Save Up to 30% When You Bundle! Save Up to 30% When You Bundle! SHOP NOW
How to transition from Bodybuilding to Unconventional Training

How to Transition from Bodybuilding to Unconventional Training

Written by
May 28, 2014
Updated April 12, 2018
Category: Fitness

The transition from doing bodybuilding workouts to explosive conditioning workouts wasn’t a easy process. I was coming from a bodybuilding background, where I spent ten years training. I was looking at guys like Arnold, Ronnie Coleman, Jay Cutler and wanting to have that size, strength, and cartoon-character like look.

I trained countless hours in the gym trying to achieve it. My training sessions were pretty much hammer strength machines, dumbbells, barbells, cable machines, and spending way too much time on the treadmill. Yeah I had the body that I wanted at that time, but I didn’t have the explosive conditioning that I have now. Now I look at guys like GSP and other MMA fighters and say to myself, “that is an explosively conditioned athlete.”

Today I train completely different, doing full body workouts and using tools that I never used during my bodybuilding days. For the past two years my training has done a complete 180; I’m doing full body explosive power training and the results I feel are completely different from when I was bodybuilding. I feel faster, stronger, and more conditioned then I did when I was in my teens and early twenties. My training now consists of sandbags, kettlebells, tires, ropes, sledgehammers, and so many other underground training tools. I will admit I still have days I train like a bodybuilder, but I add explosive exercises into the session just to have that full body pump.

For those who want to make that leap into MMA explosive conditioning, or just want to add something interesting to your bodybuilding routine while still maintaining your size, here are my tips for you to try to become explosive and better conditioned:

Tip 1 – Full Body Compound Workouts

Bodybuilders sometimes get too comfortable with single body-part workouts. A good shock to the system for growth is doing something different like a full-body routine once a week. Stay with the basic compound movements like deadlifts, squats, bench press, rows and good mornings. Try using different tools such as tires for flipping/dragging/pulling, sandbags for squats, kettlebells for rows and pressing. Keep the reps between 8-12 and 4 rounds per exercise. Also, bodyweight training like pull ups, push ups, squat jumps, and ring training will give your body a shock just moving your own weight. These weekly workouts will develop your strength and stamina, but will also pack on more muscle to your frame.

Tip 2 – Train to Raise Metabolism

We all love the feeling of “the pump,” but when doing metabolic conditioning work, you don’t have to get your muscles all pumped up. Instead, focus on elevating your metabolism instead. How do you know if you are raising this elusive thing called your metabolism? When you are huffing and puffing and having difficult time speaking, you’ll know you made it. Try a full body explosive kettlebell round lasting two or more minutes at high intensity
followed by 30 seconds of plyo jumps.

Tip 3 – Train Explosively

Bodybuilders love working on movements in a slow fashion so they can feel the blood pumping in their muscles. However, many studies have suggested that training with faster movements recruit more fast twitch muscles. As a result, you develop bigger muscles when you train with maximum speed. For your isolation body part days, you can continue to lift at a slower tempo. However, when you do your compound movements, train explosively and try to lift the load as fast as you can. Remember, it’s the intent to move that’s most important and not the literal speed of the movement itself. Lifting faster will get our muscles growing quicker than ever. A couple other ways to train explosive is throwing weight in the air and slamming weight to the ground using medicine balls or tires.

Tip 4 – Stay Off the Treadmill

Long distance cardio should be avoided as much as possible because low intensity movements like a slow jog can actually cause your body to be in a catabolic state which means you burn up muscles instead of fat. It also can do damage to your joints with the impact you put on them from the pounding on the surface. Do sprints instead! Sprints not only develop your cardiovascular system, they are one the best exercises to develop massive legs. The best part of a sprint workout is that it should take less than 15 minutes. Do 8 rounds of 50 yard sprints or hill sprints and you’ll get in the best condition of your life. Look at sprinters, they have strong defined and explosive legs.

Tip 5 – Avoid Training with Machines

Machines are great for isolation movements. Have a workout session where you don’t use machines. The problem with machines is you don’t have to use your core to stabilize your body. When you train with free weights, you involve your core to help you stabilize your spine so you don’t collapse and fall over. Bracing your core during free weight movements is one of the best ways to develop your abs and will help you get that six pack that a lot of elite conditioning athletes have. Free weight training gives you a greater range of motion and you’re not locked into a fixed position. Using kettlebells, sandbags, and other tools without being in a fixed position causes the body to recruit more muscle groups into the movement. In doing this, the workouts will be shorter and more effective because you are involving more muscles into one movement.

Tip 6 – Train Your Hips

Concentrating on how the hips are crucial in power movements such as the squat and deadlift can only help improve your PR numbers. Try doing kettlebell or keg swings to help out with hip mobility. With this movement, you will to improve hip strength, power, and conditioning, leading to stronger lifts in the squat and deadlift. The stronger your hips are, the more potential you have to build explosive power.

These tips will help you become a better conditioned athlete or bodybuilder; be prepared to have people looking at you differently inside and outside the gym. Give these training tips a six week try and you will feel yourself achieving more explosive power and greater conditioning. These training tips will help you build mental and physical toughness that a lot of other training lacks.

Trent Bender is the owner of the Underground Strength Gym, The Pit in Venice Beach, California. At The Psychology of Strength, our main emphasis is on the mental aspect of training. We believe that perseverance is a skill that can be learned. Our main focus is developing the ability to overcome adversity. This is true strength. We care less about how much our clients can bench press and more about how people can use the skills we teach to handle obstacles in their lives. Mental toughness is our primary goal. Find out more at
Free shipping is offered on orders with a minimum subtotal of $100 less discounts. Free shipping is only available in the contiguous U.S. and excludes Fitness and Digital items.
For media inquiries please contact us at
With a subscription, you'll get your favorite Onnit products whenever you want at 15% off MSRP. All automatic, worry free, and with our same great money back guarantee.
Cancel or adjust your order at any time, hassle free. Your payment method will only be charged right before your order ships. The discount applied every time is 15% off MSRP or the current sale discount, whichever is greater. For more information, see the complete Onnit Subscription Terms & Conditions and Frequently Asked Questions.

Secure Shopping

We implement a variety of security measures to maintain the safety of your personal information when you place an order or enter, submit, or access any information on our website. We incorporate physical, electronic, and administrative procedures to safeguard the confidentiality of your personal information, including Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) for the encryption of all financial transactions through the website. We use industry-standard, 256bit SSL encryption to protect your personal information online, and we also take several steps to protect your personal information in our facilities. For example, when you visit the website, you access servers that are kept in a secure physical environment, behind a locked cage and a hardware firewall. After a transaction, your credit card information is not stored on our servers.