Almost everybody is familiar with the basic components of fitness; muscular strength, muscular endurance, cardiovascular fitness, flexibility, power, speed and agility. These traits are all important and need to be addressed by the combat athlete. The issue is “how”?
One definition of “fit” is someone who is strong and has cardiovascular endurance…a person who lifts and runs. Another would be simply “raw power”, hes the guy who couldn’t catch you in a foot chase but god help you when he gets his hands on you…he’s lifting a ton of weight in the gym and looking to lift more. There is the “greyhound” type who can run forever but would have issues when he catches his quarry…hes the one running miles and miles every day. There are also the bodybuilders who are focusing on size and composition, functional application is a nice benefit but its not the focus.
An alternate definition of “fitness” focuses on becoming a “jack of all trades”. It wont make you “world class” in any individual component, but it will allow you to “hang” no matter what is thrown at you. This approach focuses on what is called “metabolic conditioning”. Metabolic conditioning looks at training the systems that provide energy to the body vs. approaching each individual component that was listed above.
There are three metabolic pathways that drive all biological human activity. Most people are familiar with the concept of aerobic or anaerobic exercise. In a nutshell, “Aerobic” means “with air” and “Anerobic” means “without air”. Marathon running…aerobic. Wrestling and fighting a BG into handcuffs….anerobic.
The aerobic pathway is also known as the oxidative pathway. It fuels exercises lasting longer than several minutes. Examples of activities that utilize it are; running a mile or 26, walking, and normal/routine physical activity.
Anaerobic activity can be divided into two categories. One is called the phosphagen pathway. It provides energy for activities that last from 0-10 seconds. Examples of this are maximum effort lifts, sprinting all out across a yard to catch a guy, and that initial contact with an opponent where you are trying “all out” to get him under control. Most popular fitness programs ignore this pathway, focusing instead on long distance jogging and the typical 3X10 weightlifting protocol.
The second anaerobic pathway is called the glycolytic pathway. It fuels activities that last between 10 seconds and 3 minutes. Examples of activity that fall under this category include situations like; pushing a stalled car down the street, chasing that bad guy a block or two and jumping a few fences on the way and when that initial attempt to gain control fails and the “fight is on”. Again many programs fail to address this pathway. This is where some of the General Physical Preparedness (GPP) programs shine. CrossFit, Rosstraining and others are great examples of programs that address this.
Like many other things in life, focusing too much on one thing means sacrificing others. Heavy areobic training will burn fat and increase aerobic endurance but it will also decrease your muscle mass. You will be able to chase that bad guy into the next county but unless its a 10 year old kid you may have a problem taking him down and putting him in cuffs. Conversly, a proper anerobic program can be a win/win proposition. It too burns fat and increases aerobic capacity BUT it also increases strength, power, and speed. Unlike the “running fool”- strictly areobic focused- marathoners, it also increases muscle mass and anaerobic (“fight”) endurance. So while your cardio conditioning wont be as great as an aerobic focused athlete (you wont be posting world class marathon times), anerobic training will give you enough cardiovascular conditioning to grant signifigant health benefits, plus all those other great traits.
So, by all means still mix in some long distance runs and work on bench pressing your pick-up, but heap on those sprints and GPP workouts.