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5 Ways to Work Your Winter Conditioning

It’s so weird to be back up north and suddenly have seasons to deal with – namely, winter. So with that, I figured I would defrost my workouts and write about some off-beat ways to focus on conditioning and still make progress while waiting for the snow to melt.

1. Ropes – Both battle ropes and traditional climbing ropes have always been useful to bust through plateaus no matter what the season. If you’re lucky enough to have access to either of these, make them work for you. Rope rows & pull ups with a traditional climbing rope are awesome variations, especially for the challenge in grip and stability. Using both have helped both my deadlift and my pull up numbers increase noticeably. I also love ending workouts with battle rope sessions because they’re high intensity and completely unforgiving. There is also a lot of variety in terms of work:rest ratios and movements.

2. Valslides – I invested in a pair of these bad boys, and they’ve added some major variations in training. They’re awesome because you can bring them anywhere and they fit into any program. I also love putting plates on them and pushing them across the ground. Normally you can get away with pushing the plates without them, but to avoid tearing up the gym floor/rug, the slides help. Plate pushes are great if you don’t have access to a prowler and/or if space is limited – in fact, they’re actually more challenging since they’re so low to the ground. I sometimes throw a couple of sets of plate pushes in at the end of a session or between exercises to keep my heart rate up. I also love adding the valslides to traditional exercises like reverse lunges, lateral lunges, and core work. They’re great add-ins for super sets, or perfect for circuits.

3. Super sets – Since my main goal has been to keep my strength but not increase body fat, most of my weight training has been using some form of a super set or contrast set method. My main goal with this is to do a strength movement (squat, deadlift, etc) followed by a total body cardio movement. For example: KB goblet squats s/s tuck jumps or OH bulgarians s/s snatch jacks. They keep your heart rate going the entire session, and you’re wiped out after 30-40 minutes. Amazing.

4. Treadmill pushes – Use with caution because I’m sure they tear up the machine, but again, if you don’t have access to a prowler, running against the resistance of the treadmill when it isn’t on is FIERCE. It’s a killer interval workout when you can’t get outside – I love running intervals and then finishing with some pushes to absolutely smoke a conditioning session. I typically go about 10-15 seconds on, 30 seconds off for 5-8 reps. I’ve also been experimenting with sprints on the treadmill using an incline of 10 & high speed running for 20 sec on, 40 sec off.

5. Jacobs Ladder- I know they’re not available in every gym, but if you have one, give it a shot. It’s perfect for intervals, and it is MUCH harder than it seems at first. I like the fact that it is a manually controlled total body movement that keeps track of your pace along with the time. Try to hit the same pace each time and mess around with different work/rest ratios (sometimes I just do a simple 1 minute on, 1 minute off, or 1 minute on, 30 sec off for example). It’s just something different from the same old stuff and it is fairly easy on the joints. All good things.

My favorite sprints

Just finished a chaotic but awesome week of practice with the lacrosse team.  I finally have all the girls back from their various other sports, and we are preparing for our first game next Tuesday (wish us luck!).  I should also start a book with all the things they say, because it is solid gold…but that’s another day 😉

Anyway, this will be a brief post, but last week I talked about barbell complexes and their awesomeness in the conditioning department.  Continuing with that theme, I want to share one of my favorite conditioning “drills” that I’ve used for the past few years as a staple in my own training, and also for the teams I coach.  Its hard as hell, replicated almost anywhere (treadmill/bike/field) and yields fantastic results. Drum roll please….

 

120’s.

These bad boys are full field sprints combined with active recovery.  A standard soccer field/football field/lacrosse field is 120 yards in length (if you run from back of the endzone to back of the endzone).  The goal is to sprint from one end to the other as fast as possible (usually in 15-20 seconds).  Then you take the rest of the minute to get back to the start.  As soon as the time is up, you go again.  The trick is to get back as quick as possible so you have time to “rest” but you really end up moving continuously for the entire duration.  Like I said, you can replicate it anywhere just by using the 20:40 work:rest ratio, but the sprint variation is the best.  If you want to try it on a track, use the straightaway and just go back and forth.

A standard women's lacrosse field!

I keep my reps between 5-8, which might seem surprisingly low, but there’s a method to the madness.  I’m really familiar with how challenging these are, and 5 is a good starting goal.  I progress with reps as long as a change in speed is still possible.  If the clock catches up to you and you’re not sprinting anymore, the drill is over.  I’m also very conscious of how fast that sprint is.  Most of the time, the first 2-3 will be consistent at 15-17 seconds, but as soon as it starts to drop to 25-30 seconds, I make a note of it and know what to look for next time.  I’ve seen most people try to get kids to do 10, 12, even 15 – which is definitely achievable – but you have to watch the clock.  Finishing all of those is one thing, but I’m more about the quality of the sprint than the quantity.

Like I mentioned, these create a15-20s work:40s recovery interval – and I’m a huge fan of it. Without getting too much into “training zones” and heart rates and all that, I’m just going to share some simple observations.  High school kids (especially girls) notoriously go on long runs and prefer distance over sprinting.  They rarely do any high intensity work that will force them to improve their buffering capacity (outside of the sports they play).  Knowing this, and using 120’s in combination with the other work they do, I see HUGE improvements in their game endurance.  It is also very sport specific for activities like soccer and lacrosse – ESPECIALLY for midfielders who literally need to have the ability to sprint from sideline to sideline multiple times a game.

The girls ran their first 120s this week (and loved them, by the way – haha, ok, not really).  I used it as a test to see where they’re at… Most of them did well – and a few actually impressed me.  They’ll continue to perform them at least once a week (depending on our game schedule) throughout the season and we’ll see how they improve.  I’d like to see us get to 8 pretty consistently, but we’ll see!

Do you guys have any conditioning drills/workouts that are staples in your programs? What interval (work/rest ratio) do you like to use?