My previous post “helen get your gun” spoke about the possibilities of mixing CrossFit style workouts with firearms. I recently received a comment on that thread from Aaron over at Gator Crossfit. They have been doing this sort of training too and have been putting up some video:
I think it’s a concept with a lot of merit. The difficulty is in setting up your own range or finding ranges that will allow this sort of access to their property.
If done safely and in the proper dosage I can see great advantage to a blend like this. Firearms accuracy and manipulation while under controlled, exercise induced fatigue could be an effective method of stress inoculation in advance of the “real thing”. I would tend towards looking for exercises that closely mimic actual combative motions vs kettlebell swings and push presses though. Sprints, burpees…perhaps some focus mitt/combative drills with a partner could mimic a foot chase, grappling and fighting with an opponent. Blend that with a safely designed and monitored firearms stage and you have some interesting possibilities.
Before I became a Cop I used to watch the television show “Cops” and wonder why so many police officers were out of shape. I mean that guy who they were chasing jumped that fence like it wasn’t there and that cop could hardly make it over.
Well a few months after getting out of FTO my partner and I located a stolen car parked in a local housing complex and the chase was on! After sprinting 100 yds and jumping two 6′ chainlinks I was bleeding all over and my legs were like rubber. After we caught these two guys I learned a few things.
The tops of most chainlink fences have sharp pieces of fence sticking up over the top-bar. I slashed both palms pretty good (no gloves) and sliced the back of a leg when going over. Left scars you will find on a lot of cops.
Second… running in boots, vest and duty gear is entirely different from “jogging”. The energy systems in your body that are tapped for sprinting and running with weight on you are different from the one that lets you run a 5K. I highly recommend training systems like Crossfit that emphasize stamina, power and sustained work output. By the time I caught up with my guy I was simply jogging and keeping him in sight. Fortunately my “wind” was better than his and he couldn’t keep up the pace. Luckily he decided not to fight because I pretty much just fell on the guy and got cuffs on him. My fitness goals changed immediately.
Resurrecting this old post as my New Year’s resolution reminder:
“Embrace the suck”: Translation: The situation is bad, but deal with it.
“Embrace the Suck” is a term used by soldiers to describe how they deal with difficult situations. You put your head down and drive on. There is a lot to be said for that mindset. Many people have perished or failed because they simply didn’t drive on that one extra second that their opponent did. The ability to do this is physical and mental. Anybody who reads this blog knows that I believe that fitness is an important aspect of what can be called “the warrior lifestyle” and not just for the improvements it makes in your body. As Mark Rippetoe said “Strong people are harder to kill than weak people and more useful in general” and I agree 100%. Where I may or may not agree with Mr. Rippetoe is why this is so.
I’ve always believed that the real benefit of exercise is in the persons mental development rather than the physical results. Size, genetics and other issues outside ones immediate control will limit the physical advantages you can gain over an opponent through training. Where we all start out on a level playing field is between our ears. Intense exercise, the type that makes your internal dialogue start telling you “this sucks, I cant go on anymore, just slow down, just stop, just quit”…but you don’t…that type of exercise sows seeds that you will reap later when you are fighting for your life and are approaching exhaustion. When your opponent is approaching that same threshold the person who quits is going to loose and reaching that quitting point almost always originates from the mind. Hard exercise, the type that approximates the exertion of a fight will give you a “stress inoculation” that makes all your training effort worth the time.
Military trainers learned this long ago. The point of basic training is part “whipping recruits into shape” but a larger part still is showing them that they can push beyond their self-imposed limitations. A lot of “kids” joining the military have never really been pushed to the point where they have to keep going when their mind is telling them that they cant make it.
I am by no means belittling the “bottom line” importance of measurable improvements in physical strength, endurance or stamina. The body and the mind are a unit and the mental/physical benefits of training cannot be separated and measured. But, if you are pushing yourself to the mental breaking point and following proper exercise and diet protocol, the physical improvement will naturally follow. What I am saying is train hard, but focus on that mental toughness aspect of your training rather than the cosmetic improvements.
Push yourself. REALLY push yourself on occasion. I don’t mean just get sweaty or breathing hard. I mean a “I cant do one more rep, lungs burning, gonna die, mommy I wanna quit” push. You don’t have to do it every workout, but if you are coasting you are cheating yourself. Its not only your body that will benefit, it builds mentaltoughness that translates directly to fighting.
Change things up. If you are happy and comfortable with your current program, you are likely not getting much out of it anymore. If you hate running, run. If you hate lifting, lift. Change up what you do once you get into autopilot with your exercise.
This opinion of mine is what first attracted me to CrossFit. Instead of the familiar 3 sets of 10 three times a week in the “same old, same old gym”, CrossFit throws some intense GPP style workouts at you mixed in with maximum effort lifts like squats, overhead presses and deadlifts. While I am by no means at the level of people you will find on the CrossFit website, I have noticed measurable improvements in my fitness and I am in my 40’s when improvements begin getting harder to come by, so that’s saying something. Another “embrace the suck” workout is the 100 burpee workout. Even just deciding to do it once you know what you are in for is a mental effort.
