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The IMPACT! Body Plan

Conditioning Know How

By Chad Zimmerman (as appeared in STACK Magazine, March 2006)

Todd Durkin, founder of Fitness Quest 10, two-time personal trainer of the year, and performance coach to LaDainian Tomlinson, Drew Brees and many other NFL greats, knows conditioning is a crucial part of an athletes training plan. Although many athletes may not be aware, there is a science to conditioning and guidelines any athlete playing a fast-pace and intense sport should use when conditioning for their sport. Durkin throws down some advice on anaerobic conditioning, the type of conditioning all football, baseball, volleyball, track, soccer and basketball athletes should use when preparing for the season.

Condition with a purpose
A plan should dictate your conditioning. You should avoid consistently just throwing some arbitrary conditioning drills at the end of a workout and running it until you turn red. Determine the number of reps and sets before the drill and complete each at 100% effort.

Conditioning should also be specific to the demands of your sport. If there are four quarters, conditioning should mimic the feel you will face under pressure. In the first quarter, everything is easy and flowing. In the second and third quarter is where skill is essential and conditioning allows you to perform your skills. It is the end of the game (the fourth quarter or 2nd half or 9th inning) where champions are made. Conditioning to dominate at the end of a game is critical. If you tire physically, you get mentally weak and start to make critical errors. Likewise, you get sloppy physically and don’t hustle the way it takes to maximize performance.

Rest time is important
If you don’t have enough rest between reps, sets and drills, some negative things can happen:
1. You can’t maximize fast-twitch muscle recruitment due to fatigue so you won’t become faster
2. You can over-stimulate the nervous system which can produce bad running form
3. You can get sick and puke due to lactic acid build-up. A 1:6 work:rest ratio in the early phases of a training program is a good start. As you progress and get closer to season, you will typically condition at a 1:2 or 1:3 work:rest ratio. Also, use a heart rate monitor to determine when you’re ready for the next set.

Train and condition using agility

Agility is king when it comes to sport conditioning. If your sport incorporates change of direction, train that way. Many people think of conditioning as just running wind-sprints at the end of practice. I believe that running sprints are great but that you must incorporate agility/change of direction in there as well.

Train in the Zone

Anaerobic conditioning is performing high intensity, short duration activities where you are typically at 50-85% of your maximum heart rate for no more than 3 minutes. In the first 10 seconds of an activity, creatine phosphate and ATP are burned. Then glucose and glycogen are burned. This can last between 1-3 minutes depending on the condition of the athlete. Lactic acid than builds up and rapid fatigue takes place. The better shape you are in, the longer you can train at a higher intensity before hitting lactate threshold.

Lactate threshold
To improve your lactate threshold, you must train in the 50-85% heart rate zone. One of the easiest ways to measure this is by wearing a heart rate monitor. If you are above your zone, you will eventually have too much lactic acid built up in the system. Muscles will become inhibited, performance will diminish, and you will get sick. There is a fine line of training in that zone and passing it so monitor it closely.

Puking isn’t a good thing
Conditioning until you puke is not smart. It inevitably happens when you push yourself beyond your comfort level because you don’t know when enough is enough. Many people push until they puke but you accomplish nothing positive by doing so. Puking is a sign that you did not have enough rest time to recover from the anaerobic activity. You were above your 85% heart rate zone for too long and lactic acid built up in the blood. Puking is the body’s signal saying that too much lactic acid has been produced and now it’s time to get rid of it. If you feel sick and nauseous, give yourself time to recover or reduce your intensity. If you get sick and vomit, it is best to end your conditioning.

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