Michael Adams
Michael Adams

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So in the end, all the strength and explosiveness does us no good if we can’t stay in the game long enough to put use to it. The exact type of conditioning you need to achieve this, depends on what it is you are competing in, or what your daily life demands.

Football / Hockey / Rugby, are examples of high explosive force, low duration endurance sports. Short plays, lots of action.

Baseball / Soccer are examples of long duration sports, that require spurts of explosive force.

MMA, and other combat sports are a unique mixture of these effects. Your striking power, power to win a fight comes from explosive force development, however you need great stamina it stay in a fight long enough to win it.

So lets talk about how we condition. We need to understand energy systems first.

  • ATP-CP this is your max effort system, it lasts approximately 10 seconds. Used in extreme energy demands, like 1 rep max attempts, sprints, and engagements in martial combat. This takes 5 to 10 minutes to recover.
  • Anaerobic, this is your high-energy demand system. Not quite maximal, but enough that it’s very taxing. In trained individuals this lasts about 3 minutes. Anaerobic means “Without Oxygen” meaning you can go beyond your capacity to breath for this duration. This takes about 2-5 minutes to recover.
  • Aerobic, this is your long endurance system. It can last for hours in trained individuals. It has a very fast recovery. Aerobic means, with oxygen, so long as you can intake enough oxygen, in theory it can continue to operate.
  • Fatty Acid, this your resting system. It can run so long as there is fatty acid in the body. It requires a lot of oxygen, and a lot of time to work, so you need to have a low energy demand for it to be in operation.

With conditioning, the first thing we want to do is develop a large Aerobic base. This means lots of walking. An hour or so every day. This is also a great way to recover from the strength training parts of your programs. When first developing strength, this is the most conditioning I would consider doing. That strength is harder to gain then the conditioning so focus on it first.

Stage 2 of conditioning comes after your initial novice progression of strength. Now you are strong enough to create new challenges. Now you can begin training the anaerobic system through resistance based cardio. These are things like sprint training, hill sprints, sled push and pulls, farmer carries, Yoke carries. This is where you create the monster. This should be done at the end of work out routines, or on its own separate day. A good place to start, is take a prowler or sled (prowler is better), and load your body weight onto it in plates. Push it 40 yards, 10 times, in 15 minutes. You will most likely fail this the first time out, but over time you will be able to do it. This will improve your GPP (General Physical Preparedness). Having a strong anaerobic base built up, will ensure you don’t run out of energy, and ability to return to form during competition.


Stage 3 of your conditioning is dialing it in to exactly your need in your sport. Hockey players, and other high explosive athletes need to make sure hey can exert near maximal effort for short durations (30 to 60s) then recover quickly for the next shift. In terms of HEMA, our matches last between 60’s to 120’s normally. With on average each engagement lasting 5-7s, this means we need to engage massive energy demands, and then recover fast for the next one. This known as competition prep. So for this you start training in a simulated situation. For HEMA athletes, this could mean prowler springs, with 30 seconds between sprints, for 2 to 3 minutes then break. This of course is just an example. In an average tournament day you could have 20 bouts, so you would work up to being able to do 20 rounds. This will be very very demanding, and should only be done 4 to 6 weeks out from a tournament day. With at least 1 week break before tournament day.