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The ‘No Excuses’ Conditioning Program

An Hour On The Treadmill? No Way In Hell…

You’ve got your weight training scheme nailed. It’s perfect, but the cardio thing just isn’t happening. In your program or any effective program for that matter, weights are truly the foundation, but let’s face it: conditioning is a truly complimentary and important aspect of an overall, well rounded program. However, as far as you’re concerned, being on a piece of cardio equipment for an hour is out of the question. First of all, you know that hours of steady state cardio have benefits that are not only limited, but over-rated, and you just don’t have an entire hour to give. But what if I gave you options for cardio that not only required very little of your time, but were intense enough in nature to get you truly conditioned and required no equipment? How about a commitment of no more than 30 minutes per week? It may sound too good to be true, but I assure you, it is not.

 

High Intensity Interval Training

High Intensity Training or “Metabolic Training” is a form of conditioning that utilizes intervals of work and rest, rather than the steady, lower intensity efforts typically made on a treadmill for hours on end. The whole idea behind it is EPOC (Exercise Post Oxygen Consumption) which is a fancy way of saying that a significant amount of additional calories will be burned after a HIIT workout is completed. As far as fat loss is concerned, it really takes the cake as far as ‘cardio’ goes.

Why?

The benefits are many. It elevates metabolism by requiring more energy in order tom complete. This simple fact can go a long way in terms of building muscle, as the amount of food you can consume increases. You’re burning more calories for more hours during the day, thus increasing the body’s ability to burn stored fat as energy if fat loss is your primary goal. In addition to these physiological rewards, the workouts are most often completed in less than half the time a normal steady state session requires.

HIIT Trends

Recently, I have seen many variation of training coming out that utilize this work/rest protocol. There are the cardio machine options, during which resistance and speed levels are manipulated throughout the duration of the session to raise and lower the heart rate. You have the weight training versions. There are complexes, compounds and hybrids put together in HIIT fashion. Another version that I have seen more and more are single sets of weight training exercises performed one right after the other with targeted HIIT cardio intervals (for example jump rope) intermixed and strategically placed recovery periods. Then of course, there is good old fashioned outdoor sprinting…one of my all time favorites.

No More Excuses

Below you’ll find two metabolic conditioning workouts. The level of exertion is maximal, the time minimal, and the results will be phenomenal. In warm weather these are fantastic in the park, and in colder weather you won’t even have to leave the house. Or as another option, you could just suck it up, throw on some under armor and get your wimpy ass outside. All you need is yourself and a stop watch.

Workout 1: Tabata Training

The first workout uses a method of training called ‘Tabata’. Tabata workouts are based on segments of 20 second work periods followed by 10 seconds of rest. No 20 seconds will seem longer. No 10 seconds will seem shorter. This method of training was originally designed for bike sprint intervals, but here I apply the basic principle to other explosive exercises to create a fun and effective HIIT workout. Each movement should be repeated 8 times in this fashion, for a total of 4 minutes per Tabata workout segment. It’s intense, so working up to the maximum number of circuits is okay. With regular execution, you might even find yourself needing to turn the tables the other way to add intensity. Depending on the chosen exercise, this can be accomplished by adding dumbbells, or by adding more 4 minute segments.

Each movement should be performed for 20 seconds, followed by 10 seconds active recovery, and repeated for a total of 8 times though, equaling 4 minutes per movement. Total workout time: 12 minutes

Alternating Jump Lunges

* Begin this movement in a split lunge position. Be sure your front knee does not protrude past your toe. Lunge straight down, and explode up out of the lunge position allowing the feet to leave the ground. In the air, switch the leg position, bringing the front leg behind and the rear leg in front. As you land, in a smooth motion, sink back into a lunge position, again being careful to keep your knees behind your toes. Explode back up and repeat in without pausing.

Hip Extension Jumps

*Begin this movement in a standing position. To lower, extend the hips back, and reach down to touch the toes, being careful to sit as far back as possible so as not to bring the knees forward. Weight should remain in the heels. Explode up out of this position into a jump allowing the feet to leave the ground and as you land, extend the hips once more, touching the toes. Repeat without pausing.

Burpees

*Begin this movement in a standing position. Come into a crouch position and kick your legs back into a pushup position. Jump the legs back into a crouch, and explode up into the air into a jump allowing the feet to leave the ground. As you land, come smoothly back into a crouch position and repeat the movement without pausing.

