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!

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Set Your Goals

Goal Setting

It’s time to recommit to your plan to dominate.  We all start out strong each year with motivation to do better than we had in the past year.  But how many of you are putting thought to what you want to accomplish, and exactly how you plan to accomplish your goals?  If you aren’t putting thought into it and coming up with a plan, you’re on the wrong end of the goal-setting wall. You’re either in front of it with tools to tackle it, or you’re stuck behind it with no plan to improve your spot.

I’m all for simplifying things, and this is really about as easy as it gets. I think the SMART goal system is pretty straightforward, and more than useful for this purpose. Just ‘google’ SMART goals and you’ll find out exactly what it is. To summarize, goals should be:

Goals_SMART

If you actually blow past some of your goals before the year is out, by all means set a new ceiling. The sky is the limit, but make sure it meets the SMART criteria above. Strong foundations are built brick-by-brick.

Tips

Five quick tips for you to remember as you start out the year trying to build a better you.

  1. Plan ahead: You must have the discipline to log your workouts, make your meals, review your journal, get adequate sleep, etc.  If you begin to drop the ball it’s human nature to continue the momentum you’ve gained and “start next week”, or do something drastic like change your whole plan to make it easier.  Do yourself a favor and make a journal (notebook, smartphone, iPad, apps, whatever. Get in the discipline of making your goals and sticking to them by documenting your daily activities and mental notes. It’s human nature to throw in the towel when you drop the ball, but don’t be weak. Plan ahead and avoid this issue.
  2. Think bite-sized chunks: You’ve probably heard “Rome wasn’t built in a day”, or “Don’t try to eat the whole elephant in one bite”.  In order to accomplish your goals you need to know three things: Your current baseline, your target goal, and a roadmap to get there. Making the roadmap can sometimes be where folks lose it and will rely on “willpower” to drive them.  As my good friend Philip Chubb says, “Human willpower and drive is a finite resource that has to recharge”.  As an example, let’s say you’ve never trained BJJ before, and your goal is to not only to start training, but to compete as well.  That’s great.  You should ask yourself, “What do I need to do before I should even consider doing this?”  Well, you’ll need a Gi, an Academy to train, an idea of your weight class (which can likely mean additional conditioning and dietary changes for weight making/maintenance), target tournaments, a target date for your first tournament, and honest feedback from your coaches and training team on your readiness.  Now, all of this doesn’t unfold on its own.  Finding a suitable Academy can take you weeks or even months until you find a match for you and is a sizable “chunk” towards achieving your goal.  This may seem like common sense to many of you, but don’t overlook the simplicity of this. Don’t let your eagerness turn into neglect for mapping out your path to success.
  3. Be honest: When you track your progress, be honest with your self-assessment. If you achieve something (sort of), and you are second guessing your accomplishment, re-evaluate the achievement or the goal itself. Maybe your progress indicators were flawed or your goal wasn’t specific enough. Don’t take shortcuts. Instead, claim small victories. They accumulate over time.
  4. You’re in Control: If you’re a white belt, of course it’s natural to set your sights on the Blue Belt.  However, making this a goal in weeks, or even a year may not meet the test of being Realistic, because it’s out of your hands when you get promoted. Instead, focus on certain elements of your BJJ game that will improve your standing as a White belt, such as working on survival tactics against higher belts. You can work on this every time you roll in class. The less times you get tapped, the more you are improving.  It meets the SMART criteria. You can also increase the likelihood of improving your skills with more mat time. So make sure you attempt to get to class a minimum of 1 time per week, then 2, then 3, etc. You’ll have to decide, but make the activities to achieve your goal something you can control and reasonably and consistently perform.
  5. Stay Positive: Your mindset needs to be glass-half full…always.  There is no room for negative thought when your goals are on the line.  Remove the negative thoughts like doubt and pity from your dictionary. Excuses are irrelevant. You’ll only be fooling yourself with excuses. No one cares why you’ve missed a workout, or why you can’t eat right, so don’t waste your breath telling everybody. Just evaluate your options to get back on course and keep positive momentum moving forward. You’re equipped with the most powerful analytical tool that we know of: your brain.  Use it to build a positive mindset and get to your goals.  Period.

