How to Do Conditioning: It Depends

Strength programs that are set up for individuals who are much further along the strength performance curve are inappropriate for individuals who are starting out. A properly designed program that any advanced lifter is doing will be different from the properly designed program that any other advanced lifter will be doing. Conversely, nearly every novice lifter will be doing the same properly designed program as other novices.

This is because programming and training variables move along a continuum from general, basic, and simple to specific, individual, and complex. Your ability to make strength increases is subject to the law of diminishing returns. When you’re a novice, a simple, basic, and general program works to provide substantial gains. The stronger you get, the more expensive additional gains become and more complexity, individualization, and attention to specificity is required in designing your program.

The thing that everyone forgets is that this concept – the law of diminishing returns coupled with the stress, recovery, adaptation cycle, and the need for complexity, individualization, and specific programming at any given time – applies to conditioning as well. In fact, the concept applies to both factors in the Two Factor Model of Sports Performance – training (the accumulation of physiologic adaptation) and practice (the improvement of skill).

Now, don’t get crazy and start thinking that you should jump right into a conditioning program today. Let’s think about this for a minute.

Remember that strength affects all other physical performance attributes positively. And the weaker you are, the greater the effect. So, if you’re a novice, getting stronger is quite literally the best thing you can do to improve your conditioning. Your hobbies and competitive aspirations will determine your conditioning needs but starting out training for strength and then practicing your hobby or sport provides the necessary conditioning for that activity. So the point is that you should move your strength performance along as a priority because If you don’t, you’re leaving all of the benefits of increased force production on the table, plus the ability to stress the organism that is you to a higher degree when you do your sport. If you are stronger, you can go harder in your sport and in your conditioning training when it’s appropriate.

Consider the following: If you squat 200 lbs, how much weight can you use on the prowler? When you get your squat up to 500, how much weight will you be able to put on the prowler? Would being able to put twice as much weight on the prowler for a 15 minute conditioning session positively affect your “cardio” and to a greater extent than using less weight? Would being able to hit the heavy bag harder, use a heavier kettlebell, RX your WOD, etc., etc., etc. positively affect your “cardio”? Of course, it would. Because you have increased your work capacity – to use a fun buzzword.

As strength increases, things become easier. As you gain more skill in your sport, your movement becomes more efficient and energy expenditure decreases. If you’ve gotten strong and practiced your sport long enough, there will come a time when more complex, more individualized, and more specific conditioning training becomes appropriate because your strength gains have slowed down significantly, your skill is such that just doing your sport is no longer sufficiently stressful, and you’ve adapted to the metabolic demands of your sport. At that point, you will assess your conditioning needs and find the tool and protocol that will give you the most bang for your buck and that does not negatively impact your overall performance.

You’ll follow the same progression that you did way back at the beginning of your strength training using a simple protocol and moving to more complex protocols depending on your individual needs. For example, you may start with a prowler doing a simple 30 seconds on, 90 seconds off program for 5 rounds. You can adjust weight, bout or rest time, number of rounds, or total time as you improve your conditioning. Depending on the demands of your sport and your individual deficiencies, you’ll move into more individualized and specific conditioning programming.

And so, we arrive at the same place we started in terms of advanced versus novice programming. Appropriately designed conditioning programs that are designed for high level athletes will be specific to a given athlete. Appropriately designed conditioning programs for conditioning novices will be the same.

You will do your sport, then eventually do some low impact, high intensity anaerobic work on the prowler, rower, or Echo bike, then eventually modify and specialize based on your needs and how you respond to the basic program.

Ray Williams’ strength training program isn’t appropriate for you and never will be. Neither is Connor McGregor’s conditioning program. The conditioning program that is appropriate for you will depend on your individual situation, your training history, and your experience with high cardiorespiratory demand activity, and the only way to figure out what that looks like is to properly apply the process as follows:

1. Train for strength and practice your sport. Then,
2. When your strength training has slowed significantly, continue training for strength while practicing your sport and start training intelligently for conditioning. Then,
3. Adjust and periodize your strength and conditioning training based on your season or competition schedule.

