Tuesday, June 30, 2009
Hanging around a lot of fighters and martial artists, I've noticed that when it comes to their strength and conditioning, most of them are merely doing a lot of guess work. Maybe they're like you and they've read articles online or in magazines, or maybe they got advice from a coach or someone else in their gym. Either way, it seems like everyone has an opinion nowadays as to how fighters should train...and most of them are DEAD WRONG. I could write an entire book on the subject of strength & conditioning for fights, but for the purpose of this article I just want to guide you in the right direction.
First, here's 3 things off the top of my head I've observed
1. Most fighters are OVER TRAINED. In MMA for example, you might train 2 or 3 disciplines in one day, with each coach having their own agenda and their own opinion of how much work you should be doing. I get that and I see that there's not much we can do right now to fix it.
2. Most fighters feel the need to be doing SOME type of daily conditioning work. Read above. The fact is that your skill sessions are going to the most specific conditioning sessions that you can do, and much more than that is over kill.
3. Most fighters just don't have a CLUE as to how to structure their strength & conditioning sessions, monitor volume & intensity, and now when and how much to push or back off. With fighters this is an extremely fine line, more so than any other sport, in my opinion.
So now that we know that you're just plain old doing too much work, its always a safe bet to start with a minimalist approach and then add things if needed or warranted. Remember, you're a fighter first and foremost - strength training is just general work to get you stronger and in better condition so that you can display your skills harder, longer, faster than the other guy.
With that said, here's a sample 2 day program for an MMA fighter who trains 1-2x a day, 5-6 days a week, but still needs to get a little stronger and maintain his or her conditioning. This is a TEMPLATE and not a specific routine, so feel free to play around with different movements...get stronger but HAVE FUN!
- warm up x 2-3 sets
1. push ups x 15
2. band or recline rows x 15-20
3. bodyweight squats x 30
4. reverse lunges x 15 each leg
5. mountain climbers/groiner series x 6 each (ea side)
a) total body movement 4-5x3-5
- sandbag shouldering
- clean and press (sandbag, dumbbell, kettlebell, barbell)
- dumbbell snatches
- dumbbell clean and jerks
- sandbag loading drill
b1) upper body push 3x6-15.
- weighted push ups
- parallel bar dips
- dumbbell pressing (flat, incline, or or overhead)
- barbell floor presses
- hanstand push ups
b2) upper body pull 3x6-15.
- chin ups/pull ups
- weighted recline rows
- barbell rows
- sandbag rows
- dumbbell rows
c) lowerbody (knee extension) 2-3x6-12; but don't be afraid to hit up some super high reps once in awhile in the 20-30 rep range.
- squat variation (barbell, kettlebell, sandbag, zercher, front etc)
- lunge variation (barbell, kettlebell, sandbag, etc)
- step up variation (" ")
- bulgarian split squat variation (" ")
d) posterior chain (hip extension) 2-3x6-12
- romanian deadlifts (barbell or dumbbell)
- glute ham raises
- snatch grip deadlifts
- pull throughs
- sandbag beyond the range pull throughs
- sandbag power cleans
- sandbag good mornings
So there you have it, a sample template to follow 2 days a week. Allow 2-3 days between each workout and keep track of your progress!
Posted by Dustin Lebel at 2:02 PM
Sunday, June 28, 2009
Check out this training session I did over the weekend...
All you'll need for this killer workout is a heavy sandbag, a kettlebell and some jumpstretch bands. I kept my rest periods super short and was able to finish in about30 minutes.
Warm Up x 3 sets
1. kb squats x 10
2. kb swings x 15
3. push ups x 10
4. band rows x 15
a) sandbag clean and press 3x5
b1) kb one arm floor press w/light band 4x8-12
b2) kb one arm rows w/light band 4x8-12
c) sandbag shoulder + squat 3x6
d) timed snatches (15:15 protocol) x 5 minutes
The 15:15 protocol snatches were something I tried after reading about guys like Kenneth Jay and Jon Hinds using similar programs to get their VO2 Maxes through the roof. It consists 15 seconds of work followed by 15 minutes of rest - alternating hands for each interval - and can be brutal when you get in the 10+ minute range if you maintain an 8 rep cadence with a 53lb kettlebell.
So give it a try and post a commnet if you come up with any sandbag and kettlebell combo workouts of your own!
Posted by Dustin Lebel at 6:11 PM
Above, one of the BEASTS that trains at the Undeground Strength Gym, courtesy of Zach Even-Esh
Kettlebells are all the craze these days, and for good reason. They are an excellent training tool for developing a strong grip, upper back and posterior chain, especially. The problem that I see with most athletes training with them, is that they are trying every new movement under the sun without paying attention the to basics first. Its fine to have a lot of variety in one's training program, but remember what you're trying to accomplish. If you're trying to get in "fight shape" or shred body fat, the most grueling of kettlebell movements are what you need to be doing - there is no way around it! Unfortunately, this leaves only a handful of movements compared to the plethora that you can find else where on the likes of YouTube.
Done for timed sets, complexes, or circuits with hardcore calisthenics, they will be a fine addition to whatever else you're doing now. For building a "bullet proof" body and the type of conditioning needed to dominate opponents in the ring, I recommend most men getting a single 24kg kettlebell and start hacking away with the following movements.
2. Swings (one handed, two handed, or even with a towel for added grip work)
3. Clean and Presses
4. High Pulls
5. Bent Over Rows
6. Squats (with both hands, or single hand in the "rack" position)
8. Turkish Get Ups
There are a ton more variations of the them, but these 7 movements are the basics and, in my opinion, should be drilled and used to their maximum benefit before going on and purchasing a heavier bell. Just the snatch and swing alone, done for super high reps or time, are excellent for building lactic acid tolerance. I often will throw in a quick 2-5 minute set at the end of my workouts, where I switch hands every 5-10 reps without putting the sucker down. Everything from my grip to my calves get torched with these short "finishers".
