To Breathe or Not to Breathe: There are Usually Questions

Breathing during exercise for most trainees rarely gets more specific than inhale on the negative portion of the lift and exhale on the positive portion of the lift. While this is generally true, it is just too general. In the case of KB training, it just won’t do.  In fact, addressing breathing is often the missing piece for many movement coaches. Read on to learn what to do…

Kettlebell training is grouped into two basic movement types known as Ballistics and Grinds.  Ballistic kettlebell training revolves around swinging the weights (ballistics) as well as lifting the bells in a traditional manner (grinds). Ballistic movements are “fast and loose” while grinds are tension filled and slow.














Goblet Squat

Front Squats


Turkish Get Ups

There are differences in the breathing for these very different types of movements. Breathing mechanics must mirror the speed of the movement. Be mindful of your breathing at all times. If your breathing breaks down (i.e. you hold your breath or fail to sequence your breathing with movement) so will your bracing and form. Breathing during a ballistic movement is characterized by:

  • SNATCH ARC_cropQuick and rhythmic breaths
  • In through the nose and out through the mouth
  • A rapid and powerful exhale synched with a maximal muscular contraction
  • A rapid inhale during the negative portion of the movement


Breathing during a grinding movement is characterized by:

  • maxresdefaultDeliberate, drawn out, and even held breaths
  • In through the nose and out through the mouth
  • A forceful, but slow exhale through pursed lips through the entirety of the positive portion of the movement
  • A forceful, but slow inhale throughout the entirety of the negative portion of the movement

Breathing Basics

Addressing breathing with your clients, especially those new to intense anaerobic training, is an absolute must.  If a client does not have good “breathing habits” they will not be successful in performing most exercises requiring good posture or intense bursts of “work”. Obvious examples include doing a high volume of swings, cleans, or snatches. Breathing issues must be assessed and addressed to set clients up for success and more importantly prevent injury. Imagine attempting to perform a very high level, exhausting task repeatedly (and for a prolonged period of time) with a plastic bag on your head. Think about doing sprints to exhaustion and then performing a full ROM Pistol Squat with good form. How successful would most of us be? This analogy isn’t too far off from some client’s early experience with kettlebells when training on their own or with SOME fitness professionals. I am talking about the professional who either isn’t well versed in kettlebell instruction/coaching or who intentionally pushes their clients way beyond their breaking point. It’s your job to make sure this doesn’t occur! Poor breathing and high-intensity kettlebell training are a recipe for disaster. The real issue with this concept as it relates to kettlebell training (especially the swing, clean,and snatch) is that you literally are rapidly and forcefully swinging a cannonball with a handle. It’s very important one thinks straight when performing such a task. If you aren’t supplying the brain with enough Oxygen you won’t think straight, so maintaining quality form will be all but impossible. This section is dedicated to the basics of breathing anatomy, physiology, and strategies to “fix” chest breathers.

Respiration Basics

Breathing consists of two phases,inspiration and expiration. During inspiration the diaphragm and the external intercostal muscles contract. The diaphragm moves downward increasing the volume of the “chest”, and the external intercostal muscles pull the ribs up and outward. This expands the ribcage, further increasing “chest” volume. This increase of volume lowers the air pressure in the lungs as compared to atmospheric pressure. Since air flows from a region of high pressure to lower, it travels in through the body’s conducting airway (nostrils, throat, larynx and trachea) and into the alveoli of the lungs. Here oxygen binds to hemoglobin on red blood cells. During a resting expiration the diaphragm and external intercostal muscles relax, restoring the thoracic cavity to its original (smaller) volume, and forcing air out of the lungs into the atmosphere.

How Your Body Controls Breathing:

Introducing Behavioral Control

Breathing is unique compared to other visceral (e.g. digestion) functions in that itcan also be regulated voluntarily. Speaking, singing and playing some instruments (i.e. saxophone, trumpet, etc.) are good examples of the behavioral control of breathing and are short-lived interventions (Guz, 1997). The behavioral control of breathing encompasses accommodating changes in breathing such as those changes from stress and emotional stimuli. The differentiation between voluntary and automatic (metabolic) breathing is that automatic breathing requires no attention to maintain, whereas voluntary breathing involves a given amount of focus (Gallego, Nsegbe,& Durand, 2001).

