The High Intensity, Low Impact Solution

I am very adamant about my distaste for mundane cardiovascular training.

For the better part of the last five years, I have devoted myself to competing as a mixed martial artist, and all the hard, but very fulfilling, work that this lifestyle entails.

In the last year, many changes have occurred in my life—namely the closing of the gym I trained at for years, a move to Chicago, and a new, extended commute to continue my undergraduate studies at the University of Wisconsin—Parkside.

Due to the demand of my schedule and nomadic lifestyle, I have had to take a step back from actively competing for the time being; however, this time away has not deterred me from staying physically active—it has just shifted my immediate goals.

While my intense schedule prevents me from training martial arts twice a day, six days a week, like I had long grown accustomed to, I can still hone and expand my technique when I do get to train, and I have found a renewed interest in strength training and general fitness as a means to stay in shape and have fun.

Unfortunately, along with my renewed fire to get in the weight room, I was hit with an old reminder— the cardio most people do alongside weight-training is still really boring!

As a solution to this problem, I began incorporating shorter duration, higher intensity cardio sessions into my workout regimen. I outlined this method in my article, “Less is More: Short Metabolic Blasts for Fat Loss and Conditioning.”

While I love this style of cardiovascular training, as it comes closest to mimicking the high intensity of the sparring sessions I miss so dearly, I had also begun to notice that this level of intensity, particularly sprinting, was pretty taxing on my ham strings and knees, when coupled with the heavier lower body lifts I was doing throughout the week.

I found myself in a rut, because while I certainly did not want to bore myself to death with extended slow-paced cardio sessions on the exercise bike or treadmill, I also did not want to compromise my ability to make gains in the weight room, and risk injury.

I have found my solution by revisiting a conditioning workout I utilized in preparation for a fight back in November of 2009.

I would hit this workout during my breaks on campus, and coupled with the intense practices alongside my teammates at Agallar Combative Systems, I was able to get in incredible shape, and earn a dominating first round stoppage in my fight.

The Workout-

This workout incorporates both aerobic and anaerobic conditioning, which allows for the development of both facets of sports-specific endurance, explosive power, and most importantly, proper recovery to prevent injury.

The workout is divided into five minute durations of work on the elliptical machine, and five minutes of circuit-style, generally lighter weight, strength training and calisthenics.

The duration spent on the elliptical machine should be at moderate intensity, roughly 75% of your maximum heart rate—I generally shoot to burn between 12-14 calories per minute during this portion of the routine, but the important thing is finding a level that is going to keep you active without overly taxing your joints and nervous system, and that will also allow you to recover for the anaerobic portion of the routine—this could mean using a lower or higher intensity than what works for me.

The weight training/calisthenics portion of the routine can be done either circuit-style in 30 second durations, or in super-sets, with slightly heavier weight, emphasizing a set number of repetitions rather than a specific duration of time. Both variations are highlighted below.

As with any training, this workout can be tweaked to your liking, and if you do wish to incorporate it into your routine, I highly recommend experimenting and finding what works best for you.

I have highlighted the routine that I was utilizing in preparation for my fight in 2009, as well as a slightly tweaked version of the workout I have been using for my current exercise routine.

Sample 1-

This is a close replication of the conditioning workout I used in preparation for my fight.

Round One:

  • Five Minutes of Elliptical Work at Roughly 75% of Your Max. HRPM

Round Two:

  • Push Ups: 30 seconds
  • Body-Weight Squats:  30 seconds
  • Abdominal Leg-Raises: 30 seconds
  • Jumping Jacks: 30 seconds
  • Burpees: 30 seconds

Repeat everything twice, without rest, for a total of five minutes.

Round Three:

  • Five Minutes of Elliptical Work at Roughly 75% of Your Max. HRPM

Round Four:

  • Dumbbell Military-Press- 30 seconds
  • Bent-Over Dumbbell Rows: 30 seconds
  • Core Ball Crunches: 30 seconds
  • Pec-Fly: 30 seconds
  • Stiff-Leg Deadlift w/ Unloaded-Barbell: 30 seconds

Repeat everything twice, without rest, for a total of five minutes

Round Five:

  • Five Minutes of Elliptical Work at Roughly 75% of Your Max. HRPM

Round Six:

  • Jumping Squats: 30 seconds
  • Medicine Ball Throws: 30 seconds
  • Oblique work: 30 seconds
  • Pull-Ups: 30 seconds
  • Medicine Ball Push-Ups: 30 seconds

Repeat everything twice, without rest, for a total of five minutes.

Round Seven:

  • Five Minutes of Elliptical Work at Roughly 75% of Your Max. HRPM

Round Eight:

  • Push-Presses w/ Barbell: 30 seconds
  • Bent-Over Row w/Barbell: 30 seconds
  • Russian Twists w/ Medicine Ball (Core Work): 30 seconds
  • Bodyweight Dips: 30 seconds
  • Over-Head Squats w/ Barbell: 30 seconds

Repeat everything twice, without rest, for a total of five minutes.

Cool down and stretch.

Sample Two-

This is the workout I have been using lately. I enjoy it because I am able to train my arms while still getting a good cardiovascular workout—saving time and energy on the other days I am focusing on my larger compound lifts, or training MMA.

While some bodybuilding purists may not advise this style of training specifically for muscle growth, I have seen great results following this formula, and I also personally believe that arms should be targeted in a more supplementary fashion, because they are already involved in essentially every other major, compound lift: You are never going to get big by just doing curls all day!

This routine utilizes super setting. Super setting is done by completing a set number of repetitions with one exercise, and immediately following that set with a different exercise without resting. This is a great way to overload your muscles into growth, get a great “pump,” and a fun way to get anaerobic conditioning through the fast-paced, demanding workload.

Round One:

  • Superset 10-12 reps of Hammer Curls w/ 10-12 Reps of Overhead Tricep Presses (“Skull Crushers”)

Rest no longer than one minute between this superset, and repeat for a total of three sets.

Round Two:

  • Five Minutes of Elliptical Work at Roughly 75% of Your Max. HRPM

Round Three:

  • Superset 10-12 reps of Ez-Bar Curls w/ 10-12 Reps of Tricep Pushdowns w/ Rope.

Rest no longer than one minute between this superset, and repeat for a total of three sets.

Round Four:

  • Five Minutes of Elliptical Work at Roughly 75% of Your Max. HRPM

Round Five:

  • Superset 10-12 reps of Preacher Curls w/ 10-12 Reps of Laying Tricep Extensions.

Rest no longer than one minute between this superset, and repeat for a total of three sets.

Round Six:

  • Ten Minutes of Elliptical Work at Roughly 75% of Max. HRPM

Complete workout with ten to fifteen minutes of core work if desired.

Cool down and stretch.

Regardless of where life takes me, I know that I always want to be in great shape, tackling new challenges, and having as much fun as possible in the process! These routines have worked great for me, and I hope you enjoy them, too! 


Sunwarrior

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