SESSION NOTES: Heavy Loaded Conditioning (1032-1061)

Programming Science:

This session utilises ‘odd objects’ and elements of ‘strongman’ training, and contains one element of each of the four major movement types. Movement types include anterior chain (or squat-based), posterior chain (or deadlift/hip hinge), upper body press and upper body pull.

The inclusion of all movement types ensures musculo-skeletal balance, and also creates a ‘blood shunting’ effect, where your body is required to deliver oxygen and fuel, and remove waste, from large and alternating muscle beds.

This session trains the glycolytic energy system which generates ‘ATP’ (adenosine triphosphate) which fuels movement. By completing this session and training this energy system, we’re able to raise the threshold at which fatigue kicks in. This results in the session not only improving your work rate, but also improving your ability to sustain a higher work rate for longer, with less fatigue.

This session isn’t the most effective method of getting strong, nor is it the best way to build cardiorespiratory endurance, however, it is highly effective at achieving a mix of both in one session as a form of concurrent training. Percentages are programmed rather than weights to ensure the correct stimulus, that both cardiorespiratory endurance and muscle strength are trained equally.

The lower volumes and short set lengths mean session trains an aerobic energy pathway, improving your ability to run using the glycolytic energy system, training the lactate threshold

The 1:3 work to rest ratio requires active recovery in order to buffer the hydrogen ions (the byproducts of anaerobic exercise) from the system to ensure maximal output in subsequent intervals.

It trains your ability to lift heavy weights quickly (increasing power) under cardiorespiratory duress.

Health and Body Composition Benefits:

Training with odd objects and uneven implements has multiple benefits. Training using these movements and unusual implements has a huge carry over to life. Far from the balance and evenness of a barbell, training with odd objects emulates the uneven and unpredictable movements you may be required to perform in life. This creates physical resilience and will help you not only avoid injury, but also perform better in the unknown elements of life.

The physical purpose of this variety is that if your body does a wide range of exercises, you will experience a wide range of benefits. Even though exercises are similar enough to ensure you’re constantly progressing (for example ‘farmer’s carries’ and ‘deadlifts’ will both improve each other), they’re also different enough to force your body to keep adapting to new things (for example, there are some benefits that are unique to ‘farmer’s carries’, and some that are unique to ‘deadlifts). In particular, ‘unilateral’ movements (those where your right and left arm/leg have to work independently, are a great way to build joint and muscle health, balance and stability.

The mental reason behind the variety lies in both the ‘novelty’ value of new exercises, and also in the fact that the movement alternatives give you some freedom in an otherwise structured program. The mind thrives off these novel movements, and they inject some fun into your training.

There is also an element of ‘problem solving’, where your mind and body have to find novel ways to complete tasks with which you’re unfamiliar. There is a very rapid ‘motor learning’ effect that occurs during these sessions.

This session delivers benefits from both resistance-based training, and cardiorespiratory training.

Resistance training (using your muscles to lift heavy weights, either external weights or yourself) makes you stronger. Strength is one of the greatest predictors of both your lifespan (how long you live) and your healthspan (how long you live in a healthy state).

Resistance training like this will also improve your flexibility (by going through a full range of motion), posture and coordination. It will also build stability around your joints and spine to give you a healthy musculo-skeletal system and reduce joint and back pain.

The session will minimise losses in bone mineral density and will improve your balance. Strength and balance are the two strongest predictors of falls later in life, so this is an effective way to train fall prevention, and insure your independence into old age.

This session increases your lean muscle mass and muscle fibre size. Muscle is a metabolically active tissue, so increasing it will maximise how much energy your body burns at rest. This makes it an effective session to reach healthy levels of body fat, both visceral fat (around the organs) and subcutaneous fat (under your skin). After this session, your body will go through a prolonged state of ‘EPOC’ (excess post- exercise oxygen consumption), meaning you’ll continue burning energy long after you finish training – further aiding healthy body composition.

The cardiorespiratory element of this session also has considerable health benefits, with this session creating favourable changes to cardiovascular disease (including reductions in blood pressure) and respiratory disease. This session will also lower your resting heart rate and increase blood flow to the brain.