So get out there and “embrace the suck”. Next to sparring, its the best thing you can do to improve your martial arts training. It can change your whole outlook on life and your opinion of yourself. It could be the best decision of your life.
Training can mean different things to different people. For readers of Low Tech Combat it will generally mean two things. Strength and conditioning training along with martial arts or fight training. Either or both of these areas will be neglected as we become busier as priorities are juggled around. In today’s day and age, the requirement to be able to fight off an attacker can seem far fetched and is really a luxury and past time that is easily dropped for many people.
For those who really enjoy training, when we skip sessions, we often feel really bad about it and can regret the decision later. Obviously, this is not really healthy. What I intend to do is list some things which make it easier to maintain our training when going through some busy periods in our lives. We can cut back on the time spent training whilst maintaining the benefits or even improve ourselves with less time!
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.
CrossFit exposed me to an exercise that I had never thought of attempting before, the overhead squat. The overhead squat is a demanding, whole-body exercise. It builds strength and flexibility in the shoulders and core, especially the lower back, as well as the legs. It improves balance and coordination.
You won’t need much weight to start with. Just a bare Olympic bar might be too heavy as you will find. A dowel or PVC pipe can make a good substitute. The issue isn’t as much the weight as it is technique and flexibility. With a wide snatch grip, press or jerk the bar overhead and lock your elbows. Assume a wider than shoulder width stance, with your toes pointed out. The wider stance and pointed-out toes should help you keep your torso upright, which reduces the load on the lower back and shoulders.
Now, keeping the bar roughly over your heels, squat down as far as possible, then stand up. This is one rep.
The depth of your squat may be limited by your shoulder flexibility. In order to keep your weight balanced, you’ll have to rotate your arms back as your torso leans forward. If you aim for a little more depth with each workout, your shoulders will get more flexible.
The woman in the above photo is Nicole Carol of CrossFit fame. That lady could “smoke” many guys I know in physical competition. Bodyweight overhead squats…Id be lucky to be able to reach one rep.
Well, I say book “review”, it’s probably going to be more of a book gush, because the second edition of Rippetoe and Kilgore’s Starting Strength is the best fitness book I have ever read.
A lot of people discover Starting Strength either through forums like Strength Mill, or through Crossfit, but my route was a little different. I’ve spent seven of the last eight (northern hemisphere) summers in Australia, usually at the University of Melbourne, and while there I’ve been able to use the gym at Melbourne University Sports. It’s the best equipped gym, with the best trained staff, that I’ve found anywhere. It was there that I first got a good answer to the question “so what’s up with this stuff creatine?” (I stopped taking it), where I first heard the word “plyometrics”, and where I once saw the single most impressive exercise I have ever seen performed in a gym. (There aren’t any videos of body builders doing it on Youtube, but I did find a video of a child gymnast doing them here. The guy doing them in Melbourne them was 6ft+ and built more like a rock-climber than a rugby player. He did single reps with perfect control and when the trainer who was with him said: “how does it feel?” the guy responded in a thick Australian accent “still feels like my head is gonna explode.”)
The above is one of CrossFits “named workouts”. The CrossFit program has a number of “benchmark” workouts named after people, many female. This one is named Cindy and is a cycle of pull-ups, push-ups and bodyweight squats. The athlete is supposed to go through this cycle for 20 minutes straight with the goal of performing more cycles the next time he does the workout. It is a great workout for GPP (General Physical Preparedness) and the body motions mimic such actions as climbing obstacles, shooting (in the MMA sense) and sprawling as well as other gross motor movements that you will find in combative situations vs. isolation movements like curls, presses and other such movements. In this video I’m starting the camera around the 8 min mark (yes I have to take a break for breath and water around that point…just because someone writes about something doesnt mean he is really good at something 😉 ). As I tire I typically come to a point where I have to choose between a bit of rest to do the pull-up’s unassisted or decide to drag over a bench to put a foot on and maintain the workout. In this workout I wound up using the bench after 4-5 more rounds to keep the workout going and complete more cycles.
Ring training is one of the Crossfit staples. The mainstay in their program is called the “muscle-up”. Which is basically a pull-up into a dip. I can’t do one of those yet. The transition between the the two components is my sticking point. Its functional application is in surmounting obstacles. It’s said that a person who can do a muscle-up can get over any wall or fence he can get a hand-hold on.
Used for dips, the rings tax the neuro-muscular system like regular dips cannot. Trying to maintain hand position combined with the dipping motion increases the physical effort of the dip to what some authorites claim is a 3 to 1 ratio. In other words 1 ring dip equals 3 regular dips.
Watching myself from this angle reveals to me that Im not dipping as low or getting as much “lock-out” as I should be.
My alibi will be that this is at the end of an X-fit workout where the athlete has to do 225lb deadlifts, box-jumps and dips in series for 21-15-9 repetition cycles, for time. So Im crapping out a bit at this point.
I purchased my rings from Mr. Tyler Hass of Ringtraining.com. For $80-$90 dollars you get a quality set of portable rings with mounting straps. They are durable, comfortable and easy to set-up. If you are looking to buy, check him out.