Activating the Diaphragm

1113_The_DiaphragmThe everyday experiences of breathing for most untrained individuals is much more inconsistent than one would assume. Practices in yoga often first teach individuals to observe their own breathing to ultimately familiarize the student with the sensations of respiration. Thus, one meaningful aspect in learning breathing techniques is the awareness in the difference in smooth, even breathing to erratic breathing. Modifications in respiratory patterns come naturally to some individuals after one lesson, however, it may take up to six months to replace bad habits, and ultimately change the way one breathes (Sovik, 2000).

UnknownAlthough the diaphragm is one of the primary organs responsible for respiration,it is believed by many practitioners to be under functioning in many people (Sovik, 2000). As a result, there is often emphasis placed upon diaphragmatic breathing, rather than the use of the overactive chest muscles (i.e. Pectoralis Minor). The diaphragm sits beneath the lungs and is above the organs of the abdomen. It is attached at the base of the ribs, the spine, and the sternum. As described earlier, when the diaphragm contracts the middle fibers (which are formed in a dome shape) descend into the abdomen causing thoracic volume to increase (and pressure to fall) drawing air into the lungs. The practice of proper breathing techniques is aimed at eliminating misused accessory muscles, with more emphasis on diaphragmatic breathing.

The Importance of Diaphragmatic Breathing

DSC_0112With diaphragmatic breathing, the initial focus of attention is on the expansion of the abdomen, sometimes referred to as abdominal or belly breathing. Have a client place one hand on the abdomen above the navel to feel it being pushed outward during inhalations. Next, the breathing focus includes the expansion of the rib cage during the inhalation. To help a student learn this, try placing the edge of the hands alongside the rib cage (at the level of the sternum); correct diaphragmatic breathing will elicit a noticeable lateral expansion of the rib cage. Diaphragmatic breathing should be practiced in the supine, prone and erect positions. We have already established that kettlebell training is typically a high intensity endeavor that significantly challenges the cardiorespiratory system due to its high oxygen demand. Therefore, it is logical that when doing such training it is critical to take in the most oxygen possible to sustain the activity. This is only achieved when consistently performing diaphragmatic breathing throughout the training session. Consistently performing Diaphragmatic Breathing will likely take practice and good coaching.

The takehome point from all this is that breathing especially during exercise is often compromised in the majority of the population. You need to take a few steps as a movement coach to ensure safety.

  1. Learn to identify and correct dysfunction breathing patterns.
    1. FYI: Fit EDU offers an 8-hour Breathing and Postural Control Seminar on this topic
  2. Teach how to breather in grinds and ballistic exercises
  3. Incorporate those techniques into your session and make it a focus

For more information about breathing, Fit EDU, or any of our 8+ seminar read some of our other blog posts on this topic or us at

Ballistic Kettlebell Exercises and Arc Differences

The kettlebell swing, clean and snatch are all incredible exercises for a long list of reasons when performed correctly. The correctly is the key word in that statement. Unfortunately, fitness professionals and enthusiasts who are not “trained” to use kettlebells often bastardize these awesome movements. In this article we will examine the arc differences in these movements so as to help develop an understanding just how different these 3 skills are.

Let’s start with a brief review of a few key terms:

Arc- a part of the circumference of a circle or other curve

Force vectors- a quantity having direction as well as magnitude, especially as determining the position of one point in space relative to another.

 External forces- forces that are present when performing work with external objects that changes the demands on the system

The Swing

The swing has the biggest arc, producing the greatest external (forward and rotational) forces acting upon the body. Notice that at the end position of the swing, the kettlebell is the farthest away from the center of mass compared to the snatch and clean. If remove the “skill” required for each movement we examine the swing is actually the hardest to control because of how far away the load is from the body.


The Snatch

The snatch has a medium–sized arc, producing moderate forward and rotational forces acting upon the body.  The kettlebell is farthest from the body’s center of gravity in the “middle” of the exercise. However, you will notice this is a much tighter arc than that of the swing. While this movement requires significantly more skill than the swing, the bell is actually easier to control because it remains closer to the center of mass.


The Clean

The clean has the smallest arc, producing the least forward and rotational forces acting upon the body.  Like the Snatch, the kettlebell is farthest from the body’s center of gravity in the “middle” of the line of action. Similarly to the snatch the kettlebell is never too far from the center of mass. Once again, if you take away the skill of the clean it is a relatively easy exercise to perform relative to the swing and snatch.


