The NSCA’s most recent Tactical Strength & Conditioning Report (Issue 32) has an article that discusses recent peer-reviewed research on “Extreme conditioning programs (ECPs)” which they define as Crossfit/P90X/Insanity type approaches.  What did they find?  Here are some key highlights in my opinion.

1) A military study of almost 1,400 soldiers found that “when comparing the injury rates of soldiers who participated and those who did not participate in ATAC (Advanced Tactical Athlete Conditioning)/ECPs, overall rates of injury were similar, though the ATAC/ECP group did exhibit a significantly greater increase in overuse injuries after the programs were initiated.”    This is one of the biggest drawbacks that I see, the potential for injury caused by failing form as you go flat-out trying to beat your own or someone else’s time, as well as overtraining potential.

2) Another study compared the anaerobic/aerobic power of ECP-trained individuals vs. those who use traditional resistance training (RT).  Results showed no significant differences in VO2 max or Wingate peak power.   The same lab also tested whether ECP-trained subjects differed from RT-trained subjects in one rep Bench press, back squat, medicine ball shot put, vertical jump and the Margaria-Kalamen power test.  There were no significant differences in performance between the ECP and RT subjects on any of these tests. 

3) Another study compared ECP-trained vs. RT-trained subjects on pushup, pull-up, T-test, and sit and reach.  There were no differences in performance on the pushup, T-test or sit and reach test.  ECPs did perform significantly more pull-ups than the RT, although the mean body mass of the ECP group was less than the RT group, which impacts such a test.

4) Another study compared the anaerobic step test and the Cooper 1.5mile run test between CrossFit trained subjects and subjects that followed a ‘traditional’ program recommended by ACSM.  There were no differences on the step test or the Cooper 1.5 mile run. 

Findings and Conclusion

There does not seem to be convincing evidence at this point that ECPs significantly improve aerobic power or VO2 max……The adaptations seen from ECPs appear to be broadly similar to those obtained from traditional RT, as no consistent differences in strength, power, and muscular endurance have been seen when ECP-trained subjects are compared to RT subjects.”

“From the limited evidence to date, it does not appear ECPs offer training benefits which cannot be acquired through more traditional training programs, such as resistance/cardiovascular/HITT training.  These more traditional training modes may also offer the potential for lower injury risk, yet result in the same training adaptations.”

 Can “extreme conditioning programs” work?  Sure they can.  And they may be perfect for certain populations or individuals.  But everyone should decide for themselves what they’re trying to accomplish and what they’re willing to risk if the same results can be achieved from less “extreme” programs.  No matter what you decide, get out there and train.

 
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Are you a resident of La-La Land?  As in living in some fantasy world where everything is good, nothing can go wrong, or "that can never happen to me"?

Unfortunately many people live in this world.  And therefore grossly unprepared to cope when things go horribly wrong.  Case in point - Acapulco.  Let's say you happen to decide on a well-deserved vacation to this tourist hot spot with your spouse, SO, and/or family.  Then this storm comes, the SHTF and things go from bad to worse.  Looking past the obvious needs for food, water and shelter, can you protect yourself and loved ones?  
 
Chances are you haven't been able to travel with a firearm.  Do you have basic empty hand skills?  How about if you need to kick it up a notch?  Can you
wield a stick?  What about a knife?  Or machete? There are some that question the need to spend time on these  "traditional" martial arts in the time of modern firearms.  But I'd sure like to have some basic understanding on how to keep a crowd at bay or protect my family with anything I could get my hands on.

But where would I even get those weapons?  Where's the housekeeping closet in your hotel?  Do they have brooms or mops?  Many have handles that are metal, but even wooden ones are better than nothing. Have you eaten in the resorts fancy restaurant?   I'll bet they have wooden handled steak knives.  Wouldn't be a bad idea to "acquire" one of those in advance, just in case.  If not, do you know how to get to the kitchen?  Chef knives, cleavers, carving knives - anything sharp and pointy.  Is there a local hardware or supply store?  Maybe not at a resort/tourist town, but if you're out in town, keep your eyes open.  In many other countries a machete or brush knife is a common household tool.  Also might be worth acquiring one in advance. Think that's unrealistic?  Think about Rwanda in 1994 (not that long ago).  500,000 - 1,000,000 killed, many with
machetes.
 
So, not to be paranoid, but use your head and be prepared.  As demonstrated in
Acapulco and elsewhere around the world, most places are only 72 hours from
chaos when the "normal" social systems break down from any reason. Get some training.  Firearms are good if you're so inclined and have legal access.  Stick skills like those offered by the Dog Brothers or machete/sword skills as proposed by James Keating.  Hopefully you'll never have to use the skills you develop, but it's better to be prepared.  Besides, it's fun and adds another dimension to your current skill set.
 
