What Is Conditioning?

Conditioning is a measure of how well an athlete is able to meet the energy production demands of their sport. Think about this, a football player who is 6'6 320, who is able to generate tremendous power for 6-10 seconds each play over the course of a game is just as well-conditioned as a mixed martial artist who is fighting all five rounds in a championship bout, and that is because conditioning is a measure of how well an athlete is able to meet the energy production demands of THEIR SPORT.


One reason why conditioning is important is that it helps optimize other energy systems. Conditioning is about creating the right balance of development between all of the energy systems. Most sports are made up of all 3 energy systems, not just one. Conditioning is about how fast you can produce energy, how long you can produce energy, how much total energy you're capable of generating, and most importantly how efficiently you are able to use it.

The second reason why conditioning is important is that proper conditioning allows athletes to play at optimal levels throughout the course of their sport. Without proper conditioning, fundamental movement patterns go out the window, and the risk for injury shy rockets. Studies have shown that fatigue and lack of conditioning are the main factors of injuries sustained in the latter half of sports.


The three major energy systems involved with conditioning are the Aerobic energy system, Anaerobic Lactic energy system, and the Anaerobic Alactic energy system (also known as the Creatine Phosphate system). It is important to think of these energy systems as three independent ad yet overlapping systems, each of them with differing energy production capabilities.

Training the aerobic system leads to an increase in oxygen supply by the cardiovascular system as well as more mitochondria, greater capillary density, and elevated aerobic enzymes within muscle tissue, this means you end up with more oxidative muscle tissue.

Training the anaerobic system trains your body to get better at energy production in the absence of oxygen. You will end up with decreased mitochondria and capillary density, along with a rise in glycolytic enzymes and thus an overall increase in glycolytic muscle tissue.

Here at BPT, we use different methods to optimize the use and training of each energy system. For example, let’s go back to the example of the offensive lineman. A job of an offensive lineman is to be able to produce tremendous power for 6-10s seconds at a time over the course of a 4 quarter game. So, if we think about it an offensive lineman needs to be able to produce that power repeatedly for an entire game. We want to work on being able to produce tremendous power more than one 6-8s play per game. We would want to work the anaerobic alactic system which is responsible for generating great power usage for 10-12s at a time before fatigue starts to settle in, then this is where a good aerobic foundation comes into play because it helps speed of the process so that you're able to use the anerobic alactic energy system more than once throughout the course of a game. A method to improve power usage and re-usage of the anaerobic alactic energy system is through Alactic Power Intervals. When we program Alactic Power Intervals you will need to perform the exercise of your choosing at 100% intensity, and focus on maximum acceleration and power for the entire repetition. With this method, we are aiming to improve the maximum rate of ATP regeneration by the alactic system by increasing the number of enzymes involved in its energy production. Exercises you can use are any of the following sprints, jump squats, bounding drills, explosive push-ups, or some type of explosive medicine ball drill. We are aiming for 1-2 sets of 5-6 reps per set. Each rep involves 7-10s of maximum intensity work done at 100% followed by 2-5 minutes of active rest. You then want to make sure you rest 8-15 min before beginning a new set so we allow our body to fully replenish. This is one of the many methods used to train an energy system each energy system requires different work to rest ratios, so depending on the sport or activity we can program by understanding the needs and requirements of that sport. Below is a chart of work to rest ratios used when considering the dynamics or your sport/activity.

We always ask ourselves what is the bigger picture? Are we looking short-term, or are we looking long-term? Are we Off-season or are we In-season? It’s important to understand that the better level of conditioning, the more fuel your muscles have and the more energy they are capable of generating. Everybody wants to be strong and powerful, so ask yourself if your only goal is to have strength and power or should the goal be to be able to use that strength and power for a longer duration of time during the course of your sport.

Content by Felipe Rodriguez

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