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Intelligent & Intuitive Conditioning Circuit Design- Part 2

Intelligent & Intuitive Conditioning Circuit Design- Part 2

By Sarah Rippel

Author of “Home Program Design Mastery,” “The Ultimate Group Training System,” “Build ‘N Burn 2.0,” & “Build ‘N Burn


In Part 1 I broke down my rationale behind a conditioning piece that I reworked in a way that seemed more logical for me. I also gave my thoughts on the importance of having real-world experience in both training oneself as well as other people.


I stated “as much as I appreciate and respect the fact that we have principles that govern program design, such as work:rest ratio and the proper use of intensity during interval work, when you have a solid grasp on these concepts you can take that knowledge and apply it to workouts that may outwardly seem like just a bunch of exercises thrown together to make you sweat.


In other words, when you have book smarts and real-world application with all sorts of clients (and yourself), and you realize that not everything has to be black or white or fit into a specific box, you can play around with this fitness stuff and let your hair down!”


With that thought in mind, let’s take a look at a few more conditioning pieces and how I have reworked them!





AMRAP 3 Minutes x 5 Rounds:
1) DB Thruster x 3 (50#/35#)
2) Push-Up x 6
3) Box Jump x 9 (24in/20in)
*Rest 1 minute after each 3 min AMRAP.


In the original piece we see a common rep scheme used in CrossFit-style metcons – “3/6/9.” The circuit is set up as a 3-minute AMRAP followed by a 1-minute rest. Five rounds are to be completed.


The prescribed weight for the dumbbell thrusters is 50# for men and 35# for women. Push-ups are of the standard variety on the floor, and box jumps are done using a 24” box for men and 20” box for women




3 Rounds for Time:

1a) DB Thruster x 3 (20#)

1b) Push-Up x 6

1c) Box Jump x 9 (20″)

1d) Repeat, then Rest 1:00


In reworking this piece, my original plan was to do it as prescribed but using 20# dumbbells instead of the 35#s. When I got finished with two sets of the exercises in the first 3-minute AMRAP, I had 15 seconds left, so I stopped there and rested for a minute. 


To clarify, I got done at 2:45 and started the second round at 3:45. I decided to keep that strategy for the remainder of the rounds and opted for three rounds instead of five. I was just easing back into regular lifting after doing a half marathon and didn’t want to trash my legs!


In viewing an AMRAP piece, it is important to realize that a lot of people will have a difficult time pacing, as “AMRAP” gives me message “do as much as you can, as fast as you can!” I don’t tend to use AMRAPs with my clients because of this reason alone. I feel it’s easier to facilitate a sustainable pace by instead prescribing a set number of rounds followed by a rest interval, and emphasizing the “you should never feel like you are going to die” message!


I got everything done in 10:22. I completed the first round of two sets in 2:45, the second in 2:30, and the third in 2:22. In the endurance world this is known as “negative splitting,” meaning completing the second half of a training session or race faster than the first half. This is a very good thing because it means the session was paced wisely. 


Going out too hard at the beginning of a workout doesn’t usually end well. It usually results in the exerciser having to take breaks to bring their heart rate down, feeling frazzled and stressed, and not being able to breathe well while working. In other words, if you hold back just enough when you begin, you have the ability to “turn it up” towards the end!


In using this piece with a client, I kept my strategy and had her use 15# dumbbells for the thrusters, perform push-ups with hands elevated on a 30” box, and jump onto a 12” box.


The thrusters could be performed using a barbell or kettlebells.





For Time:

2-arm KB Clean + Overhead x 75 (2x 35#/2x 26#)

-Any time that you break, stop what you are doing and perform 5x calories on the Assault bike.

*Kicker = Each break, the calorie count on the Assault bike increases by 5. So, break #2 requires 10x calories on Assault bike, 3 = 15, etc. Calorie count will max out at 30.


This workout is relatively simple in that it uses the double kettlebell clean to overhead and the air bike. The double clean to overhead means that after cleaning the kettlebells, you can strict press, push press, or push jerk them. Your choice! 


This is a “for time” piece that requires you to complete 75 clean to overhead. The prescribed loading is a pair of 26# kettlebells for women, and a 35# pair for men. Any time that you have to take a break, you must perform a bout on the air bike. When you first take a break, you knock out 5 calories on the bike. The next time you take a break, you increase the air bike bout by 5 calories for a total of 10 calories. 


Moving forward, any time you take a break on the clean to overhead, you add another 5 calories to the air bike work! The calorie count maxes out at 30, so if you have to perform another air bike bout after you have already done a 30-calorie bout, you hit 30 calories again.




For Time:

1) Air Bike x 5cal

2) KB Double Clean to Overhead x 10

3) Air Bike x 10cal

4) KB Double Clean to Overhead x 10

5) Air Bike x 15cal

6) KB Double Clean to Overhead x 10

7) Air Bike x 20cal

8) KB Double Clean to Overhead x 10

9) Air Bike x 25cal

10) KB Double Clean to Overhead x 10

11) Air Bike x 30cal


Those who have a solid understanding of how their body responds to repeated clean and overhead reps will most likely know that this endeavor involves some heavy breathing and it tends to escalate pretty quickly! They will also probably have a pretty good idea of how many reps they can comfortably perform before they need to take a break. These people would be able to knock out this workout as originally designed.


