Nowadays, there are many types of exercise programs available and many can seem overwhelming at first glance. There’s everything from HIIT and LISS to Crossfit and Circuit Training, just to name a few. But if we take a look at the core focus of any of these training styles, they all have two things in common. They all incorporate some type of strength component and they all put an emphasis on conditioning - and for good reason.
When referring to overall strength, we can think back to the basics that we are all familiar with: push ups, pull ups, squats, and other exercises that will help increase our muscle mass and muscular endurance. But how do these simple movements have such a great effect on our overall strength? Let’s take pull ups for example. There is a large variety when it comes to the types of pull ups we can do - from regular pull ups, to wide-grip and narrow-grip, to reverse grip, and many more options. By simply improving our pulling ability, we can strengthen our lats (back muscles), biceps, pecs (chest muscles), triceps, and a number of other muscles. The same applies to squats - depending on the variation, we can work our hamstrings, quadriceps, glutes, and core muscle from just one movement. As you can see, these simple exercises are actually compound movements that have the ability to impact a broad range of muscle groups.
Conditioning on the other hand, is the ability to increase your aerobic capacity by strengthening your cardiovascular and respiratory systems. When we think of conditioning exercises, we often think of running, swimming, cycling, and other forms of activity that often leave us with an elevated heart rate and heavy breathing. By improving our aerobic capacity through conditioning, we can actually reduce our average heart rate when working hard and breathe in a more controlled pattern for a longer period of time. In most sports or activities, the goal is to be able to give as close to 100% effort for as long as possible, and one of the best ways to accomplish this is through conditioning.
So what are some easy ways to incorporate more strength and conditioning exercises into our daily lives? First of all, it doesn’t require hours a day to see improvements in the long-run. By dedicating 20-30 minutes, 2-3 days per week, we can see a significant improvement in both strength and our conditioning in just a few months' time. Additionally, there are simple changes we can make in our everyday lives that will benefit us for years to come. For example, carrying groceries up the stairs rather than taking the elevator, parking farther from the door in the parking lot, or taking a 30 minute walk before settling down in front of the television. While these may seem like minor changes in your day-to-day life, they can produce major changes in your overall health.
Therefore, no matter what training program you decide to follow, if your goal is to improve your overall health, a good place to start is through strength and conditioning.