides with the opposite hand, opposite foot – so, left hand, right foot – right hand, left foot.

That’s it. It’s that simple.

I like to cue my athletes and indeed mentally cue myself, to imagine there is a ball resting on the small of your lower back. Raising your ass in the air, jerky rushed movements and losing control will result in the ball falling off. Keep the metaphorical ball in place. Better still, from time to time, just use an actual ball. Check out Jeff Sokol doing just that…

Sprints

Now, the sprinting part of the combo shouldn’t need any justification.

If sprinting isn’t currently part of your weekly programming you are frankly missing out. The improved conditioning, power, speed and strength combined with the fat-loss, mental toughness and posterior chain development alone makes sprinting a mainstay exercise in every athletes programming.

The key to solid, long term sprinting is progression.

Start slowly and ease in. Sprinting requires maximal force production and if your ankles, knees, hips, lungs, heart and head aren’t ready for it, it’s easy to hurt something.

First things first, do not, under any circumstances sprint on concrete. Opt for something softer. Personally I stick with a field. The grass minimizes the force on the joints.

Secondly, always warm-up thoroughly before any sprinting – Dynamic stretching, jumping rope, power skips, some light jumping will warm-up the joints and the body well.

Thirdly, when you begin sprinting, build up the speed gradually and increase with each set.

Putting them together for an Awesome Conditioning Workout 

In Pavel Tsatsouline’s book Simple and Sinister, a book I can’t recommend enough by the way, he quotes Bob Hoffman as saying “To build Superman, slow movements and quick lifts are required” Pavel then goes on to say “The Get-up is the ultimate slow lift; the swing is ultimate quick lift. The Yin and Yang, both bases are covered.”

In the same vein, the combo of bear crawls and sprints is also slow and quick – a Yin Yang pairing.

The bear crawl is kept slow and purposeful, akin to a properly performed get-up. Each stride is graceful, maintaining stability in the mid section throughout. No rushing, just calm, purposeful, focused movement.

The sprint is the full force, maximum speed and maximum power production. The Yang to the bear crawl.

This kind of workout is all about constantly striving for improvement. Making the bear crawl smoother, driving harder on the sprints -continually striving for mastery in both movements, adding in additional repetitions and sets, lowering the rest periods, increasing the distance, always looking to improve.

To Begin…

Start with 20 yards of each, first the controlled, slow crawl, stand and then sprint – hard and fast.

Progress to…

Work up to 50 yards of each, for 5+ rounds.

Closing Thoughts

It’s not super sexy or new. It’s not always fun. It’s tiring. It’s a very humbling experience. Sometimes it hurts. Sometimes you just want to quit, but it’s always doable.

It’s a combo that is always available, no equipment required. It’s something you’ll never master, but grow in trying to do so.

Walk the road less traveled.

Rid of all the excuses. You have nothing stopping you from this killer conditioning workout.

Go hard. Earn your sleep. Get physically tougher. Get mentally tougher. Keep moving forward.

Phil.

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