How to Incorporate Unconventional Conditioning to Your Training

Muscle & Fitness

How to Incorporate Unconventional Conditioning to Your Training

Traditional cardiovascular conditioning has its place in all strength and conditioning programs. Whether it be steady-state training or high-intensity interval training on the treadmill, bike, road running, or elliptical, it has excellent heart health and performance benefits.

However, some lifters avoid cardiovascular conditioning like the plague because “traditional” cardio methods bore them to tears. They know they “have to” do it, but can’t face another go around on the treadmill (count me in on being someone who despises typical cardio).

I’d rather go to the dentist and talk about my feelings rather than glide on the elliptical. If this sounds like you, then these unique and effective type of conditioning are for you. We will dive into other tools for your cardio when you’re looking to change things up or bored. We’ll get into how to incorporate these tools into your current programming to reap the cardio benefits without boredom.


Cardio, short for cardiovascular, is an exercise that involves the heart, lungs, and blood vessels. Cardiovascular exercise is any rhythmic activity involving the arms, legs, or both that raises your heart rate. Deoxygenated blood returns to the heart and picks up oxygen from the lungs to send back to your working muscles.

How efficiently this happens and your training intensity determines how high your heart rate goes. Note the words “any rhythmic activity” because road or treadmill running, cycling, stair climbers, and ellipticals are not the only ways to get your heart rate up.


You might be new to these tools or have used them for strength, but when used for conditioning, these unconventional tools will increase your heart rate, improve your conditioning, and burn unwanted fat. The list below is a partial list but one you should more than likely have access to in your gym, or your home, if you are lucky.

  •       Kettlebells
  •       Med Balls
  •       Sleds
  •       Bodyweight/Weighted Vest
  •       Battle ropes

The beauty of almost all of the tools above is that your joints will be spared much of the unwanted pounding you’d normally take on a treadmill or similar machine. There is little eccentric stress on your muscle and joints involved with these tools when used correctly, so you’re not likely to get sore afterward.

Why is this important?

Because this will not cut into your strength training recovery and ability to get stronger. Eccentric muscle contractions are where your gains and soreness come from. And when you can minimize it during your cardio, you’ll get the conditioning benefits without boredom and soreness.


When your goal is strength or muscle-building, it is best to perform your conditioning after your strength training or dedicate a separate day to it. Performing this type of cardio conditioning before your workout will cut into your strength training energy, and the weight you lift may decrease.

To me, having separate conditioning sessions or performing a cardio finisher after your strength training works best for strength and muscle goals while reaping the benefits of cardio. Here are a couple of examples.

Standalone Sessions

Due to the higher intensity nature of this training, the duration will be between 15 to 30 minutes because when intensity increases, time goes down. Use this in place of your typical cardio session between your strength days.

30/30 Training

Here you’ll be alternating between 30 seconds of work and 30 seconds of rest, and the rounds will be 10 minutes long. You’ll do two to three 10-minute rounds for 20-30 minutes. The beauty of this template is that you can substitute any unconventional tool above to increase variety, prevent boredom and work more muscle than just the heart.

  •       30 seconds of kettlebell swings
  •       30 seconds rest
  •       30 seconds of med ball slams
  •       30 seconds rest

Repeat five times for a total of 10 minutes.

Or another example is using a weighted sled and body weight.

  •       30 seconds of a sled push
  •       30 seconds rest
  •       30 seconds of bodyweight squats
  •       30 seconds of rest

Repeat five times for a total of 10 minutes.

For other exercise pairings, you can sub in a battle rope wave variation/kettlebell swings, Battle rope/alternating reverse lunge, or med ball slams and a bodyweight squat variation. Regarding this type of template, you are only limited by your imagination and access to equipment.


Here you’ll choose two unconventional tools (except the sled) and incorporate them into a five-exercise circuit. You’ll get the choice of doing each exercise for reps (8-15 works well) or time (20, 30, or 40-second sets), or a certain amount of reps with a time (8 reps every minute on the minute).

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