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Why not start the week with some combat tips from the indomitable Captain Kirk?  The kids and I have been watching some of the original Star Trek episodes (the only ones worth watching) on Netflix, have to admit they’re even better than when I watched them as a kid growing up.  
 
I mentioned a few weeks ago that I was starting to incorporate some sprints into my training.  Unfortunately I’ve been sidelined for the past 2 weeks with a back issue, so I haven’t had a chance to try out this Jen Sinkler workout, but it’s on my list of things to do.  I also like the general Sprint tips/pointers from Eric Cressey.  Check it out. 



 
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I hope that some of you are sitting down, because I have a confession to make.  I’m experimenting with an upright form of accelerated locomotion.  As most of you know, I hate running. I find it boring, it makes my knees ache, and in my mind there are other ways to work on my aerobic capacity than to punish myself with running as a form of chronic cardio.  So unless I’m training for a Black Belt (been there, done that) or running from a Tiger (not lately, although there has been a suspicious looking raccoon staggering around our back yard), I don’t see the need to run.

Enter the Sprint.  There are more and more proponents of Sprinting as a form of cardio activity (see Mark Sisson’s Primal Blueprint Fitness eBook, found here).  So although I’ve known I should be doing some sprinting, I always found an excuse not to. Until a couple weeks ago,
that is.  I decided that I would start to incorporate a sprint activity at least 1X/week into my other activities.  The local church across from our development has an open area next to it that is used for Pee Wee football.  It’s already laid out with ~ 60 yards of lines in 5 yd. increments.  So I just stop by, place an orange cone at the start line, another one 50 yds. out, and run the sprints.  I’m starting easy, 70-80% effort, 5-9 sprints, recovering while walking back to the start line.  So far, so good.  Will keep you posted as things progress.  And I’ll post a  few interesting links in the weeks to come.

{Note - just read an article in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research (26(1): 53-62, 2012) that compared High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) to Repeated–Sprint Training for tennis players.   I know that doesn’t have any carry over to the Martial Arts (unless you’re going to whack someone with a racket), but there was a key finding.  They found that Repeated-Sprint Training (RST) might be a time efficient strategy in enhancing aerobic adaptations, given the lower training volume required by the RST compared with that of the HIIT.  “..from a practical point of view, desired adaptations (e.g., VO2 peak increases) can be obtained with a substantial reduction in exercise training time, allowing the players to spend more time on-court and optimizing technical and tactical skills.”  It’s the efficiency and providing more time to work on technical skills (strikes, locks, holds, weapons) that interests me from a Martial Arts perspective.}


 
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I’m back in the saddle after returning from a week long service project with the family and church youth group to Grundy County, TN (http://www.mountain-top.org/).  
As the poorest county in the US, there’s a tremendous need and I think everyone came away with an appreciation for what they have in their lives.  Great trip, other than the 14 ½ hour drive each way, which had as much appeal as a skunk in a blender.  In fact, with a carload of teenage boys, it was like having a skunk in
the blender for much of the trip.

Quick and dirty, here are some things that I’ve seen or read this week that I found entertaining and/or informative:

The Badpiper Thunderstruck:  I gotta get me a kilt and some pipes.  If only to have something that shoots flames.   
 

Training For Warriors Power Training: Martin Rooney rocks.  Key concept – is your training just making you tired, or are you making progress towards a specific goal?    
 

Embrace the Suck - good read by John Romaniello. Made me think about breaking negative associations and giving some things that I “don’t like” a chance.  Like yoga.  Or running. Need to push thru the proficiency threshold.  
 

The Agile 8 -  I liked this quick look at some mobility drills, especially as it relates to opening up the hips.  Short video found on the right side bar of this article.  

No equipment, No Problem – Here’s a long list of sample workouts that you can do without equipment.  No more excuses, just pick one (or two or three...) and do it.  


Bodyweight Basics with Steve Maxwell -  I’ve followed Steve Maxwell’s materials for a dozen years or more.  If you’re not familiar with BW exercises, this would be a good resource.  
 