I also love toting my kettlebell around to various outdoor locations, where I'll mix in various movements with pull ups, dips, push ups, sprints and jumps for an awesome total body workout. There's nothing like tossing around a cast iron kettlebell and pumping out natural body weight movements outdoors on a hot, sunny day. Get out of the gym once in awhile this summer, forget about your "routine", and just work hard for 30-45 minutes. I'm convinced this stuff does wonders for the body and soul.
So, go ahead, shell out the dough and get yourself what everyone's been talking about. You will literally never outgrow it, and there are a ton of different ways to kick your own ass!
Posted by Dustin Lebel at 10:43 AM
Thursday, June 25, 2009
Anyone who has seen the utter destruction of Rich Franklin at the hands of Anderson Silva - on two occasions - knows just how important a strong clinch game is. While the technical nuances of the clinch need to be PRACTICED and practiced often in order to become super efficient, there are ways to increase the type of strength needed to have a clinch that sends shockwaves of fear into your opponents. If we examine the clinch, it's obvious that you need tremendous grip strength, neck strength, lat and upper back strength, crushing or isometric strength from the upper body, core stability and rotational strength, as well as a super strong posterior chain to deliver powerful blows and throw your opponent around the ring or cage. Yes, actual sport practice is THE BEST way to hone your skills, but by increasing your strength across the board while building your skill base at the same time, you will get the best of both worlds.
While most of the so called "MMA strength coaches" out there would prescribe a whole bunch of sport specific drills that have little actual training effect, I'm going to give out some of the methods I know for increasing strength and muscular endurance for a truly devastating clinch. Here are five of my favorite movements to use
1) Zercher Squats
Our first order of business is building a tremendous BASE to work from, and what better movement to do that the zercher squat. By holding the bar in the crooks of your arms, not only is this a powerful lower body movement, but also a great core and upper back lift with emphasis on upper body isometric strength. Ideally, these can be done for a 'sub max' effort. Something like 4-8 sets of 2-6 reps, depending on your training goal for the day.
2) Thick Bar Chins
Secondly, we want to develop insane pulling and grip strength. Thick grip pull ups and chin ups are what the doctor ordered. You can make a thick bar by simply wrapping a towel around your chin up bar. This will force your grip to work very hard while building a strong back and biceps. Use different grips - palms facing you, palms facing away, close grips, medium grips, wide grips, etc - they are all good and you should try to incorporate as much variety as possible.
3) Full Contact Twists
My next favorite movement for developing a seriously strong clinch is the full contact twist or barbell Russian twist - whatever you want to call it. You can either grab the end of the bar or grab the plates and rotate from side to side. This is called a "core exercise", but really your lats, shoulders, and chest are also very actively involved.
4) Thick Bar Curls
What?! Curls?! Before you think I'm crazy, we are going to be doing HEAVY thick bar cheat curls. Once again using a towel to turn our barbell into a thick bar, these will hammer your grip, biceps, and upper back -crucial for strength in the clinch.
5) Reverse Rope Climbs
Using a thick rope you are going to start in the face down position and climb hand over hand until you are just about standing and then lower back under control. The lower you go and the more you keep your body forward, the more difficult this movement will be. This movement is a personal favorite that will BLOW UP your forearms, triceps, chest, shoulders and lats and not to mention is an excellent core stability movement (yeah, I can't believe I said it either!).
So give some of these a try, and maybe even have 1 day per week be your "clinch" strength day and you work each of these movements or their variations on that day for a full body training session.
Give this full body "clinch strength" session a try:
a1) Zercher squats 5x5
a2) Thick bar chins 5 x max reps
b1) Reverse rope climbs 3x6 up and down
b2) Thick bar cheat curls 3x8
c) Full contact twists 2x8 each side
Posted by Dustin Lebel at 8:07 AM
Tuesday, June 23, 2009
Many people think that balanced training is to use a 1:1 ratio of pushes to pulls, thinking that this simple approach would solve their muscular imbalances.
They include a horizontal pull for every horizontal push, a vertical pull for every vertical push, a hip extension movement for every knee extension movement and so forth. Unfortunately this is NOT fixing the problem.
In actuality, most people need AT LEAST a 2:1 ratio, if not even greater. You're upper back musculature, glutes and hamstrings can never be too strong!
A great way to combat this is to include a total body pull only day in your weekly programming. So if you train 3 days a week using a lower/upper/total split or 3 days per week total body, that third workout would include nothing but lower and upper body pulls.
While most people tend to just throw in extra posterior chain work and upperback work as an afterthought (after their squats and benches), by having a completely seperate and extra day set aside you would be able to use sufficient load and get in a good amount of volume - more than you normally would, anyway.
A good example of one of these days would be (after a warm up, of course)
a1) snatch grip deadlifts off platform 5x4
a2) mixed grip pull ups 5x6-8
b1) weighted glute ham raises 4x8
b2) weighted recline rows, chest supported rows or thick bar cable rows 4x8-12
c) sled dragging upper back complex x 5-10 consecutive minutes
sled scare crows x 12
sled face pulls x 12
sled rows x 12
So for packing some serious muscle to your posterior chain, lats, and upperback and not to mention taking a preventive measure in correcting your imbalances, try throwing in an all pulls day once a week in addition to your other days with various pushes, squats, single leg work and of course, more pulling.
Posted by Dustin Lebel at 11:04 PM
Monday, June 22, 2009
When most people think of classic hypertrophy training, they refer to the usual "8-12reps with a 4-2-0 tempo", but as Russian Weightlifter Vasily Alexeev found out, tempo - besides being incredibly boring - is not nearly as important as total time under tension.
This article (pg 3 - Science of Big) gives us some more insight into how time under tension and FAST eccentrics (weight lowering) can lead to muscle growth. This would explain the phenomenom of guys getting jacked with stuff like barbell complexes, high rep kettlebell work, sled dragging, and the like.
While most tend to think of that kind of work as just "conditioning", Vasily used complexes and such to pack muscle on to his students.
Check this out...
“Usually the athletes lift barbells and then immediately drop them. This takes several seconds,” comments Dmitri Ivanov who interviewed the maverick lifter. “According to Alexeev’s method, the athlete finds himself under the weight for a period of two or three minutes. The entire body must sustain this prolonged effort, as the athlete completes several consecutive exercises
without letting go of the equipment. The weight of the barbell is relatively light, but the varied work with it affects every muscle cell. By the end of the two-week session, all of Alexeev’s students had increased their bodyweight as a result of muscle growth—and at the same time they’d increased their abilities.”
