Training Intensity

There’s a time and place for everything

Time to paint a picture with the time machine.

In my late 20’s and throughout my 30’s I focused on doing a TON of weight training.

The “Iron bug” bit me before the “jiu-jitsu bug” had!

I had to have the moon and stars align like the Ultimate Warrior in order to go to the weight room and make sure my workout was adequately intense.

ultimate-warrior

My mindset back then was, “I want the most return on my training as possible.” This meant using high-intensity training techniques, as much weight as I could possibly handle, and doing it “right” as quickly as possible.

I had a very long, daily, pre-workout ritual. It looked like this:

  1. Start brewing coffee. Full pot. Very strong.
  2. Crank up the music in the house. Heavy metal or……Dance Mix (it was the ’90’s!)
  3. Turn on the TV full blast. Simpsons reruns.
  4. Pull out the stack of FLEX magazines.
  5. Start drinking coffee. For 30-60 minutes.
  6. Visualize the entire workout in my head, over and over.
  7. Finally. Head to the gym.

End to end, this pre-workout process took at least an hour. Often longer. But it was basically already completed. It was like turning on the TV and hitting play on your favorite show – it was already a done deal.

Intensity of The Workouts 

Dorian Yates and before him, Mike Metzger (and before him Arthur Jones) were against the grain trainers/bodybuilders that promoted High Intensity Training.

 

The idea….hit the muscle with as much intensity as possible in one set. There is little need to do more than one set of the same exercises if you’ve “hit the nail with the hammer and it went in” (I’m paraphrasing here).

That one set, however, was NOT a typical set of 10 reps lifting (concentric focus only).

It was a BALLS OUT effort that required your brain and body to fire together with RELENTLESS INTENSITY until your MIND OVERTOOK YOUR BODY’s PERFORMANCE.

Here is an example set:

  • Do a few warm up sets (~2-4). Grease the groove. Get your mentality right. Weights ~75% 1RM.
  • STRENGTH training was 3-6 reps. SIZE was 6-12 reps.
  • GO!
  • LIFT and LOWER under control. EXPLODE on the way UP.
  • Have your partner help with 2-3 forced reps.
  • Then SLOWLY do 1-2 reps lowering the weight ONLY.

These sets could last well over a minute. I made some of my best GAINS in STRENGTH & SIZE with this training.

Why am I sharing this story?

Because there are lessons to learn that I’ve look back on now and use ALL THE TIME for creating success on and off the mat.

This style of training was GREAT for developing me in several areas:

  1. Setting daily goals (and longer term goals).
  2. Creating INTENSE focus and relentless pursuit towards goals (read DISCIPLINE).
  3. Learning to visualize and achieve things.
  4. Learning to work HARD and putting in ALL the work.
  5. Challenging myself to work beyond my current (perceived) capabilities (read Testing Your Limits)

I’ve discussed #4 before in my article 3 Tips to Sharpen Your Skills. Check it out.

If we practice with purpose to develop better training habits, we will perform better when it counts.  Sometimes,  that means taking your training to an uncomfortable level. Uncomfortable is a relative term, as what is hard for some trainees may be a warm-up for others.  Watch this video from Marcelo Garcia as he demonstrates this concept very well.

Use training intensity changes to test yourself and your limits at different times. You don’t need to do it every training session, but it is mandatory if you want to know what you are capable of.

There’s a time and place for everything. 

 

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Fighting Frankenstein: 2 Mobility Drills for Jiujitsu

I’m not the most flexible guy. I’m not known for going inverted or even playing much butterfly (my poor knees!).  I have arthritic conditions due to an autoimmune disease, so I am always looking for ways to minimize my joint damage and improve my mobility and flexibility.

Enter Phillip Chubb.

