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Unique Functional Conditioning Circuit (+Videos)

Unique Functional Conditioning Circuit (+Videos)

By Sarah Rippel, author of Build ‘N Burn


I am a BIG fan of conditioning workouts that are sustainable, meaning continuous movement can be performed without the need to stop & rest for chunks of time.

I also explain these types of workouts as not having an intensity of “OMG I am about to die!”

The word “functional” is played-out in 2018, but it gets the point across here. Each of the movements requires total-body integration & all could be considered to be applicable to real-world tasks. In other words, this circuit is non-technical “grunt work” or GPP (general physical preparedness). There is nothing included here that demands precision such as variations of Olympic lifts. You basically get down to work and keep working!


3 rounds:

  1. Prowler March – moderate load x 50-60m
  2. Axle Bar Overhead Carry – moderate load x 50-60m
  3. Standing Rope Hand Over Hand Pulldown – moderate load x 2 reps (up & down 15′ x 2)
  4. Sandbag Bird Dog Drag – x 16 total (8/side)
  5. Rest 90 sec
    *Move at a steady pace, but none of these exercises are meant to be at “OMG I’m about to die” intensity!
    *You are not required to move immediately to an exercise following completion of another, BUT…don’t lollygag!

Again, I believe conditioning should be sustainable for most people who are training for general fitness! Aerobic is the name of the game in my gym. I want people moving & pacing without feeling gassed, staying in the right zone.

There is a time and place for higher-intensity interval work, but I believe people benefit most from a consistent “diet” of basic strength work coupled with moderate-intensity conditioning.

Tons of high intensity intervals without proper rest intervals can add more stress to an individual’s already stressed-out “environment.” Move people forward, not backward!


This basic movement is killer for lower body “pushing,” and it creates a very solid closed chain environment to train each leg independently. In addition, it has a primal quality, which is rarely ever a bad thing! Also, it demands that you properly brace in order to maximize the strength in your legs, which flat-out rocks!

The sled I currently use weighs 111 lbs by itself. For this specific conditioning circuit, my group training ladies worked with the unloaded sled. If you are uncertain as to how much weight to use, I would suggest testing out the distance prior to starting this workout to determine whether or not the load is appropriate.


Loaded carries are the bomb-dot-com for most anyone. We perform all varieties here at Rippel Effect. The overhead carry with the axle bar is neato in that it works the grip a bit more than a traditional bar, due to it’s larger circumference. Training locomotion (aka gait patterns) is great for everyone because it’s something we all do in our daily lives. There is not a lot of thought that these types of exercises require. You simply carry the load for distance or time, while managing posture and breathing. Breathing & bracing under load is HUGE for us!

My axle bar weighs 23 lbs by itself, and we have used anywhere from 23-33 lbs for this specific circuit. Again, my groups are ladies-only, so if you’re a dude (or a stronger chick), adjust the load accordingly!


This nifty little exercise is a favorite amongst my group training chicas! I like to refer to it as “ringing the church bell,” lol. The vertical hand-over-hand pulling action is unique – in essence, this exercise can be considered a prerequisite for rope climbs. In addition, having to brace the entire body to create a stable “platform” from which to pull means EVERYTHING works during this movement! See a trend here? 🙂

We use a 30-foot rope looped over a pull-up bar that is 15 feet high. This works well for my facility. In this circuit we typically use a 25 pound kettlebell as shown in the video. Make sure that sucker is secured & remained focused on it as it ascends, so you do not pull it over the top of the bar! This has not happened to us, and I do not anticipate it, but it bears mentioning!



I am in love with this variation! I have found it to enable people to perform a much better bird dog, as it promotes engagement and proper bracing. Also, if you try and go too fast, it gets all herky-jerky, which makes mistakes obvious and causes you to slow down. I am a BIG fan of having people slow down when performing most exercises. A: it makes coaching easier because slowing down is self-corrective and B: people “feel” muscles working a lot more than when they are flailing about like one of these things:

We use a 15# sandbag or water-filled sandbag. 

So there you have it – Functional Conditioning Circuit! Give it a shot and let me know how you like it!


Go grab Sarah Ripple’s Build N’ Burn  – Done For YOU  Metabolic Small Group Training System for Fit Pros

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