Why Understanding Arcs Matters:

Developing an understanding of the arc and the resultant forces acting upon the body helps the coach and student better control the kettlebell-body system when performing these exercises. Additionally, an understanding of arcs and forces will help with coaching these exercises.

For example, a general rule of thumb is to master the 2-arm swing, and then the 1-arm swing, before attempting to clean or snatch. In fact, we promote training heavy 1- arm swings before the student is given the green light to snatch. This is because the swing requires the lowest level of skill of these three movements while requiring the greatest amount of core firing to prevent spinal rotation. Therefore, the 1-arm swing is great preparation for the clean and snatch which require a higher level of skill.

We progress kettlebell ballistics by using the swing to teach the ability to explosively extend the hips while controlling external forces. Once this has been mastered, we then layer in additional drills that will help with the necessary skills to perform the clean and snatch. Breaking down kettlebell ballistics by their arc and forces acting upon the body isn’t a new concept. Instead it’s one that is often overlooked.  Once we understand how the arc changes based on the exercise, we can manipulate the external forces through the right vector to produce the most efficient movement.

If you would like to learn more about Fit EDU’s kettlebell coach program and how we evaluate and coach kettlebell exercises visit us at  You can also visit our blog’s main page to see other articles on the swing, turkish get-up, goblet squats, and much more.

You Don’t Know What You Don’t Know: The Difference Between Performance and Coaching Knowledge

If you know how to perform a movement then you know how to coach it… right? Is there a real difference in your personal ability to perform a movement and coach it? That’s what we’re going to explore in this blog.
bigheadedSo There I was at 24… about to graduate with a M.S. in Exercise Physiology AND I just landed a job as a Fitness Center Director at a YMCA paying what I thought was a lot of money (it wasn’t). I was the man (I wasn’t). I knew everything (I didn’t).  This was especially the case in training. I was taught how to perform countless strength, power, and flexibility exercises in my 6 years of school. I mean if I knew to how to perform a movement then I knew how to coach it. Right? If someone came to me with information that was new to me in coaching or fitness (and probably anything else) it was stupid. I figured if it mattered I would have  already already known about it. This was the way I decided to start my career. Fast forward 10+ years later and now I have a profound appreciation for all the things I don’t know. There’s a lot that I don’t know and I’m ok with that… now this is despite the fact I read as much as I can and am myself an educator.

When teaching in a seminar or university setting you get to work with the full spectrum of people. I see drastically different personalities, philosophies, perspectives, and of course… egos, but that’s what can make teaching great. It’s always different, and the teacher usually ends up learning right along with the students. However, there is an attitude I see entirely too much in younger professionals and those new to our field. It’s that same one I had when I was 24. 

They believe because they personally know how to perform a movement or use a particular modality in their own workouts, they automatically know how to teach and coach.

Here’s what I mean:

: It’s great to have you here today. What do you want to get out of this course?YOU DONT KNOW_crop

student: I’m taking this seminar for the CEUs. I already use ________ (insert modality).

me: That’s great you already use _________. Do you have any formal training?

student: No… I just started using it on my own and figured it out.

me: Do you use ________ with your clients?

student: All the time.

me: Ok… Well I hope you still learn something from us today.

dontknowRarely, the student is great at evaluating and coaching.  However, they frequently are not. They don’t know what they don’t know. To be clear, I am all about trying new things, particularly when it comes to movement. There’s nothing wrong with picking up a mace or kettlebell and trying to figure out how to perform movements on your own. However, there is almost always a need to be coached by an expert to fine tune what you are doing.  This is especially true if you plan to coach these movements. Even if you are athletic and good at movement skills, there is always room to learn more about how you perform, how others perform, and how to teach performance.  

At Fit EDU, we firmly believe personal performance of a skill is a critical step in the learning process. However, it is only 1/3 of the process needed to become a great movement coach for that skill. Here is the model we have found to be the most effective in improving movement coaching.

PERFORM: The student learns the movement/skill and works on it independently. After becoming more comfortable with this skill, they are coached to help improve their performance. In this scenario, it is important that the student can perform the most critical aspects of the skill, well. We do NOT believe perfecting said movement skill is the most important thing. However, the student needs to understand where they need to improve and how to do so. Gaining familiarity with the new movement allows the student to develop and understand the component parts of a skill.

