at-tack [uh-tak]
to set about (a task) or go to work on (a thing) vigorously: to attack the workout; to attack the job with zeal

Thursday, 29 March 2012

Roadwork Alternatives

So I have recently injured my wrist during some grappling, its getting better but its a real drag on my training. For a person who avoids conventional cardio like the plague having an injured wrist is like clipping the tips of a birds wings but only on one side, its possible to fly but pain is imminent. So to avoid the unpleasantness of pain and a longer rehab, I started doing what the vast majority of people do for cardio. Running. This running has actually been ok but I mix it up a little now just as I always have and I thought Id share a few ways to make things more interesting.

Running the trails.

Most cities have a park with walking trails that will go up and down and make things a little more interesting and challenging. If you are like me and aren't interested in a workout that doesn't kick your ass then you can sprint up every hill you encounter, for those of you that constantly stay in the aerobic training zones (<80% HRR) this will kick you into the anaerobic zone once in a while giving you new benefits from the workout. I had the "pleasure" (see; displeasure) of running in a park in grande prairie that had points spray painted on the trail, I was never sure what these numbers stood for and they didn't seem to have any rhyme or reason to them but sprinting from one then jogging to the next made it a challenge and a half since these points where not often evenly spaced, sometimes the sprint would last a loooong time. Anything can be used like this, you could jog any curved parts of the trail and sprint any short one or sprint on the curves that go left or right. Just for a few ideas.

Hill Sprints

Heres how you do hill sprints: Find a good hill thats relatively steep and at least 100m long, go to the bottom and run your butt up that hill as fast as your little legs can take you, lay down, decide that maybe you'll look for that lung you just lost later, go back down the hill, ask yourself why your considering this again, do it again. Hill sprints will help build your anaerobic endurance in huge amounts, they kick your ass and you don't have to do too many to really see a difference. You can also mix them in with bodyweight exercises or exercises using rocks you will likely find laying around. In the about me section on the side of the page is a photo of me getting ready for hill sprints in the summer, we sprinted up the old sledding hill/jumps to the right. We sprinted up the hill with a rock carrying it like a football in alternating arms, dropped and did 10 clapping pushups and then threw the rock down the hill (itd often land in sand so itd stop completely) however we felt we could (often a side throw to hit the obliques) and we did it just 5 times but we destroyed our lungs, then we finished ourselves off by pushing his truck.

Intervals are a close relative to the hill sprints described above, both can deliver feelings of lethargy. Doing intervals are simple, you can use either distance or time to measure your interval and then run at a pace thats near the absolute maximum speed you can maintain for that set distance/time. Some distances are more aerobic in nature and some are more anaerobic in nature, so heres a quick breakdown of some of the more popular distances.

200m interval=29% aerobic and 71% anaerobic
400m interval=43% aerobic and 57% anaerobic
800m interval=66% aerobic and 34% anaerobic
1500m interval=84% aerobic and 16% anaerobic

Sprint Pyramids
This is one I made up myself. All you need is a baseball field and somethings to use as markers. Id use paces (3 foot steps) to measure my distances, feel free to use whatever means necessary. Set 1 pylon at the start, another at 25 paces, another at 50 paces, another at 75 and the last at 100. Id do 4 sprints to the first pylon (walking/jogging back to the start), 3 sprints to the next (walking/jogging back), 2 sprints to the next, and Id sprint to the last one and work my way backwards. It's short but you can also do more than one pyramid or a larger one, or add bodyweight exercises to the start or end of each sprint.

Well that's about it for now. I'm going to get off my computer and do something now.

Thursday, 15 March 2012

Disarming Your Opponent: The Jab

The jab, it's the most thrown and important punch in boxing because it keeps your balance and defense intact, it distracts and creates openings, it can make a guy back up and keep away, it's a range finder for your other punches and it can hurt the other guy. Why this punch is not used more in mma is a mystery to me, I have seen it used well in mma when it is used like the weapon it is (eg st.pierre vs kosheck). Regardless of how common it is in each system it is a great weapon and taking it out of your opponents arsenal is a huge step towards victory. I personally devote a great deal of energy to this goal and I will share 3 distinct techniques that achieve this.