How to Make your BJJ training more fun -  I liked the look of the sprawl drill with the Stability Ball in the second video.


That's all for now.  Get out there and make it a great day.  Do something physical and/or combative this weekend!


 


 
 
 

 

 


 

 
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Two of the things I like about training with ropes are a) how
easy it is to apply “bursts” of intensity and apply this to interval training, and b) the ability to combine footwork with hand patterns.  Both of these characteristics are critical when trying to find and apply sports-specific conditioning for the combative arts.  
 
A recent article in the Strength and Conditioning Journal (Vol 35, No. 1, Feb 2013, pp. 1-9) discusses “Strength and Conditioning for Fencing”.  Modern fencing is obviously done for sporting purposes (it’s one of the few sports featured at every modern Olympic games), but has combative roots.  Current competitions feature preliminary bouts that last up to 5 minutes, with elimination bouts of 3 three-minute rounds with one-minute rest in between rounds.  As the authors state “fencing involves a series of explosive attacks, spaced by low intensity movements and recovery periods……there is a great need to repeatedly defend and attack and too often engage in a seamless transition between the two.”  That sounds a lot like most martial arts activities, so training protocols for fencing might be interesting for other stylists as well.

The authors felt that metabolic conditioning from high-intensity interval training was the best approach and that sparring provides the most specificity and optimally adapts the energy systems for purposes of competition.  But unfortunately, you can’t always spar, and it’s also difficult to quantify the effort involved for programming and progressive overload purposes.  They recommended using work:rest ratios and average work duration specific to their sword.  For example, in men’s foil the work to rest is 1:3 with average work duration of 5 seconds.  They program a 2m-4m-2m shuttle to encourage multiple changes in direction across varying and fundamental lengths.   Using fencing footwork and facing forward at all times, they lunge/shuffle forward 2m, back 2m, forward 4m, back 4m, forward 2m, back 2m, rest. The number of sets and rest intervals can be varied accordingly.  It’s important to work on sets with both the Right and Left foot as the lead, even if competition is only done with a primary lead, to reduce muscular imbalance.  
 
I use similar footwork and intervals with the Martial Ropes.  A 2m burst laterally or on a diagonal and then returning is easily achieved.   4m gets a little problematic due to how the rope moves and the need to continue with a pattern, but 2 meters is enough to simulate most martial applications of covering the gap between you and your opponent.  
 
Intervals are also easy to manage.  5-15 second bursts using all the major angles of attack, interspersed with “rest” (either active rest in the form of low intensity, steady-state  swinging or complete rest) can easily be chained together to gradually build capacity and or specificity to your arts competitive structure (ex. 2 minute rounds, 3 minutes, 5 minutes).  By combining the rope patterns with the footwork, you are able to build fluidity
and coordination, two things sorely lacking in many peoples’ motor patterns, especially once you put a weapon in their hand(s).  
 
Give the ropes a try and see how your conditioning and your footwork starts to improve.


 
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Check out this short video clip which shows some
cool bodyweight and ground based movement patterns. 
He shows great control, strength, and balance. 
These types of almost “play” activities are not only fun, they work your muscles in ways that more conventional methods/exercises never will.  You’ll definitely feel this the first couple times you work it into a routine.

{I think that the clip on the Legendary Strength site is better than the one on his website here}


 
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I’m working on the KB Challenge thrown out there
by Forest Vance.  Here are the details:

2 Clean & Press (each side)
4 Snatch (each side)
12 Goblet Squats
16 Hand2Hand Swings
 
5X thru as fast as possible
Official weight = 24 kg (men), 16 kg (women)

Standards:
14 min. or less = Good
12 min. or less = Great
10 min. or less = Elite
 
I started playing with this about 6 weeks ago, 1-2X per week.  My first goal was to complete the required reps/sets with the 16kg KB and hit the 10 minute mark.  I achieved that last weekend with a time of 9:40.  
 
