3 Conditioning Workouts to Check Your… Conditioning.

Quick Tips


One of my favorite things to do when I am training in a commercial gym is to use machines for everything but what they are intended to be used for.

Take the infamous Smith Machine for example.  I have never performed a Smith Machine specific exercise on this piece of equipment, and I never will.

The Smith Machine

The $2,000 “coat rack”

Why?  Because…

1)  I am an able bodied individual and should therefore be working with free weights.

2)  I value moving the through a natural range of motion with and without external resistance. (Smith machine is guided on tracks)

Squats, lunges, curling (I don’t even know how this would work) rowing are not for the Smith Machine, assuming you are an able bodied individual.  A Smith Machine to me is a glorified Nautilus machine.  They make great coat racks and leaning stations for recovering trainees in most gyms.

However, I have used the Smith Machine to execute movements such as:

  • Inverted rows (2 arm and 1 arm)
  • Plyo-like Bench Throws
  • Lateral torso holds
  • 1-Arm Push-Up progressions
  • Mountain climber progressions
  • Hip mobility warm ups

I may have to whip up a post about how to leverage a Smith Machine for executing different movements, we’ll see.

But whatever, this post wasn’t intended to bash Smith Machines.

The goal here was to provide you with some non-traditional ways to use some common pieces of equipment.


 Screen Shot 2013-03-26 at 1.36.00 PM

Better use of treadmills… Incline + MPH

—> Treadmill Hill Sprints:

  • Set the speed of the treadmill to 8-10mph.
  • Set the incline to 8-10 degree of inclination.
  • Sprint for 15 seconds, step off and rest for 15 seconds (this equals 1 round)
  • Perform 10-12 rounds.

Screen Shot 2013-03-26 at 1.36.23 PM

The greatest low impact conditioning tool of all time.

—>  Stationary Bike 20:10 Protocol (I will not refer to it as the Tabata Protocol!)

  • Set the bike to medium resistance (you should be able to pedal around 90-100 rpm)
  • Spin as hard as possible for 20 seconds, follow that will 10 seconds of rest (this is one round)
  • Complete 8 total rounds and check fatigue levels.
  • If you have more in the tank, complete another 8 rounds or modify as needed.
  • *** I have commonly modified this type of workout to 6 rounds x 2-3 sets with 2 minutes rest in between.
  • Stay seated the entire time.


—>  5 Mile Ride for Time

I have talked about this conditioning test before on this site, somewhere, but it deserves to be talked about again.  Here are the specs on this challenge:

  • Ideally you’ll use a Schwinn Airdyne, but you can use any other stationary bike in a pinch.  Make sure that the bike has a mileage gauge on it, otherwise you won’t know when you’ve completed the 5 miles.
  • Set to light-medium resistance… and GO.
  • Again.. pedal pedal pedal and keep pedaling.  There isn’t much else to say here.
  • Chart the time that it takes to ride the full 5 miles, record it, attempt to beat it the next time around.
  • *** On the big fan Airdyne, my best is 11min30sec.  It was a bear.  I think my friend and fellow strength coach Joe Gorshe (Bemidji State Hockey) finished around 12:15-12:30min if I am not mistaken.


—>  Kettlebell Swing Breath Ladder

  • Grab a kettlebell that you know you can swing for at least 20 reps.  
  • Match the number of swings with the number of breaths for each round.
  • Set the kettlebell down after each round of swings and take an equal number of breaths.
  • Begin the next round of swings once you finish your breathing reps.
  • ***  This is high volume swinging, but shifting focus to calming your breathing really slows things down nicely
  • Focus on your swing technique.  Move from hips, stay tall and rigid at the top of the swing.

Kettlebell Swing Breath Ladder



—>  Closing thoughts…

A couple of these methods incorporate interval style training.  Go hard during the work sets of an interval training session.  Rest is coming don’t you worry, but go hard when it is time to work.

Always wear a heart rate monitor if you can.  It’s a great way to gauge your efforts and your ability to recover from those intense efforts.  It also keeps you honest during your training sessions.  Monitor your progress, how long it takes to recover, how high your heart rate reaches during each work set, etc.  You can learn a lot about your conditioning levels/progress by checking keeping an eye on this information.

On the treadmill conditioning workout, remember that the incline of the treadmill is going to require that you drive your knees all the way through with each stride.  If you get lazy, even just for one stride, you could catch your toe on the belt of the treadmill and get spit off and look ridiculous.  Avoid this.  Drive your knees, drive your arms, extends you hips with each powerful stride.

Use your head during these training sessions.  Don’t be afraid to scale the intensity down to suit your needs.  There is no shame in that.  It’s a process, you’ll get there.  If you have questions on how to go about doing this, just ask… I will field any and all questions…


Cheers to building up your conditioning!



*** Coming up next:  The next Saga in the Coach Hacker series…***


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