Time-efficient conditioning workouts were the training foundation for Heisman Trophy winner and three-time NFL All-Pro running back Herschel Walker.
To this day, Walker continues to perform them as he pursues a career in mixed martial arts. The workouts help him maintain an elite level of conditioning by taxing his metabolic capacity—the ability to maintain powerful movements over an extended period of time. Walker says, “One of the assets that I have in the cage is my cardio.” His circuit training is the reason.
Step away from the treadmill and the elliptical machine—which fail to replicate game-like conditions—and attack Walker’s conditioning circuit, put together by Kurt Hester, D1 Sports Training’s national director of training. It’ll build explosiveness that translates to the playing field.
Perform three rounds of the circuit, resting for two minutes after each round. Below, we break down each exercise used in the circuit.
1. Dumbbell Vertical Series
Assume athletic position and perform 6 to 8 reps of each exercise in the following sequence, using lightweight dumbbells.
Walker begins the Vertical Series with a DB Hang Clean.
Hang Clean: Holding DBs at sides, extend hips, knees and ankles while simultaneously shrugging; drive elbows toward ceiling and catch DBs at shoulders in athletic stance
Shoulder Press: Hold DBs at shoulder level with palms facing each other and press dumbbells straight overhead
RDL: Holding DBs just above knees with palms facing in, bend at waist and lower DBs down front of legs as far as flexibility allows; forcefully contract hamstrings and glutes to rise to start position; repeat for specified reps
Squat: Holding DBs at shoulder level with feet slightly wider than shoulder width, lower into squat position, then explosively drive up to start position
Reverse Grip Row: Bend forward holding DBs at sides of knees with palms facing forward; bring DBs to chest while keeping elbows tight to body
Reps: 6-8 each movement
2. Med Ball Slams
Stand with feet shoulder-width apart holding med ball with both hands at waist
Rotate arms clockwise, bring med ball overhead and slam into ground on right
Catch ball on first bounce, rotate arms counterclockwise, and repeat slam on left
Perform specified number of reps
Reps: 6-8 each side
Coaching Points: Use lightweight med ball // Keep weight on heels with chest up // Perform slam in one continuous motion
3. Sledgehammer Slams
Grasping sledgehammer, squat slightly and cock sledgehammer over right shoulder
Explosively slam sledgehammer into tire
Repeat continuously for specified reps
Switch hands; perform hits from left side
Reps: 6-8 each side
Coaching Points: Grip sledgehammer firmly // Keep core tight // Drive through legs, hips and core
4. Tire Flips With Plyo Hop
Assume athletic position
Squat and grab underneath tire
Explode up while pulling tire, then flip tire forward and onto ground
Stay in athletic position, sink hips back and perform Tuck Jump into center of tire
Jump to far side of tire and turn around
Repeat for specified reps
Coaching Points: Use lower body to drive tire up // Keep weight on heels // Jump in and out of tire as fast as possible
5. Plate Carries
Walker builds conditioning with the Plate Carry exercise.
Stack 2½-, 5-, 10-, 25- and 45-pound plates
Pick up 2½-pound plate and run 20 yards
Drop plate on ground and jog back to start position
Repeat for remaining plates
Rest for 30 seconds and repeat exercise, starting with 45-pound plate and working down to 2½
Sets: 4 (2 ascending, 2 descending)
Coaching Points: Perform in controlled manner // Use two hands to carry larger plates, holding at chest level
6. Elevated Diamond Push-Ups
Assume push-up position with feet elevated on tire and with hands and fingers together, creating a diamond shape
Perform as many Push-Ups as possible
Coaching Points: Keep back flat and core tight // Hold head up, facing straight ahead, not down