Staying Conditioned Over the Winter

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Winter is around the corner. It’s that time of the year where people’s metabolic conditioning takes a steep ride downhill due to shorter days, shitty weather, and more time spent sitting indoors.

No matter what excuses you have not to be in tip top shape year round, it does’t take a lot to stay conditioned over the winter. Below is a list of exercises that will get your lazy ass off the couch and will seriously leave grasping for breath. They won’t be easy and you will likely hate me if you perform them with a high intensity but they are worth the 10-15 min effort:

1. Farmer’s Walk

The Farmer’s Walk will destroy you – in a fun way. After your main lifting routine, pick the heaviest dumbbells you can grip, deadlift them and start walking for 20-60 meters. Your mind will tell you to drop the weight but push on until your grip fails. You will be wiped after doing that 2-3 times with little rest in between. Nice bonus, this exercise pumpsup the traps and forearms like crazy.

Above is one of My Fitness Idols, Misha „The Russian Bear“ Koklyaev, walking 100 m through the wilderness of a Russian forest with a 100 kg bar each in his hand. If you’re like Misha and can hardly grasp a breath after the exercise, it probably means you are doing it right.


2. Prowler/Sled Push Car Pushes

If you have access to a prowler, you know how incredibly brutal the prowler can be. If you don t have a prowler (like I), use your friend’s or your dad’s car and get it moving. Preferably, have somebody steer the wheel so you don’t end up in a ditch. As the car gains momentum, it will become easier. In that case, have the driver inside slam the break slightly to add resistance.


3. Rowing Machine

I have recently added in the Rowing Machine as a brutal finisher. My best time on the 500 m distance (1:35 min) is nowhere near the world record (1:10 min) but who cares. For me, when I fall off the rowing machine gasping for breath, I know I gave it my all and that’s what matters.

Tabata sprints on the rowing machines add in a bit of variation. A Tabata involves going all out for 40 sec and then resting for 20 sec. And repeat however many times you need to get to the verge of giving up.


4. Uphill Sprints/Staircase Sprints

Uphill sprints are incredibly effective where no equipment is required whatsoever. As opposed to flat ground sprints, the hill slows your sprint considerably thereby reducing the reaction forces on your body. This is good because you are less likely to injure yourself.

If you don’t have access to a nearby hill or you don’t want to get out into muddy winter weather, staircase sprints are equally effective. I live in a 10-storey building and hardly anybody ever uses the staircase. I start at the ground floor, sprint up to the 10th floor, walk down, and do the same another 3-4 times. Wash. Rinse. Repeat.


5. Rope Skipping

Again, not a lot of equipment needed for this one. Just a skipping rope and your willingness to go hard at this exercise. Rope skipping is a staple in every boxer’s training and their prime method to attain a high level of conditioning.

Ross Enamait, showcases his freakish triple-unders in the video above, spiced up with some neat hill sprints.


6. High-Rep Squats

If you feel winded from just a few sets of squats, your conditioning is probably pretty shitty. This is where high-rep squats come into play. Choosing a weight that you can squat in the 20-30 rep range will feel hard.

The biggest muscles of our body (i.e. glutes and quads) require the greatest amount of oxygen when contracted and that’s why high-rep squats are so effective at stressing your body in a extreme way. I would stick to Olympic-style back squats when doing these. I have found that maintaining flawless technique on the Front Squat when going for higher reps is very hard to do because of the nature of the exercise. If you have access to a trapbar, you could also bang high reps using the low handles of the trapbar.


7. Barbell Complexes

I first learned about Barbell Complexes by world-renown coach, Dan John. Actually, HIS main recommendation is that complexes are one of the most effective tools to stimulate new muscle growth. But in one of his articles, he remembers first complex very well as he remarks that „I choked on those last reps of the front squat trying to figure out where I left my lungs“.

Of course, you don’t go heavy on these. I am at 115 lbs at the moment performing the following exercises without putting down the bar:

1) 5 x Stiff-Legged Deadlifts

2) 5 x Power Cleans

3) 5 x Overhead Press

4) 5 x Front Squats

5) 5 x Bent-Over Rows

Here you go, no more excuses to let your conditioning go down the drain during winter.

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