The first step is knowing when your opponent will be or is throwing his jab. It is different for every person but most people will have a 'tell'. A tell is something they do when they are about to throw a punch. Some will raise their elbow, some will turn their shoulders slightly, some will take an exaggerated step forward, some will stop moving completely first, these are just a few tells. You will have to become adept at spotting these on your own.

Catch The Jab
The simplest way to negate the effects of an opponents jab is to block it, better yet to "catch it". To execute this simple maneuver you need to see it coming first, place your hand in the path of the punch and turn your palm towards it. This is similar to the way a back catcher in baseball catches a ball. Pairing this up with a jab is a very helpful counter punch. Catch the jab and immediately counter with your own jab into the opening created by your opponents attack. The countering jab should be thrown as soon as you detect your opponents jab coming in. When done correctly your opponents jab will be caught by your right (orthodox) as your own jab lands. A southpaw can catch the jab with his right and counter with a straight left.

Parry The Jab
The next way to negate your opponents jab is by parrying it. A parry is like a catch but with a twisting of the wrist to knock the incoming jab down, this takes his jab away and creates an opening. Parrying with your right hand you can then come over with a straight right. This is a powerful way to counter. I myself find I tend to arm punch with this counter. The reason for this is I have a tendancy to turn my hips as I parry, try not to do this, instead let the punch come to you instead of you coming to it, its coming to you anyways whether you like it or not. Then after knocking it down fire your right.

Slipping The Jab 

The next way that will take much more practice is slipping the jab. When slipping a jab slip to the right, slipping this way will move your head away from the opponents power hand (orthodox). Slipping the other way can and will eventually be devastating, opponents next shot will 90% of the time be from the hand you are currently moving your head towards. Moving into a punch effectively doubles its power. Slipping to the right and simultaneously ducking will bring you into position to either jab (a step to the right at the same time is often a good move) or throw a straight right into your opponents solar plexus.

Happy not-getting-hit-in-the-nose!

Friday, 9 March 2012

Fight Strength Tip #1

Combat athletes all over the world lust over one thing, devastating punching power. It's one thing to be able to hurt the other guy with a combination, it's another to scramble his brains with a single punch. Real punching power is a great asset in your corner, if you can't beat somebody with you skills alone you can always hope for one good shot that will turn the tide of battle to your side. It can keep opponents that are normally aggressive off of you and even mess with their heads and cause doubt. From Mike Tyson to Chuck Liddel fighters have been revered for their punching power, while not everyone can be as devastating as these two fighters, everybody can improve their punching power to a very respectable level even the powder puffs out there. I'm going to go over some physical attributes that will help anybody attain greater punching power and a few methods to improve these attributes alone.

Shadowboxing: Even the pro's do it

There is a reason that in every gym you step foot in technique will be constantly fine tuned and focused on. With poor technique force generated can be wasted (and thus waste your energy) or never tapped into. Great technique will make you hit harder because all your limbs and even your spine is lined up in such a manner to minimize wasted energy and maximize leverages. As an example if your feet are too close together and you make impact too soon in your punch you will knock yourself off balance and hit before maximum force is generated.

The best way to improve technique is to shadowbox in front of a mirror being a critic of the timing of the twisting motion in your hips, when you turn over your punch, body position, etc. Here is a series of videos that cover technique very well. I suggest shadowboxing every day if only for 3 rounds focusing purely on punching correctly with proper balance and your hands in their place.

All the strength in the world won't help you hit the guy, it'll help make it more powerful but it won't make it land, the landing bit is pretty important. Of course your timing and awareness is crucial but speed gets your fist from point A to point B without your opponent reacting and blocking or getting out of the way.