For everyone else, however, I feel it is important to set parameters with regard to how many reps should be performed at one time before taking a “break” to knock out some calories on the air bike!


In addition, I feel that a more moderate amount of double clean to overhead reps could be a better idea. Let’s aim for a total of 50 instead of 75 and split them into sets of 10. 


Now, let’s take the original idea of starting with a 5-calorie bike and then increasing it by 5 calories every time the exerciser takes a break from the kettlebells. Why don’t we start with a 5-calorie bike and then alternate the 10 reps of kettlebell clean to overhead with each bike bout, wrapping things up with a 30-calorie bike? Brilliant!





Every 3 Minutes x 5 Rounds:

1) Double-Unders x 50

2) DB deadlift x 5 (50#/30#)

3) DB power clean x 5 (50#/30#)

4) DB front squat x 5 (50#/30#)

5) DB push press x 5 (50#/30#)

*Scale weight so you have at least 30 seconds rest between rounds.  


This is an “on the minute”-style workout, with the work being completed within the three-minute timeframe, leaving the remainder of the three minutes for rest before going again. This type of format works well when the amount of work isn’t so much that sufficient rest is not feasible before starting the next round. When this isn’t possible, things go to hell in a handbasket very quick, and the concept of sustainable work obviously went out the window.


That said, I like the fact that the original workout calls for adjustments to be made if at least 30 seconds of rest are not possible between rounds!


The work consists of 50 double unders followed by five reps each of dumbbell deadlifts, power cleans, front squats, and push presses, all performed with the same pair of dumbbells. Guys use 50# and women use 30#. Five rounds are performed every three minutes.




Every 2:00 x 5 Rounds:

1) Single-Unders x 100

2) USB DL x 5

3) USB Clean to Fists x 5

4) USB Front Squat x 5

5) USB Push Press x 5


When I tweaked this workout for my own use, I made a few changes. As I said before, double-unders aren’t my thing, so I subbed singles and doubled the reps. I wanted to spend some time with the Ultimate Sandbag and opted for my 30# force bag. I felt that I could have gone a bit heavier, but no more than 40#. 


Upon completing my first round I realized that the “every 3:00” format would have meant way too much rest per round, considering I was able to get the work done in under 1:30. I decided to go every two minutes instead, which felt great and I was able to hold a consistent pace across all rounds.


I used this reworked piece as a conditioning finisher for my 6am small group training clients!


A pair of dumbbells or kettlebells could most definitely be used instead of the Ultimate Sandbag!




Real-world fitness isn’t created nor improved in a lab. It is the byproduct of sound principles consistently put into practice in a fitness setting. None of us are working with clients hooked up to electrodes, tracking data 24/7 and continually testing things to prove that what we are doing is in fact working. 


We are working with everyday people who want to make progress without a ton of bullshit! Most of us are pretty good at sniffing out the gimmicks & bringing what works in the real world to our clients. On the flip side, as much as we value the sciencey stuff, most of our clients could care less about it as long as we are helping them move forward! 


As much as I like organization and respect the importance of order, I reeealllllyyy like to be able to go by feel and explore fitness using my creative side. I feel that both worlds can come together and create something really great! This is why I have come to enjoy the process of program design and continue to apply different strategies to the programs I create. 


Sometimes the rules we hold so dear can be bent just a bit, when we know when it is appropriate to do so. In addition, a great deal of “in the trenches” experience with oneself as well as with clients carries a ton of value with regard to putting principles into practice and witnessing the impact brought about by various training methods. This is what I mean by the “intelligent and intuitive” aspect of program design.




Sarah Rippel Just Launched: Brand NEW Home Program Design Mastery for Fit Pros: Done for You Program,Templates and More!

Check out some other top level programming and Done for You products by Sarah Rippel :

The Ultimate Small Group Training System”  The most Comprehensive Guide to Semi-Private and Small Group Training for Fit Pros.

Build N’ Burn  – Done For YOU 16 Wk Metabolic Group Training Program for Fit Pros

AND The NEW Done-for-You Build N Burn 2.0 for Fit Pros



Other articles by Sarah Rippel:

KISS Principle for Group Training+(3x3x3 Circuit Workout)

Deceptively Devious Conditioning Circuit

The Smart Program Design Series: Incorporating Variety & Making Progression Seamless Part 5 – Selecting Exercises for Conditioning Work

SGT Workout Breakdown- Program 4  Part 1

The Conditioning Based Warm-Up: 10 Minute EMOM

SGT Workout Breakdown Program 4 – Part 2

Metabolic Circuit Revamp V1.0

Unconventional Cardio: Strongman Conditioning Circuits

Density Training for Metabolic Conditioning & Strength Work

Using Cluster Sets To Spice Up Strength Programming

4 Wall Ball Conditioning Workouts+4 Tips to Improve Wall Ball Technique(Videos)

Using a Tempo Focus with Build ‘N Burn Workouts

Speed Ladder + Static Core Continuous 30-Second Circuit Version 2.0

The Continuous 20-Second Interval Format (“BURN” Circuits w/ Videos ) 

Alternating EMOMs for Small Group Training


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