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When was the last time you trained like an athlete? Or, for that matter, looked like one? For a great many reading (and the one writing) this, the answer lies somewhere a decade or more in the past when catching, running, throwing, tackling and sprinting were par for the course most days of the week. Your days on the field or court over, most simply retreat to the comforts of the weight room, toggling the switch to maintenance mode. But lifting for lifting’s sake isn’t exactly as inspiring as hardcore conditioning that builds shredded muscle and goal-line strength. It’s time to get back to building physiques that are as much “go” as they are “show.”
It used to be that we strength coaches were challenging our athletes to make it through a game being as strong and fast at the final whistle as they were at the first. To do so, we implemented variations of hard-core weightlifting and active-rest programs. One of my very favorites, the appropriately titled Lactic Acid Bath, was used to help athletes learn tolerate fatigue and work through it. It was based on non-stop activity, using high-intensity active rest periods in between the actual weight-training exercises. As we found, most seasoned athletes still struggled to make it through three full rounds of the following program without slowing down, using super-light weight, or tossing cookies.
This program works, because it requires strength and endurance. But more importantly, this workout requires a relentless work ethic that reawakens your inner athlete—the one bent on winning at all costs.
Combining traditional weight-room moves with bouts of high-intensity cardio activity—let’s call it “active rest”—helps you to get ripped in a hurry. The resistance moves create the stimulus for growth and strength gains while the cardio work coaxes your body’s engine to burn more fuel (read: glycogen) and fat. The “bath” comes in the burn as your body works to process all the lactic acid that builds up as a result of the workout’s unrelenting pace. Don’t worry—his process becomes more efficient with time.
This workout is performed for time. Lesser conditioned athletes may want to strive for a single sprint through this circuit, marking their time and striving to beat it on the next attempt. If you are a bit more experienced, you should aim for three passes through the circuit, sans rest.
Use these execution tips to get the most out of this conditioning gauntlet.
If a machine is available for any particular move, such as the bench press or curl, use it. Fatigue will come up out of nowhere and hit you like a ton of bricks. The use of machines allows you to continue training safely through a fixed range of motion. Just set the resistance as quickly as possible at each station so as not to waste much time.
Make sure you have access to the correct machine or place to do the “aerobic” component between sets of your weight training exercises. Nothing worse than getting slowed down by someone who has jumped on to your equipment. Slower gym times are ideal for this reason.
Choose a weight that brings about failure at or just before 12 reps. If you’re getting 12 easily, go heavier next time through.
There is no break in between exercises. You may rest for no more than 4-5 minutes—ideally, less—after each circuit. Rest longer and you run the risk of your muscles cooling. To combat this, stay active during your break, either by walking or riding an exercise bike on very low resistance.
If it takes you longer than 30 seconds to transition to any move, adjust your workout order or find like substitutions that allow you to stay efficient.
If you can do this with 4 circuits all under 17 total minutes of work, then you are in rare-air.