Posts Tagged ‘mma’


I’m going to start off this post by warning you, the reader, that this is going to be a rare post which focuses on an experience which occurred in my life this week, rather than a strictly informative post.

I generally get about 5-7 days of resistance training in a week (some conditioning, some strength/power training, the breakdown of which is based on which training phase I’m in). Generally I workout on my own, which suits me nicely. I don’t have to worry about another person’s schedule. I get to program the way I want. I have my own quiet time with my thoughts.

But sometimes I find it difficult to push myself in conditioning. Since I do all my own programming and am not directly monitored by a coach, it would be really easy for me to skip workouts here and there, or to dog it. I’m proud to say that I can’t remember the last time I skipped a workout simply because I didn’t want to do it. But, the bottom line is, it’s harder to push yourself when you’re on your own than it is when a parter is there spurring you on.

For those of you who don’t know, the CrossFit open started recently. 2 workouts have been released, 13.1 and 13.2. I decided that I wanted to do all the workouts this year, but that I would modify certain workouts if necessary. Since I am very much against high rep Olympic lifting, I had to modify 13.1, which was a burpee and snatch workout. Today I did the 13.2 workout with no modifications. It was as follows:

5 x 115# shoulder-to-overhead
10 x 115# deadlift
15 x 24 inch box jumps
(as many reps as possible in 10 mins)

I work and workout at a YMCA gym. There are a few CrossFitters around the gym, including a guy who I will call “Tony”. Tony trains at a CrossFit gym, and mostly comes to the Y to do midday stretching. He has completed at least one Ironman that I know of, and several distance runs. We chat from time to time about our workouts. I mentioned to him before I started my workout today that I was going to do 13.2. He gave me a few tips having already done the workout himself at his CrossFit gym.

After chatting about the workout for a few minutes, we went our separate ways. I did my lacrosse ball work, foam rolling, and dynamic stretching. Since I was planning on doing the workout by myself, I collected a pile of 2.5# plates which I intended to use to help myself remember how many rounds I had completed.

I wasn’t too worried about this workout. It looked waaaay easier on paper than 13.1. 10 minutes is short, and I knew 115# wouldn’t be a problem for me to throw around. About 2 minutes into the workout I realized that it was going to be more challenging than I thought. “Ah well,” I said to myself. “You’re used to pushing yourself through conditioning, you’ll getter done”. Just as I was making this realization that the workout was going to be a lot more challenging than I thought, something really cool happened.

Tony, unprompted, came up and started to coach me through. He stayed for the last 8 minutes of the workout. He helped move the bar and count the reps, but most of all he helped push me through. Telling me to pick the bar up again. Telling me I was allowed to take 5 breaths and then start a new round. Having not had anyone there to push me through a workout in a long time, I couldn’t believe how much it helped. I listened to him, and definitely pushed harder than I would have had I been alone.

It really meant a lot to me that he did that, and as much as I blast CrossFit in some of my posts, as far as I have seen supporting your fellow exercisers during workouts is commonplace in CrossFit. I finished the workout surpassing the goal I had set for myself (scored 220 for those of you know know the workout), and I know Tony was a large part of that.

The whole ordeal just reminded me how important good training partners are. They will push you further, help you to correct things, and keep you motivated. We should all go into our workouts with the “all go” philosophy in mind, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t all benefit from some encouragement.


I guess this post is ultimately a love letter to training parters. If you are part of a team or training group, don’t underestimate how much your encouragement and kind words help your teammates. On the other side of the coin, realize that your success is due in part to their presence. Take care of your training partners, and be a good training partner yourself. Even if your sport, like mine, is an individual competition rather than a team one, your training partners do a lot more than you might realize to help you succeed. #allgo


Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that your conditioning programming (as opposed to strength/power programming) has to be super fancy. Especially if you are focusing on energy systems rather than muscular endurance, you don’t need to have a workout containing 12 different complicated movements. In fact, having too many complex movements in a workout where you will be trying to complete them while extremely fatigued can be a recipe for an injury. Keep it simple. Focus on a small number of movements in a workout, and try to choose options where either a) form breakdown is not extreme (ie box jumps), or b) form breakdown will not result in a huge potential for injury (ie burpees). #allgo

The overhead squat is, in my opinion, one of the most challenging non-Olympic lifting barbell lifts which you can do. It requires a ton of mobility in several different regions of the body, as well as a ton of core strength and overhead stability. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the overhead squat, check out this video below.