Pretty cool stuff, huh?
In talking about complexes, Dan John also notes the increases of muscle growth in his athletes.
"When you watch a sophomore boy handle Complex A with 155 for three complexes of three reps each, you have to realize that this is a very strong human being, even if he's just 15."
The great part about complexes is that you can get in a serious workout in just 15 or 20 minutes (and sometimes even way less) - packing in a ton of volume in a very short amount of time.
Let's take a look at some of our options with complexes and all the different tools that you can use...
Dumbbell Complexes (two handed or single hand)
Sled Dragging Complexes
Grappler Complexes (or just take two barbells and throw them in a corner)
I'm going to say that one should train exclusively with complexes, but definately throwing them in a few times a week would be a great addition to your training. Any athlete can benefit from complexes, but combat athletes especially would benefit from the huge amount of time under tension. Its one thing to have great levels of maximal strength - and its the base for all athletes to work from - but its another thing to be able to express that strength for a period of several minutes.
For the guys looking to pack on some size, try one of Dan John's or Alwyn Cosgrove's complexes for 3 or 4 sets with some decent weight and wonder how they wouldn't help put on some muscle.
Here's a new video from the Diesel Crew, demonstrating a serious sandbag complex
If its good enough for the Diesel Crew, then its good enough for me! Start rethinking your hypertrophy training and don't be afraid to sway from the masses!
Posted by Dustin Lebel at 8:41 AM
Sunday, June 21, 2009
above, one of the FREAKS at Joe Defranco's gym crankin' out some sled pulls
Hope everyone is having a great weekend and is killing it with the weights (or sandbags, kegs, tires, and sledgehammers haha!)...I just got done with a serious sled dragging session and was reminded how POWERFUL this simple tool really is!
I began with a lighter sled and did the following:
- face pulls
- tricep extensions
- ankle dragging (forward, backward, laterally)
I just rotated between those for about 10 minutes before adding some plates, where I hit the "meat" of my sled dragging session for another 10-12 consecutive minutes:
- forward dragging
- backward dragging
- explosive "cleans"/high pulls
So think about it - in just around 20 minutes I crushed every single muscle on my body, especially the posterior chain and upperback. My heart rate was through the roof and I was sweating bullets, and I'm not going to lie I had a great "pump" going on! The best part is that I won't even be sore tomorrow because there is no eccentric when you are dragging the sled... which is exactly why if you're looking to pack on some size, then sled dragging is a great addition to your program either at the end of your regular workouts or as a an "extra workout" like I did today.
What I did today was just a small sample of what's possible with the sled, so be afraid to keep trying new things and being innovative with your dragging! This stuff has serious carry to every single sport I can possibly think of (even bodybuilding!) - so get to it!
Posted by Dustin Lebel at 1:06 PM
Wednesday, June 17, 2009
Above, Ross Enamait killing it with his sandbag
While I love being able to spend a good solid hour training - getting my mobility work in, a good 10 minute warm up, and then 45 minutes of gut busting strength work -I have to be honest, sometimes I just have to get in and get it the hell over with.
These sessions might be 25-30 minutes TOPS, but are ultra productive and leave me a sense of accomplishment.
If you've been following this blog, then you know that i'm a big fan of short, condensed sessions that give me a huge bang for my buck. And while most people gripe about not having enough time to train, I find that these "quickies" give me my best results!
But you can't possibly fit EVERYTHING into a 20 or 30 minute workout, right?
Here's you're soultion...I've talked about "chunking" a little before, and its actually a term I stole from Zach Even-Esh, but it allows me to get in everything I need or want to get in without dedicating a big block of time out of my day.
So I might get in a quick 5-6 minute warm up followed by a 20-25 minute strenght session in the morning and then foam roll and get my mobility work in at night or vice versa. Or I might get in the "meat" of my strength session in the morning and then come back in the evening for some mobility work and more accessory stuff.
So here's a quick sandbag complex I'll be doing this morning after a brief gpp warm up with bands and calisthenics:
1. clean and press x 6
2. shoulder + squat x 6 (3 each side)
3. Rotations x 8
4. Bent Over Rows x 8
I might do this for 3 or 4 sets and then I plan on getting in some soft tissue/mobility work in later tonight followed up by some upper and lower body sled dragging and probably some heavy band goodmornings.
Time is on your side...if you know how to use it!
Posted by Dustin Lebel at 8:13 AM
Sunday, June 14, 2009
Many people think that you need to stick with just barbells and dumbbells to build strength, but odd objects such as sandbags certainly have their place - especially concerning lowerbody development.
Using a heavy sandbag, there are many options to consider that will jack up your not only your legs, but also your upperback as well as various core stabilizers!
Yep, sandbags pack quite the punch and are excellent as a single training tool alone or used as accessory movements to improve your squat and deadlift. The synergistic effect of the various sandbag movements will have tremendous carry over to your standard barbell movements.
If you're a combat athlete, then I would say that sandbag training is a MUST HAVE in your arsenal. For isometric strength and energy system development, along with developing insane grip strength, not much else will give you a bigger bang for your buck!
But what we're going to talk about today is how to incorporate sandbags into your lowerbody training program. A method that alot of people have had alot of success with is Joe Defranco's Westside For Skinny Bastards Program. Its concept is simple - get freakin' strong by lifting maximal weights, and then pick 2 or 3 accessory movements to help pack on some muscle mass. What Joe found was that most of his younger athletes were just too weak to be doing dynamic effort work ala the Louie Simmon's Westside program, and that by simply getting stronger and gaining muscle, his athletes made some incredible transformations.
What's the point i'm trying to make? Don't F*ck with a good thing. The principles behind Joe's template WORK and are working for other strength coaches around the world. But, its just a template and you can always play around and experiment so that the program fits your needs and that you can keep making progress.