Phillip has been a training partner of mine for the better part of 10 years. He has been studying multiple disciplines since I’ve known him. It’s his passion and how he makes his living.  In addition to holding a Brown Belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and a Black Belt in Personal Defense Systems (PDS) under Mike Moses, Phillip has been devoting years of study to body mechanics, movement, strength training, muscle growth, gymnastics, dance, floreio, and many others.

I’m over 230 lb, so flexibility and mobility has never been a strong attribute of mine. I approached Phil with the idea to show me a couple of moves that I could use to help my tightness before Jiu-Jitsu training. This nicely worked into a collaboration to write a companion article for our community here at HEAVYWEIGHTBJJ.COM.  Without hesitation, Phil agreed.

He and his wife Martina have assembled a fantastic online service and community around all things to improve human performance.

Check them out at the Mindful Mover.

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2 Drills For Tight Jiu-Jitsu Players (by Phillip Chubb)

As Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) practitioners, and even other grappling based arts, we all want to get better and stay far away from injuries. Getting better means improving our skills and learning new ones. We have to continue to learn new techniques while perfecting our old ones to improve our martial art abilities. We also want to stay injury free as this will let us stay on the mat and keep improving.

This article is going to help you do that by helping you work on your mobility.

Mobility is your ability to use your flexibility. So not only your ability to stretch, but how well you can get into it and use it. It’s makes a direct carryover to your BJJ practice and, if done right, can both improve your skills and keep you safe in case of accidents. Being able to bend and move well allow you to enter different types of attack and defense options.

For a good example of this, you just need to look into a series like Eddie Bravo’s Rubber guard. If you look at the positions, it’s easy to see how proper flexibility and mobility training can help you learn a new series with more ease and open up new options to attack with.

On the other hand, good mobility can also save you from injuries. How many times have we seen someone’s knee bend the wrong way on a takedown or a leg entanglement? How many of these accidents could have been prevented if the injured person had just a bit more mobility. Sometimes that mobility can be the difference between an escape and a tap. And sometimes it can be the difference between a tap and an injure that sidelines you for months.

Like the phrase says, “A penny saved is a penny earn and an ounce of prevention is worth more than a gallon of the cure”. By preventing injuries in the first place, you get more time to train and improve which helps you reach your BJJ goals faster. Since most BJJ practitioners find their time is limited already due to spending time on the mats, we are going to work on two stretches that provide a lot of return on the time you invest in them.

Those two are the internal rotation stretch and the pigeon stretch.

The internal rotation stretch can be done seated on the ground as its easiest form, in a crab position as an intermediate, and squatting as an advanced variation. You’ll simply try to bring the knee from a vertical position the ground in front of you. This stretch opens up a range of motion that is often seen in Leg entanglements and various takedowns. Being able to enter this range safely will help prevent injuries when these positions do occur and the best part is it can be done anytime. Right before training or even while watching T.V are perfectly good times to do a set of twenty of these with a ten second hold on the last rep. These are great to help prevent knee injuries and make sure your knees and hips are safer on the mats while working takedowns and leg locks.

 

The other stretch we have is a modified Pigeon Stretch from yoga. Maintain a flat back while doing this and keep your hands off the ground. This keeps the stretch on the hips and keeping your hands off the ground lets you build strength in that position. The strength built here is great for opening up new attack options like rubber guard. But it is also great for helping your hips stay mobile in cases like being stacked after a failed triangle or armbar attempt.

Having this mobility before you end up in such a bad position can help you stay injury free when you end up in it. With these two stretches, you can easily increase your range of motion and surprise your training partners and opponents with some new attacks while staying on the mat and injury-free!

Work your mobility and see how you gain new abilities and options in your BJJ practice!

Blue Collar Grips

Do you want to have the strongest grip in your academy?

Use the tools of the trade of the blue collar worker.

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The strongest grips I deal with are skilled laborers that work with their hands – plumbers, mechanics, electricians, construction workers, etc.

These folks expend an exceptional amount of effort using their hands, wrists, forearms, arm muscles, shoulders and back muscles.

