Monday 10 November 2014

Is Your Body Battle Ready?

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With tomorrow being a special day for many as we honor our veterans who have sacrificed so much for our freedom. Because of this and in light of recent world events, I have been thinking about some questions that I encourage you to think of. If someone tried to attack you, would you have the ability to protect yourself or get away? If someone tried to attack one of your loved ones, would you be able to stop it? If an innocent victim was being harmed, could you step in and help? If our country had to go to war that required ground fighting, would this generation be physically ready for it? While there are many skills that could be invaluable in these situations one important aspect to being ready for emergencies is making your physical body can handle what these situation could require. Here are some guideline and a complete sample program help you be ready when you need to be.

First, a note of thanks:
I wish to express my thanks for all the countless men and women who have suffered, bled and died and to all the families who have suffered loss for our freedom. We are all forever indebted to you! May we never forget the high price you paid for the many freedoms we enjoy today.

How to be ready
As with athletic performance, you cannot just go to the gym and do mainstream fitness fads and expect to be battle-ready.  If you want to prepare your body for combat or emergency situations, here what you need to do.

Get skilled
I can’t help you here, but I encourage you to explore courses in self-defence, first aid and other relevant combat and emergency skills.

Get strong
Strength lays the foundation for sport and real-life performance. If you are strong, you have options and you can quickly develop many other essential physical qualities for emergency situations. Take some basic barbell movements (e.g. deadlifts, squats, presses), do about 3-5 sets of 3-5 reps and progressively add weight. These basic movements make you really strong and they transfer very well to real-life performance. Also, for building high levels of usable relative strength, body weight exercises such as pull-ups, and dips can be a great addition to barbell training.

Get lean
In most combat or real-life emergencies, fat is dead weight that will do nothing but slow you down and make everything harder. Combined with proper eating, the sample program below will help you get lean. Also, for more info on how to get lean, there is tons of free information on this blog. Or, for a complete guide to getting lean in a way that enhances your real-life performance, check out my book, Athletic Training for Fat Loss

Do loaded carries
Few (if any) things are more functional than pushing, pulling or carrying heavy objects. Having the strength and work capacity to carry a wounded soldier away from enemy fire or an injured victim out of a burning building is an invaluable quality. Being good at loaded carry exercises can literally be a life-saver. Loaded carries can be done with very heavy weight for short distances to build true functional strength or lighter weights for longer distances to improve real-life conditioning. See this post on The Magic of Loaded Carries for more information and my YouTube loaded carries playlist for more ideas.

If you had to chase someone or run away from someone, you would not use long, slow jogging. Adding regular sprinting to your program is a huge step in being battle-ready. Note: sprinting can be done two different ways: you can do short distances with long rest intervals to get faster or slightly longer distances with shorter rest intervals to improve your conditioning – both are important!

Get powerful
If stuff is going down, it will not happen in slow motion. Just like in sports, adding power to your strength is the game changer in real-life emergencies. Adding some simple jumping exercises and med ball throws to your routine will improve your explosive power. If you have access to good coaching, Olympic-style variations can be a great addition. See my Speed & Power playlist for more ideas

Return to basic, human movement
Thanks to people like Gray Cook and Tim Anderson, there has been a return to using basic, human developmental step to restore optimal human movement. It starts with going back to what we did as toddlers. We didn't use fancy equipment, unstable surfaces and small, isolation exercises to build strength and stability. Instead we just did simple, progressive movements that allowed us to naturally develop the strength and stability for walking. These included movements such as rolling, forms of planks, crawling and squatting.  

These basic human movement skills are then ideally progressed into activities done naturally when children are allowed ample time of free play. When this happens, additional movement skills are added such as tumbling, swimming, jumping, landing, sprinting, stopping and cutting (change of direction). Also, when you add things like playgrounds and trees, additional skills such as balance are developed by walking across beams and incredible functional strength is built through climbing. 

However, today sterile, padded room environments, free play is replaced with early specialization in sports, continual structured activities, TV and video games. This continues into years of sitting at a desk and being continuously hunched over a cell phone.