Now I know this isn't a physics class and there are other factors into this equation but in physics if you double somethings mass you also double the kinetic force BUT if you double somethings speed you triple its kinetic energy.

A great way to improve speed is to punch with resistance bands or weights. Punching with light weights (1-5lbs) is controversial because some claim it can damage your tendons and ligaments, I however have not experienced any problems but I do heed the warnings and do it at a controlled pace while not over-extending my punches.

I also use this resistance band set up, it's very comfortable and is joint friendly, the only criticism it could possibly get from people looking to nit-pick is that it also pulls down a bit and can supposedly screw up your muscle memory but this is negligible because you would be punching much much more without this so a few punches here and there aren't going to all of a sudden make you punch like garbage. I got mine for 20 bucks at an Xcess cargo. Regular resistance bands will work also but you either have to train one side at a time or they can rub your back and arms and it can get annoying.

Imagine hitting someone with but your belly is made of jello, your feet would stay planted of course but your upper body would bend and flop back on impact so it wouldn't be very solid. Training your core to generate force AND resist rotation is key to hitting hard. When punching first you must generate force with your core and hips, this force is carried by your fist into the opponents face or body. Upon impact you must resist the jello effect (the flopping) and continue through, having great core stability will prevent you from recoiling and then you can proceed to punching through your target by once again generating force.

A great exercise for generating the needed force is russian twists, you can do these with or without weight and also on a decline bench. Another exercise for the generation of force in your core is windshield wipers, these however are not as versatile and easy to add weight or difficulty on but is a solid exercise.

To resist rotation a beginners exercise would be the one arm plank, you should begin with a plank before moving to this one, to perform a one arm plank simply follow the advice in this video and remove one arm while keeping your shoulders level. Another great exercise is a one arm pushups, I would say more about this exercise but nick says it all only better, enjoy the video.

When you punch somebody you only have fractions of a second to generate force so you must train with this in mind. Somebody who can bench 500lbs can still be hit (relatively) lightly for how strong they are, the reason for this is because it takes your body .5 seconds to reach maximum force (this is what you would do to the bar while bench pressing) and you have less than .1 seconds. So in theory this bench presser could generate 100lbs of force in .1 seconds, but if he trained with plyometrics and maintained his strength he would soon generate 110lbs of force, 120lbs of force, 130lbs and so on, but without plyometrics he would have to increase his weight by 100lbs to add 10lbs of force in .1 seconds, this is why plyometrics are vital.

Plyometrics are a popular way to train your body to generate force faster, a great exercise for this is clapping pushups. Clapping pushups can be very challenging especially if you try to clap behind your back, over your head, multiple times in front or even once in front then behind then back in front (my personal best).

Plyometrics for your legs and core are also very important because only part of your punching power comes from your upper body. Squat jumps, lateral jumps, lunge jumps, broad jumps and tuck jumps are all excellent for your legs. Throwing anything is great for your core in any direction but in particular twisting motions, throwing a medicine ball by simply twisting your torso works and also using a resistance band.

This ties into #4. Maximal Strength is the maximum amount of force your body can generate, which is usually reached on average at .5 seconds. If you can only generate 100lbs of force and reach your peak force after .5 seconds but you only have .1 seconds, then in theory you could only generate 20lbs of force in the amount of time you have. But by increasing your strength by 10lbs you can now generate 22lbs of force, by increasing it by another 40lbs (150) you can now generate 30lbs of force. This is a rather inefficient way of increasing punching power when done alone and doesn't even guarantee anything but when used along with the plyometrics described above, it can increase the effectiveness three-fold.

