Full Body X Conditioning: A Smarter Way To Train For The Experienced Trainee

Dec 06, 2023

 The style of training you’re used to is no longer serving you. Here’s why you need a blend of full-body strength training with aerobic development to get you to where you want to go.

Here’s what you need to know:

  • Aerobic Conditioning is low-hanging fruit for everyone. Yes, everyone as conditioning builds the foundation for all things to come such as recovery between sessions, after training sessions, and most importantly how long you live/handle stress. No program should be devoid of conditioning. Period.
  • Considering the daily postures of people in seated positions while staring at their iPhones, people don’t need to do more sitting in strength training. They need more activities to counteract positions of adduction and internal rotation. 
  • Having flexibility with one's training allows for better bang-for-the-buck in each session - full body strength training is a great fit for this as you can cover all of your bases in 3 strength sessions per week vs. a standard body-part split.
  • I’ve included two training options - home gym and a commercial gym. Both templates have conditioning but commit to at least 2 conditioning sessions per week, even if that means performing one less strength session.

Benefits Of Full Body Training (FBT)

FBT sessions encompass training all 5 foundational movements (squat or single leg, hinge, press, pull) in each session so your sessions are incredibly efficient and effective.

FBT is great for people who want to:

  • Maximize their time. If you get busy at different times of the year you need a training plan that is flexible, not rigid.
  • Improve mobility. You’ll be training all of the foundational movements in each session so you’ll be consistently improving overall mobility.
  • Improve body composition. More frequency will allow for improved lagging muscle groups.
  • Clean up nagging aches & pains. FBT sessions are great for cleaning up faulty movement patterns.
  • Have fun! What a novel idea it is to actually enjoy your training sessions. FBT sessions will make you feel like you are accomplished and are more fun than a traditional body-part split.
  • Counteract daily postures with more exposure to the foundational patterns. It’s no mystery that we spend way too much time sitting or on our iPhones. 

Why You Should Prioritize Aerobic Conditioning The Same Way You Do Strength Work

I'm a huge proponent of using aerobic work to bridge the gap between your main strength sessions - there are multiple studies that show that the right doses of aerobic training can actually improve strength & hypertrophy gains (PMC6315763.) This has cascade effects such as improving recoverability, work capacity, and keeping stress levels at bay (improving your ability to handle stress over time.)

If you have better aerobic fitness your ability to bring more oxygen and nutrients to skeletal muscle (we develop more capillaries which are like having more roads to reach more surface area) will be higher.

Recovery and repair need oxygen and nutrients to fuel that process. Someone who has more roads can cover more ground faster and improve the whole muscle function.

More aerobic fitness also means more mitochondria and therefore more factories to process the oxygen to generate more energy for repair.

“Lifting weights faster” does not replace aerobic conditioning. Here’s why:

The adaptations in the heart are not the same - lifting weights thickens cavity walls whereas cyclical work (running, rowing, biking ect) in the 60-70% (Zone 2) of max heart-rate stretches cavity walls.

Another thing to note is that to maintain the same level of cardiac output (a product of heart rate and stroke volume which is an important element when improving aerobic fitness) by lifting weights faster for longer durations is simply not sustainable - a key component to getting the most from your aerobic work is that it is somewhat easy and a pace you could sustain for longer durations.

Lastly, when lifting weights, blood pressure rises to maintain muscular contractions. This reduces stroke volume and therefore restricts venous return (blood back to the heart.) This results in your heart rate increasing which inhibits “stretching” (eccentric hypertrophy in the image shown) and takes away from the results we are going after.

Can you improve qualities like strength and endurance with things like complexes, sure, but the intent takes precedence and if your goal is to improve recovery, work capacity, and how long you live (yea, that’s a big one), then devote time to aerobic conditioning.

What does the programming look like?

There are many directions you can take here, but here’s one way I’ve found works well:

  • Prioritizing one main strength lifts each day (3 total strength sessions) 
  • Utilizing tried & true aerobic methods to bridge the gap between strength sessions (2-3 sessions per week)
  • Use 4 exercise circuits if you train from home. These allow for longer bouts of recovery as you’ll have rested 3:00 - 4:00 before returning to the first movement but are incredibly time efficient. This is a strategy I learned from Dr. Chad Waterbury.
  • If training at a commercial gym you’ll bias using straight sets with one exercise at a time as circuits will likely be off the table there.
  • Your mixed aerobic conditioning sessions should be executed in Zone 2 ie. 60-70% of max heart rate. This won’t feel hard it should easy and be conversational. This is the range we incur more adaptations specifically in the heart.

A caveat to the above recommendations though: there are many ways to skin the cat with FBT, but where you train will certainly influence how these sessions are structured. For instance, if you train at a commercial gym you’re going to want to use straight sets with one movement at a time whereas if you train from home using circuits will allow you to maximize efficiency and how a greater impact on improving work capacity whereas straight sets are better for someone that wants to focus on building strength - I’ll provide examples of both.

 

Full Sample Session that encompasses a row, press, hinge, and squat:

Home Gym:

1a. Head Supported Rows: 5 x 8. Rest 20s.
1b. Floor Press: 5 x 8. Rest 20s.
1c. Single Arm KB Swings: 5 x 8 each. Rest 20s.
1d. Cossack Squat: 5 x 8 each. Rest 2-3:00
2. KB Rope Curls: 3 x 8. Rest 60s.

Commercial Gym:

1. Head Supported Rows: 4 x 10-12. Rest 90s.
2. Floor Press: Build to a heavy 8 in 4 sets. Rest 2-3:00.
3. Single Arm KB Swings: 4 x 8-10 each. Rest 60s.
4a. Cossack Squat: 3 x 8-10 each. Rest 60s.
4b. KB Rope Curls: 3 x 8. Rest 60s.

Sample Mixed Aerobic Session

5 Rounds of:
100 Ft. OH Carry on right side
20 Calorie Ski Erg
100 Ft. OH Carry on left side
15 Calorie Air Bike
10 Kettlebell Snatch each side
Rest 60s between rounds.

Closing

Start using a training split that aligns with your goals, needs, and lifestyle. If I were to run into 10 people on the street, 8 of them would be a good fit for FBT whereas 1-2 would be a good fit for body-part split - the law averages favor FBT! A major consideration here though is to prioritize your aerobic conditioning. This work will likely have the biggest overall impact on the results you get.