What is Conditioning?

Conditioning is a topic often talked about but rarely explained in simple terms. There’s far too much confusion about what conditioning really is. In this episode of 8WeeksOut U, I’ll give you an easy way to understand what conditioning really is and how it relates to power output and performance.

Conditioning and Maximum Sustainable Power

As you cans see from the graph in the video, conditioning is most easily described as a measure of your maximum sustainable power output across a given duration. The more power you’re able to maintain throughout an event, the higher your conditioning level is.

Within this, it’s important to consider that there is an inverse relationship between the maximum sustainable power and the duration. In other words, the longer the event, the lower the level of maxium sustainable power will be.

Compare the power output of a marathon runner to that of a 400m runner, for example. Or look at the power output that a Weightlifter can generate compared to a cyclist. Even though the amount of power that a professional cyclist is incredibly impressive, it’s ten fold lower than what gets generated in the Snatch.

The Power-Duration Relationship

Aside from the duration of the event, the other major factor that affects what level of maximum sustainable power is possible is the work to rest ratio. Again, the shorter the rest periods and the longer the work periods, the lower the MSP will be.

Whenever there are very short work periods and long rest periods, this allows for higher levels of power to be repeated over and over again because there is more time for the body to recover from the high work rate and high contributions of anaerobic energy.

Next time I’ll be expanding more on this concept by discussiong the Anaerobic Power Reserve, an incredibly important concept to understand if you want to get at the heart of conditioning and how it relates to power output


  1. How does this theory account for repeated sprint performances? For instance hockey is made up of repeated shifts where athletes work at levels higher than their lactate threshold (LT) for 30-60 seconds and then rest 2-3 minutes, then repeat. I guess I’m assuming the MSP and the LT are similar, but that measure of conditioning seems like it would only be applicable to a sport that is cyclic. Isn’t the need for rest between sprint bouts indicative of working above maintainable threshold?

    1. I demonstrated how it applies to acyclic sports. The MSP in that case is still a measure of how much power can be repeated from one work period to the next without fatigue. Where the MSP falls in relation to the LT depends on the ratio between work and rest and the duration of the periods

  2. Hey Joel, it’s Jason from Hawaii “Leben’s friend”

    The HRV tool has been very helpful in my training man. The biofeedback has been very insightful in calibrating my training. I also like these videos. It really brings to light what conditioning actually is as well as how to train with specificity for any given sport. You are a big help to my and my teams conditioning man!


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