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Lean And Strong

Take a break from bodypart workouts with this unique conditioning-driven program.

By Jay Ashman


You are lean and strong, and you want to step up your training to include the occasional hard conditioning workout, but you aren’t sure what exactly to do. Of course, you could dip into CrossFit, but those workouts often include high-skill gymnastic movements or exercises that have a higher risk/reward ratio than you’d like. You may also need equipment you don’t have access to in your own gym.

Lucky for you, that kind of high-intensity interval training can easily be applied to safer and more accessible exercises. For instance, the workouts described here only need dumbbells, barbells, kettlebells, and an outside area to be able to sprint.

Part of the fun of this hybrid training program is the fact that you train strength and conditioning at the same time. They are not designed to be a true strength program nor are they meant to take the place of your targeted hypertrophy work. But they are a great way to add some intensity to your own training without sacrificing muscle or conditioning.

The benefits of interval training is not just in busting boredom, though. The calorie-burning effect lasts for hours after the session is over and can help boost your endurance and increase your VO2 max. Studies have shown the efficacy of the fat-burning, aerobic-endurance, and muscle-building benefits across a wide variety of populations. If you’re interested in losing fat and gaining muscle, throwing some challenging interval sessions into your workout is about a sure thing. (This isn’t to say that steady-state cardio is obsolete—after all, both cardio modalities work together to get optimal results.)


It goes without saying that these workouts are not for someone who is out of shape. If you choose to perform the entire exercise series (couplets one, two, and three) in one session, you should be prepared for a challenging day. It bears repeating, you can choose to split up the series into individual couplets as workout finishers as well. This gives you a quick way to add some interval training to your workout, and you can opt to increase the rounds to burn a lot more calories.


For those of you who are in excellent condition, give all three couplets a shot during one workout. You will find these to be a terrific test of overall fitness, and there’s no chance of boredom setting in. IM




Challenge Circuit 1

You can opt to do this as a nonstop bullet-train workout or take a short rest between each couplet. That choice is yours and entirely dependent on your fitness level. Ideally, you’ll rest as little as possible between paired exercises of the same couplet. Give yourself two minutes between changing couplets. This allows your heart rate to return to normal and gives you time to set up for the next pair of exercises.


Exercise                                                         Reps                           Sets                 Rest

Couplet 1:

1A: Power Clean to Push Press               5                                  3                      0-60 sec

1B: Single-Arm Farmer’s Walk                2x50 feet                    3                      0-60 sec


Directions: Perform three times. Rest for up to two minutes before moving to couplet two.


Couplet 2:

2A: Weighted Bulgarian Split Squat      8 (each leg)                2                      0-60 sec

2B: 200-Meter Sprint                                1                                  2                      0-60 sec


Directions: The tempo of the Bulgarian split squat is 5-1-x-1. That notation means a five-count on lowering the weight, a one-count pause at the bottom of the squat, immediately exploding up from the hole to a standing position, and a one-count pause at the top. This couplet is to be repeated only once since the tempo of the Bulgarian split squat followed by sprints is a very demanding combination. Rest for up to two minutes before moving to couplet three.


Couplet 3:

3A: Kettlebell Swing                                     15                                3                      0-60 sec

3B: Push-Ups                                                 Maximum                   3                      0-60 sec

Directions: Use a heavy kettlebell for this couplet, swinging it 15 times and then dropping to the floor to perform as many strict push-ups as possible. Perform the entire couplet three times.



Power Clean To Push Press: You want to pick a weight you can do for five hard reps. Start with the loaded bar on the floor and power clean the weight to your shoulders by “jumping” the bar up and then catching it in the rack position. After settling the bar on your front delts, you will begin the push presses. Dip slightly down on your heels to about a quarter squat and then drive the bar above your head with force and power. Return the bar to the floor to begin the second rep.


Single-Arm Farmer’s Walk: This is often called a “suitcase carry.” Grab a dumbbell, kettlebell, or farmer’s walk implement that is one-half of your body weight. Hold it in one hand and walk to a predetermined point that is 50 feet away. Change hands at the 50-foot mark and come back.  Maintain good core stability and keep your shoulders squared and even with each other. Stay as tall as possible, with your chest up and squeezing your core and glutes as hard as you can to make sure the implement does not force you to deviate your path. Give yourself a clear line to follow in the gym and walk as straight as possible.



Bulgarian Split Squat: Don’t underestimate the difficulty of the prescribed tempo with the Bulgarian split squat. Due to the high-intensity nature, use lighter dumbbells than you usually would use for an exercise like this. To execute, rest the top of your back foot on a bench that is about knee height, with your front leg in front of you. Hold dumbbells in both hands and descend as according to tempo until your thigh is parallel to the floor. Try to keep your front knee over your front foot. Tighten your core and push back up to the start.


200-Meter Sprint: Nothing fancy here. Just make sure this is an all-out effort. The benefit of short-duration high-intensity workouts are dependent on maximal effort. If this turns into a recovery jog (and it will be tempting because this is going to be very uncomfortable), much of the calorie-burning benefits and training adaptations will be blunted.


Kettlebell Swing: A kettlebell swing is a hip-centric movement. It is not a squat. To perform this, visualize pushing your posterior chain back, thereby “closing the hinge” of your hips. With your feet wider than shoulder-width, hold the kettlebell in both hands. Let it pass between your legs as you begin to close the hinge, then violently thrust your hips forward and swing the kettlebell to face level, but no higher. The explosive movement of your hips should drive the weight.


Push-Up: Assume a conventional push-up position where your bodyweight is supported by your toes and your extended arms. Your hands should be about shoulder-width apart, with your feet together. Keeping your body in a straight line from your heels to your head, bend at the elbows to lower your chest to a position just above the floor, then extend your arms to return to the start position.






Challenge Circuit 2

This second circuit provides enough variation from the first circuit so you can perform both within a short time without being redundant. Like the first circuit, you can complete this as a whole workout or use portions of it as a high-intensity finisher. Rest as little as possible between paired exercises of the same couplet. Give yourself two minutes between changing couplets. This allows your heart rate to return to normal and gives you time to set up for the next pair of exercises.


Exercise                                                         Reps                           Sets                 Rest

Couplet 1:

1A: Power Clean To Front Squat             1/10                           3                      0-60 sec

1B: Farmer’s Walk                                      2x50 feet                    3                      0-60 sec


Directions: Load a barbell with 50 to 60 percent of your bodyweight for the power clean to front squats. Use 100 percent of your bodyweight for the farmer’s walk. Perform the entire couplet three times.


Couplet 2:

2A: Walking Lunges In Rack Position   100 feet                      3                      0-60 sec

2B: Suicide Sprint                                       100 feet                      3                      0-60 sec


Directions: Perform the walking lunges while holding the dumbbells in the rack position, held up to your shoulders with your hands in the neutral position. Cones/markers should be set up every 20 feet for the suicide sprint. Perform three times.


Couplet 3:

3A: Single-Leg Romanian Deadlift              12 (each leg)              3                      0-60 sec

3B: Jumping Squats (unweighted)              12                                3                      0-60 sec


Directions: Perform the single-leg Romanian deadlift using double the weight of the dumbbell you used for the walking lunges. Hold the dumbbell in one hand and use a hip hinge with the opposite leg from the arm you’re holding the dumbbell. Do not use any weight for the squat. Just descend into a full squat and then leap in the air as high as you can for each rep. Perform three times.

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