With that said, one idea using Joe's template is to hit up your max effort or sub max effort (something like 6x3 or 5x5) main lift - a squat or deadlift variation - and then pick 2 or 3 sandbag movements and get in your repetition work with those.
An example would be:
a) Box Squat: sets of 5 up to a 3-5 rep max
b1) Sandbag Zercher Reverse Lunges 4x6-8 each leg
b2) Sandbag Power Cleans 4x6-8
Another idea, thanks to Zach Even-Esh, is to train 3 days per week getting in one upper body day, one lower body day, and then a total body day. You could mix up barbell & dumbbell work with sandbags and really get cranking with various combo drills on the total body day.
Here's a breakdown of some of the different movements that you can do with a moderate to heavy sandbag...
zercher reverse lunges
zercher walking lunges
zercher step ups
(not to mention back squats, reverse lunges, walking lunges, step ups, and goodmornings)
Posterior Chain/Hip Extension Movements:
bear hug pull throughs
shoulder + squat
power clean + zercher squat
power clean + zercher reverse lunge
power clean + zercher goodmorning
power clean + zercher squat + zercher reverse lunge
power clean + zercher squat + goodmorning
power clean + zercher reverse lunge + zercher goodmorning
power clean + zercher squat + zercher reverse lunge + zercher goodmorning
shoulder + squat + power clean + ...you get the point
So go ahead and break the "rules" and start getting stronger using a wide array of training tools and leave your competition in the dust!
Posted by Dustin Lebel at 5:40 PM
Saturday, June 13, 2009
People often ask me to review their training programs or routines and they seem confused when I say that its tough to just give a quick 5 minute answer and I give just a few general bits of information. While most people just want a quick fix and a "do this" explanation, we know that REAL strength training is more in depth than that. However, I got to thinking - what if I had to just give a quick 5 to 10 minute run down of what makes up a good program? What would be my key points and what would I just leave for them to figure out on their own?
So here goes - the most basic elements of a good strength and conditioning program no matter what sport you play or what you're goals are...
1. Soft Tissue and Mobility Work (pre workout)
If you're not doing soft tissue work with a foam roller and lacrosse ball, then number 1, you're in for a whole new world of pain when start and 2, what the hell are you thinking? Guys like Eric Cressey (google him) have tons of information and self myofascial release techniques to get you healthy and feeling good with only 5 minutes of dedication per day. Read his stuff and just do it.
As far as mobility work, we're not Yoga instructors, so do a little research and start implementing the stuff that will give you the biggest bang for your buck. For starters, you're pecs, lats, hips, and ankles are probably tight as hell and are forcing you to compensate big time (and you probably don't even realize it).
2. GPP Warm Ups
You want to establish and maitain some sort of base, and in the words of Dan Gable, "if its important, do it everyday". Not literally EVERYDAY, but stuff like push ups, recline rows, band face pulls, pull aparts, bodyweight squats and lunges, goodmornings, sled dragging, etc is a great way to not only "warm up" but to increase and maintain your work capacity. Over time you can correct imbalances and get a little better at doing the things most people tend to overlook.
3. Strength Training
AH, the meat and potatoes - the good stuff. Basically watch what everyone else does in your gym and do the opposite. Since i'm trying to keep this short, here's a general list to help you keep track...
- Training Economy -
Squats, deadlifts, presses and pulls will always reign supreme. Um, try to get really strong on those movements. You only have so much time and energy to devote to training, so pick the stuff that will give you the best results in the quickest amount of time.
- More Pulls than Pushes
Do lots of rowing, mixed grip pull ups, deadlift variations, etc. For healthy shoulders and good posture, make sure you are doing a minimum of 2 pulls for every 1 push. The back can handle a ton volume, so get to pulling!
- Throw in some Closed Chain Pushing Movements
Some people think that push ups are over rated, but I just think that those people haven't explored all of their options. Push up variations with external resistence from bands, chains, plates or a weighted vest are one of the best upperbody and "core" strengtheners there is! Oh, and the fact that people are OUT OF SHAPE makes it easy to dismiss them and say that they are too easy. Push ups are good for you, so do them.
- Single Leg Work (at least 1x per week)
Besides HAMMERING your glutes, hamstrings, quads, and various stabilizers, single leg work also forces you to work your non dominant side to help correct imbalances. For healthy hips and a lowerback, you can't go wrong with various lunges, bulgarian split squats, step ups and single leg squats. For some reason, people think of single leg work as "sissy" stuff and that's because they've never had 225lb on their back doing reverse lunges off a platform. Get seriously strong on single leg work and watch your athletic performance go through the roof.
- Lots of posterior chain work
I know its cliche, but if you want to run faster, hit harder, gain muscle mass, and have chicks gawk at you, then you need to be doing a shitload of heavy posterior chain work (in addition to your squats and deadlifts). Goodmorning variations, romanian deadlifts, glute ham raises, heavy dumbbell or kettlebell swings, pull throughs and heavy sled dragging is a MUST in everybody's strength program.
- Lots of rear delt/upperback work
I'll say it again - you need to be doing WAY more pulling than pushing and by throwing in various rear delt and upperback movements such as blast strap scarecrows, face pulls with bands or blast straps, band pull aparts, dumbbell "cleans" and dumbbell rear delt raises, you will go a long way in not only beefing up your upperback, but maintaining strong, healthy shoulders.
- Variations in Training Intensity & Volume
There are lots of books and articles pertaining to periodization and such, but basically you want to learn how to vary your training intensity (in relation to your 1 rep max, not how "hard" you train) and your training volume (how much total work that you do). If you don't, then you are doomed to just running in circles and never making the kind of progress that you should be.
4. Energy System Work
Ok, we know that long boring cardio is out, but alot of people are still confused on when to implement conditioning or energy system work. Here's a really broad answer - it depends. Generally speaking however, throwing in a finisher at the end of your strength sessions or maybe reserving a seperate day or two for GPP work are your best options. Sled dragging, bodyweight circuits, band circuits, sledgehammer swinging, complexes using barbells, dumbbells, kettlebells, and sandbags, medball circuits, and good old fashioned hill sprints are great choices. Just stay in shape year round and know when to make adjustments with this stuff.
