All the crazy stuff… (conditioning 2011-04-23)

As promised, here’s a summary of our conditioning session on Saturday, April 23th. You see, Chris, Elias (the new guy on the team) and I have decided to make saturday our „crazy stuff“ day. Basically, that’s when we’ll try new drills or do stuff we can’t do in the dojo for obvious reasons.

Without further ado, I’ll just jump into the the session and give you an overview of what our saturdays look like these days.

Goes without saying, we start the whole thing with some warmup. I won’t go into great detail here, but I’ll present you my favourite warmup toy (at least for now): behold, the speed ladder. I tend to use this a lot in my youth and children classes and I also love to warmup with some stepping myself. Below, you can find a short clip of a „2-in-2-out“ step. This form of training develops quick feet and mobility – definately something worth working on for a standup-fighter.

In my opinion, explosive strength is the single most important physical attribute for standup-fighters (note that I say physical – obviously, technique rules). Speed is fine, but without strength, it’s of limited use in full-contact bouts. To develop explosiveness and tune the nervous system, we start out our sessions with some plyometric exercise. Our plyo-program looks like this:

  1. repeated long jumps, bilateral
  2. wood chops
  3. repeated long jumps, unilateral
  4. twists
  5. scissor jumps

Below, I’ll show you some scissor jumps. Those little bastards are great for developing both the hip flexors and extensors. This will help your kicks and jumps.

Our explosivity training doesn’t stop at plyometrics, however. We always try to implement some old-school, hardcore drills that you probably won’t see at the average commercial gym. A great example of such an exercise is called „shocking“. I learned this one from Dariusz Tomaszewski, a friend and instructor of mine. Basically, what you do is execute some swings to build up momentum and then throw the kettlebell as far as you can. The following two videos demonstrate this.

First, we shocked backwards, i.e. overhead. You can see this in the next video:

If it can be done backwards, it obviously can also be done forwards, as demonstrated in the next video:

To further improve explosiveness and max strength, we did some of what Pavel and the RKC guys call „ballistics“, e.g. quick lifts that utilize the stretch-shorten cycle (basically, that’s the idea behind all plyo exercise).

Arguably the most explosive lift is the snatch. In the next video, I’ll demonstrate it with a 32kg kettlebell:

Another great lift, although not quite as explosive, is the clean & jerk. This allows for heavier weights than the snatch, however, it is also slower. Alex, a good friend of mine, once told me a cite he picked up somewhere (can’t remember where, though) – „the heaviest kettlebell you train with is the heaviest kettlebell you train with“. Although at first this sounds rather silly, there’s a lot to that proverb. Just give it a thought some time and try to contemplate all those implications. „Idiot Zen“, Alex called it. I tend to disagree – this one’s deep.

Anyhow, I chose to train with the heaviest kettlebell I train with and cleaned & jerked the „beast“ (48kg). You can see this in the next video:

After we did our explosive training, we moved on to some grinds. You see, in an RKC terminology, a grind is a high-tension lift, unlike a ballistic that requires only brief (but high intensive) tension at distinct points of the movement. My favourite grind is the get-up. Nomen est omen – lie down, put a kettlebell up and stand up. I demonstrate this in the next video, with a 32kg kettlebell:

As mentioned above, saturday is when we try new stuff. A cool exercise I learned from, is called the „amped goblet squat“. You can find the article here. John Engum, apparentaly a 7th degree TaekwonDo black belt, proposed this simple yet brutal exercise:

  1. Get into a goblet squat position (we don’t do a goblet squat but rather rack two bells, one on each side. The concept remains the same, though.)
  2. Slowly lower yourself until a partner gives you a signal
  3. Instantly squat up as explosively as possible
  4. Repeat the whole thing from point #2

This exercise is a killer for fighter because strength is angle-specific. In a nutshell, this means that you’ll be able to generate power efficiently only under those angles that you actually train. Muscles follow a specific power-curve, they’re strong under certain angles and weak under others. Visit a gym, take a look at an excenter and you’ll understand the idea behind isotonic training (which is just plain wrong, but proving this would go beyond the scope of this post).

Reacting to a partner’s command and explosively squatting up from odd angles will hit all those angles that would otherwise remain untouched. Since explosiveness is of the essence, it is important to keep sets short (duration-wise) and rest periods long. When you lose your explosiveness on this exercise, you miss out on the best part.

The next video demonstrates the amped goblet squat:

To build a warrior mindset and strength endurance, we implement a circuit, utilizing everything from kettlebells to medicine balls and suspension trainers. This time, we did the following circle:

  • Reverse Rows
  • Pistols (Right Leg)
  • Atomic Pushups
  • Pistols (Left Leg)
  • Plank with shoulder tap

In between each round, we did one round of heavy kettlebell swings and one round of rope skipping. Each round took 40 seconds, followed by a 20 second rest. Hence, the whole circuit took us 15 minutes to complete, 10 minutes of which are net training time (5 rounds of suspension training á 40 seconds net, 5 rounds of rope skipping á 40 seconds net, 5 rounds of kettlebell swings á 40 seconds net).

As circuit training is highly demanding in terms of energy and build up a high level of lactic acid, I believe it to be a great tool to develop fighting toughness. Obviously, due to the same reasons, it shouldn’t be overdone. I feel that frequent circuit training will extremely prolong recovery times, thus hampering your progress on low-impact (i.e. technique, flexibility, aerobic capacity, …) skills.

The following clips illustrate the whole thing:

To finish the training with a killer and build up even some more lactic acid, we do some more interval work. This time, we played „king of the hill“, in other words, hill sprints.

Is that the smartest, most highly-sophisticated way to do a workout? Guess not.
Will it rock every single muscle in your body and enforce a never-back-down mindset? You bet.

For a fighter, from time to time, it all comes down to being the harder, badder guy in the ring. There’s times where all that fancy technique and great tactics won’t get you far. To cite Bill Judd – world champion in everything full-contact and founder of the K.O. gyms – „sometimes you’ve got to pitbull“. This kind of workout will definately teach you to keep going.

When did you push your limits the last time? Think about it.

So long,

take care.

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