Strength Aerobics: A Powerful Alternative to HIIT

“Conditioning” is a very vague term — and it is for the better, given the scientists’ lack of understanding of endurance, its different facets, and the variables affecting it.

Fighters and other hard-living types love killing themselves in the glycolytic pathway. Because burn is painful and plain sucks. But this is far from the only way to “condition.” Enter the alactacid pathway plus aerobic recovery. (Learn the basic science in the StrongFirst Roadwork blog.)

The Strength Aerobics Circuit for Conditioning

“Enjoy” this “strength aerobics” circuit by Alexey Senart, SFG Team Leader. Take a kettlebell you can comfortably press ten times or so and do:

  • 1 left-hand clean
  • 1 left-hand military press
  • 1 left-hand front squat (change stance if needed before squatting)
  • Park the bell
  • Shake off the tension with “fast and loose” drills
  • Repeat on the right

Easy so far, right?

Shake off the tension with “fast and loose” drills, and keep going. Select a pace you can sustain for a long time (a metronome might be helpful), and carry on. For ten, twenty, even thirty minutes.

Alexey Senart performing the kettlebell front squat

Alexey has found this to be a perfect “field” workout for those who frequently have to travel, be on military deployment, or on vacation with one bell in the trunk. You will maintain most of your strength while greatly enhancing your work capacity. I suggest alternating the above with Simple & Sinister day to day.

And if you are not traveling, have access to heavy kettlebells, and prioritize strength in your training, use the above workout as the light day for your presses and squats.

Bodyweight Conditioning Workout

If you prefer “conditioning” with bodyweight, try the following workout Steve Maxwell and I designed for our students at a bodyweight course we were teaching almost a decade ago:

  • One-arm pushup, left x 1 rep
  • One-arm pushup, right x 1 rep
  • Pullup with the palms facing and the fists touching each other, emphasizing the left x 1 rep
  • Pullup with the palms facing and the fists touching each other, emphasizing the right x 1 rep
  • Pistol, left x 1 rep
  • Pistol, right x 1 rep

I go, you go — the 1:1 work rest ratio. Shake off the tension while your training partner is working. Ladder the works for 2 and then 3 reps — and start over. Three rounds of 1, 2, 3 will get your attention.

Conditioning the StrongFirst way

At that event, we selected the strongest students in attendance—Yoana Teran (today SFG Team Leader) and Sarah Cheatham (formerly a Senior instructor in my old organization)—and put them through the paces. Although stronger than most men and exceptionally conditioned with kettlebells, the ladies had to sweat to get through the circuit. Even without the “burn” that traditionally accompanies “conditioning” circuits.

Android work capacity to you!

You can’t alternate with S&S unless you own S&S.

Pavel Tsatsouline
Pavel Tsatsouline is the CEO of StrongFirst, Inc.

16 thoughts on “Strength Aerobics: A Powerful Alternative to HIIT

  • How can I mix a bodyweight training with deadlift? I thought about exchange pullups in this program and do deadlift instead.. what do you think??

  • I have both kettlebells and a pullup bar. Should I prefer the kettlebell workout or the bodyweight one? Also, what weight kettlebell is recommended if I do S&S regularly with the 32kg bell?

    This page interests me because I am often too sore from judo to do S&S on the same day or sometimes on the next day, but something simpler like these routines might fit the bill to maintain/increase my strength better.

    • …Also, what weight kettlebell is recommended…
      “Take a kettlebell you can comfortably press ten times or so”

  • I’m a little confused about the bodyweight program , after I do 1-2-3 reps do I go back to 1 and if so I many times do I do this

  • I started this today with a 16, and the magic kicked in at around minute 5 of a 10 minute session. I did this following a morning of pull ups, dips, swings and get ups. I plan on using this as my endurance training for my upcoming races, and saving my runs for skill and speed practice. Can’t wait to see how this works out!

  • Another great post from Master Pavel!
    Question:is it a problem to use double bells for FSQ? I feel a little over developing the shoulders.
    Thank you.

  • Question: Should someone have reached a certain point with S&S before sliding this into the rotation? I’m thinking of the “only do continuous swings once you’re using the 32 for all swings” admonition from the book as a parallel. I’m still working to master the 32kg and like the idea of alternating days with this so that I be as fresh as possible the next day, but I still want to keep the goal the goal.

    • Nick,

      As long as you can properly perform a one-arm clean, press and squat, I don’t believe you have to be at a specific strength level to use this workout. You will get the benefits with a light kettlebell (remember that it’s based on a weight you can comfortably press for 10 reps).

      And you could combine this with S&S as stated in the article if you don’t have access to heavy kettlebells.

      If you’re using the 32kg kettlebell with S&S, you’ll have no problem doing this with 16kg, 20kg or even 24kg.

  • Incredible. Love the strongfirst roadwork, S&S, and the idea of strength aerobic sessions. Power and Strength training with aerobic recovery. That’s where it’s at!

  • This program is a great idea. And timely – I’ve just been thinking that I could probably use a de-loading week and I’d like to experiment with some more aerobic work. I originally thought of doing S&S but with a lighter-than-my-working-weight kettlebell (and maybe doubling the swing volume to compensate) — but this program sounds more interesting. Plus, I could use some extra practice on my cleans.

    Thank you, Pavel.

  • 32kg – 40 min

    L – 20 cycles
    R – 20 cycles

    TV – 120

    I understand that was not a robotic pace, but I have learned the first time I do one of these “easy” practices it is best to be reasonable until you feel what the programming does or else. You can always pick up the pace, go heavier the next time….that’s what I tell my students so taking my own medicine.

    I feel recharged and will have another recharge later today. That was nice.

    Thank you Alexey Senart, SFG Team Leader for sharing this.

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