Skip to content

Cardio-Strength Training

March 3, 2010

While many of the articles here on UltiTraining have focused on the S in S&C–Strength&Conditioning–it’s important not to forget the importance of staying well conditioned during the college/club season.

Many teams rely on LSD [long-slow distance], scrimmages, and sprints after practice for their conditioning, but can we do better? There’s definitely been a trend away from LSD towards interval training in the last few decades. What boxers call roadwork we often may associate with slow jogs/runs, but modern fighters often incorporate interval training, circuits, and complexes into their conditioning routines.

In this blog post, I’ll explain some basic ideas and programs adapted from Coach dos Remedios‘s new book, Cardio Strength Training, and describe two KB-based complexes you can try out in your own conditioning routines.

Coach Dos’s book starts out with the reminder that Dr. Tabata’s 1996 study showed that “a simple 4-minute protocol using negative rest periods (20 seconds of high intensity work followed by 10 seconds of rest) five times a week (a total of 20 minutes) was more effective than traditional steady state cardio performed for 60 minutes, five times per week.” In fact, “in a fraction of the time, they found greater aerobic and anaerobic gains in the short, high-intensity interval group!”

That said, it’s somewhat difficult to replicate the intensity you need for the Tabata protocol in your average University gym, but coaches have tried a number of variants to this basic method.

In Cardio Strength Training, Coach Dos and Alwyn Cosgrove put forth the hypothesis that “a strength training–interval training hybrid outperforms both strength and interval training… something that great coaches already know. Wait for the researchers to catch up…” Coach Dos then describes a number of different ways to hybridize strength training and interval-cardio work, including complexes, density training, on-and-off circuits, and repetition sets. To keep things simple, this blog post will only briefly touch upon kettlebell complexes (the book has more details on dumbbell and barbell complexes).

What is a complex? Alwyn Cosgrove defines a complex as “performing two or more exercises in a sequence with the same load”. In other words, you might perform a number of snatches followed by a number of overhead squats without putting down the weighted implement.

Cosgrove argues that while sprint-based training does condition for cardiorespiratory fitness, one must also condition the muscle groups themselves to handle high levels of lactate. And while there are running-based methods to condition muscles / lactate processing, Ultimate players definitely get plenty of running in during practice, tournaments, and sprints after practice. Enter dumbbell / barbell / kettlebell complexes, which allow athletes to train for improved “metabolic conditioning”.

The following video demonstrates a basic Kettlebell complex and an advanced, double K’bell complex. These complexes were adapted from Coach Dos’s book and slightly modified.

Beginning KB complex:

  • 3 sets of 6-8 reps of {KB swing, Goblet squat, Push Press}. Rest 1-2 minutes between sets.

Advanced/Double KB complex:

  • 3 sets of 6-8 reps of {High Pull, Clean & Push Press, Dbl. KB Snatch, Front Squat}. Rest 1-2 minutes between sets.

[Note: the KB form demonstrated in the book could be a tad bit better. Instead of the quarter squat, try performing the KB swing like a moving deadlift, hiking the ‘bell between your legs. When you clean the ‘bell to rack position, keep the ‘bell & elbow close to the body. Finally, when pressing the ‘bell overhead, keep the wrist “straight”, as in a punch or a knuckles-down push-up.]

Alwyn’s article on complexes has two different DB complexes and CorePerformance has an interview with Coach Dos that mentions how to do bodyweight complexes. Start light, with longer recovery periods. With less than 100 lbs on a barbell or 12-16kg on your K’bell, you’ll still rack up thousands of pounds of total work per set.

Don’t forget that your body/mind adapts to what you do, and simply doing the same sprint intervals you’ve done for weeks, months, years may not create the same kind of “metabolic disturbance” that they once did. Coach Dos cites The New Toughness Training for Sport where Jim Loehr talks about “the concept that if there is no personal confrontation, there is no progress… if you are not doubting yourself or not thinking of other things that you could be doing instead of the task at hand, you’re probably not working hard enough on your complexes.”

Work hard, comrades.

54 Comments leave one →
  1. March 3, 2010 3:16 pm

    That looks intense! I’ve become really interested in learning more about kettlebell exercises particularly for the purpose of getting stronger and better at Ultimate.