Perhaps the first question which needs answering is: do you even need to overhead squat? I had this debate with an Olympic lifter friend of mine. His argument was that overhead squatting is unnecessary because the movement is covered when you snatch. I still felt the overhead squat was an important exercise to help create core and overhead stability. It took my thick head a couple of days to realize why we had differing viewpoints: he squat snatches, while I mostly power snatch. As a result, he gets a lot of full range overhead squatting in from his snatching, whereas I do not. This would explain in part why I struggle with the overhead squat: I haven’t really done it much.

Long story short, if you do a lot of squat snatching, you probably don’t need to program heavy overhead squats into your routine. If you mostly power snatch, I’d recommend programming in overhead squats to get you comfortable in the bottom position. And just to throw a little common sense at you: unless you are a CrossFitter training the overhead squat for its own sake, or an Olympic lifter training the overhead squat for snatching with a belt on, ditch the weight belt. Doing an exercise like this which demands a lot of your core with a belt on doesn’t make much sense.

What Does The Overhead Squat Do?

Believe it or not, the overhead squat, for most people, is not going to do a ton to build up lower body strength/power. Think of it this way. Let’s say you can back squat 300# for 3 reps, and overhead squat 250# for 3 reps. In both movements, your legs are displacing the same amount of weight. Since you can presumably overhead squat less than you can back or front squat, your legs will not be challenged in the same way that they would be if you back or front squatted.

The overhead squat is GREAT for core stability, upper back strengthing, mobility (especially when done lightly with an emphasis on perfect technique), and assessment purposes. If you want to see what’s wrong with a person’s body mobility-wise, watch them overhead squat.

As a bit of an aside, if you have never done the overhead squat, it may look like it requires a lot of tricep strength. While the triceps might be needed to press the weight into an overhead position, your elbows should be locked out when overhead squatting. There should be NO bend. If you find your triceps working a lot, you are probably doing the movement wrong.

Am I Ready To Overhead Squat?

Here is a guideline which I would suggest. Ever heard of the behind-the-neck Sots press? See the video below. If you can do this exercise properly and pain free with an empty Olympic bar, you PROBABLY (and remember, I’m not a doctor) have the mobility and shoulder health required to overhead squat.

My Sots Press Was Laughable. How Can I Get To The Point Of Overhead Squatting?

There are a number of things which can cause a poor Sots press. If you are an athlete and have been training using even moderately good programming and full range of motion, I’m going to go ahead and assume core stability and upper back/shoulder strength are likely not the reason your Sots press looks like you are bowing. Chances are the culprit is poor mobility.

If your torso inclines forward, you may have poor ankle mobility (focus on soleus and heel cord) or poor hip mobility (focus on piriformis, glutes, hams, etc.).

If you have pain in the knees or hips you probably have poor mobility in the knees or hips. Pretty self explanatory.

If you cannot push the bar straight up overhead, chances are one or several of the following areas need mobility work: upper traps, lats, pec minor, thoracic.

While I’m not going to go into how to fix all of those problems, check out the video below from Kelly Starrett which has some good overhead squat warm-up/solution info.

I’m Good To Start Overhead Squatting. How Do I Incorporate It Into My Programming?

Since this movement demands a lot of the core and a little bit less of the legs, I would definitely suggest doing it closer to the end of your workout. You definitely want to get your Olympic lifting and heavy squatting in first. Essentially, I would categorize this lift as an accessory movement. Don’t make it the focus of a workout.

I would not suggest going much above 6 reps per set on this exercise. It is a very complex movement that requires a lot of neural drive. High rep it, and small muscles like the ones in the upper back will start to fail, thus causing poor mechanics and increasing risk of injury.

The overhead squat is also a great warm-up for snatching. As well, as I mentioned earlier, it is a great assessment tool.

