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The importance of Base Conditioning

Updated: May 16, 2020

With the new year in full flow, new gym memberships started up, a personal trainer in your sights, it's also a time of year when fitness resolutions are blown within the first two months, or minor injuries are picked up that effectively put a halt on your plans to lose weight, put on more muscle, run more, or other best endeavour goals.

It is worth ensuring your training is focused on shorter term goals for a longer term gain, and therefore the importance of base conditioning merits some attention.

Base conditioning is about exercising at mostly aerobic levels of effort and should include strength training alongside plyometric training and drills if training for a specific sport or event.

The key concepts to base conditioning revolve around developing the aerobic (long slow duration) energy system with a view to increasing blood flow and cellular adaptation.  Moreover you should be looking to increase connective tissue strength and durability, muscular strength and endurance.  All of which ultimately allows for a higher anaerobic energy system starting point.

The type of base conditioning to take on depends on your current condition and your experience.

As a beginner or new athlete, the effort should be easy-to-steady, with light resistance during strength training to allow for development of good position, technique, form and aerobic capacity.  This period of conditioning should around 4-6 weeks depending on your frequency of sessions, to allow for anatomical adaptation.

For returning athletes or trainers, the workouts can be of greater tempo or harder workouts with the inclusion of limited anaerobic/ fast workouts e.g. short sprints.  An approximate guide is around 10% of your weekly volume can be at a higher intensity through your base conditioning weeks.

As you build base condition, the volume and intensity can increase, and your training can then move into the next phase and block of programming to further take you towards your longer term goal(s).

Your keys to any training success should  involve long-term planning and goal setting with an understanding of what you're trying to achieve; maybe it's a half-marathon, a sprint triathlon, or an obstacle course, getting back to playing regular football, or as a team coach, players or athletes embarking on a long season of competition ahead.

The base condition is paramount with development of a strong aerobic base through consistency of training, frequency, then duration, followed by improvement of lactate and power thresholds with appropriate intensity i.e. more explosive plyometric and HIIT work, coupled with adequate rest and recovery.  Importantly, trust the process, follow your programme and keep your goals in mind.

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