    Since you say the second complex circuit is only for experienced users, what would you recommend for beginners?

    I am used to squat/deadlift/shoulderpress with barbells. Can I pick up the kettlebell routine easily?

    • March 3, 2010 5:28 pm

      Hi Brandon,

      The first complex is a good place to start, with 3 sets of 6 reps of {swing, goblet squat, push press}, rest for 2 minutes.

      After doing so with a light ‘bell, eventually you can add a rep each week, and then reduce the rest from 120 seconds to 90 seconds, then 90 seconds to 60 seconds.

      The first kettlebell routine is not too hard to pick up, as there are good video tutorials on KB swings online, such as:

      with corrections from Jordan:

      After you dial in the swing, you can go faster / add more power (glute/hip thrust), and then transition from the first complex to the second. For example, you could add a high-pull after the swing, since learning the high-pull is much easier than mastering the “snatch”.

      Good luck! As Coach Dos says, WORK HARD =)

      • March 3, 2010 7:02 pm

        Great! I’m really looking forward to trying this out.

        BTW, I went to the gym over lunch today and I didn’t see any kettlebells anywhere. From the amount of press they are getting lately, I’m really surprised that my university gym doesn’t have any.

  2. March 4, 2010 12:05 am

    Kettlebells, soon they will be among us =)

    In the mean-time, Olympic plates with handles can be used. I also bring my ‘bells to the gym once in a while!

    Some other thoughts on cardio via the Fitness Spotlight:

  3. March 4, 2010 1:10 am

    I do agree that endurance training needs to be used, sprint intervals and complex training tend to be good for this purpose, but sprints do not necessarily have to be the only high intensity complex that can or should be used to create an interval program or even barbells, kettlebells, dumbbells, etc. Problem I see with most is that even conditioning should be specific, not just random exercises to be thrown in a complex for conditioning purposes. ie: Lance Armstrong highest VO2 max, but blew chops in a marathon run.

    Since you have to be mobile on the court, S-Phase drills should be at the forefront (side shuffles and crossover shuffles added in the HIIT training). Since most of your practice probably deals with such – training is best used to do what you aren’t.

    Since UF deals with forward throwing and forward flexion – you should reverse the movements to balance out the body and homoculus. Backward throws + Side shuffle is simply one example. And any other movements not typically performed are best (mirrors and opposite movement qualities). This is best in a group format of course, whereas biofeedback training would be best on a personal basis.


    • March 4, 2010 3:43 pm

      Agree–I was going to make a blog post about “training is best used to do what you aren’t” or “train what you don’t do in practice / games” but I couldn’t remember the specific StrengthCoach podcast where they talked about that in more detail.

      Marking drills do essentially address “side flow” in theory, but in practice the side flow mechanics aren’t quite what S-phase teaches. I have been experimenting with S-phase type side flow for marking (specifically putting more weight on the inside of the feet), and I think it’s worth practicing. A topic for another blog post =)

      I talk a bit about using reverse lunges with thoracic twist on one side only here:

      and more generally about bodies in “balance” here,

      but actually it makes me think that actually many lunges in Ultimate are in the transverse plane or even the frontal plane rather than the sagittal plane (forward lunging is not actually that common, even though pretty much everyone does this in warm-ups hmm).

      Balancing out flexion/extension has def been important for me, and I’m still trying to figure out how to make sure my shoulder stays balanced after pulling hard up/downwind some dozen times over a tourney weekend.

      In general though, many Ultimate athletes suffer ankle and knee injuries. Coach Boyle has a good section on knee prehab in Advances in Functional Training where he talks about glute medius tissue quality, landing form, ankle mobility, and RNT (reactive neuromuscular training) w/ mini-bands and SLS (single leg squats) for lateral musculature activation.

      I guess back to point one, I’m trying to figure out how to balance the imperative re-iterated by Dan John, “if it’s important, do it every day” vs the need to balance and avoid over-use. I have programmed runs/sprints as part of KB complexes (swing, goblet squat), but that hasn’t been an everyday thing.

      I suppose the question of how often to sprint per week has been on my mind (esp. pre/after a tourney weekend), as has how to incorporate CST (cardio-strength training) into a tourney schedule. For me, I tried the KB routines demonstrated (but not for all sets) the week before the latest tourney and seemed to have above-average conditioning.

