You might hear trainers and fitness gurus tossing around the word "conditioning" -- it can refer to several different types of exercise. Body conditioning refers to exercises that increase your strength, speed, endurance or any other physical attribute. Conditioning workouts can trim fat, increase muscle tone and prepare your body for the rigors of sports. Virtually every exercise you do at home or in the gym is a form of body conditioning, but you should design balanced workouts to get the most out of your routine.
When you go for a morning swim, take to the track in the afternoon sun or do your 30-minute routine on the elliptical, you're putting your body through aerobic conditioning. The main purpose of aerobic conditioning is to use large muscles for extended periods of time, increasing your cardiovascular endurance in the process. Aerobic exercise can trim weight, increase stamina, strengthen your heart and keep your arteries clear.
Anaerobic exercise, which is sometimes called metabolic conditioning, involves short, intense workouts that use fast-twitch muscles such as burpees, jump rope, jumping jacks and squat thrusts. According to a 2012 study conducted by Canadian researchers at Queen's University, four minutes of interval training increases your cardio endurance as much as 30 minutes on a treadmill, and it has the added benefit of increasing muscular endurance.
Building Muscle and Strength
In addition to aerobic and metabolic conditioning, you can also condition your muscles for strength by doing weighted or body-weight resistance exercises. Lifting weights or performing pushups, crunches and other body weight exercises results in minor trauma to your muscles, which causes them to rebuild stronger than they were before. Strength training is a form of anaerobic conditioning, but typical strength workouts don't involve fast, intense intervals like those done in metabolic training.
No matter what type of conditioning you're getting into, evaluate your personal fitness goals, your current conditioning level and any physical limitations or injuries that could hinder you during these routines. One approach to training is to vary the type of conditioning you do day by day, alternating between aerobic and anaerobic workouts to round out your routine and get the best of both worlds.
Steven Kelliher is an experienced sports writer, technical writer, proofreader and editor based out of the Greater Boston Area. His main area of expertise is in combat sports, as he is a lifelong competitor and active voice in the industry. His interviews with some of the sport's biggest names have appeared on large industry sites such as ESPN.com, as well as his own personal blog.