15 Strength and Conditioning Workouts to Championize Yourself
How old are you? 20 years old? 25? 40? What about 60? It doesn’t matter actually, because when it comes to strength and conditioning, everyone should work towards being a healthy, optimal machine. The sedentary way of life may be fun and easy going, but wait until you lost that old energy you once had. Vacations will be less interesting as you struggle to just walk through the airport to your plane. You’ll have to take more rest breaks on a road trip because your body simply can’t keep up. Don’t even mention gardening – your back will give out!
Unless you condition yourself to be strong, and stay strong. As you age, your muscles diminish. This is a well known fact, but it can be countered. If you’re not interested in looking so far ahead, look at the now. Do you struggle to climb stairs? Are you missing that energetic self you once had? Then fight to get it back! Life may be tough, but life rewards those who put the work in.
One of the key ways to stay conditioned or build energy back is to do full body workouts, because they develop your entire body The most important ingredient? A strong core! However, I’m not saying you need six pack abs, I’m suggesting you increase your functional strength. This is a problem with the elderly – their backs can’t keep up anymore! So, why not strengthen your back and keep it strong by doing planks or deadlifts?
Your entire body can be improved, and it’s well recommended to do so. This is YOUR body, and it’s completely up to you, but wouldn’t you want to have a strong body?
Try some of these ideas – some are easy, some are hard. Others are inbetween. Find where you fit, and become strong!
Strength and Conditioning Ideas
Most of these ideas are full body workouts. This conditions all of you and makes you stronger, but others aren’t full body. Those that aren’t can be mixed and matched together to work everything though, and it breaks the monotony! Give ’em a try:
1. Distance Running
This is a running website, so of course we have to promote the awesome sport of running! The truth of the matter is that running works the whole body and causes drastic changes to metabolism. Distance running forces your body to use its aerobic energy system as it expends sugar and/or ketones to contract the slow twitch muscles.
Distance running is arguably one of the fastest ways to build top notch cardiovascular strength – which makes it far more important than just burning calories! The cardiovascular and cardiorespiratory systems are what allows you to act youthful and energetic. Plus, everyone loves someone with a big heart!
Cardio from distance running can be extended to other training as well, since you’ll be able to recover faster thanks to nutrients and oxygen flooding in faster. What’s to hate about distance running? it’s relaxing too!
Distance running ramps up cardiovascular and cardiorespiratory health, which translates to other skills.
2. Tire Smashing
Get a sledgehammer and an old tire, then start swinging. The tire will absorb the blow and slowly brake the swing, rather than forcing the hammer to a stop and potentially pulling a muscle. The swinging motion activates many muscles in the body, from your legs to your core to your arms.
Because so many muscles are activated, this becomes a full body workout, and a powerful one at that. Once a rhythm is built, some cardiovascular strength can also be built up. This is a tough workout, but can strengthen the core (back muscles especially), making you one step closer to becoming a champion.
Smashing tires can relieve stress and anger, all along with the added benefit of busting muscle.
3. One Handed Farmer’s Carry
Fill an old, empty jug of milk with mud and you have an easy homemade weight ready to be lifted. In this case, it will be used to follow through in with a one handed farmer’s carry. With one holding the milk jug by your side, walk around for thirty to forty five seconds as if you were carrying a briefcase.
This exercise can also be done with professional weights or other objects too.
What this workout does is target your obliques. By carrying a heavy jug on your left side, your right oblique has to contract and tighten to prevent the body from tipping over. In walking and running, the obliques serve a huge purpose since balance is partially controlled by these massive core muscles.
The one handed farmer’s carry just needs some form of weight, and works the obliques quite efficiently.
Sprinting is different than distance running. The leg muscles are required to force out more power with every stride, the arms must swing with greater range, and all the while the core must prevent this extra energy being expended from causing the body to topple over. Excellent form is needed to go at your top speed, and tons of energy is burned within a short span of time.
So what makes this any better for strength and conditioning?
Here’s the thing, sprinting has it’s place, and so does distance running. In terms of building raw power, fast paced running beats out the slower paced any day of the week. For cardiovascular strength, distance running wins out this time. However, it’s important to realize that the best runners have both.
Using sprints to develop legs full of vigor and a core as strong as an oak tree are excellent ways to condition yourself for your next event. Also. sprints are a fantastic option for developing your gluteal muscles. (Check out our article here for why the gluteal muscles are so important to runners.)
Next time you need that burst of speed as you race towards the finish, you’ll be thankful that your legs and butt can pump out so much power.
Sprints develop the core, leg, and gluteal muscles.
5. Hill Training
Similar to sprinting, hill training draws a lot of power. The quads and calves must work extraordinarily hard to pull the body up the incline – or, in the case of downhill running, prevent the body from falling over while simultaneously not stressing the quadriceps so much as to tear the muscle. The limited range of motion leads to a need for a higher cadence to run at the same speed.
All of this together creates plenty of microtears in the muscles within a short period of time, meaning that unlike distance running, hill training is excellent for building raw power quite fast. An important note to consider, however, is that rest is an absolute must after this workout.
It’s hard work to get the benefits from it, but it’s even harder to regain the losses if you aren’t careful with recovery.
Want to learn more? Check out our complete guide to hill training.
Use hill training to replace some of your leg days and build strength.
Yes, squats. Some love ’em, others are reviled by them. In conditioning yourself, though, they are a fantastic tool for leg strength. Place a barbell behind your head at the back of your neck (or just use bodyweight), and stance your legs roughly shoulder width apart. With the form secure, slowly bend your legs and squat down with the weight whilst keeping your back straight. Stop when your butt is at the same height as your knees, hold for a second, then slowly ease back up.
What this does is target your quadriceps, which are responsible for braking your body to help slow you down, they contract when you walk upstairs or up an incline, and provide tons of force for fast sprinting or other activities that require leg strength.
Squats also work the glutes, creating a firmer, stronger butt. Some refer to the glutes as “the forgotten core”, since they’re also play quite the significance on balance. Similarly to the quadriceps, they also provide tons of power to move your body wherever it needs to go.
Squats work the glutes and quadriceps, strengthening these muscle groups drastically.
Squats may work the front, but deadlifts work the back. Rather than starting with the barbell in the air behind your neck, it starts on the floor. Your goal is simply to pick it up. With similar stance to squats, you keep your legs shoulder width apart and grab the barbell with both hands. Gently lift the barbell up until your legs are straight, making your legs do the lifting. Your arms are just holding onto and balancing the barbell, they shouldn’t be lifting.
What this does is work the hamstrings and glutes. Both the quadriceps and hamstrings produce immense power, so by building them up through squats and deadlifts you can strengthen yourself up for great bursts of energy, or longer, slow burns such as hiking.
Incorporate deadlifts to get a strong booty and hamstrings.
8. Field Events (Shotput, Javelin)
Field events may look like they solely work your arms, or only push your legs, but rather they put the whole body into motion. The long jump requires a stable core and hefty legs. Shot put depends on you pushing a heavy metal ball forward with your chest and arms, while at the same time your legs and core must prevent you from toppling over and looking like a fool.
Field events work all of your muscles, but what makes this better than some other options is that while it’s full body, it can still be used to target specific muscle groups. For example, javelin focuses on your arms and shoulders, and high jump gets the legs springing into motion. Why not grind out your weak spots while at the same time still working everything? I see no downside – plus, who wouldn’t want to throw a pointy spear?
Use field events to have a targeted full body workout.
Plyometrics are a form of explosive training to build power in the legs through jump training. The Russians were the first to use this type of training, where they would fall from a certain height and “shock” their legs, which causes eccentric contraction (to slow or brake the movement at a joint). Other adaptations in plyometrics are one legged jumping, bounding, and box jumps.
Plyometrics reduce response lag, which can translate into other forms of training, such as sprinting, to break out of a bottleneck and workout at maximum potential. They also condition your muscles’ eccentric strength, meaning your muscles find it easier to resist “buckling”, useful for sprinters as they land hard with each stride and could easily collapse on their own legs!
Improving eccentric contraction means you don’t tucker out as easily – most think that muscles only use energy by doing work (like when your feet kick off and push you forward), but they also have to be used to keep your skeleton upright!
So start jumping!
Plyometrics improve response times and reinforce eccentric strength.
Hop onto your bicycle and pedal away, because this activity forces your cardiovascular system to pump blood to your legs. Extending your leg to push that pedal down requires power, and your quadriceps are the primary source of this power. You may be using slow-twitch muscles for most of this activity, but you definitely won’t be moving slow.