In Closing…

The overhead squat is an excellent exercise for any athlete who is not squat snatching. However, if you don’t respect how difficult and demanding it is and just try to jump into it, you are likely to hurt yourself. Check out your Sots press, and if you have issues which need some attention, fix them. Once you are ready to overhead squat, definitely consider making it a regular part of your routine. #allgo

Today’s Conditioning

Posted: February 25, 2013 in Programming
Tags: , ,

Simple, but effective. I was definitely dry-heaving for the first time in a while after this one.

4 rounds, 45 second breaks between each round

Each round is: 2 minutes hard running, 3 minutes of as many cycles as possible of (8 box jumps, 8 inverted rows, 8 push-ups)

Complete all rounds, rest as needed, and then finish off with 3 sets of 12 face pulls.

This is a good one if you have an MMA fight coming up which is 3×5 min rounds. The extra round and the shorter rest breaks of this workout will really hammer you.

The movements are all body weight, which may sound light. The point of this conditioning workout is to push as hard and fast as you can. Even though you are not displacing a substantial load, if you are pushing the pace, it should be extremely demanding. If you are really set on loading the movements, use a 20 lb weight vest for the workout.


Burpees are one of my favourite conditioning tools. They can challenge anyone, no matter what shape they are in. They are a great bodyweight movement with a relatively low risk of injury even when form breaks down due to fatigue. They can even be loaded using a weight vest, and there are countless variations.

I just want to be clear, when I say burpee, I mean “chest to floor” burpee. No straight arms, no partial push-ups.

This conditioning workout is a great one to challenge your aerobic energy system. Because of the nature of the movements, muscular fatigue should not slow you down.

Row 500 meters, 20 burpees
5 rounds for time

There are no rest breaks in this conditioning session. If you have a fight coming up, consider taking a break after each round to better mimic the time parameters of your competition. This will allow you to go slightly harder each round than completing all rounds with no breaks would.

If you have a 3×5 minute MMA fight coming up, the workout could be amended to look like this.

Row 250 meters, 15 burpees (using 20 lb weight vest), row 250 meters, 15 burpees (using 20 lb weight vest), 45 seconds rest
4 rounds for time

Once the burpee/row circuit is done, rest as needed and then finish off with 3 rounds of a remedial circuit: 15 rear delt flies, 12 band pull-aparts, 12 lying dumbbell external rotations with 40 degrees abduction

Good luck! #allgo

Wrote up a program today which I thought some of you might enjoy. It is a one month program for a beginner-intermediate lifter. The purpose of the program is functional hypertrophy, meaning that provided proper nutrition and a reduction of conditioning work, you will put on some size and strength. The reason I suggest that this is appropriate for a beginner to intermediate lifter is that there are some challenging movements (like front squats and Turkish get-ups), but I have also opted to include clean pulls and snatch-grip deadlifts rather than snatches or cleans (the latter two being more complex).

The rep range is not super low, but low enough that I would not suggest doing this program unless you have done many of the movements before. If you are unfamiliar with these movements and you try to load them, you may injure yourself.

The program is 4 days/week. Ideally I would recommend training Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday. Make sure to minimize other activities so that you have lots of time to recover. As well, eat lots of good food, drink lots of water, and get 8 hours of sleep per night.

During your workouts, your rest breaks between sets should be as long as you feel you need. This is not a fat loss program, so when in doubt, take a longer break. Aim for around 3 mins for the heavy compounds.

The program is designed in the following way. Week 1 is high volume, week 2 medium volume, week 3 very high volume, week 4 active recovery. Do NOT add or take away sets.

In terms of the notation used blow, 4S X 4R means 4 sets of 4 reps. If an exercise is just proceeded by a letter (ie. A), do all sets of that exercise before moving on to the next one. If an exercise is proceeded by a letter and number (ie C1), alternate each set with the corresponding exercise (ie C2).

I have included reference videos at the end for some of the lesser known exercises.

