June 12, 2017

What It Really Means To Condition Athletes - With Casey Stutzman ACE, AFAA and FMS


What it really means to condition athletes                                           

By Casey Stutzman  ACE, AFAA and FMS Owner of The Performance Locker in Alpena MI.


I have seen for years when working with athletes, they run, they bike, they have great “endurance” in the gym but get them on the field and they can barely make it through the first quarter.

Why? What are we doing wrong in their training program? It would make sense that having them run would better their conditioning, right?

My experience has been that in your average training environment there is a lot of “conditioning” going on (run a lap!), the problem is we are not conditioning athletes in the same environment they will experience on the field.  

Think of endurance capabilities like a well where the water is our fuel,

every time we need to exert effort we take water from the well.  Long duration activities like distance running are lower in intensity there for each time we drop the bucket to get water from the well we only need to pull up a little bit at a time.  For sports like football, hockey, wrestling, basketball, fighting where we are required to perform explosive efforts with much greater “fuel” demands each time we drop the bucket into the well we are taking out a full load.  For most athletes after a few of these bucket fulls the well runs dry and they run out of gas.

Good conditioning practices are more about digging a deeper well so when we go to drop the bucket the water is there.  In essence by building a bigger engine we will allow athletes to rev higher for longer periods where a smaller engine would give up and shut down because it has been over worked.

When conditioning for sports like those listed above intensity is king, we need hard efforts followed by bouts of recovery to build that bigger engine. This is often referred to as metabolic conditioning.  However, there is another piece that will separate those who play on Friday nights and those who might have a chance to play on Sundays; complexity.

When we choose “conditioning” modalities we often pick ones that are for lack of a better term “brainless”.  Relatively simple movements that don’t require much thought once the basic skill has been learned; jump roping, sprinting, heavy ropes are all examples.  Now these are all amazing conditioning methods and can hit the intensity requirement we need but we also have to choose tools or exercises for our conditioning that will provide a neuromuscular challenge.

A huge part of success in a sport like football is the ability to keep your head late in the game.  From a conditioning stand point; can you maintain form, technique and optimal body position when tired?  The latter takes a lot of mental fortitude, the ability to focus and maintain form and function when you are gassed and your body is looking for the easy way out.

MostFit Core hammer Sledgehammer workout and conditioning

One of my favorite moves to accomplish both of these goals is the Core Hammer Slam.  Assuming the individual has the mobility and stability requirements to effectively perform the movement this one exercise will hit a number of different key areas;

  • Training contralateral (cross body) patterns and developing the ability to transfer force across the core harnessing power from the shoulders and hips
  • Teaches athletes to leverage full body movements to generate force 
  • A beautiful blend of maximizing mobility in the shoulders and hips while focusing on stability of the trunk
  • Complex and challenging enough athletes must focus on maintaining their movement mechanics while under fatigue
  • Intensity is only limited by the athlete, the harder they are able to hit the ground the more intensity they are able to create.  This not only gives the exercise great metabolic potential but is scalable for coaches because it is a self-limiting exercise (they cannot maximize intensity without owning the movement so I don’t have to worry about athletes working with too much intensity with poor form)
  • Teaches consistent and reciprocal movement patterns creating a consistent flow of movement where each phase “pre loads” the next

Try this simple routine  for your next conditioning set,

this works great with football, hockey, boxing/wrestling/MMA, basketball and any other sport that contain bouts of short intense activity.

20 second right side overhead smashes followed by 40 seconds rest; 4-6 sets

  • 1-3 minute break

20 second left side overhead smashes followed by 40 seconds rest; 4-6 sets

  • 1-3 minute break


  • 45 second smashes alternating sides (moderate intensity, the goal is to keep a consistent pace with no pauses for the entire 45 seconds)
    • 15 seconds rest
  • 30 second smashes alternating sides (increase intensity on a scale of 1-10 this should be at a 8-9 level effort)
    • 30 second rest
  • 15 second smashes alternating sides (all-out effort, everything you’ve got)


*note with this workout more is not better, better is better.  It is tempting to decrease the rest to make it “harder”, if you truly want to increase the intensity encourage athletes to “empty the bucket” on every single short set.  We are going for maximum intensity, hitting the ground as hard as they can, as many times as they can, during those short periods.


Consult a physician before performing this or any exercise program. You as the user are responsible independently for use of any fitness programs or equipment and assume the risks of any resulting injury.