Aerobic Conditioning: "Engine Building" explained


Cardiovascular conditioning has become more and more important in CrossFit because people understand how doing this kind of training can improve your classic CrossFit metcons.  The ability to breathe and complete high skill moves is vital in the sport.

Something thrown around a lot during the “off-season” for competitive CrossFitters is “engine building.” Engine work is often associated with doing a lot of monostructural cardio machine workouts. While there is definitely a purpose for monostructural work, ONLY focusing on this will not necessarily translate to stronger Open scores; or better mecons for that matter.

Why? Outside of 7 minutes of burpees back in 2012, there have been no other single-movement workouts. That means you’ll definitely want to vary your style of engine work- or conditioning. Completing a long workout with no regard for pace, heart rate, or overall intention of the workout might make you more fit, but is it helping you achieve your overall goal? When your goal is to build a better “engine” you must first define that goal.

The list below of different conditioning styles, as supplied by Aerobic Capacity seminar creator Chris Hinshaw is listed below. Notice how there are different elements included like work: rest ratio and intensity levels. We've included some sample workouts that would achieve the desired stimulus. 

Aerobic Conditioning styles and definitions can be  found here

Aerobic Conditioning styles and definitions can be found here

Working at a moderate pace sustaining a more controlled sustainable heart rate will help you to build the larger aerobic base that will help you breathe and move during metcons. Having an understanding of how to keep your breathing under control is a major factor in staying composed during metcons. Aerobic training is going to be different based on athletes- some things that are tough for some, will be easier for others- that’s the beauty of this sport.

There is nothing wrong with spending some serious suffering time on cardio machines, anaerobic higher intensity pieces can train your aerobic system but it should not be the entirety of it. Ask yourself if you just getting better at hurting on machines or actually training your aerobic system?



James Wright