If you're an athlete or just a regular dude, its important to never forget the other aspect of training - RECOVERY. The body doesn't differentiate between stresses whether its from training, your job, money, family, whatever the case may be. Doing daily soft tissue and mobility work is a step in the right direction as is stuff like contrast showers. Most important however, is nutrition, sleep, and general relaxation techniques/meditation/whatever you want to call it. Find your inner chi and try to take a short break from it all everyday.
So that's it in a nutshell, any questions? Really, i'm missing a whole of stuff and a lot of specifics, but this should give you a general idea of where your program should be headed and what you need to fix.
Posted by Dustin Lebel at 1:12 PM
Friday, June 12, 2009
GPP, or general physical preparedness, is a term that has recently been brought into the vocabulary of the strength world, but is still largely misunderstood. Essentially it is exercises or movements to increase our GENERAL level of fitness and the amount of WORK we are capable of doing over time.
There are many ways to increase your GPP, but a favorite of mine that is great for adding muscle and helping out with restoration is through the use of jump stretch bands. Lets face it - most people and youth athletes especially are out of shape, and have a serious lack of muscle on their glutes, hamstrings and upper back - aka the posterior chain.
Between bad coaching, reading muscle rags, and playing video games or spending all day chatting on Facebook, most athletes have terribly weak backsides and horrible posture to boot. While normal training with an emphasis on doing the right stuff in the weight room can certainly help, often times that just isn't enough and this where high rep band work comes into play.
By picking 1, 2 or 3 at the most band movements and doing 100 reps of each movement per day, we are getting added volume to the muscles needed without taxing the system too much as a whole. The added blood flow not only aids in slowly building up the posterior chain, but also in the recovery process by transporting nutrients faster than the athlete had just sat around all day.
The goal of these short training sessions to is to increase our work capacity so that we can train HARDER during our main sessions so that we can keep getting stronger - so don't treat these as 'real' training sessions!
Here are some basic combinations to use aiming for 100 total reps of each movement. Use a band well below your limit at first, and use moderately good form.
1. band goodmornings and band pull aparts
2. band pull throughs and band face pulls
3. band leg curls and band rows
4. band curls and band tricep extensions
You can mix and match these exercises any way you like, but try and keep the sessions ultra short and just break a sweat. Louie Simmons, creator of the Westside Barbell System, can be credited for first introducing GPP to the strength world. His methods have been getting world class results for over 30 years, so if he's not right, then I don't know who is! While most people wait a whole week to recover from training a muscle, Louie has been advocating a different approach - by incorporating these "extra workouts" - and has had phenomenal results.
Posted by Dustin Lebel at 10:22 AM
Thursday, June 11, 2009
Combining kettlebells and bands is a great way to get the best of both worlds while saving some cashola at the same time (kettlebells can get expensive1). By adding extra resistence via jumpstretch bands, you can get in a powerfull full body workout using just a 24kg kettlebell - which is exactly what I did yesterday.
The guys at the Diesel Crew came up with some pretty cool variations HERE, and I added a few different twists of my own to get in a quick 15 minute session that hit my entire body.
While I usually advocate doing a thourough warm up, I just didn't have the time yesterday and I wanted to get right into it. I began by alternating a single arm push with a single arm pull for 3 sets and then a squat variation alternated with a hip extension. The added tension of the bands literally forced the kettlebells back down, making the eccentric very difficult (and me very sore today haha!).
Here's how it went down:
a1) single arm kb floor press w/mini band 3x12 each arm
a2) single arm kb rows w/light band 3x12 each arm
b1) kb squats (holding w/both hands @ chest level) w/light band 3x15
b2) kb swings w/light band (set up as if I was doing a band goodmorning) 3x20
I did each superset with no or very little rest between exercises for all 3 sets and was done in less than 15 minutes. Not something I would do all the time, but definately great for a change of pace!
Posted by Dustin Lebel at 8:12 AM
Besides being great time savers that hit a boatload of muscle mass in a very short amount of time, not to mention great energy system developers, combo drills - using a variety of training equipment - are one of the best ways for athletes to train with a lot of time under tension while still using a decent load.
While complexes can be defined as performing multiple reps of one movement before moving to the next of a particular sequence, combos are typically performed by doing just 1 repetition of a movement before moving on to the next movement. The Clean and Jerk that is performed in Olympic lifting competitions is a great example of a combo - its one explosive pull, followed by one near max front squat, followed by one explosive jerk overhead - a combination of maximal strength, power, speed, and agility. Its no wonder that Olympic weightlifters are some of the strongest and best athletes on the planet!
But for the purpose of most combat athletes, combos can be done using a variety of movements with a variety of equipment. Barbells, dumbbells and kettlebells are fine choices, but with the unique needs of combat athletes, I believe that SANDBAG combos are one of the best tools for the specific strength and energy system development that a fighter needs. In grappling sports like wrestling, jiu jitsu and judo, no movement is every directly linear. You are constantly pushing and pulling, many times isometrically, against a live opponent. I believe that sandbag training is one of the best ways to simulate this. All you need is a bag in the 100-140lb range, and some open space to train.
There are tons of sandbag combos, and I can literally come up with dozens just off the top of my head, but here are 3 super effective combos.
1. Bent Over Row + Clean & Press + Zercher Squat
Perform one explosive bent over row followed by one clean and press followed by one zercher squat. Lower to the ground and repeat.
2. Goodmorning + Shoulder + Squat
With a bear hug grip, do a goodmorning followed by explosively shouldering the bag and then performing one squat. Lower and repeat to the other side. This will crush your posterior chain, and even your upperbody from having to isometrically hold the bag.
3. Power Clean + Zercher Squat + Zercher Reverse Lunge
Rip the sandbag from the floor and "catch" the bag in the zercher position. Perform one deep squat followed by an alternating reverse lunge with each leg. Lower to the floor and repat.
All of these movements can be done for sets and reps, keeping the reps in the 3-6 range (if you have a heavy enough bag) or if you prefer, you can set a timer for 5-10minutes and shoot for total maximum reps. The sandbag, along with some weighted calisthenics, can be used alone for a complete training program, or these combos can incorporated along with your heavy barbell and dumbbell work.
