Today was the first day of my 6th week of Project Uplift Programming. I felt creaky today, reflective of my actual 39 year old Purple Heart recipient body. I immediately decided on making today a deload or active recovery day. Now, this can mean different things to different people.
What is a “deload” day?
For me, a deload is when I either significantly reduce my training (resistance) load and/or volume, or chose not to “lift” at all. It could be that I’m showing signs of overtraining, my joints are a bit achy (today), or perhaps I am saving some fuel in the tank for the next session.
My deload days have always included activities that encourage a large aerobic base. Having a solid aerobic base has probably been the single most valuable physical attribute in my career as an Infantryman. Consequently, I make it a daily ritual, regardless of my other athletic endeavors, to include between 15-90 minutes of conditioning work daily.
While in the Service, I religiously did a 1⁄2 mile (2640 ft) on the Jacob’s Ladder each morning before PT, and would only run and ruck march when the Army made me, which was very often.
In the field, I would do high volume (300-500) kettlebell swings for time, absurdly long unbroken walking lunges up to 1km or high volume burpee workouts.
How has conditioning augmented my training?
This kind of training has resulted in several positive adaptations. First, I can recover very quickly both between sets as well as on a day-to-day basis. Second, I can sustain a very high volume of resistance training at moderate loads without risk of injury or overtraining. Third, rather than declining, my health markers have continually improved since my 20’s. Fourth, an aerobic base can be applied to any sport or athletic endeavor as a supplement to the specific demands of the sport for the reasons mentioned above.
How to use the stair stepper as a conditioning tool
Now that I’m here on Kauai, the gyms where I train do not have a beloved Jacob’s Ladder. But, there is a stair stepper available. Before I knew of the Jacob’s Ladder, the stair stepper was my go-to for conditioning, if I was not going to run, ruck or swim.
There are a couple of great ways to use this machine for both fat loss and performance. Obviously, you could go with a LISS (low intensity steady-state) approach and grind out 30-45 minutes or more.
Instead of that, I use an interval method I learned from some 1st Grp (First Special Forces Group) guys at McVeigh Gym on Joint Base Lewis-McChord when I was stationed there.
- Begin with the manual setting and input your weight and time you want to spend sucking. I recommend something that’s a multiple of 5 AND preferably 30 or more minutes depending on your fitness level and goals. I enjoy discomfort and make time by getting up early so I default to an hour.
- Now, here’s the “fun” part. Break the session into intervals of high and low intensity and make it into a HIIT (high intensity interval training) session — just a really long one.
The days I feel like junk, I’ll do 4x (10 minutes level 10 low then 5 minutes level 14 high)=60 minutes. If I’m feeling up to a challenge, I’ll go 4x(10 minutes level 13 low then 5 minutes level 16 high) and crush myself. At my previous peak training for an Afghanistan deployment with 7th Grp, I would do 6x(5 minutes level 18 low then 5 minutes level 20 high). Some of the “Green Suiters” I learned this from could do an hour on 20, which is the max intensity of the machine. Those operators had absolutely absurd engines.
Why use the stair stepper for conditioning?
Why would I do this both prior to a deployment and specifically today during a “deload” training session. Quite simply, because I can get a high volume of conditioning in with minimal stress on my central nervous system (CNS) and joints.
I tend to squat a lot – almost every day. I’ve been the victim two IEDs (improvised explosive device) and a series of training-related accidents over the past two decades. If I can keep my joints happy and save any CNS or joint stress for the good stuff (for example, when I WANT to squat, or when I NEED to run) then I can with minimal discomfort.
3 x (5 minutes level 12 low interval then 5 minutes level 14 high interval) = 30 minutes + 3 x (5 minutes level 10 low interval then 5 minutes level 16 high interval) I kept the interval intensity variation low the first half until my heart rate got decently elevated, then once I was where I wanted to be, I cranked up the “high” portion and decreased the “low/recovery” portion to make it more of a traditional yet extended HIIT session.
For 5 weeks now I have been doing these extended HIIT session after my training and thus far I have seen an 11 lb. loss on the scale, a 3% improvement in body composition, a 20-point decrease in resting heart rate AND blood pressure values without losing any strength.
This isn’t the first time I’ve used this tool for myself and others. I have successfully trained dozens of soldiers with body composition issues to within Army standard with this tool. I have prepared for deployments, Army Master Fitness School and more with this tool.
I have gone from a 15+ minute 2-mile run time to a 13 minute 2-mile within 8 weeks of NO running using this tool.
I have also gone from 18%+ bodyfat to high single digits using this tool.
I’m not saying this kind of training is for everyone. I just know that it works for me, has worked on several individuals I have trained and it may be a useful tool for you, too.
At the very least, if you have the machine available, give it a try. It may help break up training monotony, or be the thing you needed to bust past a conditioning plateau. I’ve seen guys men and women who run half marathons without sweating get crushed by this particular training tool in 10-15 minutes.
So that’s what I did for training today. I did some toes to bar and some other midline stability work, did some mobility and other stuff but I stayed away from the barbell to give my body a rest.
Tomorrow is a high volume day according to the program. My knees and T-spine are a bit overworked from last week so It’ll probably be back squats. More on that tomorrow. I hope you enjoyed the blog and got something useful out of it. Any questions, comments, etc, DM me @afronetix on Instagram or email email@example.com. Look for new content on the BeDiesel Youtube page with content from yours truly as well as my partner, former amature weightlifting and figure competitor @femalebbcom. Thanks for reading. Now GO DO SOME PT!
SSG United States Army Infantry (sep.)
Master Fitness Trainer