I just want to share a quick thought on “conditioning,” or broadly speaking “endurance training,” for sports and activities that have some level of speed, strength, and/or power demands.  In particular I work with a lot of Jiu Jitsu athletes, but this concept would also be largely applicable for everything from law enforcement to football players.

I think one thing that people really miss is that for these types of activities there is a minimum acceptable amount of strength/speed/power you need to be effective.  Let’s use a wide receiver in football as an example.  In order to be effective in a game, let’s say he needs to be able to run a 4.8 sec 40 yard dash.  If he is any slower than that, he isn’t able to run his routes effectively or create separation from the defense to be open for passes.

We certainly expect that over the course of a game he will get fatigued and be slower in the 4th quarter than in the 1st.  If our receiver runs a 4.6 second 40 when he is fresh, then he can still be effective even with some fatigue, as long as it doesn’t slow him down past a 4.8 time.  In this case, it makes sense to use an appropriate conditioning program to help him keep his speed at 4.8 or better over the course of the game.

The problem comes when you can’t yet meet that minimum even when fresh, but instead of training to get there, you focus on endurance training instead.  If our receiver runs a 5.0 as his best time, then it doesn’t matter what he runs in the 4th quarter because he’ll be doing it from the bench.  His training needs to prioritize getting his time down to a 4.8 at all before he worries about conditioning to do it repeatedly.  If he is only running a 5.0 as his best time, he is not effective AT ALL, let alone in the 4th quarter.

Let’s look at another example.  Let’s say you are an MMA fighter and want to be sure that you have knock out power in the final round of your fight.  First, you need to be sure that you have KO power to begin with, and only once that is established should you worry about keeping it over the course of the whole fight.  If you lack KO power from the get go, and your technique is sharp and is not the limiting factor, then you need to get stronger and more powerful before you can even start thinking about knocking out your opponent.  Once you have your punching power where it needs to be, only then should you start worrying about training to keep it into the final round.

The take home message is to figure out what minimum levels you need for the sport or activity of your choice and train to: #1) get there at all, then #2) be able to do it repeatedly and in a fatigued state.  Don’t put the cart before the horse and train for #2 without being able to do #1 first, otherwise you’ll just be spinning your wheels wondering why you’re not getting anywhere.

– Tony Gracia | Co-Founder / Head Coach @industrialstrengthgym