Posted by Dustin Lebel at 5:38 AM
Tuesday, June 9, 2009
Its time for a change, people.
Its time to step up and start training the way YOU want to train, the way we were MADE to train.
Its time to stop worrying about all the little so called "rules" of strength and conditioning and start focusing on following a few basic principles and just BUSTING ASS.
If you are not getting stronger, then you're wasting your time. If you add weight to the bar, if you add reps, if you do more work in less time - you are getting stronger.
Its such a simple concept, but often forgotten.
Once upon a time, I was a teenager so focused on my "routine" that I would lose sight on what was really important, on what really mattered.
You know the principles already, you know the templates, the exercises, the set/rep ranges - you know all that. Now apply it and start getting freakin' strong. Maybe you're goals don't revolve around maximal strength - that's fine. Start getting more done in less time - increase your training "density". Try sandbag training, try keg training, do a ton of
Bodyweight Training, flip some heavy tires, drag a heavy sled a bunch of different ways - whatever is you do, don't forget to actually GET stronger in some manner and forget the rules that everyone else is crying over.
Posted by Dustin Lebel at 5:42 AM
Monday, June 8, 2009
"You will never reach your potential if you stay in the cozy confines of your gym." - Dan John
There is just something about taking some basic, primitive equipment (or no equipment) and heading out to a field or park and just working hard for 30-45 minutes. Even Arnold used to take a barbell set out to the woods and do endless sets of squats, rows, or presses. Too many people get caught up in all of the hype of magazines and the internet, think way too much, and just don't know how to work hard.
You don't need alot of equipment - if any at all! In fact, your best gym might be down the road at your local playground! With various monkey bars, parallel bars, park benches and more - the playground is the ultimate training facility! You can certainly take along a kettle bell or two, or maybe some bands and a sandbag, but for this article I'm going to give away the best body weight only movements that can be done at just about any playground. For improving general physical preparedness and work capacity, the playground should be your new hang out zone. Don't worry about perfect programming or using percentages that don't matter in the real world.
Just go out, have some fun, and sweat buckets! So here they are, the best of the best in playground training...
1) Regular Pull Ups and Chin Ups - using an overhand, underhand, or neutral grips. Close, Wide, Medium - whatever - just do em!
2) Lateral Pull Ups
Starting on one end of the bar, perform one pull up, slide your hands down to the left or right, perform another pull up - stop 1 rep shy of failure
3) Monkey Bar Walks w/Pull Ups
Perform 5-10 pull ups, monkey your down to the other side, perform 5-10 pull ups
4) Hanging Abdominal Work
Windshield wipers, Leg Raises, Scissor Kicks, Knees to Elbows can be done as a complex, by themselves, or in combination with pull ups (1 windshield wiper + 1 pull up = 1 "rep"). Brutal on the core, grip, and lats!
Push Ups Of All Kinds:
5) Incline Push Ups
These can be done with your feet on a park bench, or a harder variation - feet on a picnic table or even higher surface.
6) Lateral Walking Push Ups
For core and upper body strength, these will humble anybody pretty quickly! Begin with your feet on a bench all the way to the right or left, do 1 push up, then "walk" one step, do another push up, and continue for sets of 8-15 (might have to go 3-5 steps to the left, 3-5 to the right with shorter benches)
7) Parallel Bar Dips
Dips are a great upper body strength and size builder, everyone should have a goal of being able to do 20 unassisted reps!
8) Parallel Bar Leg Raise + Dip
Pefrom One Leg Raise followed by one dip and repeat for reps
9) Parallel Bar Rotational Leg Raises
Raise your legs up and over one side of the parallel bars and repeat to the other side for reps....these are super tough!
The Lower body:
10) Bulgarian Split Squat Jumps
Set up as if performing a bulgarian split squat with your back foot elevated on a park bench, drop down to a full split squat and explode back up. Repeat for sets of 8 per leg
11) Single Leg Squats
Standing with one leg on a park bench, squat down using your arms to counter balance and stand back up. Sets of 5 are a good start, but once you get the groove down, hit up sets of 15-20 or more!
Some Posterior Chain Pain!
Hip Pops off a Park Bench:
For some hamstring torture, lay on your back with your heels on a park bench and legs bent at 90 degrees. Using your glutes and hamstrings, raise your hips to the sky and pause before lowering back to the ground. Try these with two legs or single leg, or a mix of both! Throw in some long isometric pauses mixed with short, fast timed sets for variety!
There you have it, a bunch of upper body, lower body, and core variations to keep challenging yourself and build some muscle while having some fun outdoors!
Posted by Dustin Lebel at 1:45 PM
Sunday, June 7, 2009
Here's something to think about today, and its often a question that i'm faced with from mma fighters and strength nuts alike.
You see, there is a fine line in strength training and high level sports performance that most people don't always adhere to and its important to recognize the difference.
What i'm talking about is the fine line between MAXIMAL training and OPTIMAL training. There are always two sides to the fence. One one side you have the die hard "train til you puke" guys and on the other you have the super technical "the CNS is like a delicate flower" guys. Neither guy is completely right, but both guys can add value and insight to your training.
Number one, MOST PEOPLE just don't know how to work hard. Really, if more people just FOCUSED and worked really hard on a few things - they would triple their results. But with most "type A" personality types, that is rarely the case. For us, its important to know when to push it and when to back off...when to go hard and CRUSH IT and when to take a step back. Not just with lifting, but with anything in life.
Where alot of people fail is that they just push, push, push without ever taking a breath and often just fall flat on their face. Don't fall victim like most people, accept that you aren't superman and know when to put on the brakes.
But before you do this - and this is real important - you have to EARN IT. If you're not putting in the work, if you're being - for lack of a better term - a pussy, if you're not straining, hustling, and always attempting to better yourself, then frankly you don't DESERVE to back off.
Energy is either moving forward or backward, but never at a stand still. This is true for getting stronger, building a business, developing relationships - you name it. Try to go forward as much as and as often you can - go for those PR's and make those huge jumps - and then don't afraid to get back to neutral. Rinse and repeat.
