Summer Accessory Work and ConditioningAdded conditioning work at the end of your lower body days puts as much distance as possible between sled pushes, intense cycling, or rowing sessions and your next bout of squats and deadlifts. Accessory work tends to group well with your upper body day. The goal will be to keep the accessory work short and dense.
Accessory Work and Conditioning: The 4-day Split for Summer
Sometimes training changes with the seasons. And, as people start to emerge from the extended hibernation of the global pandemic, it’s time to start thinking about your summer strength, body, and fitness goals. Even if you are not returning to your pre-COVID social life and activities, warm weather plus cabin fever may be calling you out. At a minimum, Summer tends to include more outdoor activities and fewer clothes. It is okay if your training plans adapt to some summer-specific goals.
But, don’t assume that your strength has to take a dive so that you can focus on conditioning and beach muscles. Taking advantage of a basic four-day split program can add those things to your weekly schedule without making you choose between barbells and the beach.
Upper/lower split training allows you to spread out productive training stress while adding circuit training or conditioning work to the ends of your workouts. For some advice on how to implement a four-day training split, check out some of the resources below:
- #269 – The MED Masterclass #3: Freedom & The Four-Day Split
- #271 – MED Masterclass #4: Options, Options… and the 4-Day Split
- The Texas Method: Method vs. Template (Part 2)
- Four Day Split Programming & MED Principles
|Bench Press (intensity)|
Bench Press (volume)
Think of the basic four-day program, like the one above, as a kernel. The kernel training session is relatively short, hitting the big barbell lifts with volume and intensity efforts, while leaving you with time and energy for accessory or conditioning work, tacked on to the end of the kernel session in short, intense bursts. Your version will vary depending on your current training, but keeping general strength as the focus of your day, with intensity and volume coming from your main lifts, is a pretty good starting point.
Even with the four-day split, your lower body days are still going to be taxing. Added conditioning work at the end of your lower body days puts as much distance as possible between sled pushes, intense cycling, or rowing sessions and your next bout of squats and deadlifts. Accessory work tends to group well with your upper body day. The goal will be to keep the accessory work short and dense. Quick high-volume circuits will increase your overall activity for the training sessions and add some hypertrophy training to your week.
Conditioning work will depend on your available equipment. HIIT sessions work best for low-skill, low-impact methods: think sled pushes, assault bikes, and rowing. If all you have is your body weight and a pair of running shoes, longer sustained efforts are going to be better on your joints and for your lifting. Start with twenty to thirty minutes of sustained effort and add a little bit of time to each conditioning session.
If you have a proper set-up for interval training, your baseline goal is 20 seconds of work (:20s) followed by 1 minute and 40 seconds of rest (1:40) for four to six rounds. If you are older or not currently performing strenuous conditioning exercises, then shorten the work interval down to :15s and extend your rest to whatever you need it to be. Your first goal is to work toward four rounds of the baseline :20/1:40 split.
The plan will be to do this type of workout once or twice per week, adding one round each week. Work up to twelve rounds, then decrease your rest to 1:30 or 1:15 and start over. Rinse. Repeat. Shoot for 12-15 rounds in under 20 minutes.
Think high-density and short duration. Accessory work is still a side dish to the meat of the big barbell. For a simple set-up, break your accessory lifts and movements into three categories and that you can perform with your equipment:
|Chest, Arms, Shoulders||Back||Lower Body / Trunk|
Then, pick a protocol:
- 30 seconds on / 30 seconds off x 3 rounds: Pick three movements, performing :30/:30 protocol for three rounds of each movement.
- Accumulating volume: Chose two exercises for each category below and complete 50-100 reps total for each category. Start with fewer reps and work your way up over the next several weeks.
- Circuit training: Set a 10-minute timer, create a circuit, and move through it as many times as possible in 10 minutes. Rest as needed.
As you get used to the training, you can add rounds, reps, or time to your circuits. But, your goal should be to accumulate volume with a few movements in about 10-15 minutes. The best loads and exercises are those that you can perform 8-15 repetitions without stopping. Recognize, also, that some of these movements can cause extreme soreness if you do too much too soon (lunges anyone) approach everything new to you with caution.
As with all training advice, everything comes with a caveat. An objective coach can best determine how you can adapt your current training for summer fitness goals. And, if your strength training is going well right now, think long and hard about making a change. Training should fit your goals, but do not let mere whim change what’s working.
As always contact us if you have training questions, we can help you to keep building strength while chasing your summer goals: firstname.lastname@example.org.