If you’re weak, you don’t need conditioning regardless of your sport. You need to get strong. This represents the most common situation for most people.

If you’re strong and unskilled, you don’t need conditioning regardless of your sport. You need to practice your sport. This represents the second most common situation and those of you who fall in this category run the risk of wasting training time chasing conditioning when you just need to stay in the gym staying strong and practice more.

If you’re strong and skilled, your conditioning will depend on your specific needs as determined by the application of the process I’ve outlined. The folks in this category are rare, competing seriously, and very likely not you. And most importantly, the conditioning protocols used by an individual in this category do not apply to anyone but the individual doing them.

So let’s be smart. Don’t use conditioning as a way to avoid training for strength. And if you’re doing conditioning because you like doing conditioning, don’t make up a bizarre justification involving cardio, your heart, or your hobby. Instead realize that you’re trading getting stronger and getting better at your sport for penance, getting sweaty, and getting tired.

If conditioning is appropriate for you, make sure that it comports with your level of training advancement and that you don’t just copy/paste someone else’s conditioning program.

Shooting Training Log – Runenation Session 2

I’ve been working with Ian Strimbeck for online pistol coaching off and on for a while now. He’s an excellent coach and remote coaching for shooting works surprisingly well. You can check out Ian, his remote coaching, and in-person classes around the country at http://www.runenationllc.com.

This is my first range session for this cycle. Simple drills, but my presentation from low ready needs some serious work. My focus going into the session was to not lock out my grip so aggressively. I have a tendency to push out too far, lock elbows, and get too tense.

The main takeaways for me from this session are:

  • Maintain target focus rather than searching for the dot.
  • Reset the trigger faster so that my shot strings are more consistent.
  • Come out of the holster a little flatter faster so that I get a cleaner presentation.

Balancing BJJ and Starting Strength

We’ve spent a bunch of time and typed many words talking about why getting stronger is important for grapplers. I won’t rehash the arguments much here, but BJJ is no different than any other sport. Unless your sport is strictly endurance based (and BJJ is not, I promise), then dedicating time throughout the year to getting stronger should always be part of your life. After achieving even a base level of skill and experience, there is nothing you can do during a given period of time that will improve your performance more than getting stronger during that same time period. 

According to the Two Factor Model of Sports Performance, the skill curve goes to the “intermediate” level much quicker than the strength curve does, especially if you’ve never gone through the process of getting strong. Since strength affects all of the relevant performance characteristics positively, even if skill remains the same, strength training has the potential to increase performance faster than more mat time. A stronger you is better able to hold positions, more efficiently move yourself and move others, and get less tired doing it. A less tired you is a more technical you. And a more technical you is a better BJJ player than a less technical you. 

Brazilian JiuJitsu has gotten very popular over the last five years and we’ve got a handful of BJJ folks at every seminar now. One of the more common questions, and the point of this article, is “How do you balance BJJ and strength training?” Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, folks, but the answer is that you don’t. People are always looking for a way to optimize a suboptimal situation and that is the underlying gist of every programming question, and most of the Q&A questions that we get. You want to know how to not do The Program and still do The Program. It’s very simple. If you’re doing BJJ and The Starting Strength Linear Progression at the same time, You are Not Doing The Program. And that may be okay for you. It’s cool with me. Maybe even Rippetoe’s okay with it. 

To clarify, If we were to take the argument to its logical conclusion: you could spend all of your training time getting strong and you would be optimizing your strength. Alternatively, you can spend all of your training time on the mats, doing two-a-days and gaining as much BJJ skill as you can. The fact that you’re doing both at the same time creates a suboptimal situation for both activities and there are always tradeoffs to take into account. These are extremes, though, and not realistic since there are other factors to consider including recovery, work, kids, sleep, and other life stuff. 