So my next goal is to hit the 10:00 with the 24kg KB.  To that end, I’m gradually increasing the volume and decreasing the rest intervals.  
 
Today was a 2, 4, 6, 8 series:
2 C&P; 4 Snatch; 6 Squats; 8 H2H Swings; 5 Rounds, ~ 3 min rest between rounds.

At this point I’m not worrying about my time.  Just gradually greasing the groove and building the reps in the Squats and Swings, adding a couple every workout.  At least one other day per week I’ll do a light KB workout with the 16 kg and some additional goblet
squats with the 24 kg.  I think that with some waviness in the program and progressive overload, I’m on track to hit my target of 10:00 by the end of August.

Give it a try.  Start with whatever weight you’re comfortable with and build from there.   Even with a warm-up and cool-down, you can be in and out in 30 minutes; just the kind of workout that I think is perfect.


 
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I’ve always liked to include “Strongman” type exercises into my training.  Why?  3 reasons:

1) It takes place outside.  Any time that I can get out in nature and move around is a good thing.  Too much of our life is spent sitting in plastic/polymer contraptions, viewing electronic patterns, and being bombarded by incandescent/LEDs.  

2) It’s fun and potentially dangerous. What’s not to like about swinging sledge hammers, flipping big tires, pushing/pulling trucks, carrying/throwing logs, or carrying stones, sandbags or anvils?  Any of those are much more entertaining and manly than your average
Shake Weight.

3) It makes time fly.  I’ve never been thrilled trying to follow a“standard” protocol of X sets of bench, Y sets of rows, Z sets of squats in a gym full of chrome, ferns, and spandex (well, maybe the spandex is ok).  I just find it very boring and difficult to stay engaged.  Most strongman activities, although just as difficult (if not more so in some ways), I just find more interesting and engaging. 
 
A recent study (The Strength and Conditioning Practices of Strongman Competitors,
J Strength Cond Res 25(11): 3118-3128, 2011) puts it this way: “Strongman style training
modalities may have some advantages over traditional gym-based resistance training approaches.  For example, traditional gym-based training exercises are generally performed with 2 feet side by side and require the load to be moved in the vertical plane.  Strongman events represent functional movements in multiple planes and challenge the whole musculoskeletal system in terms of strength, stability, and physiological demands.” 
(I like my reasons better).  This study found that most Strongman competitors are following
traditional protocols to develop strength, power, and conditioning, and then added Strongman specific implements 1-2X/week.  Most popular events practiced were the  Farmer’s Walk, Log Press, Stones, and Tire flip.  
 
It’s not difficult to get started:

Buy a wheelbarrow and some sand.  Push it around for time and/or distance.         

Have someone you know with access to forested land cut some trees of different diameters and lengths.  This might be easier if you live somewhere rural (like Central PA) than Manhattan. Carry them, throw them, squat with them.
        
Find some old tires.  Most shops will give them away for free.  Or friend your local farmer.  Car tires can be used for throwing.  Truck and tractor tires can be used for flipping, dragging, and/or hitting (with a sledge).
        
Take your vehicle(s) to an empty parking lot.  If you have a harness and rope, try towing a vehicle.  This is a lot of fun in a heart pounding kind of way.   Or without the harness, just push the vehicle for time/distance.  You can even create progressive overload by using
multiple vehicles of different sizes or by filling the vehicle with people/weights (this is where it’s nice to have skinny friends).
      
Buy one or two sledgehammers of different weights.  If you don’t have tires to hit (watch the rebound), take them out into the woods and hit a dead tree.  All of this feels better if you sing or hum any variation of the tune “John Henry”. 
         
Work on Farmer Carries with dumbbells, barbells, sandbags, KBs, suitcases, or any odd implement that you can find.  Time or distance.  
         
Buy some ornamental patio stones or paving blocks and carry them in different positions. 
Rocks/boulders can also be “obtained” from more rural areas, or better yet, go for a hike and pause frequently to try and pick up rocks/boulders you come across.  
 