      But back to specificity, I think it’s a challenge to interpret SAID in the real-world, as by nature of weight training / ESD / CST work, you are using multiple stimuli to get a specific response, it’s just hard to predict what that response actually is. And as for Ultimate, as a strength+endurance sport, teams often practice 2-5 times a week even on tourney weekends (we have Monday / Thursday / Sat team practice, Tue handler practice, Wed off-day workout / S&C office hours in the gym, and sometimes Fri throwing / turf practice, then the tournament would be Sat / Sun), so folks definitely get a bunch of movement practice in during the week.

      Rather than side flow (which I think I’d rather practice as a technique first before conditioning, plus we have marking drills for conditioning, and extended V-cut for conditioning + cutting/catching), I have thought about using a lunge matrix as part of BB/KB complexes, as the lunge is mentioned in Coach Dos’s CST even if he doesn’t talk about lunge matrices.

      But yes, what players may not be doing that they could benefit from:

      – Lunge matrix
      – Jump matrix training
      – Side flow focused on keeping weight closer to ball-of-foot than heel but on *inside of foot* (medial)
      – Reverse lunges w/ thoracic twist (see previous post)
      – Balancing out internal / external rotation deficits in the same way that pitchers do for GIRD
      – Ankle mobility! (previous post too)

      There’s also dominant hand flexion, but the challenge I’ve discovered is that if you start programming hand extension waves, you will feel better, but forearm/upperarm/hand soft tissue work and mobility work does feel good but can screw with catching dynamics (moreso than with throwing dynamics), but maybe that’s just me.

      Thanks Darryl =)

    • Leslie Wu permalink
      March 4, 2010 3:46 pm

      As for VO2max + Lance, there’s also the skill of running, plus the arguable way in which one needs to condition the appropriate muscles in a “metabolic conditioning” way.

      Coach Boyle has some interesting thoughts on the (non-)importance of VO2max / lactate threshold in Advances in Functional Training. I’ll have to re-read that chapter and give it some thought. Read that book? Good stuff…

  4. Chris D permalink
    March 4, 2010 7:31 pm


    Where do you stand on so called “classic” strength goals for athletic traning, are they useful goals? eg.
    – 1.5 to 2x bodyweight squat
    – 8 single leg squats
    – 2x bodyweight deadlift
    – 10 pullups, 20 dips

    Thoughts on much maximal strength work is appropriate to pair anerobic conditioning work?

    • Leslie Wu permalink
      March 6, 2010 4:16 am

      Although arguably somewhat arbitrary, these seem like decent goals to shoot for.. the question more pressing might be, should you mainly train with back/front squats, deadlifts, and dips?

      Some prefer deadlifts over squats (Gray Cook), some argue for split squats / RFESS over deadlifts (Mike Boyle), others aren’t such big fans of dips (Eric Cressey)–me, I’m still trying to figure out what works best for me, and I guess every person is different.

      What Coach Dos suggests on p.45 are a few different ways to pair lifting days with cardio strength:

      3-day lifting:

      1) Lift / CST / Lift / CST / Lift / Off / Off
      2) Lift + complexes / Off / Lift + complexes / Off / Lift + complexes / Off / Off

      4-day lifting:

      3) Lift / Lift / CST / Lift / Lift / CST / Off
      4) Lift + complexes / Lift + complexes / Off / Lift + complexes / Lift + complexes / Off / Off

      The main point here is that there’s at least as much max-strength type lifting work as CST, as it helps to be strong (max-strength lifts) first and then endure (CST) later.

  5. Leslie Wu permalink
    March 6, 2010 4:22 am

    PS, some critiques on this method of training:

    Interesting how these responses conflict with Coach Dos’s claim that

    “The main reason complexes are so effective is that they are THAT hard. If you are not pushing the envelope just to the brink of complete failure with each set, you are not going to get all you can get out of these highly effective, challenging exercises” (p.47)

    How hard and how heavy should one do CST, if at all? Hm…

  6. Alex permalink
    March 6, 2010 4:43 pm

    This is somewhat unrelated, but I have been lifting pretty heavy over the past few months, 5x week, pretty standard mix of bench deadlifts squats cleans plus plyos. I weight pretty much 145 consistently for the last 6-7 years, eating whatever I wanted without seeing a change, but in the last 3 months I have gone up to 165 with the combination of lifting, high protein intake and creatine.

