The Best Conditioning Workouts for Athletes

Conditioning workouts are one of the most overlooked pillars of a comprehensive fitness routine. Conditioning improves both muscular and cardiovascular stamina by increasing your aerobic capacity and anaerobic threshold, so you can deliver more oxygen to your system and perform more repetitions before fatigue. Metabolic conditioning also maximizes your caloric burn during and after a workout, making it incredible for shedding fat.

Strength and conditioning workouts are differentiated in key ways. Metabolic conditioning workouts require higher heart rates, more repetitions, and less resistance than hypertrophy or strength workouts. 

Here are some good exercises and routines for conditioning workouts:


High-Intensity Interval Training involves training periods of higher and lower intensity in a short, highly intense workout. The higher intervals usually elevate your heart rate to 80-100% for 30 seconds to a minute, and the lower intensity ones sustain 65-80% of your heart rate for another interval, which might be 30 seconds to 2 minutes.

HIIT is versatile and adaptable for your conditioning level and needs, and can be performed with many types of exercises- most any style of cardio (running, rowing, biking), or any bodyweight or resisted exercises that you can safely sustain for the duration of the interval. A good HIIT workout shouldn’t take more than 10-15 minutes (not including a warm-up and cool-down).

Tabata Method

The Tabata method comprises 20 seconds of maximum effort exercise followed by 10 seconds of rest for eight sets, or a total of 4 minutes. Tabata is essentially a highly concentrated form of HIIT. Being particularly intense, it may not be suitable for all individuals. The intensity may make Tabata less enjoyable and difficult to adhere to, but it is certainly efficient.

Barbell Complexes

A phenomenal complement to strength workouts, barbell complexes build anaerobic conditioning while emphasizing muscular endurance and lift movement patterns. A complex consists of a series of barbell lifts (typically around 5 movements) with no rests. You can perform one rep of each exercise for several rounds, or repeat several reps for one round, then rest for 1-2 minutes. Work your way up to 4 rounds. Perform these with a single barbell loaded with a weight that allows you to correctly execute the lightest exercise. 

Kettlebell Conditioning

Kettlebells are a versatile tool you can use to build intervals and complexes with a variety of movements that emphasize building power, such as kettlebell swings and cleans. Building power throughout your posterior chain can translate to speedier and more efficient explosive movements in your sport.

Functional Conditioning

While all training is technically functional, “functional training” typically refers to exercises that reflect potential real-world circumstances, like sled pushes and pulls, or loaded carries. Sled pushes and pulls are wonderfully simple and fun to perform, and improve speed and stamina. Loaded carries help teach you to brace your core under load, increase your grip strength when performing grip variations, and challenge your cardiovascular system.

These are just a few of the ways you can develop a high level of athletic conditioning. You can tailor your strength and conditioning training programs toward the needs of your sport or training regimen by choosing exercises that emphasize your weak points or cross-train your most important movements. Try programming a few minutes of metabolic conditioning workouts 2-3 times per week to see improved performance in your strength and conditioning.

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