:  It is critical that the student begins to watch others perform the skill. They also must begin to look at others with a “coach’s eye”. An understanding of how to evaluate a skill by watching it must be developed. Where do you look first, second, etc. Is the sequence optimal? Is the spine remaining neutral? What about head and shoulder position? Is that knee valgus? The point is, there’s so much to look at. You need an organized system so you can manage all this information and appropriately address movement flaws.TGU

COACH:  Here is where the rubber meets the road. The student becomes the coach. Becoming a great coach is a long and very fluid process. While there are a lot of different roads one can take to become a great movement coach, our approach is sequentially outlined below.

  • Chunking: the student needs to learn how to break down a skill into small, sequential, and usable parts. You need a good coach to help you with this one!
    • For example: how do you break down a Turkish Get-Up?
  • Cuing: Learning which verbal and tactile cues are needed to elicit the desired response is critical. It’s not just WHICH cues to use, but also WHEN to use them.  It’s also knowing when to offer guidance and when to keep your mouth shut. An overload of cues can be a significant hindrance to learning.
  • Coaching Drills: In life and movement things go wrong. A lot. Implementing proper drills are something we think separates a good coach and great coach. The majority of our schooling in the field (college or certification preparation) focuses on how to teach skills and assumes everything will go well when you follow a given format. This usually doesn’t work. When a movement issue arises, how do you remedy this flaw? If cuing didn’t work, we think the answer is coaching drills, or as we always say “drills that enhance skills”. In this scenario, a coach must be able to identify a movement issue and then have a series of coaching drills they can implement in order to “fix” the issue.
    • For example: If a client is having difficulty maintaining a neutral spine and getting tight at the top of a kettlebell swing, we like to add different bracing drills to improve the skill.

The moral of the story is don’t be the 24 year old me. It’s ok that you don’t know everything. Embrace it and do all you can to continue learning. Be open to learning new ways of evaluation and coaching movement you are already using in your training and with your clients. If you don’t you will eventually miss a nugget that might have helped you.
Our perform, evaluate, coach method of making great movement coaches is used in every one of our 8 seminars. Check out our offerings at and keep learning!


The article was written by Joe Chaitkin of Fit EDU.

Breathing: Q+A with Dr. Arianne Missimer

Dr. Arianne Missimer is a good friend of and speaker for Fit EDU. Last year we successfully and collaboratively rolled out our Breathing and Postural Control Seminar which was created by Dr. Missimer. We recently sat down with Dr. Misser and decided to address FAQs related to breathing, posture, postural control and how a fitness professional should address these topics. Here’s what she had to say:
1. Why can’t you “fix” posture without addressing breathing?
Human-LungBreathing and posture are interdependent. If you focus on correcting postural imbalances through stretching and strengthening and continue to have faulty breathing mechanics, increased tension in the neck and shoulders, poor rib cage and thoracic mobility may exist, and if the diaphragm is “stuck ” or facilitated, then the other deep stabilizers can not work efficiently to perform their role. Therefore, it will always be an uphill battle. You will continue to face postural issues, pain or injury when you don’t address a primary component. Without addressing breathing you will never fix the root of the issue for the majority of the population.
2. Why do people end up with dysfunctional breathing patterns?
school-postureMany kids at the average age of 7 start to lose their breathing pattern . They are sitting in school all day with typically poor posture and they often play sports with high specificity .compensation can start very early in life . Another huge factor is the amount of sitting Americans do which contributes to poor posture , breathing , and movement . Types of training , like in bodybuilding can often contribute to high threshold strategies and poor breathing . Another common reason is stress and anxiety which elicits the fight or flight response .
3. At what point do you recommend fitness professional assess and correct (when needed) breathing?
DSC_0112I think this should be done in the very first assessment or screening and then should be ongoing. Because it is a foundation movement, it it a journey that you are going on with the client. There are constantly progressions and variations to explore.
4. Can’t everyone just do crocodile breathing to fix their breathing patterns?
crocodile breathing.jpg
Although I like crocodile breathing patterns as one variation, unfortunately it is not the best position for everyone. If someone has pain with extension or lacks the proper mobility for example, this position would not be appropriate as it could cause a “fight or flight” response thereby negating the desired result. Although the client may get good feedback from the ground in this position, it is also a position where they can “cheat ” with a more apical pattern that can’t always be seen by the practitioner.
Learn more about Dr. Missimer here 
Learn more about Breathing and Postural Control here
Have a question? Email us at and we’d be happy to answer!
The next Breathing and Postural Control Seminar will be held on 2-25-17 in West Chester, PA.

