Sled Push

Sled Pushes offer one of the many ways to keep up your conditioning without inhibiting hypertrophy.

Walk up to any gym rat or bodybuilder and ask them what are the rules for “bulking up.” It usually goes something like this:

  • Eat a TON
  • Lift HEAVY
  • When you’re not lifting heavy, lift a high volume
  • Get plenty of sleep

Avoid cardio?!

Most lifters avoid any and all forms of cardio like the Bubonic Plague. They’re deathly afraid that doing even the slightest hint of cardiovascular exercise with make them “lose their gains.”

Sure, you may get a tiny bit bigger by nixing all forms of conditioning work, but that will be at the expense of a lot more additional fat that will be covering up those abs you’ve worked so hard to uncover.

Nah, just get it done properly (don’t worry, it’s the fun way)

Conditioning work, when done correctly, will not magically shrink your muscle gains or turn you into Tiny Tim. Additionally, you improve your athleticism and be able to maintain that 6-pack (or at least liveable bodyfat level) you love.

That’s not to say that any and all forms of cardio are the answer either. Too much long, slow, moderate intensity, a.k.a. steady-state, cardio will have an adverse effect on you anabolic desires.[1] The answer you’re looking for comes in the form of High-Intensity Intervals Training (HIIT). It combines all the fat loss benefits of cardio while allowing you to retain your precious gains made in the gym.

Read on to see the various forms that HIIT can take!

HIIT: Conditioning the Right Way

The key to doing conditioning work the right way for an effective lean bulk is to make it hard, fast, and quick! Get in, get out and be on your way to recovering which is just what you and your muscles will need after lifting and trying one of these forms of HIIT:

  • Sprints

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    Sprinting before lifting can be ideal for improving performance in the gym. It potentiates the nervous system and gets the muscle primed for heavy and explosive weight lifting.

    Short distance sprints done with low volume help prevent injury and can improve performance, as opposed to trying to do them after you’re lifting session when you’re fatigued. This could result in you pulling a hamstring or not being able to run as fast and explosively as possible, thereby not getting the most bang for your buck from the conditioning work.

    The key to sprinting before you hit the weights is doing them for short distances with relatively low volume. Not only will you prevent injury, but your overall performance and athleticism will be better. A good practice would be to perform sprints two days per week, starting with five sprints of 10-20 yards with 45-60 seconds of recovery for your first week. Each following week, add one sprint (working up to 10 total) and try to lower rest intervals to 30-45 seconds.

  • Sled Pushing / Pulling

    Some are afraid of conditioning work hindering their muscles ability to recover and thus inhibit hypertrophy during their lean bulks. Sled pushes, however, don’t really involve eccentric loading, the “negative” portion of a lift that causes the most damage to muscle fibers. This makes sled training an ideal fit for conditioning work as once you overcome the initial frictional forces of the sled, it’s all concentric work with your legs pumping and lungs burning.

    Form is key with sled pushes, keep your body at a 45-60 degree angle with your arms locked out and abs engaged. Drive your knees up by fully extending the hip with each step. Do pushes for 10 minutes at the end of your workout and try not to hurl while doing these, THEY ARE INTENSE!

  • Rope Jumping

    Jump Rope

    Boxers and MMA Athletes have long used the jump rope as a means to keep lean while adding muscle.

    Sled pushes and sprints may be all the rage these days, but jumping rope is the tried and true way that conditioning work has always been done. Just take a look at any chiseled boxer or MMA fighter and without a doubt they’ve spent many an hour engaged with this seemingly simple conditioning tool.

    Jumping rope is good for two reason, it’s low intensity and self-limiting. By low intensity, we mean there isn’t a lot of force that your muscles have to absorb thereby hindering their capacity to recover.

    By self-limiting, we mean that to successfully jump rope you must keep your form strict with your body aligned, abs engaged and resilient under the constant hopping that you’ll be doing. If you mess up just the slightest bit, game over and you have to start all over again. This makes it highly unlikely you’ll overdo the conditioning work or injure yourself in the process.

    Keep it simple with jumping rope. Get after it hardcore for 15 minutes after you finish weight lifting and do it two-three days per week.

    If you’re interested in reading more, we talk a lot about this in our article, Boxing for Cardio: Make Your Cardio Useful

  • Conditioning Complexes

    No, these aren’t the post-activation potentiation complexes that we covered last week. These are a different beast entirely. Conditioning complexes combine a series of exercises performed sequentially without rest, such as a squat, overhead press, row, and Romanian Deadlift before starting all over again..

    The goal is to move as fast as proper technique will allow utilizing the full range of motion of each exercise. You’ll want to use light weight so you can perform these quickly and not crush your ability to recover or inhibit your main lifting. You’ll activate all of your muscle fibers and have your heart rate seriously jacked up doing these.

    Start light and progress slowly with the weight, as form is crucial. Your weakest lift will be the one that dictates how much weight you choose to use. Additionally, these can be performed with barbells, dumbbells, or kettlebells, making them ideal if you don’t have the space to do sprint work or lack the equipment for sled pushes.

    A conditioning complex example could be as simple as the four move one we described at the beginning or as complex as you want them to be. Keep the rep range of each exercise between 8-12 reps. Once you finish one circuit, set the weights down and allow yourself 1-2 mins of recovery before repeating the cycle for 2-3 times.

Wrap Up

There’s no more excuse now that “conditioning makes me small.” These forms of HIIT will maximize your fat cutting efforts while keeping your muscles primed to grow. There’s no need for any long arduous bulking and cutting cycles. When done correctly, these will allow you to grow big and lean resulting in heightened athleticism and an Adonis-physique. Don’t listen to the bros at the gym. Take your conditioning work as seriously as your lifting and that gods of gains will smile on you!

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