    With ultimate season (tryouts) starting in about 5-6 weeks, what’s the best way to dropping down. I arbitrarily thought 10 lbs, but I think I’ve gained a lot of water weight because of the creatine.

    As I start to prep, what’s the best way to get down to playing weight? Should I stop taking the creatine? I understand I should be eating at a deficit, but do you recommend any supplements?

    Thanks in advance

    • Alan permalink
      March 7, 2010 11:11 pm


      I guess you’re saying that the 20lbs is not all lean mass (if it is, I say keep it and use it to your advantage on the field)? If not here goes…

      My personal recommendation would be to stick with the creatine… The benefits of increased aerobic activity, increased recovery, and increased body comp are reason enough for me. If you really need supplements, I would just add fish oil into the mix. It’s not necessarily something that will have a huge impact on weight loss, but it’s definitely a high impact supp in terms of health. Another choice is to add green tea and drop any calorie-filled beverages. The tea will give you some caffeine and other beneficial antioxidents/polyphenols to keep you healthy and increase your daily burn (although not by a huge amount).

      Take a look at your diet for a few days. It may be best to just start putting 2-3 servings of veggies and a single serving of lean protein with every meal. It’s an easy way to not feel like you’re in a deficit while running in one. Basically, 2 servings of greens stuffs you up better than the equivalent calories in bread or pasta (at least, that has been my experience). It will also cut out a few carbs from your diet and help you figure out how much extra water you are actually retaining.

      Leslie’s post on CST will be great for you at this point. I would recommend just throwing some intervals at the end of workouts or on off days. I’m sure Leslie will chime in as well, but it’s a low-impact method of increase caloric burn. If you take your body with 20 extra pounds and hit the streets for additional miles you may begin to rack up some overuse injuries before the season even starts. Start by cutting some of the excess before you hit the ground running.

      Alan Janzen

  7. May 5, 2013 1:06 pm

    My spouse and I stumbled over here different website and thought I might as well check
    things out. I like what I see so now i am following
    you. Look forward to looking over your web page repeatedly.

  8. May 20, 2013 2:21 am

    An impressive share! I have just forwarded this onto a coworker who was conducting a little homework on this.

    And he actually ordered me breakfast simply because I stumbled upon it for him.
    .. lol. So allow me to reword this…. Thanks for the meal!

    ! But yeah, thanks for spending time to talk about this subject here on your web site.

  9. July 18, 2013 2:07 am

    It’s appropriate time to make some plans for the future and it’s time
    to be happy. I’ve read this post and if I could I desire to suggest you some interesting things or suggestions. Perhaps you can write next articles referring to this article. I desire to read even more things about it!

  10. August 1, 2013 4:32 pm

    This paragraph will help the internet users for building up new blog or even a weblog from start to end.

  11. October 19, 2013 11:18 am

    People today are usually proficient in everything as a result of the shocking development in marketing and sales communications.
    These days a large number of effectively alert to the corollaries involving exercise-free lifestyle the
    particular cardio vascular complications, some sort of
    probable cardiovascular system assault, fatness and so on.
    Even now most people simply just are unable to sign
    up to a regular workout method, regarding most of us experience scarcity of energy.
    The most effective Home fitness was made keeping in mind
    your would like of a person as well as your entire loved ones.
    Your house work station helps you work out within the finest privateness of your house, most likely experiencing a favourite animation more than telly
    as well as or perhaps tuning in to your very
    best self audio channel. You are able to walk for the home treadmill whenever with the morning in the the majority of comfortable
    clothing as well as as long as you need. Previous to acquiring, your look at
    of obtaining your dream house fitness center in your home appears
    to be rich in promises. Yet if you purchase with no
    proper organizing, the full thing will not come to any practical work with.

    And so you should think of Home fitness center Evaluations
    just before purchasing a home exercise space.

  12. October 27, 2013 2:56 am

    Quality content is the crucial to invite the people to pay a visit the web
    site, that’s what this site is providing.

  13. October 27, 2013 4:39 am

    Its like you read my mind! You appear to know a lot about this, like you
    wrote the book in it or something. I think that you can do
    with some pics to drive the message home a bit, but instead of that, this is fantastic blog.
    A great read. I will certainly be back.

  14. October 27, 2013 5:32 am

    My coder is trying to persuade me to move to .net from PHP.
    I have always disliked the idea because of the costs.
    But he’s tryiong none the less. I’ve been using Movable-type on a number of websites for about
    a year and am worried about switching to another platform.
    I have heard great things about
    Is there a way I can transfer all my wordpress content
    into it? Any help would be really appreciated!

  15. October 27, 2013 4:22 pm

    you’re actually a excellent webmaster. The website loading velocity
    is amazing. It seems that you are doing any distinctive trick.
    Moreover, The contents are masterwork. you’ve done a fantastic process on this matter!

  16. October 27, 2013 4:34 pm

    Have you ever thought about publishing an e-book or guest authoring on other blogs?
    I have a blog centered on the same ideas you discuss
    and would really like to have you share some stories/information.
    I know my visitors would value your work.
    If you are even remotely interested, feel free to
    send me an e mail.

  17. June 9, 2014 6:27 pm

    I am sure this piece of writing has touched all the internet
    visitors, its really really pleasant article on building up new webpage.

  18. July 1, 2014 2:26 am

    all the time i used to read smaller content that as
    well clear their motive, and that is also happening with this piece
    of writing which I am reading at this place.

  19. July 1, 2014 4:11 am

    Hello all, here every one is sharing these kinds
    of familiarity, so it’s pleasant to read this web site, and I used to visit
    this webpage every day.

  20. July 1, 2014 10:05 am

    I wanted to thank you for this good read!! I definitely loved every
    bit of it. I have you book-marked to check out new
    things you post…

  21. July 20, 2014 4:47 am

    Excellent blog here! Additionally your website a lot up very fast!

    What web host are you the use of? Can I am getting your affiliate hyperlink on your host?
    I desire my site loaded up as fast as yours lol

  22. July 25, 2014 7:58 pm

    I just figured out that my computer has this kind of trojan. I was running pretty much all of the Anti-virus things my computer has. The main one says there is nothing there and my Windows defender says I have two trojans so I’m not sure what to do. I’m thinking of buying or building a new one. . Right now I have intel. Im not sure which is best like Dell, Miscrosoft, etc. I need a gaming computer which can also be used as a school work computer. Any ideas?.

  23. July 29, 2014 10:09 pm

    Write more, thats all I have to say. Literally, it seems as though you
    relied on the video to make your point. You definitely know what youre
    talking about, why waste your intelligence on just posting videos to your weblog when you could be giving us something enlightening to read?

  24. August 1, 2014 1:28 am

    Fastidious answer back in return of this question with real arguments and telling everything on the topic of that.

  25. August 6, 2014 3:07 am

    Hello there! Do you use Twitter? I’d like to follow you if that
    would be okay. I’m absolutely enjoying your blog and look
    forward to new posts.

  26. August 6, 2014 4:28 am

    Greetings I am so glad I found your web site, I really found you by accident, while I was looking on Askjeeve for something else, Anyways I am here now and would
    just like to say many thanks for a marvelous post and a all round exciting blog (I also love the theme/design), I don’t have
    time to look over it all at the minute but I have bookmarked it and also included your RSS feeds,
    so when I have time I will be back to read a great deal more, Please do keep up the
    great job.

  27. August 6, 2014 4:52 am

    In our country you will find there’s program where people should work
    because of unemployment good thing. In November 2010 my partner and I travelled around Ethiopia for 3 weeks by public bus
    with private guide Samson Wolde.

  28. August 7, 2014 12:02 am

    Howdy! This post couldn’t be written much better! Looking at this
    post reminds me of my previous roommate! He constantly kept talking about this.

    I am going to forward this article to him. Fairly certain he’ll have
    a great read. Thank you for sharing!

  29. August 7, 2014 5:10 am

    each time i used to read smaller articles which as well
    clear their motive, and that is also happening with
    this post which I am reading at this place.

  30. August 13, 2014 2:40 pm

    hello!,I love your writing so a lot! proportion we communicate more about your post on AOL?
    I need a specialist in this area to unravel my problem.

    May be that’s you! Looking ahead to peer you.

  31. August 21, 2014 5:07 am

    It’s difficult to find experienced people about this topic, but you sound
    like you know what you’re talking about! Thanks

  32. August 29, 2014 9:28 pm

    I’m impressed, I must say. Seldom do I come across a blog that’s equally educative and
    amusing, and without a doubt, you have hit the nail on the head.
    Thee problem is an issue that not enough people are speaking intelligently about.
    I’m very happy I came across this during my search for something
    regarding this.

  33. August 31, 2014 2:40 am

    Hello, this weekend is fastidious for me, as this time i am reading this enormous
    educational article her at my residence.

  34. August 31, 2014 10:15 am

    Just want to say your article is ass astounding.
    Thee clearness for your put uup is ssimply nice and i can assume you
    are an expert iin this subject. Well along with your permission allow me
    too cluth your fed to stay updated with coming near
    near post. Thanks one million and please keep up the
    enjoyable work.

  35. September 1, 2014 7:14 am

    Hurrah! In the end I got a webpage from where I be able to actually
    obtain valuable information regarding my study and knowledge.

  36. September 4, 2014 6:53 pm

    Wow, fantastic weblog layout! How long have you ever been blogging
    for? you make running a blog look easy. The entire glance of your web site is fantastic, let alone the content material!

  37. September 5, 2014 1:34 pm

    Aw, this was an extremely nice post. Spending some time and
    actual effort to create a superb article… but what can I say…
    I put things off a lot and don’t manage to get nearly anything done.

  38. September 22, 2014 5:50 pm

    If you desire to grow your familiarity just keep visiting this web page and be updated with
    the most up-to-date gossip posted here.

  39. September 22, 2014 8:51 pm

    Hey, I think your blog might be having browser compatibility issues.
    When I look at your blog in Chrome, it looks
    fine but when opening in Internet Explorer, it has some overlapping.
    I just wanted to give you a quick heads up!
    Other then that, wonderful blog!

  40. September 24, 2014 12:16 pm

    This piece of writing is really a fastidious one it assists new net viewers, who are wishing
    in favor of blogging.

  41. September 29, 2014 3:03 am

    hello there and thank you for your information – I
    have certainly picked up something new from right here.
    I did however expertise a few technical points using this web site, as I experienced
    to reload the site a lot of times previous to I could get it to load correctly.
    I had been wondering if your web host is OK?

    Not that I am complaining, but sluggish loading instances times will very
    frequently affect your placement in google and could damage your quality score if ads and marketing with Adwords.
    Anyway I am adding this RSS to my email and could look out for a lot more of your respective exciting content.
    Ensure that you update this again soon.

  42. October 2, 2014 7:34 pm

    It’s a pity you don’t have a donate button! I’d definitely donate to this outstanding blog!

    I suppose for now i’ll settle for book-marking and adding your
    RSS feed to my Google account. I look forward to
    fresh updates and will talk about this site with my Facebook group.

    Talk soon!

  43. October 7, 2014 3:39 am

    Incidentally, it’s not a good idea to default to the “Never” option;
    not only does this reduce battery life but it also leaves the phone and data unprotected in case of theft.
    Sure, your smartphone is good for checking the news and checking your mail and
    even checking out your friend’s new Relationship Status.
    As a result of this, handset purchasing decisions should not be based purely upon a particular
    phone being referred to as a smartphone: this is does not mean
    that it is superior to a handset which does not utilise the term in its marketing
    activity, or is not listed as a smartphone in a review or product

  44. October 9, 2014 8:51 am

    I enjoy what you guys tend to be up too. This type of clever work and exposure!

    Keep up the fantastic works guys I’ve included you guys to our blogroll.

  45. November 27, 2014 5:19 am

    Amazing things here. I’m very satisfied to peer your post.
    Thank you a lot and I am having a look forward to contact
    you. Will you kindly drop me a mail?


  1. PPC-Coach Review: Why Side With It Over Others?
  2. the Energy Demands of Ultimate «
  3. 5 Laws to Train By «

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: