Conditioning Program – Week 4

In week four of the conditioning program, the final method is introduced into the program. This method, known as Cardiac Power Intervals, are extremely effective and are some of the most intense intervals there are. The goal is to drive the heart rate up as high as possible, watch the video.

Cardiac Power Intervals

Developing the cardiovascular system’s ability to deliver oxygen is of central importance to improving conditioning. A great deal of research has validated the connection between central factors such as cardiac contractility and VO2 max, power at anaerobic threshold, etc.

In other words, the more oxygen your heart and vascular network can deliver to the working muscles, the higher the potential for aerobic energy production. In the preceding weeks, the overall load has been gradually increasing, but in this week four, it’s time to up the load by focusing on developing the heart’s ability to deliver oxygen at higher intensities.

UltimateMMA3DsmallThe changes that take place as a result of such high-intensity intervals are likely an upregulation in the mitochondrial content of the heart itself, shifts in the isozyme of muscle fiber of the heart, and there may even be an increase in mitochondria in the brain itself.

More details of how different training methods work can be found in my book, Ultimate MMA Conditioning

Recovery Methods

At this point in the training program, it may be necessary to use various recovery methods in small volumes to prevent overtraining. This is particularly true if you haven’t been using BioForce HRV to monitor and manage your training throughout the program.

Specifics on the type of recovery method you should be using will be discussed in an upcoming video that will be posted shortly. The most important thing to understand is that using the wrong recovery method can actually slow down recovery rather than speed it up.

Doing too much of this type of work can also slow down progress in general. Recovery methods should only be used to prevent the body from getting into an overtrained state, not simply to recover faster. Using recovery methods too often can slow down progress and prevent the body from adapting to the training stimulus.

Conditioning Blueprint

As discussed in the video, The Conditioning Blueprint will be released on Tuesday, April 9th. As a special bonus, anyone that purchases the DVD within the three days will be getting the next 4 weeks of this conditioning program included with the DVD.

The material covered on the DVD is focused on programming and if you’re interested in learning more about how to write effective conditioning programs, this is definitely going to be a DVD that will help you.

All the details will be coming soon…

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  1. The anaerobic glycolytic system has a big role in these cardiac power intervals, from what I understand, correct? When I’ve done these in the past I did them on an Airdyne bike and went until complete failure. My muscles locked up so bad throughout my body that I had to lay on the floor for about 10-15, and another 5 minutes of walking around, before I could even think to do another one, and after 2 of them my body couldn’t handle another repetition. I did a similar workout years ago with my old coach as well doing all out uphill sprints and this was my experience with those as well (and the experience of the other athletes around me). I’m also a very strong and powerful athlete (my squat is in the mid 400 lb range and DL is 500, and my 40 yd dash is a 4.5 at about 215 lbs) which that may have something to do with.

    Based on this, should I be approaching cardiac power intervals a bit differently?

    1. Ok so I just did the CP intervals and it was a different experience from what it was with my old coach, but I noticed something interesting. My first rep I was able to get through one minute with no problem and I actually ran out of space to run. I could have probably gone for about 15 more seconds or so. Got up to 187 BPM. I also was not as taxed and could have gone again within about 2.5 minutes but chose to recover a bit more fully so I could perform at max effort the next set. However, on all subsequent sets I was limited to 30-40 seconds before experiencing complete failure and having to stop. Had I pushed any harder it would have been a lactic endurance workout. Should I perform these differently in any way? Also, what does this signify to you about my body’s energy production?

      1. I would just suggest using a longer rest interval between each rep. What it says about your body is that your aerobic fitness levels are low and they need to be improved, you’re going to need to do more of the lower intensity work to build the foundation for this higher intensity training

        1. Thanks Joel! Again, much appreciated! This series and your advice have already done a lot to improve my conditioning and knowledge in order to help others!

  2. Hi Joel and Howie,

    1. Anaerobic threshold intervals: Follow-up from my question last week…I experimented with your suggestion to put the treadmill at 9.0 and leave it there, but my HR kept climbing until i was near max. I am going to have to keep experimenting to get my HR to spike up to 150 fast and then lower the treadmill speed so my HR doesn’t keep riding up.