This gives them an incredibly frustrating grip to deal with and a major advantage when trying to gain control of their opponent.

It doesn’t matter if they train in the GI or NOGI; they have a tool in their toolkit that most don’t possess.

Imagine this: When you establish grips, you gain a significant control advantage over your opponent. You’re now in possession of their ability to move out of your grasp.


What you do next is entirely up to you.

This goes for guard passing, initiating and controlling the clinch, and executing takedowns, sweeps and submission holds.

What can we learn?

Add manual labor-based tools and workouts to your program.
Do them consistently year round. The benefits accumulate over time.

img_9479Here is a sample grip-focused workout to give you an idea of what to perform. Add this to the end of a Strength Training or grappling session to exhaust your grips.

1. 1 minute Sledgehammer Swings into Tire (16# sledge). Alternate every 10 swings.

2. 1 minute Fingertip Farmer’s Carry (45# plates)

3. Rest 30-60 seconds.

Repeat for 5 Rounds

More to come on GRIP training for GRAPPLING.

Triple Down on Your Strengths

The “A” Game 

I am a fan of doing what you are good at. We hear a lot of advice on working on our weaknesses, particularly as it pertains to Strength Training and Jiujitsu. I agree with those concepts too – but you need a game-plan to implement this.

With JiuJitsu, you need to develop your “A-Game” on Offense. That means having a go to move(s) and chain of techniques that allow you to get to the best control or submission options you have the highest percentage to achieve. To keep it simple, I recommend having a submission on every joint in the body (wrist, elbow, shoulder, knee, ankle) and develop your techniques around getting into and around those offensive techniques. You may not be able to work on all of these at the same time, but one at a time is a realistic goal to start. For your defense, that is a slightly different animal, in that, you need to know many different attacks in order to develop the defense to them. That said, it may be a better use of your time to study concepts related to defensive postures, distance management and framing maneuvers in order to find the common thread that binds the defensive successes all together. Having holes in your defense, especially if you complete, is a no-go.

Watch this video by Gary Vaynerchuk. He is one of the few people on the internet that puts out motivational material aimed at helping people start doing what they should be doing that makes them happy and “triple down” on them.

Jiujitsu Training

What are some ways you can triple down on you? One way is to develop an “A” game for the position that you are most dominant. Most White/Blue Belts begin to have “go-to” moves that they use all the time from each position.  Instead of thinking that you need 20 moves from one position, make the moves, maybe 1-2, super-sharp and continue to work them.

In the clip below, Eddie Bravo and Joe Rogan ponder on Marcelo Garcia’s game after Joe mentions that Marcelo “does not “believe” in arm-in chokes” or the kimura because “it’s a strong man’s move”.

As you watch the clip, what emerges is the idea that if you only work on a few things that you polish over and over again and make them as error-free as possible, you may be better off than someone who works on numerous things without fully mastering any of them.

Strength Training

For Strength Training, when starting out, I believe you should pick exercises that you are naturally better at. For example, if you pick the Deadlift for total body strength, you should spend time finding which variation works best for you. This means finding the grip (i.e., mixed grip, overhand grip, snatch grip, etc.) and stance (sumo, conventional, etc.) that allow you to use the most weight with proper technique and then go “balls to the wall” to work that “A-game” move for as long as you can until you coax as much out of it (in terms of progressive overload).

At some point when your technique begins to display weaknesses, you will want to focus on bringing them up. This can be over years of training. In order to maximize this in your continued growth within the technique, you need to work on the weaknesses in your game/technique (i.e., accessory/auxiliary movements) to strengthen your “A-game” technique chain.

Try tripling down on your strengths and keeping the “A-game” concept in mind and let me know how it works for you.

DIY Balance Board & Muscle Roller

One of the best ways to get your “Mat Legs” is through balance drills. Your equilibrium and staying on your feet in combat sports (really, any sport), requires you to have basic faculties of maintaining balance.