Lower Body (Day 1)

A) Clean Pulls
(Week 1: 4S X 3R, Week 2: 3S X 3R, Week 3: 5S X 2R, Week 4: replace with 4S X 4R broad jump)

B) Front Squats
(Week 1: 4S X 4R, Week 2: 3S X 5R, Week 3: 5S X 3R, Week 4: omit)

C1) Romanian Deadlifts
(Week 1: 3S X 8R, Week 2: 3S X 8R, Week 3: 4S X 6R, Week 4: 2S X 10R)

C2) Pistols (single leg squats)
(Week 1: 3S X 10R, Week 2: 3S X 10R, Week 3: 4S X 10R, Week 4: 2S X 10R)

D) Turkish Get-ups
(Week 1: 3S X 4R/side, Week 2: 3S X 4R/side, Week 3: 3S X 4R/side, Week 4: 2S X 4R/side)

Upper Body (Day 2)

A1) Barbell Rack Rows
(Week 1: 4S X 6R, Week 2: 4S X 5R, Week 3: 5S X 4R, Week 4: omit)

A2) Barbell Bench Press
(Week 1: 4S X 6R, Week 2: 4S X 5R, Week 3: 5S X 4R, Week 4: omit)

B1) Fat Grip (or tennis ball) Pull-Ups (or Pull-Downs)
(Week 1: 3S X 8R, Week 2: 3S X 6R, Week 3: 4S X 8R, Week 4: 2S X 10R)

B2) Single Arm Dumbbell Push Press
(Week 1: 3S X 8R, Week 2: 3S X 6R, Week 3: 4S X 8R, Week 4: replace with 2S X 10R dumbbell overhead press)

C1) TYIs
(Week 1: 3S X 12R, Week 2: 3S X 12R, Week 3: 3S X 12R, Week 4: 2S X 12R)

C2) Standing Cable External Rotation
(Week 1: 3S X 12R, Week 2: 3S X 12R, Week 3: 3S X 12R, Week 4: 2S X 12R)

Lower Body (Day 3)

A) Slightly Elevated Snatch Grip Deadlifts
(Week 1: 4S X 3R, Week 2: 3S X 3R, Week 3: 5S X 2R, Week 4: replace with 4S X 3R box jump starting from seated position)

B) Back Squats
(Week 1: 4S X 4R, Week 2: 3S X 5R, Week 3: 5S X 3R, Week 4: omit)

C1) Front Rack Reverse Lunges From Deficit
(Week 1: 3S X 8R, Week 2: 3S X 8R, Week 3: 4S X 8R, Week 4: replace with 2S X 8R walking lunge)

C2) Good Mornings
(Week 1: 3S X 8R, Week 2: 3S X 8R, Week 3: 4S X 6R, Week 4: 2S X 10R)

D) Standing Pallof Press
(Week 1: 3S X 8R/side, Week 2: 3S X 8R/side, Week 3: 3S X 8R/side, Week 4: 2S X 8R/side)

Upper Body (Day 4)

A1) Pull-Ups
(Week 1: 4S X 6R, Week 2: 4S X 5R, Week 3: 5S X 4R, Week 4: omit)

A2) Barbell Overhead Press
(Week 1: 4S X 6R, Week 2: 4S X 5R, Week 3: 5S X 4R, Week 4: omit)

B1) Neutral Grip Cable Rows
(Week 1: 3S X 8R, Week 2: 3S X 6R, Week 3: 4S X 8R, Week 4: 2S X 10R)

B2) Incline Dumbbell Bench Press
(Week 1: 3S X 8R, Week 2: 3S X 6R, Week 3: 4S X 8R, Week 4: 2S X 10R)

C1) Face Pulls
(Week 1: 3S X 12R, Week 2: 3S X 12R, Week 3: 3S X 12R, Week 4: 2S X 12R)

C2) No Moneys
(Week 1: 3S X 12R, Week 2: 3S X 12R, Week 3: 3S X 12R, Week 4: 2S X 12R)

Video References for Lesser Known Exercises

Barbell Rack Rows

Fat Grip or Tennis Ball Pull-Ups

Front Rack Reverse Lunges from Deficit
(This video demonstrates a reverse lunge from deficit. For our lunge, rack the barbell on the front of your body the same way you would for a front squat)

Box Jump Starting from Seated Position

No Moneys

Good luck! More programs to come… #allgo

How To Train Your Core

Posted: February 10, 2013 in Fitness
Tags: , , , , ,


Last post I discussed what the function of the core is, and how not to train it. Just as a quick review, the main function of the core is to stabilize. The less stable your core is, the more difficult it is to use your limbs to exert any kind of force. The core also twists, and does various extending and flexing movements. Most of all though, the core must remain stable. Here are a few exercises which are great for the core.