    2. On the Cardiac output work, you suggested doing an exercise like squats or lunges or skipping rope for 5 mins and then switching to another exercise…Roadwork 2.0…all with the objective of keeping the HR in the 130 range for 30-60 mins. Does it matter how you mix up the exercises? Could you switch exercises every minute as long as you kept your HR in the 130 range?

    3. I get the value of Cardiac Output, Anaerobic Threshold, High Resistance Intervals, and Cardiac Power Intervals. The runt of the litter to me are the Tempo intervals. These seem just like a variation of Cardiac Output…you go 70% effort for 15 secs and then shadow box or skip rope for a minute and repeat. When I have done these my HR stays above 130 with a short spike up to the low 140s. Is there really a distinct benefit you get from Tempo intervals? Wouldn’t 30-60 mins of tempo intervals be roughly the same as 30-60 mins of Cardiac Output?

    Thanks for this great series.


    1. I would suggest keeping the exercises the same for 5-10 minutes so you get the muscular endurance benefits of training the muscles involved in the exercise. Don’t switch every minute.

      Tempo intervals are different because the speed involved will bring higher threshold fibers into play compared to cardiac output work. They are different and not equivalent and should be used as such.

  3. Joel I am having trouble with my Polar rs 100, I hardly ever get a correct max H/R reading, one time it will show 250, next time it might be 300.

    And I know for a fact that my H/R is not going over 130 to 150 when it dose this

    Every thing else seems to work fine , just thought you might have ran in to this problem before.

    Thanks for your help!

    1. I haven’t run into this before but I’d try changing the battery and see if that works and if not, see if you can get a different transmitter strap to try because it’s most likely one of those causing the problem.

  4. ya these are tough heh… is howie going to be in the conditioning blueprint dvd? and will you guys ever demonstrate some methods to do with pads like the explosive repeat?

  5. At 3:25 you say that there are two variations:

    1) 2 minutes on, 1 minute off
    2) 90 seconds on, 3-4 minutes off

    Obviously these are very different!

    You mention you’re going to cover this at a later point, did you mean later point in the video or another video entirely?

    1. Higher level athletes should the first variation, lower level athletes should do the second. With variation 1, you only do that cycle a couple of times before taking a longer 3-5 minute rest

  6. Joel,

    1. If my resting heart rate is below 50 when laying down, do I want to take my HRV standing up? My HRV scores tend to be between 85-95

    2. With cardiac output, does it need to be 5-10 minutes of straight activity or can you do something like 15 on 15 off with ropes as an example? When I do ropes for 30 seconds my HR tends to shoot up above 150, do I just need to choose lower level activities or rest as needed to get my HR to stay in range?

    3. For the power intervals, 1.5-2 minutes work with 3-5 minute rest between?

    1. 1. You can still take it lying down as long as you’re not getting a bunch of errors that cause the test to abort
      2. Continuous activity is the best
      3. For the power intervals, yes

  7. These are brutal!
    I tried 2 CPI workouts this week. One with sprinting and one on the Airdyne. Both times I struggled to get my HR beyond the low 160s before my body started quitting on me. My resting heart rate is in the 40s, so maybe I need more muscular endurance work as you say above? My template was 90sec on/4 min off. During the sprint session I rested fully and let my HR drop, while during the Airdyne session I tried keeping my HR above 130 to see if that would have a different effect on pushing my HR higher. It did not.
    Links to each session on Garmin Connect:
    Sprint CPIs
    Airdyne CPIs

    Also- I just want to say, this free 4 week conditioning program has been awesome! I am definitely interested in purchasing more of your products. The program has worked very well for me as before I had no clue about how to put together a sensible conditioning program.
    Thanks Joel!

    1. If you’re seated, you won’t be able to get your HR as high. Given your resting HR and the position, low 160s is probably your max there. Glad you’ve enjoyed the program!

  8. Did these Cardio Power Intervals yesterday and they are no joke. I tried starting off with the 2:00 on / 1:00 but only manage 2 rounds of that before I had to drop down to the 1:30/3:00 and even then that was seemed like a struggle still. Thanks for putting out that 4 week program only just bought the Polar RS100 a few days ago and now I wish I had it since I started the program. A lot more accurate than the finger on neck method and those HR monitors on the cardio machines! Thanks again.

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