You’ve also undoubtedly sought the foam roller at your academy, or maybe you even spent money on the giant foam packing peanut and learned quickly how weak and useless the product is.

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I’ve got one solution that addresses both.

DIY Materials

You’ll need:

  1. 1 PVC Pipe
    • Dimensions: ~2 feet length and 6 inches diameter and 1/2 inch thickness
    • Requirements: Make sure it is at least 1/2 in. thick. You’ll be standing on it so it needs to withstand your weight.
    • Cost: ~$4.40
  2. 1 roll duck tape
    • Cost: ~$3.50
  3. 1 roll rubber or insulation tape or foam insulation
    • Cost: ~$7.20 (insulation tape price)
  4. Medium Density Fiber (MDF) or Melamine Board:
    • Dimensions: A 2 ft. by 1-1.5 ft. board, or 2.5 foot by 1-1.5 ft.
    • Requirements: Something that can withstand your weight. I weigh 240 lbs. and I’m using an old shelf from an old TV stand.
    • Cost: $4.95

Total Cost: ~$20.00

Quick Comparison

A quick price comparison reveals this is a “no-brainer”.  The links I provide were quick searches performed on the Internet. You may be able to get items cheaper if you have a local hardware store or a chain hardware store like Lowe’s or Home Depot.

Balance Board options are usually over $100.  Here are two examples: This option costs $119.95, and this popular option costs $159.95.

Foam rollers are all over the map. A higher end foam roller like this one can run you nearly $45.00.

You’ll make a more durable, more versatile version of these products for 1/10th of the price.

Instructions

  1. Use the rubber tape, insulation tape or the foam insulation to create a thin layer over the PVC pipe. The pipe is too smooth on its own to make contact effectively with your skin or the board, so this layer will help create friction for balance drills and a little comfort (not much) for rolling. NOTE: I made the version in this video with insulation tape as it’s easy to apply and not expensive.
  2. Apply one, thin layer of duck tape over the insulation tape. This helps protect the insulation tape from wear.
  3. Go workout.

Here is the final product:


Video Training Demo

Here is a quick video of the new item in action. I demonstrate the balance board option using the upper body and lower body.


That’s all there is to making your own. A couple of quick things to make sure you get the most out of your time.

Tips:

  • Consider smoothing out the MDF/Melamine board on the edges. Use the extra tape around the sides or have someone good at wood work smooth it out. If not, wear long pants the first few times you try balancing.
  • Wear shoes at first when trying until you find your legs. After you’ve comfortable with the movement, you can go barefoot, which is ideal.
  • Perform this on a suitable surface. You may fall at first. This works very well on mat surfaces. You don’t need to be a show-off and do this on your sidewalk and crush your elbow when you fall. If you have no alternative, wear elbow pads, helmet, etc. like you would with a skateboard (Note: I know most of you won’t listen, but it’s my recommendation to be safe, not stupid).

Want to see more drills like this? The new DRILLSKILL WORKOUT MANUAL for COMBAT ATHLETES is now available in the Store. It has over 120 exercises and 100 workouts for you to put into your program!

3 Resistance Band Drills For Grappling

I’ve used resistance bands for training for over a dozen years. The right bands can add a lot of value to your training program.

They are a very affordable alternative when compared to a complete weight set, durable, portable, and versatile.

You can perform nearly every exercise with bands that you can perform in the gym, with some creativity and modification.

Iron Woody Fitness resistance bands are by far the best bands I have ever used. I do not have any endorsement deals with this company. This is simply my experience. Try it for yourself and you’ll find out.

Drill for Skill

With JiuJitsu and other grappling based movements, we have many ways to move that are not common to other exercises.  Therefore, drilling these movements is a useful and necessary ingredient in your overall success as a practitioner of the arts.