Larger Movements

1) Front squat. I ended the last post by stating that front squats are one of the best core exercises you can do, and I stick by that. The demand on your rectus abdominis muscles is huge, especially if you are doing these sans weightbelt, which I recommend if you are looking to reap the core training benefits of this lift. If you can ass-to-grass front squat your own bodyweight for reps, chances are core strength isn’t an issue for you.

2) Good morning. A lot of people avoid this exercise because it is ‘dangerous’. It’s only dangerous if you do it wrong. If done correctly, good mornings are a great hamstring exercise which also put a large demand on the erector muscles as well as the rectus abdominis.

3) Turkish get-up. This is a great exercise which requires core stability in a variety of awkward positions. Keep in mind you have to have healthy shoulders with good mobility to perform this properly. You can do this with a dumbbell, barbell, kettlebell, or, as is demonstrated in this video, a human being.

Rotation and Anti-Rotation

This is my favourite type of core work to do. It has so much application to grappling.

4) Taking a baseball bat to a heavybag. I picked up this little number from a boxing gym I train at. Take a heavybag which is not mounted, wedge it standing upright in the corner of a boxing ring (or some other stable place), and just crush it as hard as you can with a baseball bat. It goes your body used to that explosive rotation needed for judo throws, certain throwing sports, punching, etc. If you don’t have access to this equipment, you can always do a horizontal wood chop.

5) Pallof Press. This is my single favourite core exercise ever. When done properly, it is a killer. Great for injury prevention and building strong obliques.


6) Dragon flag. This exercise is great for the rectus abdominis, and also helps to strength the erector muscles of the back to prevent lumbar over-extension. Some of you may remember these from Rocky 4 (which, by the way, has one of the best training montages in a movie ever). If this variation is too difficult for you, try this. Lie on a bench with a slight incline. Raise your legs so that they are perpendicular to your body while keeping your glutes on the bench. When your legs are raised completely, drive your hips upwards towards the ceiling. Credit to Eric Cressey for this regressed variation.

Anti-Lateral Flexion

Anti-lateral flexion movements generally involve some kind of asymmetrical loading. My favourite option is the…

7) Shovel deadlift. Much like the pallof press, the loading which occurs in this exercise demands so much stability in the core. You may be shocked at how little weight you can do in this exercise starting off.

DO NOT be lazy and do shovel deadlifts like this. Any actual lateral flexion of the spine in this exercise can result in injury. Check your ego at the door and pick a weight that will allow you to do the exercise properly.

If the shovel deadlift is a little bit too advanced for you, here is a pretty decent logical progression involving anti-lateral flexion movements.

Asymmetrically loaded farmer’s walk -> Waiter’s walk -> Suitcase deadlift -> Shovel deadlift

Closing Thoughts


One thing that I have noticed personally, and with clients and other athletes, is that core exercises which focus on stability don’t give you the burning feeling of a crunch. You may not wake up the next morning after doing shovel deadlifts and have trouble laughing for the next three days like you might if you did 1000 crunches the day before. Trust me: these exercises will build a much stronger and more stable core than any of the exercises which I suggested not doing in my last post.

Lastly, don’t go crazy with core training. If you are an athlete who is squatting, Olympic lifting, doing strongman stuff for conditioning, etc., you probably have a pretty strong core. You don’t need to spend a ton of time every week isolating your core with a ton of different exercises, because it is working in all of the exercises you are (or should) be doing. Remember what I said about front squats? If your core is indeed a weak point, hit it hard. But, for the most part, you will likely not need to devote a ton of time to it. Now go forth and find a human to do a turkish get-up with. #allgo