The Importance of Tibial Rotation in the Squat

Whether you use your coach’s eye, assessments or both to evaluate an athlete’s movement quality and ability to safely  perform specific movements at some point you won’t have the answer. I mean the answer to “fix” whatever movement quality issue exists. It happens to all of us (even the best of us) at some point in our career and when it does (if it hasn’t already) there’s a lot of frustration on both sides of the coach-athlete relationship. While “we” will likely never have all the answers, its critical we gather as much quality information as we can to best train and treat our athletes. In this post I will discuss the often overlooked, but necessary role of Tibial Rotation in the squat pattern.

Adequate tibial rotation is something many athletes and coaches do not think about when assessing a squat pattern. We often look at ankle, knee and hip mobility and we think of knee mobility in the sagittal plane but the knee does in fact have a minute amount of transverse plane motion that we need to consider. It is because of these reasons that the knee needs to be assessed through three planes of motion.

One very helpful assessment when an athlete may not be able to achieve adequate depth in their squat, track their knee properly over their toes or when they have excessive toe out disproportionate to their hip position may be tibial rotation.

skeletoneffectsAs a norm most of us should have about 20 degrees of tibial internal rotation when viewed from above. An easy way to eyeball this would be, “does the little toe clear the midline of the patella?”

When the athlete does not have this it will affect the knee joints ability to maintain proper joint congruency of the femur on the tibia or vice versa. This will affect squat depth, and foot position and may sometimes lead to knee pain and ankle and knee joint compensation.

The video below will show a quick and easy tibial rotation mobilization to address an internal rotation deficit.

Assessment and Corrective Strategies for the Barbell Athlete explores this further and a wide variety of other assess/correct in relation to Olympic Lifting and athletic performance.

This article was written by Dr. Jon Herting of The Training Room and Fit EDU. Jon earned his DPT and is a PA licensed Physical Therapist. Learn more about Jon’s background.

Conditioning for Athletes and Not Being A Bully

By Garrett Harty

Energy Systems and How They Relate to Conditioning

Image result for rugby runningGrowing up as an athlete competing in sports from the time I was a youngster to a college athlete, I was generally subjected to practices filled with conditioning that would last forever. In fact, I can remember back to my rugby days in college where every practices would start out with a 5k, or at least it felt that way. After a long distance jog we would hit the sled for about an hour, do some tackling drills, play small games, and then sprint at the end of practices. The long slow distance run in the beginning of the practices was time for us to catch up on our teammates lives and allow for general tomfoolery. The sprints at the end of practice were usually miserable and nothing more than an opportunity to show how tough you were. Theses sprints could last for what felt like an eternity, and the general thoughts that went through everyone’s mind were, “why are we being punished”, “this is going to suck”, or “there is no reason for this”. Chances are these are the thoughts that your athletes are having in their minds every time you say “it’s time for conditioning.”         

Why is it Important to Train Energy Systems?

As a Strength and Conditioning Coach, I asked myself “is there a more effective way to condition athletes for their sport aside from having them run for hours on end for no purpose?” Not only is this style of conditioning dreaded by everyone involved, it has little carryover to game speed conditioning. In reality, we are encouraging athletes to jog or do the “big boy shuffle” (walking with a hop), and then we chastise the athletes’ who are unfortunate enough to lag behind the pack. By punishing the stragglers, aren’t we just screaming-coachbeing bullies? What if it was you or your child at the back of the pack, being yelled at by the coaches? After being an athlete under this style of conditioning and watching the effects it’s had on teams, I, like many others have started using the same principles that we use for  weight training with conditioning.   

A Better Way to Conditioning

I’m not the first person to have these thoughts, and I’m not the first person desiring the development of an effective conditioning session. While an effective conditioning session will not stop the team from having a couple of athletes at the back, it will adhere to the SMART principle (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Repeatable, Timed) and lead to the questions/answers of just how prepared the team is for the session and why the team may be struggling to complete the training session.

traditional-periodization-model2So that leads us to the next logical step — how do we condition athletes with a purpose? There are a number of variables that influence this next step, including: the sport we are training for, the time of year, the dominate energy system used by that sport, and logistical considerations such as; time restrictions, number of sessions, and the location. Most coaches struggle with training the most dominant energy system because they need to  allowing their athletes to recover. The next section will cover why it is important to train the correct energy systems and why athletes need to recover between bouts of sprinting.

