Top 5 High-Intensity Conditioning Methods

Everyone has a Plan, until someone gets punched in the mouth. – Jack Reacher

Do you have a body that cries Ferrari, but with an engine of a Toyota Prius? Maybe you are strong, but fat. Maybe years of focus on those beach muscles and too little on everything else has made you soft. Maybe none of the above applies to you. Doesn’t matter. All of it is unacceptable.

Conditioning is part of becoming the real deal. Between sets of fly’s and curls, people like to forget about it. But it catches up to us. Conditioning plays a vital role in your ability to recover, not just in between sets, but overall.

It helps you crank out a few more reps in your sets, torch body fat and improve athletic ability. People that do conditioning work tend to have better mobility too. And call me crazy, but that also leads to less injuries. Not to mention the general health benefits of a well conditioned person.

I know there are plenty of guys who avoid it on purpose. They’re afraid of it, but hide behind excuses like it making them fall into a catabolic coma, that eats up all their hard earned muscle gains.

Conditioning Workouts

If that was true, athletes like in Rugby, MMA or the NFL would not be built like brick shithouses, but more like the guy sitting in a cubicle at a Start-up company.

So, nothing could be further from the truth. The only thing potentially able to do that, is long boring cardio done too often. But that is for suckers. I know this point has been beaten to death, but everyone I know would rather have the body of a sprinter, than a marathon runner.

So start training more like one. On a positive note, I think most people are on to it by now. Short High-Intensity methods are better, if you want to get lean with the look like you give a damn.

The Plan, in the quote at the top, refers to everyone who neglects conditioning work, safe and sound in their comfort zone of moderate intensity and 2-3 minute rest periods, with more gazes in the mirror, than reps in their workout. Punch them in the mouth with some conditioning work, like a set of Hill sprints followed by some push ups and you may have to carry them out on a stretcher.

Don’t let that be you. High-Intensity conditioning is a humbling machine. It will uncover your weaknesses faster than mine in a dance class. There’s no excuse for letting your conditioning slip.

How Often Should You Do Conditioning Work?

If you train three or four days a week , do conditioning work on two of those days. If you train more than four days a week, three shorter metabolic sessions will do the trick. You can have separate conditioning days or add them at the end of your strength work as a 10 minute Finisher. There are no hard rules. Just get it done.

Top 5 Cool Conditioning Methods

  1. Energy Systems Training

    Mix a Locomotion type exercise (Running, Hill sprints, Sled Push etc.) with a strength movement. A method as old as training itself.

    In this workout we will use Farmer’s Walks. Because no one does Farmer’s Walks anymore. Grab two heavy dumbbells and start walking. That’s it. I know carrying heavy stuff will get everyone’s instant attention, because it can wipe you out pretty quickly, especially if the heaviest thing you’ve been carrying for more than 10 yards is your purse.

    Any other Locomotion exercise, such as Hill or Stair Sprints, Shuttle Runs, Sled work or Crawls work well too here as a substitution for the Farmer’s Walks. You should choose strength exercises, that are as much non-conflicting to the locomotion movements as possible to avoid early fatigue.

    How to do it-

    • Set up two cones roughly 10-15m apart.
    • Place two heavy dumbbells, two lighter Dumbbells and a heavier Kettlebell at one end.
    • Grab the heavy dumbbells and walk to the other cone and back to the first one. Put Dumbbells down.
    • Perform 10 reps of Kettlebell Goblet Squats followed by 10 reps of Dumbbell Overhead Presses using the lighter Dumbbells
    • Grab the heavy Dumbbells and repeat the entire sequence for five sets.
    • Rest as required
  1. Pyramids

    Pyramids are my favorite training method. They are too simple not to like, variations are endless and their structure ensures motivation until the very end. Pick one or more exercises and start counting backwards (the 2nd pyramid counts up) until all reps are done. Here is a workout that starts out gentle, but gets worse rather fast.

