Anyone that has been following my training style knows that I preach training like an athlete.
But aside from rapid muscle building and raw strength gains, what does training like an athlete do you for that will carry over to any other kind of training regimen and into real world functionality?
It is the most overlooked concept in strength training regimens, but it could be the one thing holding you back from making the gains you want.
So what do we mean by work capacity?
It can be defined as the ability to repeat high quality efforts and is directly tied to your preparedness level. The higher your work capacity, the more prepared for training you are, the more prepared for training you are, the more work you can do, the more work you can do, the more muscle you can add, and so on and so on.
Now when you look at it, most people use strength training to A) get stronger and/or B) to get bigger.
Very few people work at the “conditioning” part of “strength and conditioning” with the same vigor and determination that they do with lifting weights.
But the bottom line is, if your work capacity is too low, you will not be able to incorporate new training volumes or crank up the intensity of your workouts while operating at the same strength levels. This is a recipe for hitting a plateau.
Having a low work capacity plays hell with your recovery times too. The longer you take to recover, the less you can train, limiting your opportunities to improve.
Now I know what you are thinking. Cardio sucks, I get it. But improving your work capacity has to become an integral part of your routine, and it doesn’t have to be spent on a treadmill or stair climber.
Decrease Your Rest Times
I know there are prescribed rest times in between sets depending on your training goal, but throw all of that out the window. They can be a good rule of thumb, but they can be a crutch as well.
Don’t be afraid to crank out a top end work set on 30 seconds rest. Louie Simmons from Westside Barbell in his Book of Methods made a great point by saying that if you fully rest in between sets, your body will just keep using the same muscle fibers and no adaptations will take place and no new growth will occur.
Less rest = more work = higher work capacity.
These are ass kickers, no doubt about it. Many of the greatest athletes of all time swear by them. Who the hell wants to run on a treadmill for an hour anyway?
I have never met anyone trying to pack on serious muscle that likes epic cardio sessions. Get outside, breathe some fresh air, sprint up a hill 6-10 times and be done with it, all in less than 20 minutes. Do this a few times a week and not only will your work capacity improve, but you will burn some serious fat in the process.
For a while, box jumps were the only cardio I did. I jumped for height, for distance, for speed, for everything. Box jumps are great for conditioning, balance, explosive power, leg/core strength and stability, and overall athletic performance.
You can hit these during your workout or as a high intensity finisher. Done properly, you can probably make some serious progress very quickly.
Broad jumps and various tumbling exercises are great alternatives as well.
Sled and Prowler Work
These are a must. Pulling a sled and pushing a prowler will beef up work capacity in a hurry and are great for total body strength. They offer a ton of variations to try, each with their own distinct benefits. Sled work is a staple of Primal Strength Camp.
Vary your pushes/pulls between heavy weight and short distances and light weight and long distances. At a minimum start with 100 feet. Dragging a heavy sled for a few miles is not out of the ordinary for the elite.
For those of you training at home, I’d recommend getting one. They are simply too good to pass up. You can get one here. Add a few 45lb plates to it and start walking.
Just about any kind of quick hitting circuit with roughly 5 exercises can do the trick. Try this one out:
- 10 Pushups
- 10 Squat Jumps
- Bear Crawl 25 feet
- 10 Bodyweight Lunges
- 10 Kettlebell Swings
Perform this for 3 rounds with no rest in between exercises, and only a minute rest in between rounds.
Building work capacity is not the most glamorous work in the world, but if you want to get to that next level, you have got to improve it. Getting stronger is a grind, my friends, and you’ve got to put in the dirty work to achieve greatness.
In the words of Big Black, “Do work son!”