In closing, stay out of La-La Land, face some cold, hard facts and be prepared.  

Now get out there and train.


 
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Muhammad Ali Compilation -  Need some inspiration for hand & foot speed + movement?  Check out this compilation.  I saw Ali at Notre Dame’s Bengal Bouts (charity boxing tournament) in 1988.  He was in attendance the one night that I went to watch.  As he passed thru the crowd, less than an arm’s length away from me, he seemed to be a mere shell of a person.   There was no recognition of the crowd calling his name, no emotion, no registering of even being present at the event.   A very sad drop from his physical prime, because he was amazing.  

The Earth is our Gym - I like the one quote from Mike Rashid:  “Be your own motivator".  And I love to workout outside. 

 
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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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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’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.




 
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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.


 
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Just a quick one for today - link to a great message from Ross Enamait that relates to multiple areas. Not just fitness, but martial arts, careers, family etc.  Guess what? There are no fast, easy, painless solutions. 
Things take hard work and dedication, as well as time spent.  Even then there are no guarantees.  There are times when bad luck and trouble screw up all your well
intentioned efforts.  Life isn’t fair.  Get over it.

But, the reality is that if you want results, you have to work for them.  Often for a long
time.  That may be an unpopular message for many living in today’s instant gratification society.  But it’s a message that a lot of people need to hear, pay attention to, and live by.  If you already are, good for you. Continue on that critical path.  If you aren’t, then figure out why not, what’s holding you back, and commit to make a change & embrace the journey.  It’s time well spent.


 
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What’s“Metabolic Training”? Depends on who you ask.  If
you ask me, most of the time I’ll say that all training is “metabolic training” since your metabolism is always active, sometimes burning more energy, sometimes
less, and different training stresses your body (metabolism/energy pathways) in different ways.  However, a common definition of metabolic training is
“completing structural and compound exercises with little rest in between exercises in an effort to maximize calorie burn and increase metabolic rate during and after the workout.”

How do you do that? Typically by incorporating large muscle groups at high intensity with
little rest.  You can use bodyweight, barbells, dumbbells, KBs, sandbags, medicine balls, and/or ropes. I like incorporating the 2” x 50’ rope into some “metabolic” sets at the end of a workout.  The 2” rope weighs between 35 – 50 lbs., depending on whether it’s a Poly-blend (lighter) or Manila (heavier), so if you swing that bad boy for a little while,
you know you’ve done something.

A couple options to get you started:
1) Alternating or double waves, a rope end in each hand, other end anchored.
2) Bear crawls while dragging the doubled rope between your legs, forward/backward
3) Vertical Bursts – rope is extended to its’ full length and you try to send a wave to the other end repeatedly. It helps to have the other end anchored with a friend or heavy
sandbag
4) Slams - using the doubled rope from step 1, focus on slamming the rope down, not on
creating a wave.  Coach Nick Tumminello likes these better than Medicine Ball Slams since they require you to drive the rope back up which makes them more efficient for metabolic
training.  Check out his article here:
Medicine Ball Slams: Why they’re Overrated & 2 Better Exercises 

Any of these rope exercises can be combined in a sequence with other implements or exercises to create a metabolic circuit and get you heart rate jumping.  I like sequences of 3-5 exercises (more than that and I get confused in the cardio fog about what I’m supposed to do next or which rep/set I’m on), 8-10 reps each, a short rest 30-45 sec after completing all the exercises back to back, then repeated 2-8X.  The number of cycles depends on your goal (you do have a goal don’t you?) - is today a light day, heavy day, “rest/active recovery” day? Scale it for what you’re trying to accomplish with your current training.

I know you’re thinking “It’s a rope, how hard can it be?” Give it a try. Then let me know.


 
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Some fitness claims are hard to believe, but here’s one with valid research protocol to back it up.  Researchers in the UK (J Strength Cond Res 26(8):2228-2233, 2012) wanted to find out if Kettlebell swing training could influence both maximum and explosive strength.  Short answer: Absolutely.

What did they do?  Twice a week using a 16kg KB (for those weighing > 70kg) they performed 12 rounds  of 30 seconds
on, 30 seconds off, performing as many swings as possible using correct technique.  They did not perform any other resistance exercise during this 6-week period.  
 
How did it work?  After 6 weeks of bi-weekly KB training, the trainee’s maximum strength
increased 12% and their explosive strength increased 15%. That’s pretty darn good for a 12 minute work out twice a week.  
 
It’s definitely consistent with what I’ve found using KBs for the past 10-12 years.  They’re very time efficient and impact your cardio, strength, and endurance.  The ballistic nature of the training also makes them ideal for anyone involved in the martial arts (or any other sport for that matter!).  So if you haven’t already, go out and pick up a KB in the 12-16kg range and learn how to do a KB Swing.  You’ll be in better shape in 6 weeks.