Energy Systems


The anaerobic and aerobic energy pathways combine to generate energy, in the form of adenosine triphosphate (ATP) for the body. The anaerobic pathway can rapidly generate ATP However, it is less efficient than aerobic ATP generation in part because it does not incorporate oxygen.

Both the anaerobic and aerobic systems can be further broken down into two sub-pathways each. The Phosphagen and non-oxidative glycolytic pathways are both anaerobic. Since these pathways can rapidly generate ATP, the body utilizes them in the early stages—roughly the first two and a half minutes—of exercise. After the first two and a half minutes of continuous exercise, the more efficient, oxidative glycolytic and oxidative systems begin producing the lion’s share of generating the body’s ATP for the remainder of the activity.


The anaerobic system is broken down into two sub systems: The Phospagen (A lactic) and Non-Oxidative Glycolytic (Lactic).  

The Phospagen system is the initiation system used to start every movement.  The Phosphagen system uses ATP already stored in the muscle cells and creatine phosphate to accelerate the creation of ATP within the cell. The phosphate system is the dominant system for the first ten seconds of movement. This system is generally used in sports with a single max effort or repeated max efforts with a break or active rest periods, this occurs in most sport.

The Non-Oxidative Glycolytic occurs after the first ten seconds of activity, and is the dominant pathway until two minutes and thirty seconds have elapsed. This energy system metabolizes carbohydrates for energy by a process called glycolysis to produce ATP and pyruvate. Glycolysis is fast, but inefficient and produces just two molecules of ATP from a single molecule of carbohydrate. When muscle cells have sufficient oxygen, they can break down pyruvate aerobically to yield more ATP molecules through oxidative glycolysis. Since oxygen is limited during the early stages of activity, cells instead convert pyruvate into lactic acid, which accumulates in the form of lactate. Although lactate does not directly cause fatigue, high levels of lactate buildup in tissues during intense exercise can quickly lead to exhaustion. The non-oxidative glycolytic system is used in most sports…  

To train both the Phospagen and Non-Oxidative Glycolytic systems effectively, use repetitive short bursts of high intensity combined with a rest period of either no activity or light levels of activity between bursts. To train the Phospagen system, the recommended work to rest ratio is between 1:12 and 1:20. To train the non-oxidative glycolytic system, the recommended works to rest ratios is between 1:3 and 1:5. These recovery periods could have active rest drills build into them. An active rest drill is another that will allow the athlete to recover but keeps them moving, an in practices  example would be 30 secs. passing, 30 secs. dribbling, 30 secs. holding a plank, 60 secs. water, 30 secs. walking back into line and waiting to go. An conditioning only session example would be allowing the athletes to walk back and get back in line.   


The Aerobic systems are: the Oxidative Glycolytic and the oxidative. The Oxidative Glycolytic system uses oxygen to break down pyruvate to yield more ATP. Oxidative Glycolysis is the dominant energy system after the first two minutes and thirty seconds until twenty minutes of continuous activity. This system is generally used in sports such as distance running, swimming, and rowing.

The Oxidative energy system uses oxygen in combination with the metabolism of fat to create ATP. The Oxidative system is the dominant energy system after twenty minutes of continuous activity. When a runner says they hit a wall around the twenty-minute mark, it is because the body switches from metabolizing carbohydrates to metabolizing fat to make ATP. This system is generally used in sports such as distance running, swimming, and rowing.

To train both the Oxidative and Oxidative Glycolytic systems, move at a consistent pace and gradually increase time or speed for longer periods of time.  


brett-_092114_rmu_mens_soccer_720Since spring sports are about to start, let’s use Soccer as an example to implement the above principles. In this scenario, the goal of conditioning is to prepare the athletes for sport specific pre-season team practices. Now that we have a sport, and time of year, it’s time to pick an energy system to train. Like most field sports, soccer is a repetitive sprinting sport, with active recovery. This means that we should aim to train the Anaerobic Energy Systems. Next we need to determine the time period we have to train.  We will use the three weeks before camp, with the assumption the athlete has been  training all summer. Each of the three sessions will track the yardage of that session, as well as the total weekly yardage, with the goal of completing each session in 15-20 minutes. The program will build in a  Linear fashion. I like to use Word and Excel. This way I can look back at it when the session is over to reevaluate how it worked and to have something to build off of for next year.

