PHASES OF FITNESS CONDITIONING
The physical fitness training program is divided into three
phases: preparatory, conditioning, and maintenance. The starting
phases for different individuals vary depending on their
age, fitness levels, and previous physical activity.
Young, healthy persons may be able to start with the conditioning phase, while
those who have been exercising regularly may already be in the
maintenance phase. Many factors such as illness or lack of consistency in one's exercise program
can cause individuals to drop from a maintenance
to a conditioning phase. Persons who have not been active,
especially if they are age 40 or older, should start with the
The preparatory phase helps both the cardiorespiratory and
muscular systems get used to exercise, preparing the body to handle
the conditioning phase. The work load in the beginning must be
moderate. Progression from a lower to a higher level of fitness
should be achieved by gradual, planned increases in frequency,
intensity, and time.
Initially, poorly conditioned individuals should run, or walk
if need be, three times a week at a comfortable pace that elevates
their heart rate to about 60 percent HRR for 10 to 15 minutes.
Recovery days should be evenly distributed throughout the week,
and training should progress slowly. People should continue
at this or an appropriate level until they have no undue fatigue
or muscle soreness the day following the exercise. They should
then lengthen their exercise session to 16 to 20 minutes and/or
elevate their heart rate to about 70 percent HRR by increasing
their pace. To be sure their pace is faster, they should run a
known distance and try to cover it in less time. Those who feel
breathless or whose heart rate rises beyond their training heart
rate (THR) while running should resume walking until the heart
rate returns to the correct training level. When they can handle
an intensity of 70 percent HRR for 20 to 25 minutes, they should
be ready for the next phase.
The preparatory phase for improving muscular endurance and
strength through weight training should start easily and progress
gradually. Beginning weight trainers should select about 8 to
12 exercises that work all the body's major muscle groups. They
should use only very light weights the first week (that is, the
first two to three workouts). This is very important, as they
must first learn the proper form for each exercise. Light weights
will also help minimize muscle soreness and decrease the likelihood
of injury to the muscles, joints, and ligaments. During the second
week, they should use progressively heavier weights on each resistance
exercise. By the end of the second week (four to six workouts),
they should know how much weight will let them do 8 to 12 repetitions
to muscle failure for each exercise. At this point the conditioning
To reach the desired level of fitness, people must increase
the amount of exercise and/or the workout intensity as their strength
and/or endurance increases.
To improve cardiorespiratory endurance,
for example, they must increase the length of time they run. They
should start with the preparatory phase and gradually increase
the running time by one or two minutes each week until they can
run continuously for 20 to 30 minutes. At this point, they can
increase the intensity until they reach the desired level of fitness.
They should train at least three times a week and take no more
than two days between workouts.
For weight trainers, the conditioning phase normally begins
during the third week. They should do one set of 8 to 12 repetitions
for each of the selected resistance exercises. When they can do
more than 12 repetitions of any exercise, they should increase
the weight used on that exercise by about five percent so they
can again do only 8 to 12 repetitions. This process continues
throughout the conditioning phase. As long as they continue to
progress and get stronger while doing only one set of each exercise,
it is not necessary for them to do more than one set per exercise.
When they stop making progress with one set, they should add another
set on those exercises in which progress has slowed. As training
progresses, they may want to increase the sets to three to help
promote further increases in strength and/or muscle mass.
For maximum benefit, weight trainers should do strength training
three times a week with 48 hours of rest between workouts for
any given muscle group. It helps to periodically do a different
type of exercise for a given muscle or muscle group. This adds
variety and ensures better strength development.
The maintenance phase sustains the high level of fitness achieved
in the conditioning phase. The emphasis here is no longer on progression.
A well-designed, 45- to 60-minute workout (including warm-up and
cool-down) at the right intensity three times a week is enough
to maintain almost any appropriate level of physical fitness.
These workouts give one the time to stabilize their flexibility,
CR endurance, and muscular endurance and strength. However, more
frequent training may be needed to reach and maintain peak fitness
An effective program uses a variety of activities to develop
muscular endurance and strength, CR endurance, and flexibility,
and to achieve good body composition. It should also promote the
development of coordination as well as basic physical skills.