Workout 2: Traditional Interval Training

The second workout uses a more traditional interval protocol of 30 second work/active recovery. Each movement should be performed for 30 seconds, followed by 30 seconds of recovery. This workout will also challenge the most conditioned of individuals. Increased recovery periods at first are nothing to be ashamed of. If you need it, take it. Mastering any workout is half the fun. Once you are an expert, adding weight or time to your intervals will increase the intensity. Each movement should be performed for 30 seconds, followed by 30 seconds active recovery. Total Workout time: 10 minutes

 

Prisoner Squats

*Begin this movement in a standing position. Jump out into a squat position and sink down into a squat. Be sure to sit “back”, keeping your knees in line with your toes and not protruding forward. Explode into a jump, allowing the feet to leave the floor. As you come back down, sink into a squat position and explode up again, repeating without pausing.

Jump Rope

*Begin this movement in a standing position. Jump out into a squat position and sink down into a squat. Be sure to sit “back”, keeping your knees in line with your toes and not protruding forward. Explode into a jump, allowing the feet to leave the floor. As you come back down, sink into a squat position and explode up again, repeating without pausing.

Burpees

*Begin this movement in a standing position. Come into a crouch position and kick your legs back into a pushup position. Jump the legs back into a crouch, and explode up into the air into a jump allowing the feet to leave the ground. As you land, come smoothly back into a crouch position and repeat the movement without pausing.

Alternating Jump Lunges

* Begin this movement in a split lunge position. Be sure your front knee does not protrude past your toe. Lunge straight down, and explode up out of the lunge position allowing the feet to leave the ground. In the air, switch the leg position, bringing the front leg behind and the rear leg in front. As you land, in a smooth motion, sink back into a lunge position, again being careful to keep your knees behind your toes. Explode back up and repeat in without pausing.

Staggered Pushups

*This movement is a pushup variation. It is performed by staggering the arms, one more behind and close to the shoulder and one more out on front of your body. The arms switch position with each repetition of the pushup. There are two options. You can “place” the arms each time, or push yourself off the ground, switch and land, dropping in a smooth.

Jumping Jacks

*Begin this movement in a standing position, feet shoulder width apart, arms down at your sides. Jump outward into a wide stance as you simultaneously bring the arms up overhead. Return to start in a smooth motion and repeat without pausing.

 

Hip Extension Jumps

*Begin this movement in a standing position. To lower, extend the hips back, and reach down to touch the toes, being careful to sit as far back as possible so as not to bring the knees forward. Weight should remain in the heels. Explode up out of this position into a jump allowing the feet to leave the ground and as you land, extend the hips once more, touching the toes. Repeat without pausing

High Knees

* This movement is a modified version of jogging in place. Instead of shallow knee lifts, the knees should be lifted higher so that the leg makes a 90 degree angle. Alternate legs in a running motion raising the knees high in this fashion each time.

Speed Skates

*This movement begins ins a crouched “semi squat” position. Using one leg, you should propel yourself over onto the other leg, landing in that same “semi squat” position. That other leg should immediately propel you back to where you started, going back and forth for the duration of the interval.

Power Strides

*This movement is similar to the speed skate. Rather than propelling yourself back and forth, you propel yourself each time in the same direction, landing on the same leg four times before changing direction and coming back. Each time you land, it should be into a “semi squat” position.

Traditional Pushups

*Begin this movement in a plank position on hands and feet (beginning on your knees is optional). Lower your body down by bending the arms. Return to starting the plank starting position and repeat.

Fitting It In

I’d like to include a general recommendation that I personally follow, and make to all of my clients with regard to leg dominant HIIT and its relationship to lower body weight training. Fast twitch muscle fibers are activated and often exhausted during HIIT just as they are when legs are trained under a load. In order to allow the lower body proper recovery time, I suggest doing these workouts either on the same day as leg training, or at least two days before or after an intense lower body weight training session. You can perform each workout separately in alternation during the week for a total of two to three conditioning sessions of 10-12 minutes a piece. Another option is to do the workouts back to back within the same session for a total of 22 minutes of conditioning. Doing this twice a week will send anybody’s level of conditioning through the roof. Either way you look at it, you’ll never spend more than 30 minutes to an hour doing ‘cardio’ in any given week.

Anyone who has an excuse is welcome to leave now. You now have my foundational HIIT conditioning workouts. Also at your disposal is an arsenal of effective exercises to create numerous heart pumping variations. Use them as written, and when you need variety, simply interchange exercises to create a new workout any time you want one. The possibilities are endless. Boredom is not an option. Your excuses have all been nullified. Good conditioning is crucial, and now that all of the typical obstacles have been removed, you have no more excuses. Get to work. Jen Heath is a professional natural bodybuilder and mother of four children. She runs an online training and nutrition consulting business through which she coaches competitors and everyday people alike. She can be contacted at jenhealth

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