So let’s talk about the tradeoffs for a moment. Since we already agree that strength improves your grappling, makes you more resistant to injury, and makes things easier, you already agree that the tradeoff of giving up some time that could have been spent on the mat rolling and instead getting under a bar is worthwhile. But there is no way to run The Program optimally while you’re spending 2,3, or 5 days rolling. You cannot balance the two because they’re not parts of the same equation, they are separate equations that compliment each other. Two Factors, not one. So it’s a matter of priority. Just like in any other sport, there will be times during the year in which you are going to be focused on getting strong as your priority and there will be times during the year in which you will be focused on your skill as your priority. The two things become more and more delineated the longer you’ve been doing them, mostly when you start competing in either a strength sport or in BJJ tournaments. 

So, how about some practical advice that takes my argument into account? If you’re a novice lifter and new at BJJ, do both. You need to be in the weight room 3 days per week and you need to make sure you’re recovering adequately by eating and sleeping enough to support your training and your BJJ practice. You will make programming changes sooner than you would if you were only lifting, but remember that you’ve already decided that this tradeoff is worthwhile. Keep the focus on adding weight to the bar in an appropriate timeframe and recovering while getting better and less spazzy at Jiu Jitsu. 

If you’re an intermediate or advanced lifter getting into BJJ for the first time, modify your training to account for the added stress. Usually less sets and higher intensities are the first changes to make. Lift heavy, for lower volume. Squat twice a week, one heavy, one light, pull heavy once a week, and generally follow your pressing programming without much modification. Starting Jiu Jitsu will make you sore and tired in a different way than lifting, so frequency may be reduced at first. Once you’re no longer sore, get back into training normally. As your skill improves, you will periodize your training, planning backwards from competition, PRs, or whatever else you have going on. 

If you’re an experienced grappler starting strength training for the first time, you will just start doing The Program. You are already adapted to the stresses inherent to grappling, and are able to adjust the “intensity” of your roles on the mat to account for the extra stress you’re exposed to from lifting. As a novice lifter who’s trying to get stronger, doing the program and adequate food and sleep are your priorities. The experienced grappler will notice the most gain on the mat from strength training since he’s already developed the skill and he can appreciate the obvious and inevitable performance improvement in day to day rolling. 

If you’re going to do athletic things, you need to consider the Two Factor Model of Sports Performance. Athletes train for strength and practice their sport and things will always be unbalanced in one direction or the other. Get through the novice phase of your strength training and figure out when you should be prioritizing training and when you should be prioritizing practice. You’ll always do both for the rest of your life, so your job is to figure out what and when you should be training and when you should be practicing and adjust accordingly. 

A Better Way to Cue the Press

The press is the most ego-crushing of the basic barbell lifts. The combination of the long kinetic chain and the fact that the relatively small muscles of the shoulders and arms are doing the job of locking the bar out, while nearly every other muscle in the body stabilizes the position and the load, makes for a lift that’s technically challenging and difficult to progress long term.

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The press also presents some unique challenges to the coach as well. There are lots of “moving parts” that require a sharp eye and the ability to cue effectively in order to get the most efficient movement out of the lifter. The coach must watch the knees, the angle of the forearms, wrist position and how these things and the bar path are affected by the hip movement that starts the press. Cues must be given at the appropriate time to produce the best result in a lift that is very tempting to give up on if things don’t go well right from the beginning.

Presses that aren’t missed due to just being too heavy are typically missed because the bar has gone forward from a straight vertical bar path, or because the lifter has failed to get forward under the bar to complete the lockout. A common cue given by coaches is to tell the lifter to “press back” toward the lockout.  This is perhaps a good piece of instruction, but is rarely an effective cue during the lift. At every strengthlifting meet and in gyms everywhere, there are coaches yelling “BACK!” as the lifter starts to press – they know that the lifter has a tendency to not get under the bar soon enough, resulting in a grinding rep that ends in a miss. “BACK!” is a cue that everyone uses but rarely works, because they are using a bar cue when they should be using a body cue.

The lifter can only do one thing at a time to the bar: once the lifter has started pushing up on a heavy rep, he is unable to distinguish between pushing up, forward, or back. If he were able to make the distinction, letting the bar go forward would be a far less common issue since most people would be able to correct it easily. The lifter just wants to get the bar up to lockout, and he will push as hard as he can to get that done. The slower and harder the rep, the more he loses the ability to adjust the horizontal position of the bar.