Cycling has a low environmental impact, making for great, strengthening transportation. The quadriceps are torn and damaged while riding and zipping along, leading to massive gains. The rest of the legs are also built up. At the same time, your heart and capillaries grow. There’s lots to love about cycling!
Build powerful legs and killer quads with cycling.
Mean: Gymnastics is all about balance and fine motor control. Coordination is key in this sport, and flexibility goes a long way. Gymnastics is agility.
Matter: With fine motor control comes fine tuning. Gymnastics uses the entire body. Your core is the primary target in gymnastics, and your flexibility will be extended beyond belief. Can you ouch you toes? Can you put your hands palms flat on the floor in front of your feet?
You can do that with gymnastics.
Use gymnastics to improve flexibility and fine motor control.
Mean: Yoga is a Hindu practice based on meditation and slow, controlled movements. There is a lack of quick, jerky movements. Yoga is about control.
Matter: Yoga works on flexibility and core strength, but unlike gymnastics, it uses slow actions to do that. Yoga is known for its ability to relax both the mind and body. This matters because it doesn’t matter how much you train if you never have time to relax – you’ll burnout, or even worse you will overtrain. This Hindu discipline is perfect for recovery and breaks up the tough from the easy.
Yoga relaxes the body and spirit to help the recovery.
Mean: This violent, fist fighting sport is ingrained into every single one of us. The “fight or flight” response says so. Our bodies are built to defend, making this one of the most natural sports available to mankind. You have to be constantly alert to do well, but it truly gets the blood pumping.
Matter: Boxing amasses coordination, cardiovascular power, and core strength so that they can all be utilized in a fast paced sport. It will be easy for you to realize that the next day when your entire body is sore. Though it requires a lot of trust, it can easily become someone’s favourite sport.
Use boxing to push your cardio and core strength to the limits.
I bet by now you’re asking “Okay, what in the world? Do you think I’m five? Shoveling!?” but bear with me for a second.
Have you ever woken up sore from head to toe the day after shoveling snow out of your driveway? This happens to all of us. The entire body is used when pushing a shovel into snow, and then launching it elsewhere. Your arms, back, core, and legs are all used. If you aren’t careful, you can damage or injure your back.
This situation isn’t all bad, however. Shoveling snow is a full body workout that utilizes the core greatly, perfect for runners striving to build a back of steel and legs of iron. If done properly, your back should have nothing to worry about – in fact, snow shoveling can strengthen the back. Like running, shoveling requires correct form. So long as the back is straight and motions aren’t forced, shoveling snow can be an excellent workout to condition yourself.
Don’t have snow? Perhaps shuffling back to your childhood and digging in the dirt will help. There’s nothing wrong with acting like a kid again! Find some sand and grab a shovel, then push your body until it can’t be pushed anymore.
Shoveling anything activates most of the muscles in your body, especially your core.
Mean: Hiking is simple. You go for a walk in the woods, along a trail, up a mountain, etc. It can take hours, or even days, but is very relaxing. It might seem easy to go for a walk, but hiking is different because it is prolonged. Connecting yourself with nature is a great calming tool and lets you collect your thoughts.
When it comes to strength and conditioning, this is another tool to relax your body and mind, but works your legs more than yoga does.
Matter: This matters because recovery is a huge part of your conditioning. Hiking activates your muscles gently, increasing blood flow to damaged areas. It also builds strength in the calves and quads. Think of a recovery run: these runs increase blood flow and aid in muscle growth. They also help repair, too, because they do require some work. Hiking is similar. Enough to improve, but not enough to be rough.
Use hiking as another tool for recovery, or just to relax while building hardier legs.
…Only Some Ideas!
There are many, many ways to strengthen and condition yourself, so expect this list to grow. Be on the lookout for other ideas too, because creating a variety in your workout reduces burnout and increases the amount of growth possible. It always helps to shock your body with new training.
Keep in mind that the best training plan includes both hard training and recovery. Never neglect recovery, because that could lead to overtraining syndrome! Strength and conditioning ideas do not always have to be about being the harshest, most excruciatingly painful workout. Condition yourself with both easy workouts and hard, and you will soon become a champion.
Caleb Thompson is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com, Amazon.ca, and other Amazon stores worldwide.
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