I think that you’ll find if you get creative, you can have a lot of fun and get in some very functional training by incorporating these types of movements into your routine. You
may not end up on ESPN competing in the “World’s Strongest Man”competition, but it’s worth it none-the-less.




 
Another quick one with 3 links:

1) Everyone could use a daily dose of Ross Enamait.  Here he talks about the value of self-discovery in “Decide for Yourself”.

2) “The Top 5 Stretches for BJJ” - nice video posted over at Jason C. Brown’s site. I especially like the Bretzel 2.0 & 2.5 and the 90/90 Hip Flow.

3) “How to work your abs – without Crunches or Sit-ups”- video over at ForestVance.com. 
I’m not sold on the inherent evil of sit-ups and crunches, but I do know that I need to get more plank movements into my routine. 
 
Try a couple of these movements out for some variety in your routines.

 
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Additional research in that supports KBs as an alternative to traditional weightlifting exercises and powerlifting
exercises.   Researchers at Long Island University found that a 10 week program that featured 2 KB sessions/wk, divided into 5 cycles of 4 days each, was successful at creating “significant improvements in 3RM clean and jerk and 3RM bench press.” (J Strength Cond Res 27 (2): 477-484, 2013)

Now if I was going to compete in a traditional lifting competition, I wouldn’t scrap standard routines and focus on exclusively on KBs.  But the study does give support to the coaches or individuals that are limited by space and budgets and can’t manage a full Olympic barbell set, benches, platforms etc.  One of the things I like about KBs is that I can line them up next to the wall in my garage and still have space for the vehicles, basketballs, footballs, baseballs, Frisbees, and assorted family paraphernalia.  They are also very portable, so I can throw them in the back of the Suburban and head to the park or to a friend’s house where we can pool resources.  

If you or a client thinks they can’t afford the space or cost of weightlifting equipment, consider adding a couple KBs into your collection.  Maximum effect in minimum packaging.

 
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Following last week’s post of “slow & steady”, I think we
need to re-assess our self-grading.  I think we often can fall into a habit of getting down on ourselves if we feel like we’re not training enough, doing as much as we “should”, or not
meeting some self-imposed standards.   Even small efforts or incremental steps can pay off towards your long term fitness or skill goals.  
 
I was reading an article about an Outdoor Circuit Training program on Swiss Army Recruits (Journal Strength & Cond Res, 26(12): 3418-3425, 2012).  The researchers added one 50 minute outdoor circuit workout to the “standard” training protocol of 1X/week for 70 minutes (How this level of “standard” training can be considered reasonable for army recruits is beyond me.  Maybe since the Swiss will never be called on to defend anyone or
anything, they can enjoy lower levels of fitness in their military?).  The group that performed the additional training showed “significantly greater improvements in trunk muscle fitness, postural control, and total physical fitness score” compared to the control
group.  
 
What strikes me is that they didn’t have to go to some super-duper, Cross-Fit, Ironman, Olympic, Paleo, high intensity, metabolic, split 7-day regimen in order to make significant improvements.  They added one 50 minute session.  Granted, they were inexperienced and barely fit to start with, but hey, a little extra effort showed big results.  If you are fairly fit and decently trained, results may vary.  But maybe finding 50 (more) minutes to stretch each week would help you recover or recuperate.  Or a 30 minute walk after dinner.  Or 20
more pushups at the end of each workout.  Or one more serving of vegetables.  Developing the habit and taking the initiative is often more important than the actual event or what you’re doing.

Training should be a long term initiative and we’re looking for progress, not perfection.  It can be easy to get discouraged, especially as you age. I know that I can’t train 5-6 nights per week for 2-3 hours a night like I did when I was in College.  Life, jobs, family, kids, travel all have an influence on what you can do/not do.  I always encourage people to do what you can, when you can.   It all counts, so get out there and do
SOMETHING.