"Tir'd with all these, from these would I be gone/ Save that, to die, I leave my love alone."

Originally Posted on Tuesday, August 21, 2012 4:08 PM
Yeah, conditioning makes me feel like the title (extra points for anyone identifying the origin and sending it to me).  But couplets are more than just rhymed (usually) lines in Shakeseare (and others).  They're a good, safe, smart way to finish your lifting workout.  

I've spoken about barbell complexes here:  http://www.mckennasgym.com/blog/2011/07/22/Complex-Conditioning.aspx and about other finishers here:  http://www.mckennasgym.com/blog/2011/11/17/What-are-Extras-and-my-suggestions.aspx

But a quick 10 minute couplet can condition you, work on a particular weakness, and generally get you ready for the beerfest your Thursday night will turn into after all those squats we do.  A 10 minute couplet also won't destroy your recuperative abilities, though it may make your evening less enjoyable.  

Gant Grimes, a fine gentlemen with whom I've spent some work time the last few months, advises his clients to finish their workouts with these couplets rather than destroying themselves with a non-sensical high intensity conditioning punishment.  A good couplet flows, complements your workout and your goals, and is done in about 10 minutes, give or take a few.  If your conditioning is going to take longer than 10 minutes to finish, go for a 2-5 mile run, row a 5k, or bike 10+ miles.  Or swim if you can.  Jumping around like an idiot with a bar for 10 minutes won't make you a better athlete, it will just cause injury.  

When designing a couplet, use what you have on hand, and don't make the exercises ones which require a lot of thought or CNS activity.   Further, the exercises should flow into each other, be intuitive.  And, finally, the exercises should be challenging, but not destructive.  

My favorite starting place for planning a couplet is the KB swing (or core blaster).  I like the kb swing to speed up the workout at times, or sometimes it slows us down, depending on the other exercise.  For instance, I'll often have the group do KB swings and battling ropes.  20 swings/ 20 seconds on the rope with a 10 second rest in between, or jumping rope for 100 jumps then 20 swings.  In these instances, the swings slow us down.  

I'll also use swings to speed up a couplet.  My favorite couplet of late is the KB get-up and KB swings.  We'll do 5 get ups to each side, then 10 swings; then three get-ups, then 15 swings, then one get up, then 20 swings.  For well conditioned folks we'll do 15/20/30 swings.  

Another base exercise I use for couplets is the sprint.  Well, the fast run for a short distance; I like 20-40 yards, or up a hill. Sprint and do push-ups, or sprint and do pull-ups, or sprint and do jumping jacks.  

I don't like to do the rower with a couplet; getting in and out of the rower is just a pain.  But some people like to row without the toe straps fastened hard, and if so, then rowing and ball slams are pretty cool as a couplet.  

Strongman conditioning is also a good couplet maker, especially a load and a pull.  Load a stone over a bar a few times, then drag a sled.  Or load some things and flip a tire a couple times.  

For wrestlers, find a set of steps, do 40 push-ups and carry a sandbag up the steps.  Walk down and repeat 5-10 times; maybe you do 20 push ups instead of 40.  The number isn't important, the work is.

How do we determine the weights and load for a couplet?  I believe an effective couplet should be with a load between 60-80% of your max.  Yes, so run a bit slower than your 100% speed on those sprints.  Do 40 push-ups instead of 50.  Use the 100 pound sandbag instead of the 150.  And for the love of everything, do 5 pull-ups with good form instead of 40 with bad.  

 When choosing your exercises, choose things which you need to improve.  I hate get-ups, so I do them.  I love push-ups and am inexplicably good at them, so I avoid them.  I cannot do a pull-up, so I also avoid them (strength movement for me).  I can sprint, albeit badly, and I do it.  I like the core blaster because it improves my hip drive, so I use that more than a single KB for swings.  I like double KB swings for the same reason, so I do them, too.  

Also, choose something you can finish.  10 sets of the 240 stone over the bar 5x and then flipping the 750# tire 5x is not a good idea.  Maybe 3+1, or 2+2 for 10 sets.  maybe five sets of the five.  Maybe 10 sets if I'm in shape and strong.  

The key to couplets is to make them achievable, smart, and short, without a body destroying intensity.    

Michael McKennaComment