Posted by Dustin Lebel at 6:51 PM
Saturday, June 6, 2009
A lot of people think that its impossible to build strength and muscle mass using just a simple tool such as the sandbag. They think you need intricate program design and lots of fancy equipment. The fact is that the body only recognizes tension, not what is applying the tension.
While I encourage people to train with alot of different equipment such as barbells, dumbbells, kettlebells, bodyweight and the like, its important to know that no matter what you use to train with, as long as you adhere to some sort of template you're gonna be money.
Something i've been using for quite awhile now and originally stole from Underground Strength Coach, Zach Even-Esh is a total body template designed to train the entire body and various planes of motion in one workout.
Its simple, really and all you have to do is plug in whatever piece of equipment you're using with whatever movements are applicable with that training tool.
a) Total body movement
example: sandbag clean and press, sandbag shouldering, sandbag loading
b1) upperbody pressing movement:
example: weighted push up variation or parallel dip variation
b2) upperbody pulling movement:
example: sandbag bent over rows, weighted recline rows, or weighted pull up variation
c1) squat or lunge variation
example: sandbag zercher squat, shoulder squat, zercher lunge or shoulder lunge
c2) posterior chain movement
example: sandbag zercher goodmornings, bear hug goodmornings, sandbag pull throughs
Sets and reps can vary, and you can even work all the movements in a strength circuit (a great way to train if you're short on time). By following this general template you have a vast array of movements to choose from, but each training session will still have some sort of rhyme and reason and keep you progressing forward.
As an example, here's what I did today
warm up w/bodyweight and bands x 2 sets
1. push ups x 15
2. squats x 20
3. reverse lunges x 20
4. iron corss goodmornings x 20
a) sandbag clean and press: max reps in 5 minutes
b1) chain push ups 3 x max reps
b2) sandbag bent over rows 3 x 8-10
c1) sandbag zercher squats 2 x 8
c2) sandbag zercher goodmornings 2x8
This took only 25 minutes or so from start to finish and completely roasted me. My upperback, grip, core, and lowerbody were thrashed from all the sandbag work and the chain push ups blew up my upperbody.
Don't make this stuff more complicated than it is and don't be afraid to have some fun with your training! Yes, you have to work hard, but don't limit yourself to one training tool over another. Experiment, find out what works, and don't let the "rules" hold you down!
Posted by Dustin Lebel at 7:15 PM
Friday, June 5, 2009
When it comes to knockin' down your 40 time, shooting in for a powerful double leg takedown, or putting on massive amounts of muscle mass to your frame, training the group of muscles known as the posterior chain is an absolute MUST. The upperback, lowerback/spinal erectors, hip complex, glutes, hamstrings, and calves all make up the posterior chain. If you want to run faster, hit harder, get bigger, and stay injury free you need to be HAMMERING them multiple times per week. While there are lots of interesting ways to train the posterior chain, our main objective is to GET STRONGER. And to do this, we need to use heavy weights and use BIG movements that work alot of muscle mass. Leg extensions and leg curls are out, and compound movements are in! Certain activation and pre habilitative movements are fine as a warm up, but we need to be attacking the weights and trying to set personal records on a regular basis.
With that said, here are my top 7 movements for packing on strength and size to your backside...
- rack deadlifts
- from a defecit
Grip it and rip it...what could be more simple? Deadlifts are the KING because of the loads used. If you want to get super strong from head to toe, then deadlifts are in top order. Typically deadlifting is best done for lower reps, sets of 5 or less as technique becomes an issue much past that.
2) Snatch Grip Deadlifts
- from rack
- from defecit
Perhaps my favorite pulling movement of all time, snatch grip deadlifts will hammer your glutes, hamstrings and upperback unlike anything else. Hit these from a variety of positions for sets in the 6-12 range for hypertrophy or as a max effort movement for a top set of 1-5.
3) Box Squats
We all know that regular barbell squats are the "king of lifts", but box squats force you to sit back break up the eccentric/concentric chain, forcing your hips, glutes and hamstrings to do all of the work. Sets of 2-5 are generally desired, unless working up to a 1 rep max or once in awhile performing some light higher rep work to promote recovery.
- wide stance
- Anderson (from rack or suspended from chains)
- bands (for higher reps)
Goodmornings get a bad rep by people who do them wrong, but they are an excellenet movement for crushing the post chain. With a barbell, I prefer a low bar setting and use either a close or wide stance being sure to keep my back flat. Doing these from a rack aka Anderson goodmornings are also a great way to build starting strength. Generally sets in the 3-8 rep range are used, but higher reps with jump stretch bands can also be done in the 15-30+ range.
5) Romanian Deadlifts
- dumbbell or barbell
A favorite among the old soviet weightlifters, romanian deadlifts are basically a goodmorning while holding the bar in your hands with the extra benefit being more recruitment from the upperback and of course the grip!
6) Pull Throughs
I prefer doing these with bands or a sled over a cable, usually for higher reps at the end of a training session to hammer the glutes, hamstrings and erectors. Doing these with the sled the day after an intensive lowerbody day is also great for recovery purposes.
7) Swings (single arm)
These can be done with a single dumbbell or kettlebell, and usually for reps in the 8+ range. If I am using a heavy dumbbell, I might do 2-3 sets of 8-15 or sometimes I will do timed sets with a lighter (24kg) kettlebell for extra gpp work and conditioning.
So there you have it - 7 hardcore movements, each with their own variations that can be rotated throughout your training program. You'll notice that I didn't include movements such as glute ham raises or 45 degree hyper extensions, and while they are great movements, not many people have access to those pieces of equipment. All the movements I gave can be done with a barbell, dumbbells, bands, or a sled - all affordable pieces of equipment that you can have in your home gym.