    • A1 Pull Ups 5-4-3-2-1
    • A2 High Box Jumps 5-4-3-2-1
    • B1 Double Kettlebell Front Squat 5-10-15-10-5
    • B2 Push Ups 5-10-15-10-5
    • C1 Kettlebell Swings 20-18-16-14-12
      C2 Mountain Climber 20-18-16-14-12

    How to do it:

    • Perform A1 & A2 back-to-back until you have completed all the reps for each exercise.

    Like so-

    • 5 Pull Ups
      5 Box Jumps
      4 Pull Ups
      4 Box Jumps
      continue until 1 rep
    • After you’ve completed A1 & A2, rest 2-3 minutes and do the same for exercise groups B1 & B2 and C1 & C2
    • The first pyramid you can knock off pretty quickly. In number two and three, rest 20-30 seconds each time you switch exercises. But if you’re in Spartan Mode that day, try to finish each pyramid as fast as possible.
  1. Four-Exercise Tabata

    A traditional Tabata is 8 rounds of 20 seconds work followed by 10 seconds rest for a total workout time of four minutes.

    The problem with traditional Tabata’s is that it’s hard to maintain intensity in a single exercise for eight rounds, especially when you are going at 100% (the original Tabata trial was done at 170% VO2max!).

    Local muscular fatigue sets in after three rounds, and for most people it’s downhill from there. Try a Push Up Tabata and you’ll know what I’m talking about.

    This is a variation of mine that I like to use with the advanced trainee, as well as the less experienced. Because we are using four exercises, that target different muscles, we avoid local muscular fatigue, can keep intensity high, while also targeting a shitload of muscle mass.

    How to do it:

    • Perform all exercises in a circuit fashion @ 20 sec on / 10 sec off and go through the circuit twice.
    • Go as hard as you can. There are no half-assed Tabata’s. Good luck!
    • Barbell Front Squats (or Kettlebell Goblet Squats)
    • Pull Ups</li
    • Push Ups
    • KB Swings
  1. The Hill Of Death

    A jog on a flat surface is for posy’s. Let’s see you scale up a mountain with an ever increasing incline and find out what you’re really made of. For those of you with a death wish, do the below routine twice with a 3-5 minute rest in between sets.

    How to do it:

    • Set a treadmill to a speed of 8-10 km/h & 0% Incline
    • Start running, increasing the Incline by 1% every 30 seconds
    • The challenge is over when you can no longer continue, touch the handle bars or stop the treadmill
    • Most treadmills max out at an Incline of 15%. If you make it to 15% and finish the 30 seconds, work back down by decreasing the Incline by 1% every 30 seconds.
    • If you can make it up and back down, hats off. Increase the speed next time.


    • Your score is the % Incline at which you were able to finish the full 30 sec (eg if you jump off 15 sec into Incline 9%, your score is 8% Incline.)
  1. Work Capacity – The Boxer’s Brawl

    It’s about to get ugly. The below workout only last 15 minutes, but will feel a lot longer. You will need to pace yourself in this one, or it’ll be over before it ever really got started.

    Aim to work continuously and adjust the speed accordingly. This type of training builds work capacity and your fatigue resistance skills. It’s great for mental toughness, teaching you how to grind it out when things get tough.

    How to do it:

    • Rotate through the first two exercises (A1&A2) for 3 minutes. Aim to work continuously for the 3 min time period.
    • Rest 60 seconds and do the same for Exercise Groups B1&B2, C1&C2, D1&D2
    • A1 Jumping Jacks x10
    • A2 Push Ups x5
    • B1 Prisoner Squats x10
    • B2 TRX Rows x8
    • C1 Reverse Lunges x12
    • C2 Knee Grab Sit Ups x8
    • D1 Wide Outs x10
    • D2 Burpees (no Push Up, no Jump) x 5


I know for many people there’s a time and place for a stroll on the treadmill or the elliptical. It’s a clear your head kind of thing. But 95% of the time,  if you want serious results, turn to these type of metabolic conditioning workouts. Never get caught with your pants down, but get known for your kick-ass conditioning as much as your strength.

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