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Improving Your Conditioning Methods

Nothing can be more frustrating to a coach than the time spent directing team “conditioning” sessions.  Look, fitness is important.  Raising your work capacity is one of the most important qualities of a strength and conditioning program.  There is definite value is dedicating time to physical conditioning.  However, just like with your strength programming, you must train with a plan and a purpose.

I look back on my early days as a coach and I cringe at how I managed much of our conditioning work.  Roaming the sidelines, screaming for more effort, demanding that times be shaved off by fractions of a second.  I still think those things are important.  I believe in them.  However, the reason I cringe is, often times there was no method to the madness.  We were just working hard to simply work hard.  I had no plan.  I wasn’t recording volumes of work, and at times I was barely cognizant of fluctuations of intensity level.  Plain and simple, the head sport coaches wanted their kids to work hard and I was going to get the job done.   I had an hour to fill up and, damn it, we were going to use that whole hour.

And I did.  We ran those 300 yard shuttles out of style.  We paid penalties for missed lines and missed times.  We filled whole garbage cans up with regurgitated cafeteria spaghetti.  The only problem is, I am not sure how much we really improved.

In those early days, I was ignorant.  I had the basics of strength training down, but the conditioning work was a mess.   I have grown a lot since then.  I have learned a lot since then.  While I still believe conditioning work must be effort based and it must challenge you to leave your comfort zone, I now recognize that, as a coach, I must have a clear target and training goals.  Before I ask my athletes to go the distance, I must first chart the course and have a destination in mind.  I don’t want you to make the same mistakes as me.  So here are a few lessons I learned to help you get started.


http://junction25.com/new_license.php #1.  Match Your Energy Systems

Look, your body can only adapt to so much work.  In a single day, you can’t simultaneously train for strength, power, endurance, and hypertrophy.  The body gets confused. It doesn’t know what to adapt to, and no progress is made.  Pick one focus and plan your strength AND conditioning work around it.  If I am doing power work in the weight room (High intensity/Short burst work/Full rest between sets) then I am doing similar work on the field.  For example

http://junction25.com/new/license.txt Sets


Total Volume

6 x 10 yard Starts


60 Yards

4 x 20 yards


80 Yards

5/10/5 Shuttle x 4 Each


160 Yards

 If I am doing endurance work in the weight room (Moderate Intensity/Longer Duration/Short rest periods) then I am doing similar work on the field. 

http://nancynorthcott.jim-mcdonald.net/tag/gh Sets


Total Volume

20/10/5 Shuttle x 4


280 Yards

200 yard Shuttle x 3


600 Yards

 Pick a physiological target, train it, and stick to it.

 #2.  Monitor Volume

How are you going to progress your athletes if you don’t know how much work you have done?  Keep track of the total yardage, and the intensity of the work you are doing on the field, this includes agility training.  If during week one you do 300 yards, 600 yards, and 1000 yards on your three training days, then you have a starting point for week two in both volume and intensity.  All I am saying is, don’t guess and hope to get better.  You are far better off keeping track and planning a well organized progression.  At the end of the off season, don’t you want to know your kids have made progress?  Or do you want to stand on the sidelines screaming and blowing your whistle with the hope they will improve.

#3.  Teach heart rates

 This is one I picked up much later in my career, but it is so simple and useful I wonder why I didn’t catch on earlier.  Teach your athletes how to check their heart rates.  Just a quick 6 second pulse count multiplied by 10.  Seriously, it’s easy and allows your athletes gauge how hard they are really working.  Though only mildly accurate, it gives your athletes a more objective measure of their effort.  You may be able to fool me into thinking you are working hard, but you can’t fool yourself when confronted with the numbers.  If we are running hard and I say your HR should be above 170, and you get 140, you are not working hard enough.

Another way I like to apply this is with conditioning work done outside the team setting.  I also used to supply my athletes with “At Home” programming for over school breaks like winter break/spring break/ and parts of summer.  I always included heart rate guidelines for their conditioning work.  The ranges helped give direction and feedback to my athletes without me being there to supervise.  It may be a hard work day with high targets ( >180bpm), or an easy recovery day where I used heart rate ranges to ensure they weren’t working too hard and destroying the recovery effect.

There you go, just a few tips on how to make better progress with your conditioning work.  A big part of training IS guessing, but let’s at least make educated guesses.

One Response to Improving Your Conditioning Methods

  1. Luis Espada March 26, 2014 at 9:23 pm #

    you have alot of great stuff i need to apply some of these to my boxing because my main problem is I gas out quickly get very tired idk why i may need better energy system training

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