Posted by Dustin Lebel at 10:54 AM
Thursday, June 4, 2009
For combat athletes, getting "strong" is not just a matter of increasing their squat, deadlift, or any other weightroom number. While barbell and dumbbell training is often necessary for building a great base, fighters and grapplers need a different kind of strength - the kind that doesn't always tell the full story through the weightroom. Combat athletes need a great deal of strength and explosive power, but they need to be able to express that strength and power repeatedly for multiple rounds of 3-5 minutes or for a 6 minute wrestling match against a live opponent that is trying to do the same thing to you. And this is where the confusion for most athletes starts, and why there are more and more of these "mma strength coaches" popping up - most of these guys having never thrown a single punch in their lives - putting athletes through ridiculous circuits, throwing together anything that comes off the top of their heads (or so it seems). But I digress...that could be a 3 part installment article in itself!
But what I want to talk about today is some functional, bare bones, real world strength and conditioning for grapplers and fighters. Here are my TOP 13 partner bodyweight movements that don't require ANY equipment, just a killer instinct and willingness to CRUSH IT. These movements can be used as a "warm up" before skill practices, but they also work great as a finisher (and you don't have to worry about burning yourself out). Oh, and I lied about using zero equipment. You'll need a simple bath or beach towel for some of these (I was close).
Here ya go, in no particular order, the baddest of the bad of partner bodyweight calisthenics:
1. Partner Pick Ups
2. Partner Rotations
3. Partner Carries
4. Partner Wheel Barrow Push Ups / Forward Walks / Backward Walks / Lateral Walks / Clapping Push Ups
5. Partner Push Ups
6. Partner Recline Pulls / Alternating Recline Pulls
7. Partner Towel Rows / Alternating Towel Rows / One Arm Towel Rows
8. Partner Towel Curls (work great at the end of sessions to fry grip and arms!)
9. Partner Drags
10. Partner Squats
11. Partner Lateral Hops
12. Partner Push Lunge / Push Lateral Lunge
13. Partner Glute Ham Raises
14. Partner Hip Pops / Single Leg Hip Pops
So how do we organize these for a training session? Well first of all, you don't need to use all of them every time you train. Secondly, its best to pick one movement from each category and work these movements in a circuit.
Here are two examples, but you can mix and match these any you want - and feel free to come up with your own variations! Repeat each circuit for 2-4 sets, or if you want, do 1-2 sets of circuit 1 and then 1-2 sets of circuit 2 for a complete workout.
1. Partner Pick Ups x max reps in 30 seconds
2. Wheel Barrow Push Ups x 12
3. Partner Towel Rows x 12
4. Partner Drags x 50'
5. Partner Single Leg Hip Pops x max reps in 30 seconds per leg
1. Partner Rotations x 5 each side
2. Partner Carry x 50'
3. Partner Push Ups aka Partner Bench Press x 10-12
4. Partner Recline Rows x 10-12
5. Parner Squats x 15
6. Partner Glute Ham Raises x 10
Give these a try and watch your "mat strength" and conditioning go through the roof!
P.S. Martin Rooney of Parisi Speed School has an excellent book out called Training For Warriors with detailed descriptions of many of these exercises. I highly reccomend checking out that book and his Training For Warriors You Tube Channel.
Posted by Dustin Lebel at 1:50 PM
Tuesday, June 2, 2009
So last week I did something I hadn't done in years and I was long over due.
I went to the old deepsquatter.com page and to westside-barbell.com and re read all of Louie Simmon's old articles.
Years ago I had these all printed out and in a binder - this became my new training bible.
I studied every word, learned and understood all of the concepts he talked about, and tried to apply them the best I could. I was obscessed, and like the rest of the strength training world, Louie (Mr. Simmons!) had a tremendous impact on my own training and now what I do for a living.
What stands out most, however, is not just Louie's knowledge, but his character. You see, at the end of every article you will find the number to Westside Barbell. He literally invites thousands of people from around the world to call him and ask him questions about his infamous Westside system, or strength training in general. I'll never forget the TWO occassions I called Louie and he answered any question I had and gave me whatever insight he could. I remember both calls being over 30 minutes long. The kicker? I was a 15 year old kid with a 250lb squat! It wasn't like I was some world class lifter or athlete calling him out of the blue. I was just a snot nosed kid and he gave me just as much attention as he would to anyone else. To me, this had a lasting impact and is something I now strive to do today.
So enough blabbering, here are 8 things that we can learn from Louie Simmons that we can apply to our everyday lives and find our own personal paths to success.
1) Have PASSION for what you do. Find what makes you most happy in life and GO AFTER IT! Louie is over 60 years old and still trains with the young guns at his gym, doing dynamic effort and max effort workouts weekly.
2) Give Back. The law of reciprocity is very real, and as revealed through my 2 phone conversations with Louie, he genuinely cares and gives back as much as he can. Do this and the return will be ten fold.
3) Never stop learning. Louie is THE innovator in the world of strength training and powerlifting, and he is always learning, always growing, and always searching for a better way. If you want to become the best at what you do, then education is an ongoing process.
4) Take a stand. How many people just go through life without any definate opinions? Louie has STRONG opinions on strength and conditioning and is not afraid to share them. Some people don't agree, but A LOT do. Stand by your beliefs, but don't be afraid to admit when you're wrong.
5) Surround yourself with positive people. Or people you wish to emulate. Louie is 60+ years old, but still trains with guys in their 20's and 30's and he doesn't give a fuck. The strong hang around the strong, not just in the weight room, but in all walks of life. Don't associate with people who drag you down or waste your time.
6) Walk the Walk. If you're going to have a strong opinion about something, then you had better be prepared to back it up. Louie is not only strong as hell himself, but he has had hundreds of lifters come through his Westside gym and become world class.
7) Dream Big. If you have a goal, nothing should ever EVER stop you. It doesn't matter if its squatting the house, or owning a successfull business - you need to approach life with a do or die mentality. To do this, you need to have high expectations and only be around people who support your dream. A 600lb bench press at Westside is just average. Huge to me and you, but just average in Louie's world. You need to attack your dreams and don't stop.
8) It all boils down to PASSION. This needs to be repeated, because their no reason to walk through life doing stuff you hate. Louie has an UNDYING passion for strength training. He eats, sleeps and breathes this stuff. It is his life. Period. Find what you love to do and pursue your goals with everything that you have.
Posted by Dustin Lebel at 8:56 PM