In the videos below, I will demonstrate how I use bands to train:

  1. The Wrestlers Shot
  2. Maintaining Positional Control
  3. Neck and Guard Posture Maintenance

I’ve a big fan of drilling. If you’ve read my articles, you know that every workout and training session I perform is reviewed as a set of drills. I’ve created a product around this concept called DRILLSKILL.

Solo drilling is a way to turbo-charge your results. You may not always have the luxury of a training partner to drill with, being creative with your solo drills becomes paramount to your development.

Overall, drill by yourself, drill with a partner, drill with multiple partners….it all helps you reach your goals faster.

In this video, I demonstrate a few of my favorite video uses for bands: the wrestler’s shot and positional control maintenance.

 

Here is another example using bands to improve the quality of neck training.

The first drill includes a guard posture drill where you resist the tension of the band throughout your neck and body as if your posture were being compromised in the Closed Guard.

The second is a brief demo of resisting the tension from the side, making your entire body resist the tension and posture-breakdown caused by the bands.  In this manner, neck training becomes much more “functional” as a result, rather than isolating the muscles of the neck.

Add bands to a few basic drills and you will notice the difference in your performance on the mat.

Strength Training 201: 3 Tools to SMASH Through Strength Barriers

Bottom Line Up Front (BLUF)

  • With progressive overload, plateauing is inevitable. You can not continue to add weight to a bar, forever, to infinity.
  • Strength is a skill.  Your body can adapt and become more technically efficient at lifting and handling weights using proper mechanics.
  • Coaxing additional strength gains doesn’t happen as a result of hitting a plateau and your body magically adapts.  It happens by adding different tools and techniques to target positional, functional, or movement pattern deficiencies to shore up weaknesses and improve motor-unit recruitment.
  • These techniques tax your central nervous system (CNS). Rotate them into and out of your program to focus on weaknesses or breaking through strength plateaus.
  • If you are new to strength training, read this first.
  • Being strong is hard work. Don’t take any shortcuts with the tools you use or your mindset. “To be the man, you’ve got to beat the man!”

RicFlair

 

3 Toolbox Additions

Let’s get right to it. The following tools can be used to get your strength to the next level.  As a byproduct, you will be making faster muscle contractions as well, so you will become more explosive as a result.

  1. Isometrics: Get up and go over to the nearest door jam, and try to push against it with all of your might for 5 seconds.  I’ll wait.  Pretty hard, right?  Now continue doing that experimenting with different positions, ranges in a range of motion, and you have a comprehensive workout tool.

An isometric muscle contraction is a static muscle contraction; the muscle contracts, but there is no movement at the joint. This generally occurs during one of two situations. The first situation is called, “overcoming” isometric contraction. This is when the muscle contracts against an immovable object; think pushing against a wall as hard as you can. The second situation is referred to as “yielding” isometric contraction. This is where something is held in place, even though it could be moved. In other words, you are applying the exact amount of force necessary to counteract the resistance. Think of wall sits or holding a crunch. There is comprehensive research available to review that majorally concludes that isometrics training has positive transfer to strength improvements, among other positive benefits such as fat loss and health improvements.

How to implement?

  • Identify areas you would like to improve, like the bottom position of the bench press, or the lockout of a Deadlift, Squat, Press, etc.
  • You can target specifically those ranges using isometrics in those positions using various methods. Having access to a squat rack with pins to press against is a valuable asset.  Set the pins to just at or below the location of your weakness. Starting with no more than the bars weight, begin hold forceful contractions of 3-5 seconds over multiple sets.
  • For strength gains, accumulate enough time to target the area completely; 30-60 seconds of 3-5 second contractions is enough to stimulate those pathways.
  • Target several areas of the body to complete a full body workout.