Take home points:

A better way to Conditioning

  1. SMART Principle(Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Repeatable, Timed)
    1. S: Specific- Sport, Time of Year and Goals
    2. M:Measurable- Yardage of session/week and Time of session
    3. A:Attainable- is the program realistic
    4. R:Repeatable- Keeping data on your team’s thought the years
    5. T: Timed-How long will the program last
  2. Train the most dominant energy system
  3. Build in recovery periods

The Anaerobic sub systems:

  1. The Phospagen system (A lactic) / initial energy systems  
    1. Dominant for the first 10 sec.
    2. Work to rest ratios are: 1:12 – 1:20
    3. Sports: Olympic Sports
  2. Non-Oxidative Glycolysis (Lactic) system
    1. Dominant for the 10 sec.-2:30 mins.
    2. Work to rest ratios are:  1:3-1:5.
    3. Sports: Olympic sports

To effectively train both systems use repetitive short burst of high intensity with a recovery period of no activity  or active rest between burst.  We have found that the Non-Oxidative Glycolysis system is the most time efficient to train Olympic Sport athletes during the conditioning sessions  because of the overall time it takes to do, work to rest ratio is shorter. We have found  that for a team of 20 athletes a work rest ratio of 1:3-1:4 is the most effective for conditioning.

Aerobic Sub Systems:     

Oxidative Glycolytic

    1. Carbs and Oxygen to produce ATP
    2. Dominant energy system from 2:30 mins-20min
    3. Distance running, swimming, rowing


    1. Fats and Oxygen to produce ATP   
    2. Dominant energy system from 20 mins on
    3. Sports: Distance running, swimming, rowing



Baechle, T. R., Earle, R. W., & National Strength & Conditioning Association (U.S.). (2000). Essentials of strength training and conditioning. Champaign, Ill: Human Kinetics.

Siff, M. C. (2000). Supertraining: [strength training for sporting excellence (Fifth edition.). Denver: Supertraining International.

Garrett Harty is an Assistant Strength and conditioning coach at Robert Morris University where he deals mostly with the Olympic Sports.  He has a bachelors degree in Exercise Science from West Chester University where he was a student Strength coach for the WCU gymnastics program. He has worked as an intern at Malvern Prep School, Arcadia University, Temple University and St Mary’s Hospital wellness center.  He is also an assistant instructor for Fit EDU, Level 1 Certified Kettlebell Coach (CKC-1) and a certified Yoga instructor.  He can be reached at



Metabolic Conditioning and Doing More With Less

You know that friend you have who always likes to make everything more complicated? Instead of taking the path of least resistance they always seem to find a way complicate and confuse the task/process. Well… this is the way we feel about SOME fitness professionals and the way they approach metabolic conditioning. It seems the goal becomes more about putting in “cool looking” and complicated exercises instead of creating a true metabolic stimulus. You can probably immediately think of a colleague of yours who fits this description… OR maybe it’s you???

Well… we want to help! We have always preached simplicity in programming particularly when it comes to metabolic conditioning. Of late, we have stuck to that methodology, but have started to do more and more with less via kettlebell and dumbbell complexes. Why you ask? Well… we have gotten feedback that there are often big time limiting factors when it comes to training clients that are beyond the trainer’s control. These issues tend to be based around space and/or equipment accessibility:crowded-gym1

  1. “Big box” gym during peak hours are often packed… so if it’s 6pm on a Monday and you have a small group session access to a wide array of equipment or all that much space might not be possible.
  2. “Small box” / boutique facility… once again there can be significant limitations here. Smaller facilities often have less equipment and obviously space. Once again we are running into the same issues as a big box, but for different reasons.
  3. TorqueStrong_inhometrainingIn-home training… not all of our in-home clients have a lot of equipment and let’s face it… we are all only willing to lug a huge bag of equipment for our clients for so many years… Once again we are facing equipment challenges.

If one or more of these circumstances applies to you… we have some suggestions which can make your training less complicated and stressful (on you).

