MacGyver Conditioning

By: Eric Bowman

The following is a guest post from Eric Bowman; his third so far for the club. To view Eric’s other articles, click here and here. In this article, Eric discusses some unconventional ways to make cardio training fun and effective. As always, enjoy and comment below! – Schuyler


While I believe strength should be at the forefront of every training program, what good is your strength if you can’t run away from a pissed off Canada Goose without being out of breath, even if you can bench 500 pounds.

A common sight in Waterloo.

Unfortunately, though, when most of people think of cardio, they think of “running” on a treadmill or aimlessly pedalling on a bike for an hour. The only enjoyment in this is getting to watch a couple episodes of Duck Dynasty on the TV attached to your cardio machine of choice.  Conditioning can and should be fun, efficient, and a great way to build a solid physique and work capacity. That being said, commerical gyms make this difficult, considering most don’t even have a Prowler for you to work with. When the weather outside sucks, many people complain about cardio training or worse yet, stop training altogether. So how do you get a decent cardio workout in when you have no useful equipment and the weather outside is lousy? Solution: MacGyver conditioning. In this article, several unique, fun ways to become fit with minimal to no equipment are explored.

Eric's Meme.

Disclaimer: You’ll notice I don’t post anything about sets, reps, or work and rest intervals in this article. Every person is different, and you must decide what works for you. My only wish is that you will use good form during all exercises and don’t overtrain. I’m not taking any responsibility for you if you train stupid and screw up your joints or any other part of your body.


I stole this idea from the famous Westside Barbell in Columbus, Ohio. Westside’s powerlifters and athletes use wheelbarrows among other techniques to increase training capacity, while still maintaining incredible amounts of mass and strength. To load the wheelbarrow, you have several options. The first of which is to buy some 40-50 lb soil bags from your local grocery store. You can also load the wheelbarrow with weights, heavy rocks, or a willing partner.

…or wheelbarrow racing!


When most people think of sprints they think of track athletes, but sprints can also be a great conditioning tool as well. Think about it, have you ever seen a sprinter with a bad physique?

If you have a long backyard or live near a football or soccer field or hill, you can build a great physique by alternating sprinting and walking.


Workout finishers have become the new rage in the fitness industry and for good reason. They’re a fun, efficient way to burn fat in little time. Sandbags and soilbags are everyday pieces you can use for carries. As stated earlier you can buy 40-50 lb soilbags at your local grocery store.

Eric's Sandbag.

Here’s an example of a sandbag complex: Bent Over Row, Hang Power Clean, Front Squat, and Overhead Press. There are lots of different variations of complexes you can do with these bags.

Zercher carries, overhead carries, or over the shoulder carries are also great bag exercises to challenge your core, your conditioning, and your posture. 


Men like Pavel Tsatsouline have popularized the kettlebell in North America, and while they’re a great strength and conditioning tool, many gyms still don’t carry them. Not to fear. Dumbbell swings, 1 arm dumbbell snatches, and dumbbell complexes are examples of some of the ways you can use dumbbells to get in a good finisher.


Have you done any MacGyver conditioning? What type of cardio do you do? Comment below and remember to “like” us on facebook!

EricEric Bowman is a BSc in Honours Kinesiology and will be entering the Physical Therapy program at the University of Western Ontario in the fall. He is currently working as a Research Assistant at UW’s Bone Health laboratory studying exercise in people with osteoporosis. His areas of interest include training and rehab for both athletes and elderly people. If you have questions or comments regarding this article, or if you just want to talk Kinesiology, you can email him at



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