Grappling Application

There isn’t a position in Jiu-Jitsu that doesn’t challenge your isometric strength, offensively or defensively. While there will be carry over strength benefits from using a barbell and other isometric tool applications, here are a few quick tips for grapplers:

  1. Try performing isometric squeezes on a ball or your leg to improve your strangling strength.
  2. Squeeze the daylights out of a physioball to improve your bear-hug/takedown abilities.
  3. Use a thick resistance band to work isometric positions, such as your guard posture.
  4. Try clasping your hands together around a pinky ball to improve your isometric grip strength. Use a variety of grips to challenge your hands, wrists, and fingers.

 

2.Dead-Stop LiftsWant to make any lift instantly more challenging?  Try picking up or pressing your weight from a complete dead-stop, from the bottom position of the movement.  You eliminate the stretch-reflex that helps you rebound and use kinetic energy during the normal eccentric (lowering) and concentric (raising) muscular actions.

How to Implement?

  • Evaluate your program and target a few lifts that you can start with the concentric only portion.
  • While Olympic lifts could fall into this category, think compound movements.
  • If you can replace a few lifts with an Odd Object, I highly recommend it. Strongman-type movements like Stone lifts and Tire flips are good implements into your program to add a whole new challenge and implement the dead-stop.

These days, I rotate this application into my program quite frequently. Deadlifts, Zercher Squats, and one-arm dumbbell rows are both performed from dead-stop starting positions.  This requires me to generate force at an exceptional rate improving my ability to generate high velocities and move loads quickly from a dead-zero starting point.

Grappling Application

Jiu-Jitsu requires quick movements and adjustments to resistance on a dime, similar to dead-stop mechanics.

  1. Lifting a 200# sandbag off the ground and onto your shoulder is also a challenge you won’t soon forget.
  2. There is simply no way to generate any momentum or inertia. You must be brutally strong to get that weight up.
  3. Think of the bag as your opponent, or enemy, or friend you’re rescuing from a burning building…you get the drift.
  4. Get that bag up to your shoulder, or at least up to your chest level.
  5. Build your own sandbag.  It’s easy and cheap.
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I’m waiting…

3.Dynamic Effort Method: This method is used to increase the rate of force development. However, it’s done by moving light to moderate loads as quickly as possible. Most workouts consist of 8-12 sets of 1-3 reps using a weight equal to 50-80 percent of your 1RM, with short rest periods (30-60 seconds).

Your sole focus should be on moving the weight as fast as possible. To be fast, you need to train fast. Try using a (3-0-x), (2-0-x), or (1-0-x) tempo, meaning you lower the weight anywhere from 1 to 3 seconds, no pause, and you move the weight up as quickly as possible. Experiment with these ranges and add what works for you.

How to Implement?

  • These work best with the compound, multi-joint movements. Traditionally, through the Westside Barbell method, you would train dynamic effort twice a week in a four workout per week program (alternating a maximal strength day with a dynamic strength day).  Focus on the Squat, Deadlift, and Press movements, and implement this technique. You can perform this with almost any compound exercise to train your ability to generate velocity and power.  The big 3 movements will allow you to first-hand see how effective the technique can be.  It’s not uncommon to boost your 1RM on these lifts substantially after implementing this technique.

Grappling Application

You’ll reap carry-over performance on the mat if you just use the big 3 lifts.  That should be your primary focus.  If you want to try to implement this technique in a grappling-based program, you can consider the following:

  1. Locate training partners that are heavier than you, lighter than you (that move quickly) and are your size.  Use the attributes of these training partners to work different aspects of this method.
  2. I prefer to roll and drill with the heaviest partners first, while fresh.  Practice your “A Game” sweeps, submissions, and escapes.  You will likely be facing the most resistance from this partner.  Make sure to also practice your top pressure in control positions with an opponent that is larger than you. That means full, side, and rear mount retention.
  3. Evaluate your ability to execute the technique under full resistance drilling or live-rolling, as time progresses.
  4. Perform these drills while you are fresh. That way you can more accurately gauge improvements in your speed.

If you don’t have the mental capacity to be obsessed with what you’re trying to get….then you’re never gonna get it. 

– CT Fletcher