So, given that the lifter will push – something that’s done with the arms – as hard as he can to get the bar to go up, let’s give the rest of him something to do rather than attempting to manipulate the bar path mid-lift. Give a body cue, not a bar cue.

If you think about it for a moment, you’ll realize that you don’t really want any horizontal movement of the bar at all, and that’s what you’re asking the lifter to do by cueing “BACK!” at the bar path. A press that has started forward will not go up, can’t be saved, and fails too quickly to cue anyway. The “BACK!” cue is typically given when the lifter has pushed the bar to about eyebrow or forehead height and the bar has stuck in that position.

What you really want is for the lifter to keep the bar over the shoulder joint. The bar may be going up in a perfectly straight line, but if the shoulder moves further back from the bar, the bar will stick and the lift will miss. By instructing the lifter to keep the shoulders under the bar, and maybe poking the front of the AC joint so that they know exactly what you mean before the lift starts, you give the lifter a task to complete under the bar that is separate from the job of pushing the bar straight up. You are helping the lifter manage his body position under the bar as he pushes rather than trying to affect the push against the bar that is only going to happen in one direction anyway. Instead of yelling “BACK!”, after appropriately instructing the lifter and yelling “SHOULDERS!” or some other appropriate body cue will keep the lifter close to the bar and help his upward drive with the hands result in bringing the shoulders under the bar.

If you’re a lifter whose presses get stuck in the same spot when they’re heavy, before you get under the bar, visualize maintaining a bar path directly over the shoulder joint the whole way up. You already know how to push, and using this method will put the rest of your body in the right position to lock the bar out at the top. Try this the next time you press or coach the press.

Choke Defense!

Here’s our approach to dealing with a choke.  The defense is simple and works from any direction.  The key thing to understand, though, is that learning self defense is not about acquiring a collection of techniques. It’s about managing the threat you’re presented with.  The threat isn’t the choke (you can break a choke fairly easily), the threat is the person choking you.  Our focus is on dealing with the fight after defense.  The ATTACK part of “Defend + Attack”.

Defense Krav Maga | 4036 Kemp Blvd | Wichita Falls, TX

Critical Incident First Aid Workshop November 4th, 2017

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We’re excited to be able to offer a one-day training course on first aid after a serious injury when help may be delayed in getting to you.  You’ll learn how to use commercially available first aid supplies and what you need to start your own individual first aid kit.

This is a unique opportunity to take a class taught by an Air Force Special Operations medic.  Don’t miss it.  Click here for more information and to sign up: Critical Incident First Aid Workshop Signup

Space is very limited. Sign up soon!

 

New schedule starting Monday, September 11.

We’re excited to offer a ground fighting class starting Monday at Defense Krav Maga. The class is open to everyone and will teach you basic position, submissions, and grappling strategy. We’ll use elements of wrestling, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, MMA, and Krav Maga to put together a simple, but brutally effective ground fighting program.

Contact us using the form below to schedule a trial Krav Maga class!

Defense Krav Maga is open!

Krav Maga has finally arrived in Wichita Falls.  We’re officially in our new location at 4030 Kemp Blvd.  This week, class will run on Wednesday at 5:30 pm and starting next week, the schedule will be as follows:

Krav Maga – Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday at 5:30 pm

Precision Striking – Tuesday and Thursday at 6:30 pm

In Precision Striking class, you’ll work on the art and skill of punch, knee, and kick combinations from boxing and Muay Thai.  This will be a fast paced, 30 minute class where you’ll learn to hit, move, and defend.

Fill out the form below if you have questions or would like to set up a trial class.

Defend + Attack

Wichita Falls Krav Mata

Defending yourself requires that you are able to make an aggressive and violent counterattack.  This is one of the ugly realities of self-defense and this is the truly hard part for nice, normal people living in the real world.  Come train with us and we’ll teach you how to make an ugly face, hit hard, and go home safe.

Krav Maga classes run on Monday and Wednesday at 5:30 PM at Wichita Falls Athletic Club.  Contact us below for more information.  We look forward to seeing you!