High Intensity Conditioning!

Over the last few years I have been experimenting with different approaches/modalities to satisfy and/or meet the needs of this specific group of clients.
After several years of successfully training elite athletes as well as the general fitness population, I have come to realize that EVERYONE is interested in losing body fat! I have also noticed that there is some controversy on the best way of doing so. Most of the research states that to effectively burn body fat you must choose a particular modality (type of cardiovascular exercise) and perform it for at least 20 minutes at a moderate intensity level.

While this certainly holds true for most beginner fitness enthusiasts, I am convinced that there are more efficient ways to reduce body fat for elite athletes and general fitness enthusiasts in "great" cardiovascular shape. Over the last few years I have been experimenting with different approaches/modalities to satisfy and/or meet the needs of this specific group of clients.

High Intensity Conditioning

I have developed a High Intensity Conditioning method that is basically an off-shoot of our strength training philosophy, High Intensity Interval Training (also referred to as H.I.I.T.).

The main concept of H.I.T. is to reach maximal muscular fatigue (the point at which no further repetitions can be completed by the lifter) during every set while trying to maintain proper form and technique. This means taking the primary muscle involved in the exercise to absolute "failure." The same approach can hold true for cardiovascular conditioning. The goal is to work at a higher intensity level to burn more calories in less time (which will equate to more body fat being lost).

What Are Your Goals?
>Lose Fat
>Build Muscle
>Improve Energy

In order for this approach to be effective, it has to be progressive in its overloading process which means that you need to start and an appropriate level and build from there. Once a baseline has been established, you should gradually increase speed, incline, resistance, and/or time as you become better conditioned. The human body has the ability to adapt to any stressor (exercise) placed upon it, which means you have to progressively overload to continue to get results.

If you are on the treadmill walking at 3.5 MPH for 30 minutes, which would probably be beneficial for most beginners in regards to caloric expenditure, cardiovascular conditioning, and burning body fat, but over time you will need to increase the intensity (as your body has adapted to the 3.5 MPH for 30 minutes) to continue to achieve results.

    NOTE: This method of High Intensity Conditioning is meant for those who are in advanced cardiovascular shape and do not have any preexisting cardiovascular conditions that limit their ability to safely exercise.

The goal of High Intensity Conditioning is to keep the heart rate at a higher percentage of your maximal predicted heart rate (75-85% of MPHR). However, in order to do this, you must implement recovery periods in the workout (you can't run at full speed the whole time!). The grid below outlines a sample treadmill workout. The time frame is done minute by minute, while adjusting speed and/or incline to effect heart rate and the Rating of Perceived Exertion (RPE).

Rating of perceived exertion in this model (figure 1) will be done on a scale of 1- 10 (1 - low intensity, 5 - moderate intensity, and 10 - high intensity). Note the progression of intensity involved in the 20-minute workout.

This particular workout was done by one of our elite female soccer players in her third month of her off-season training program.

It was also completed by one of our general fitness clients who had been training with us for 9 months.

Figure 1:

Time (min) Speed Incline Est. HR RPE (1-10)
1 5.0 1.0 120 BPM 2
2 5.5 1.0 125 BPM 2
3 6.0 1.0 129 BPM 3
4 6.5 1.0 134 BPM 4
5 7.0 2.0 141 BPM 5
6 7.5 2.5 147 BPM 6
7 8.0 3.0 156 BPM 7
8 8.5 3.5 165 BPM 7
9 9.0 1.0 172 BPM 8
10 5.0 2.0 162 BPM 7
11 5.0 4.0 166 BPM 7
12 6.0 6.0 171 BPM 8
13 6.0 8.0 178 BPM 9
14 6.0 10.0 179 BPM 9
15 6.5 12.0 183 BPM 10
16 5.0 3.5 166 BPM 6
17 5.0 3.5 166 BPM 6
18 3.5 1.5 144 BPM 3
19 3.5 1.5 144 BPM 3
20 3.0 0 130 BPM 1

Once you have established a baseline intensity level, the next goal is to challenge yourself by manipulating the variables involved: speed, incline, or both. This will result in the increased intensity. Please realize as you get in better cardiovascular condition, the speed and/or incline may be increase but the RPE should either remain the same or decrease.

Also know that High Intensity Conditioning can be performed using modalities other than the treadmill; stationary bike, elliptical, stair stepper, stadium runs, hills and jump rope to name a few.

Another method that I have found to be an effective tool is to set an overall time frame to monitor the workout.

As you see below (figure 2), each consecutive day the time allotted remained constant but the distance traveled increased (thus raising the intensity).

Figure 2:

Day Time Allotted Distance Traveled (est) Avg. HR Avg. RPE (1-10)
1 (Monday) 10 min 5.00 miles 155 BPM 8
2 (Wednesday) 10 min 5.25 miles 160 BPM 9
3 (Friday) 10 min 5.45 miles 162 BPM 9


High Intensity Conditioning emphasizes maximal exertion in cardiovascular training which will burn the same if not more calories in less time than conventional cardiovascular programs.

If implemented appropriately, using the established guidelines that I have set forth, this program should prove to not only be a safe but efficient and effective tool for cardiovascular conditioning and caloric expenditure (fat burning).

Train hard. Train smart! For more info on productive training, please visit www.EliteAthleteTraining.com.