Saw this link over at Ross Enamait's blog.  A 1950's book on Indian Physical Culture.  What's old is new and all that.  There are only so many ways to move and train the human body, whether it's fitness or combatives.  It always comes down to 2 things:  First ya gotta learn it, then ya gotta do it (a lot). 

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.

If you’re like me, someone may have said:  “You don’t know Squat!”  Whether I was waxing poetic about the awesomeness of Justin Bieber as a romantic lyricist, the epicurean delight of Roasted Squirrel with Pine Nuts, or something as simple as how any team from Pittsburgh will always be better than any team from Philadelphia, my knowledge/taste has been questioned.   Hard to believe, I know.

In the physical arena, not only do most people not know HOW to Squat, they DON’T Squat.  This is a shame, because the squatting motion is a basic movement pattern and should be incorporated into your regular programming.  But, some people may have physical limitations, injuries, or aversions. 

And as this recent article by Ryan DeBell indicates (“The Best Kept Secret: Why People Have to Squat Differently”) people are just put together differently.  This is the first article that I’ve seen with supporting photos of bone structures that shows the physical differences in the “ball” angle of the femur, ball length, and socket shape & direction.  These anatomical differences will REQUIRE slightly different foot positioning or lower body posture between different people.  There is no “one way fits all” approach to Squats (or many other motions).  Please check out Ryan’s article.  I thought it was pretty cool. 

Being able to modify and adapt an exercise to accommodate physical (or mental) differences in a client or student is the mark of a good trainer or Instructor.   Not every Instructor is able (or interested) in getting into this individual level of analysis with their students.  But the good ones will lead the students to squat, punch or kick to the best of the student’s ability.  That much I do know, and it’s something I’ve tried to apply and reinforce in the past 30+ years of training.

Good article in Feb 2012 issue of the Strength & Conditioning Journal that discusses specific needs for female Mixed Martial Artists.  In general, a focus on increasing lean body mass, upper body strength, and preventing injuries, especially in the knee. 
In an effort to increase LBM and testosterone  levels, the authors (Schick, Brown, and Schick) emphasize multi-joint lifts  (squat, clean, deadlift etc.), decreasing rest periods between sets, increasing
sets (at least 3) and increasing intensity.  Makes sense, but it never ceases to amaze me the number of folks that seem to emphasize single joint, machine based “weight training”. Unless you’re trying to rehab an injured part or you’re prepping for a bodybuilding competition, I don’t know why you’d consider most single joint exercises or a

I really liked a couple of their interval training examples given.  The first was a Circuit
weight training session.  Meant to be done 3X with a minute rest in between (to mimic an MMA fight).  

Exercise            Reps/duration
Jump rope                 1 min
BB rev lunge              10-12
Push Press                 4-6
Bent row                    8-10
Hang clean                 4-6
Deadlift                       6-8
Med Ball jump squat    6-8
Med Ball rotations        20
KB swings                    10-12
Plank                            1 min

The second included MMA specific exercises and requires a partner and/or grappling dummy.  Each technique done for 30s ea, 3 min total, one minute rest between rounds.

Round 1
Shadow Box; Takedowns on dummy; Guard passing drills; Ground & Pound; Arm Bar submission drills; Triangle Submission drills

Round 2
Kick heavybag; sprawls; punch heavy bag; knees in clinch; elbows drill; shrimping drill

Round 3
Kickboxing with pads; tie ups; knees in clinch; sprawls; isometric bridge; ground & pound
I liked the focus of this article.   It’s one of the first I’d seen specifically targeted at female MMA.  With the rise of athletes like Ronda Rousey, I think the trend for female participation in the combative arts is likely to increase for the foreseeable future.  

Great recent article at Beyond Strength.  With an emphasis on Strength as the base and then Conditioning, as well as references to Martin Rooney, Dan John, and Alwyn Cosgrove, it would be hard for anyone in the combative arts to go wrong in applying this philosophical approach.  

I tend to use a bunch of intervals and complexes in my training.  There was a time period where I found myself focusing more on strength and conditioning than I was on technical skills, so I’ve tried to shift the focus.  If/when I have time to train, then I make sure I get the skill work done first - punch, kick, pad work, stick, knife etc.  Then I get some strength/conditioning in.  Here’s where the intervals and
complexes work well.   
Intervals - since I don’t have the fancy HR monitor (yeah, I know I should get one), Fixed intervals are the easiest for me to implement.  Usually in the 20-30 second work range, with 2X rest.  Occasionally I’ll throw in some 1:1 work:rest sets or 2:1 work:rest.   One of the rope intervals that I use follows this sequence

30’ x 1.5” rope: 30 seconds “Fighting”, 60 seconds rest
50’ x 1.5” rope: 20 seconds “Fighting”, 40 seconds rest
50’ x 2” rope: 10 seconds “Fighting”, 20 seconds rest
Repeat 3-5X

By “Fighting” I mean that the rope is not anchored by anything and the goal is to keep the rope moving for the entire period and to keep the entire rope off of the ground.  I learned this from John Brookfield at a Perform Better seminar a few years ago.  
Complexes – I mostly use Rep based or AMRAP style complexes with KBs, BW, and Sandbags.  Here’s a sample KB complex:

Snatch 5L; Overhead Carry (scaled to space available)
Snatch 5R; OH Carry
C&P 5L; Rack Carry
C&P 5R; Rack Carry
One arm Swing 5L; Farmer’s Carry
One arm Swing 5R; Farmer’s Carry

Set a timer for your preferred round length (ex. 5:00 min) and see how many times you can get thru.

That’s all for now. Get out there and train, because your next opponent probably isn’t just
sitting around eating Krispy Kremes.

An article in the recent Tactical Strength and Conditioning report, July/August 2013, Issue 29, outlines a pilot study and sample program using KBs for Firefighters.  Although the sample size was small (n=5), the exercises are solid and the program fundamentally sound.  One of the reasons that I like it is that it shows how a few basic exercises (in this case Turkish Get-up, 2H Swings, Military Press, Front Squat)  followed in a disciplined fashion over 12 weeks can result in substantial strength gains (33-200%).  
The program consists of 4 sessions alternated 3X/week for 12 weeks.  
A1, B1, A2
B2, A1, B1
A2, B2, A1 
B1, A2, B2 etc.  
Training Session A = TGU + 2H Swing
Training Session B = Military Press + Front Squats

The specifics for A1, B1, A2, and B2 can be found in the article linked above.  Basically they
consist of focused practice for time (ex. 10 minutes of TGU, 20 min Swings), ladder progressions, or sets of 5X5 or 3X3. 

This looks like a great program to focus on the basic KB lifts.  And if you could only do 4 KB exercises, these are the 4 I would  pick anyway.  The sequence and reps are laid out for you, so it’s a no brainer to follow.   Why not give it a try?  My plan is to work on this as an 8-week cycle as I ease into some KB work after tweaking my back in July.  

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!






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}

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)

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.

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.