By returning to fundamental movements such as rolling and crawling (both are great in a warm-up) you can naturally re-establish proper movement patterns and build real stability. Then, in the main training session, look to add climbing and movements that get you handling your own body weight.

Do proper conditioning
When many people hear the word conditioning, they think of things such as jogging. However activities such as long distance jogging lack specificity to real-life situations and will impair your ability to develop the other important physical components mentioned above. Activities such as carrying a wounded person, hand-to-hand combat, running to help someone, running away from someone or running for cover require high levels of anaerobic (without oxygen) conditioning. Sprints (ideally with some change of direction), sparring/grappling and loaded carries done with incomplete rest intervals will build battle and emergency-specific readiness. In addition to this, being able to hike for long distances over various terrains and carrying additional gear (e.g. heavy packs) are also important. See my post on The Right Type of Cardio for You for more details on the pros and cons of different types of conditioning.

Okay, enough with the concepts, here is what the above information could look like in an actual training week: 

Sample Battle/Emergency-Ready Program
Note: this a sample program only and may not be safe or appropriate for you. Always check with your doctor before beginning this or any other program. Adapt to you individual needs and abilities as needed. Also, most of these exercises are on my YouTube Channel.

Spend 5-10 minutes to do what you need to do to be ready (see my YouTube playlist on Warm-Up, Mobility and Corrective Exercises for ideas). Include some basic rolling and crawling patterns. Do warm-up sets as needed before the strength work.

Day 1: Speed & Upper Body Strength
1) 10-20 yard sprints: 4-7 sets, full recovery between sets
2a) Weighted Chin-Ups: 3-5x4-6, rest 45-60sec 
2b) Clean & Press: 3-5x4-6, rest 45-60sec
3a) 1-Arm DB Row: 3-5x8-10, rest 45-60sec
3b) Bench Press or 1-Arm Push-Up: 3-5x5-8, rest 45-60sec 

Day 2: Heavy Lower Body
1) Box Jumps: 3x3-5, rest 45-60sec
2) Squat (e.g. front or back): 3x5, rest 1.5-2min
3) Deadlift: 3x3, rest 2-3min
4) Heavy Farmer’s Walk: 3x30 yards, rest 1-2min

Day 3: Easy to Moderate Recovery Day
Choose 1 of the following options: 
30-60 minute brisk walk or light cycle (best if you are really beat up)
10-15 rounds of Cross Field Tempo Runs
Hiking with weighted pack: approximately 1 hour

Day 4: Upper Body Power & Body Weight 
1a) Medicine Ball Chest Passes: 3x5, rest 30-45sec
1b) Medicine Ball Slams: 3x5, rest 30-45sec 
2a) Rope Climb: 3-5x 1 trip up and down or Pull-Ups: 3-4x max reps -1, rest 30-45sec 
2b) Standing 1-Arm DB Press or Handstand Push-Ups: 3-4x6-8, rest 30-45sec 
3a) Ring Dips: 3-4x6-10, rest 30-45sec
3b) Ring Rows: 3-4x8-10, rest 10 sec
3c) Band Pull-a-Parts: 3-4x15-20, rest 30-45sec 
4) Hanging Leg Raises from Chin-Up Position on Rings: 2-3x8-10, rest 45sec

Day 5: Power Lower Body
1) Hang Power Cleans or Trap Bar Jumps: 5x3, 1-2 min rest
2) Kettlebell Swings: 3-4x10-15, 1-2min rest
3) Heavy Sled Pull or Push: 3-4x10-15 yards, 1-2 min rest
4) Sand Bag Carry (on shoulder or hugged in front): 2-4x30 yards, 1-2 min rest

Day 6: Moderate to Hard Conditioning Day
Choose 1 of the following options:
Hiking with weighted pack: approximately 1 hour
Hill Sprints: 10-15 sets (1 set = sprint up and walk down), rest is walking back down
Sparring or grappling: 30-60 min
Various loaded carry exercise done for about 10-20 seconds, with short recovery

Day 7: Recovery Day
30-60 minute brisk walk or light cycle
Try to take an afternoon nap today if you can

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