Before going any further lets define a few terms related to metabolic conditioning (please bear with us through the science):

  1. Complexes are a series of exercises performed in quick succession (minimal rest periods)
  1. Metabolic Conditioning: defining this term is a little more complicated, but I do like Jeff Gaudette’s description; The objective of metabolic conditioning is simply to keep the system (heart, lungs, etc.) as a whole under prolonged periods of stress while cycling through various energy systems and muscle groups

We also believe there are 4 keys to achieving a metabolic stimulus:                                             I. Heavy (some 10RM sets)                                                                                                                            II. Breathless (minimal rest between exercises and rounds) We often only allow clients enough time off between to be “successful” in their next task.                                                   III. Sweat                                                                                                                                                          IV. Burning (this is all about Lactic Acid and Blood PH)

  1. Oxygen Debt is a cumulative deficit of oxygen available for oxidative metabolism that develops during periods of intense anaerobic exerciseepoc
  1. EPOC (Excess post-exercise oxygen consumption) is a measurably increased rate of oxygen intake following strenuous activity intended to erase the body’s “oxygen deficit”. When you hear someone talking about poster exercise “after burn” this is usually what they are talking about. HIgh levels of EPOC results in long periods of increase Oxygen uptake and as a result an increased metabolic rate until the body no longer has an Oxygen debt. The length of time depends upon the degree of EPOC, but the right metabolic stimulus can keep the metabolic rate high for more than 2 days post-session

Now that we have gotten that out of the way lets talk about the keys to developing an effective metabolic conditioning program:

  1. Total body exercises with long levers of action (Minimal to no isolation exercises)
  2. Use movements the client can successfully perform in a non-metabolic setting: in other words, if they have poor squat mechanics, but a good deadlift under normal circumstances DON’T have them squat in the metabolic phase of your session
  3. Each exercise should either have a high rate of movement or heavy weight, but not both
  4. Exercises are performed in an array of functional patterns
  5. Each circuit or complex starts with the “highest skill” movement moving to progressively lower skill movements. Think kettlebell snatch before a kettlebell swing and swing kettlebell swing before a burpee.

Here are a few of our goto complexes:

Intermediate Kettlebell Complex 1: Balanced Push-Pull                                                         “Heavy” 2-Arm Swing + “Heavy” Goblet Squat + Push Ups (any)      

Format: Descending Ladder                                                                                                              Details: move from one movement to the next taking as little rest as possible between exercises.  Complete the series of exercises performing 10 reps on all of them, then 9 reps, then 8 reps, and so on until one.                                                                                            Reps/Rounds/Rest: 10,9,8…3,2,1, only take enough time between rounds to be successful in the next round, but with a 1-minute maximum.                                                                                                               Equipment Needed: 1 heavy kettlebell

Advanced Kettlebell Complex 2: Push Heavy                                                                                          1-Arm Swing + Unilateral Front Squats + Off-Set Reverse Lunges      

Format: Modified Tabata (20s, 10 off)                                                                                                Details: Perform the exercises in order for 20 seconds with 10 seconds rest between exercises.  Do the right side followed immediately by the left side using the 10 second break to change hands.  Either continue with the right side again using only the 10 second rest period or take up to one minute.                                                                                       Reps/Rounds/Rest: Max reps per work interval, 2-4 rounds per side, rest 10 seconds – 1 min between rounds.                                                                                                                                   Equipment Needed: 1 heavy kettlebell


Advanced Dumbbell Complex 1: Balanced                                                                                          One-arm Dumbbell Snatch + Dumbbell Thrusters + Pull Ups        

Format: Strength/Power Endurance                                                                                                 Details: One round includes 3 dumbbell snatches with the right hand, then 3 with the left hand for a total of 6 reps, 6 DB thrusters, and 6 pull-ups.  Rest 30 seconds between complexes.                                                                                                                             Reps/Rounds/Rest: (6+6+6) x 3-5 rounds, rest 30 seconds between                               Equipment Needed: Pair of DB’s, pull-up bar

Remember the key is simplicity. Do not overcomplicate metabolic conditioning. Be very mindful of the degree of skill required for each exercise and the degree to which the client will be fatigued when attempting to safely and effectively complete each exercise.  As always, the first rule of being a fitness trainer is to do no harm.  

Interested in learning more about metabolic conditioning? Our next Metabolic Conditioning Seminar is on Sunday, 3/4/18 in Kennett Square, PA. $100 off with coupon code METABOLIC until 2/12/18! For more information or to register visit our website: