Sled dragging is one of the most versatile and effective tools that you can use. You can drag for time, for strength, do intense intervals, speed, agility; you can go forwards, backwards, crossover, side to side, upper body, lower body and you name it, the sled can do it. Not only are you getting the cardiovascular benefit, but you are also building strength in your legs and can focus on developing proper locomotive patterns. I loooove forward sled dragging for runners w/ knee pain who need to develop better locomotive patterns. With the sled, I can strengthen weak muscles in their hips, develop appropriate movement and keep impact stress off of their joints at the same time. Oh yea, I can build up whatever energy system they need to work on at the same time. Score! My favorite standard dragging modalities are the following. For fat loss, doing 3-6 rounds with moderate weight at the end of a workout with about 45-60 seconds rest between rounds. The rounds usually last about 30-40 seconds. For aerobic training/extra workouts on days off from lifting, some clients will drag a light weight for time anywhere from 20 to 45 minutes. This is just the tip of the iceberg of what can be done with a sled.
The prowler is feared by even the bravest souls on either side of the world. Ok so thats pushing it but the prowler is one heck of a conditioning tool. It dishes out easily one of the hardest workouts that you will experience. It is especially effective with intense anaerobic intervals. Its great to build leg strength as well. This piece of equipment will work wonders for fat loss and performance. I generally use this for intense anaerobic intervals at the end of a workout or heavier at the beginning of a workout. For intervals, we will load it up with a moderate weight and push it hard and fast. Anywhere from 3-5 rounds are used with anywhere from 1-3 minutes rest between depending on how hard someone is going. Heres a video of a couple of my baseball guys (state champs, 2 leading hitters on the season, and winning state champ pitcher) and a couple of my fat loss guys going at it back to back. What a great training experience to get in a killer workout like this with others who are serious about their training!!
Here is a great alternative for those who don't have access to the real thing
While the kettlebell has a great many uses, for the average person, swings are going to be the easiest and most effective conditioning exercise for them to do. This is a great exercise to develop proper hip movement, annihilate the glutes (and the rest of the body at that), and develop power endurance. It will give you an amazing cardiovascular workout and can be used in a variety of ways (for time, intervals, reps, etc.). The swing is an exercise that is often performed wrong by trainees and even by many trainers. To perform it properly, you need to hinge through the hips rather than squat or dip forward through the knees. Some different ways to use swings follow: 30-60 sec rounds w/ 45-90sec rest between rounds; Rounds of 15-20 swings with 45-60 sec rest between; Swing for time such as 5-10 minutes straight w/ a moderate weight; 10 swings on the minute for a specified number of minutes. Again, the tip of the iceberg.
Battle ropes are an AMAZING conditioning tool. They will get you in shape, plain and simple. They work your entire body as a whole and can be used in a variety of ways. I like doing them for 20 to 30 second intervals going hard or going lighter for time. Rest is going to depend on the person and the fitness level you are dealing with. With the ropes, you can go double arm straight up and down, side to side, alternating arms, add in squats, side to side movement and the list goes on; great great tool.
I love using all different circuits to either finish workouts with or to do as extra workouts. There are an unlimited number of exercises that can be used to make a killer circuit. Here are a couple of examples.
Quick Steps, Med Ball Slams, Farmers carries
10 per leg, 10-20 slams, semi heavy weight for 1-2 trips
3-5 rounds as a finisher or 15-20 minutes straight on an off day
Bodyweight Squats, Kettlebell Swings, Cable or Sled Drags
20 reps fast, 20 swings, 30-40 seconds
Rest as long as needed then repeat
Tabata Front Squats or Kettlebell Swings
With the tabata protocol, you pick a compound movement and perform as many reps as possible in 20 seconds, rest for 10, and repeat for 4 minutes or 8 rounds. Dan John talks about how he loves front squats for these in his book and I agree 100%. I also love kettlebell swings for these. Many people abuse the true tabata protocol. The exercise and rest intervals need to be exact and the trainee has to be pushing as hard as they can. When done correctly, this will take the body past limits. It is brutally hard but will do more for fat loss in 4 minutes than many traditional "cardio" practices will do in 40 minutes.
Hop up on an airdyne bike and get to work. These get your whole body moving and you control how hard you go. I generally will use rounds of 20-60 seconds with 60sec-2min rest depending on the goal at hand and the person doing them. Amazing fat loss and performance tool!
If your body is functioning properly and is healthy, straight up sprints are great for body comp and performance. Great workout for anyone in shape to do them. If you have any issues with imbalances, pain, being overweight, etc. you should not be doing running of any kind.
As you can see, the possibilities really are endless when it comes to energy systems training and conditioning. I could go on much longer but these are some of my favorite forms of conditioning that I often use with clients of all varieties from athletes to fat loss. Specific modalities will always vary based on the goal or task at hand and the individual doing them. "Cardio" doesn't have to be boring, dragging, muscle wasting, repetitive and ineffective after 2 weeks (i.e., elliptical, treadmill, stair stepper, etc.) With all of these amazing tools at our exposal, it can be functional, fun, build muscle, promote more fat loss and build lean, mean bodies for everyone from high level athletes to fat loss clients who want to get in awesome shape. Give some of these a shot if you haven't already!