As a result of this style of session, you will experience changes in blood chemistry, including favourable effects on cholesterol, blood glucose, triglyceride and lipid levels.

Performance Benefits:

The increase in adaptability from these ‘odd object’ movements will transfer well into multiple disciplines of exercise and sporting performance. This creates physical resilience and will help you not only avoid injury, but also perform better in foundational movements.

The heavy levels of resistance in this session are designed to increase your strength – increasing both your one rep max, and your ability to lift submaximal weights. By being stronger, you can lift more weight, and you will be able to lift submaximal weights faster and for higher reps because they’ll be at a lower percentage of your max.

As strength is an element of power, getting stronger will also improve your ability to move faster – beneficial for more power-based, explosive movements (like Olympic lifting).

This session will also improve the efficiency of your fast-twitch muscle fibres (those responsible for lifting heavy and fast), and will improve your neuromuscular efficiency (your ability to turn on a very high percentage of your muscle fibres).

The primary benefit of completing resistance training under cardiorespiratory duress from a performance perspective is to improve the ability of your body to sustain repeated muscle contractions.

This session achieves this by training the glycolytic energy system which generates ‘ATP’ (adenosine triphosphate) which fuels movement. By completing this session and training this energy system, we’re able to raise the lactate threshold, the intensity at which hydrogen ions begin to accumulate, causing cell acidity. Raising this threshold allows you to exercise at a higher rate for longer, with less fatigue.

As a result of this session, you’ll experience performance-boosting changes in intramuscular substrate storage (increasing energy availability for muscle contractions) and increased enzyme activities (increasing the rate of energy delivery to the muscles).

Additionally, the repetitive muscle contractions create positive changes at a muscular level.

The repeated repetitions in this session train the ability of your muscles to resist fatigue – increasing their stamina. This comes from improvements in the efficiency of slow twitch (fatigue resistant) muscle fibres.

As a result of the volume of repetitions, this session will increase the mitochondrial density in your muscle cells, allowing them to more efficiently convert energy into fuel. This means you can sustain higher rates of muscle contraction before fatigue or failure.

The higher volumes will also increase capillary density in your muscles, allowing for efficient delivery of oxygen and fuel, and removal of waste products (further adding to the fatigue resistance).

These muscular changes also occur in the ventilatory muscles, particularly with the need to breath and brace while lifting heavy loads, improving breathing efficiency.


This session should be completed at a very high work rate. This ensures that the intended benefits of the sessions are achieved. The high work rate is justified by an extended period of active recovery. Complete each interval of work at a max effort, and ensure that active recovery is completed to prepare for the next interval (for example, a light airbike cycle).

How it Should Feel:

You should feel equally limited by your cardiorespiratory endurance and strength/stamina – with a slight bias towards strength. It should be difficult both because the loads are heavy, and because you’re breathing hard.

Breathing should not be a particularly limiting factor until near the end of each interval, your breathing rate and heart rate should peak as the interval is finishing.

You should be very close to ‘hitting the wall’ in this session -with this point coming towards the end of each work interval.

Scaling Guidelines:

As this is based on a percentage of your own max, you shouldn’t need to reduce the weights. If you have a low ‘training age’ (haven’t been training for long), you may need to ‘scale up’, increasing the weights to ensure that you’re equally limited by both ‘heaviness’ and ‘breathing’.

If you don’t have the required equipment, it’s possible to replace with barbell movements that match the movement patterns – though the session will not be as effective with these modifications.

Modify around injuries with exercises as close as possible to the stimulus of the movement you’re modifying.

Common Mistakes:

Heavy Loaded Conditioning sessions often require a high degree of pacing, but that does not apply as much with this session. As such, a common mistake is overpacing, resulting in the intensity being too low and you losing the full benefit of the session.

Sacrificing form and technique under fatigue is a danger here. Although this may get you a higher score in the session, it will damage your technique and will blunt your long-term health and performance gains.

Failing to complete active recovery will also impair your ability to repeatedly exercise at high intensities, so ensure you’re doing light recovery (on an airbike etc) between sets.