Have you ever heard someone call themselves “deconditioned”? Usually, when someone is referred to as deconditioned, they are out of shape. If you struggle to catch your breath after a set of squats or stairs, it may be time to improve your body conditioning.

Conditioning workouts are one way to solve that. Conditioning workouts will increase your heart rate and build endurance for better athletic performance or recovery from your set of barbell squats. A conditioning workout routine could combine cardio, full-body dumbbell exercises, or getting after it in the great outdoors.

Being better conditioned will help you recover faster between reps, sets, and strength training sessions, reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease, and burn unwanted fat. Here, we’ll examine the slight differences between cardio and conditioning and three factors to consider for your body conditioning workouts.

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The Difference Between Cardio and Conditioning

Cardio and conditioning. These words are generally used interchangeably and are thought to mean the same thing, but the difference between the two could be the missing link regarding your gains.

Cardiovascular fitness is usually considered general fitness and is performed to maintain a decent level of health and wellness. Some examples are running on the treadmill for 30 minutes or swimming a few laps in the pool. There is no goal in mind, and the focus is on quality of life and general health and fitness. There is nothing wrong with this, as most people could do with more cardiovascular endurance.

Conditioning workouts are workouts performed with a purpose. This purpose could be performance-based or body-composition-focused and generally associated with improved performance. Conditioning workouts improve performance, usually related to fitness tests, sports, and competition. Conditioning workouts include jump rope, sprint repeats, agility drills, plyometric/power workouts, and HIIT workouts.

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Benefits Of Improving Your Body Conditioning

Besides being fun? Because working up a sweat and feeling your lungs burning is a blast, right? Here are a few vital reasons why improving your conditioning is essential.

Reduced Injury Risk And Improved Recovery

If you’re fatigued, whether it be after a set of squats or chasing down an opponent, you are less likely to get hurt if you need to do it again if you’re better conditioned. A Clinical Journal of Sports Medicine study found that most hockey injuries occur toward the end of each period and at the end of games. Better conditioning improves your work capacity to play at a higher level longer or crush that last set of squats.

Better Coordination

Coordination means to be unified. When someone is coordinated, they can get their muscles and body to work in sync. The word comes from the Latin prefix “together” and ordinare, meaning “order.” A 2015 Journal of Sports Science and Medicine study found that young soccer players who performed jump rope improved their running and dribbling than those who stuck to soccer-specific drills. The researchers suggested jump roping is an excellent method to improve balance and motor coordination.

Better Hypertrophy and Fat-Burning Potential

It seems conditioning workouts will only improve your fat-burning potential but can help build muscle when used with strength training. A 2010 study suggested that high-intensity interval exercises “bring about significant skeletal muscle adaptation.” More muscle also means more fat burn, but by performing conditioning workouts, you’ll increase your chances even further, according to the same study.

Muscular fit man performing a bodyweight band workout with a banded should rotations exercises

Three Body Conditioning Factors To Consider

Now you know the difference between cardio and conditioning and the benefits of improved conditioning. Here are three factors to consider when it comes to improving your conditioning. Mike T. Nelson, Ph.D., metabolism fitness professional, and strength coach, brings these factors to you. He knows one thing or three about conditioning. Take it away, Mike.

Actual Output

“ One of the top factors to consider when doing conditioning is the actual output of the session. Almost any cardio device will give this to you on the display. If you are using a concept 2 rower, it will show you the average watts of the session, the bike will show distance and pace, etc. This is key to tracking just like you would track the output of your strength session by logging how much weight you lifted for the number of reps and sets. Over time, you want to see your output improving as this ensures your body adapts to the stimulus.” explains Nelson.

Manage Your Stress And Recovery

“Another factor is the “cost” of what you did since your output is not free. This could be the average heart rate during the conditioning exercise – which is easy to do now with smart watches and chest straps. You could also measure the Rating of Perceived Exertion (RPE) on a 1-10 scale, or even the stress placed on your system via an AM heart rate variability (HRV) measure – which tells you if you the stress on your nervous system.” says Nelson.

If it feels harder than it should, or if there is a sharp decline in your HRV, it’s time to wind it back and take a break.


“ The last factor is the frequency – aka how often you do it. The more intense the conditioning, the less frequent you can do it. If you do rounds of brutal high-output Wingates – where you go as hard as possible on a rower or bike for 20-30 seconds, then rest- you will not be able to do this day in and day out and keep the same output. If you are doing an easy Zone 2 cardio where you could have a conversation while doing it, you can do that three times a week easily.”