I will not get much in depth here because many people know alot already but I will however list my personal favorite exercises for increasing raw strength and a few guidelines. Deadlifts, Romanian Split Squats, One Arm Pushups, Handstand Pushups, Pull-ups (weighted), One-Arm Pullups, Glute Ham Raises and Bodyweight tricep extensions. When training for raw strength keep the reps at 5 or less with an appropriate weight with longer rest periods (2-4 minutes) and the sets around 3-5 per exercise and up to 3 exercises per movement pattern (upper body push, upper pull, lower push, lower pull, etc). Training strength 3 times in a two week period with a full body routine is all that is needed to increase strength while still leaving you energy for conditioning and skill work.

Friday, 2 March 2012

Fight Conditioning Tip #1

Physical preparation is paramount in the fight game. Tonight I saw a fighter coming up to a fight that is not prepared physically. In combat sports it is insanity to enter a fight without being ready while the other man is. Sure, sometimes the more skilled but less conditioned athlete will win early but what if the other guy brings something in his game that messes you up, if an answer isn't found soon you may be S.O.L. So for anybody looking to fight here's a tip and something to help you put it into action.

Conditioning is king in the ring, for your conditioning to be great you need to work hard, very hard on your conditioning. If this where an easy sport everybody would be a fighter, but not everyone is talented or disciplined enough to make it. The great thing about bringing the intensity is that working hard takes no, and you can beat a more skilled opponent with superior conditioning (or you could lose to less skilled opponents if yours sucks too bad). So why not work hard and make yourself that much more invinvible? Below is the "borg scale", check it out.

This is a way of measuring how hard you are really working. The interesting thing here is that the # you pick is generally pretty close to the percentage of your heart rate reserve (this isn't maximal heart rate, there is a difference I will explain soon). Much of a fighters conditioning will come from 7 and higher.

A fight is an intense burst of activity and your training should reflect that. If you ran at a sort of hard pace (4) for an hour how much do you think that would prepare you for a really really hard fight (9) that lasts three 5 minute rounds? or three 3 minute rounds? Well let's see...the first obvious thing is that your run is a 4 on the borg scale and the fight is a 9, so you aren't ready for that level of activity and you WILL gas. Don't get me wrong, the run will help prepare you but it is not sufficient alone. Your routine should at least be near the level of intensity as the event you are preparing for.

Now, I promised to explain how the borg scale can help you estimate how hard you are working as far as your heart rate is concerned. The # you estimate on the borg scale is pretty close to the % of HRR you are using (4 out of 10=40%, 7 out of 10=70% and so on) but most people aren't quite tuned in to their bodies to this level so using your HRR percentages for several months can help you get in tune with yourself and make all estimates in the future more accurate. Using your HRR instead of just you MHR (maximal heart rate) is better because it takes into consideration your fitness level as well as your age letting you tailor your routine to your own abilities and therefore make better gains. All exercise machines in gyms use your MHR but the percentages based on this alone are not accurate especially for quite fit or very unfit individuals, you may end up working too hard or too light going by the tables on these machines.

Before this information can be any use you will need to know your resting heart rate (RHR), if you wish to have a very accurate number you will have to record your pulse as soon as you wake up (before even moving) for 3 days and then take the average.

Figuring out your maximal heart rate (MHR):
220-(your age)=MHR
This is supposedly the maximum heart rate you can achieve during exercise.

Figuring out your heart rate reserve (HRR):
MHR-RHR(resting heart rate)=HRR
This is the number of BPM you have to exercise with basically.

Figuring out your heart rate reserve percentages:
HRR x (0.6=60%, 0.7=70% and so on) + RHR=The percentage you wanted

Heres an example from start to finish for a 20 year old male of average fitness with a RHR of 70 who wants to exercise at 80% intensity.

(130 x 0.8) + 70=174bpm is the heart rate he wants to get up to to achieve an 80% intensity level.

If he where using just the maximum heart rate method like most machines use they would have told him to exercise at 160bpm, only 70% of his heart rate reserve! a far cry from the 80% he was shooting for! For the machine to be correct you would have have the exact same heart rate at 45 years of age! This machine is basically giving a 20 year old man the workout a 45 year old man should be doing, ridiculous.