My Goals

Goal_Bullseye

When sitting down to think through my physical development goals (the focus areas of HWBJJ) for 2016, I already know, based on my 2015 goals and progress, what I want my goals for 2016 to be.


It helps to know where you’ve been, what you’ve done, and where you want to go. If you’re starting off for the first time, you have nowhere to go but up.


Next, I spent time asking myself whether the goals were specific and realistic enough, how I would measure and track my progress, whether I could achieve these goals within my time-frame (i.e., the SMART criteria). I plan to follow my goals for the entire year, so my ability to track progress, make adjustments, or even add new goals, will be a critical step in this process. Personally, I track my goals in a journal (my laptop) and my smartphone so it is easy to refer back to and evaluate.

Learn how to establish your goals here.

About Mark

Top of the Heap: The Heavyweight is KING!

When I was a kid (’70’s – 80’s), being a “Heavyweight” (HW) has always been linked with being the best, biggest, or baddest person on the planet (or kid in school, in town, on the sports team….you get it).  There has always been a fascination with big versus small, with the idea that bigger always triumphs over small [insert David versus Goliath]. Whether or not you believe the factual accuracy or outcome of that story is irrelevant (I doubt a pebble took him out). The point I’m trying to make is that there is an intrinsic fascination associated with the HW athlete, persona, or individual, whether it be Goliath, Tyson, Fedor, Lesnar, the Incredible Hulk, Hulk Hogan, or even Big Bob Sapp (look him up – he’s huge in Japan).

The Terminator

I started lifting weights at the age of 13 after seeing Arnold Schwarzenegger in a copy of Muscle & Fitness talking about being Mr. Olympia and how he used to lift weights in the woods for hours and hours and cook over an open fire like a caveman. His drive and determination were magnetic to me.  I spent countless hours in my cousins attic in the summer months and even more during the winter months lifting weights, experimenting with exercises and enjoying the pain brought on by the weights.

The changes to my body and my strength levels were addicting.  The power, confidence, and goal-setting mentality I obtained from lifting weights was something I couldn’t get enough of.  To this day it is a cornerstone of who I am, over 28 years later.

Kid Dynamite

In 1991, Mike Tyson convinced me boxing was the superior art form to study, and I was naturally drawn to the boxing-style workouts of road-word, jumping rope, heavy bag work, speed bag work, and sparring.

The ‘peek-a-boo’ style of boxing that Cus D’Amato and Kevin Rooney trained him in was elusive, different, and destructive to opponents. Having both feet planted in a staggered, squared-up style allowed Mike to showcase the power of his hooks and uppercuts in a way that has not been duplicated since, in my opinion.  The other allure to this style are the workouts and training. They are intense, difficult, and just what I needed to add to my toolbox.  I continue to work in boxing based workouts to this day.

Gracie Jiu-Jitsu

Fast forward to 1993 when I fell in love with Gracie Jiu-Jitsu (GJJ)/Brazilian-Jiu Jitsu (BJJ).

Royce Gracie had proven, at UFC 1, in the ring of combat (actually the octogon) that the bigger man, and even technically skilled practitioners in Karate, Savate, Boxing, Judo, and Muay Thai, were no match for his ground-based/grappling martial art.  He repeatedly closed the distance on them, applied ground pressure to get the opponent to react/make a mistake, and secured a submission by way of choke or joint lock.  It was mystical to watch to me and countless others. Even the commentators had trouble doing play-by-play to describe the fights unfolding with Royce, often, on his back in the Guard.  It was the spark to the flame in my and countless others martial arts journey.

NOTE: The history of BJJ is a great story, and you should know it if you train it. To sum it up (a lot), Helio Gracie developed a style of fighting [rooted in Judo and Japanese Ju-Jitsu], incorporating leverage and fighting off his back (the Guard), to deal with larger and stronger opponents.  BJJ, as a fundamental form of self-defense, teaches smaller practitioners to survive and even defeat larger opponents in confrontational scenarios that end up on the ground; EVEN while fighting off of their back.  That is one of the many reasons BJJ is so different from the other arts and is well-suited for smaller, weaker people of all shapes, sizes, and age.  The laws of physics and anatomy don’t change. If you train BJJ, you are probably already well-aware of this.

I put on my first Gi in 1997, when instruction and anything beyond a blue belt was as scarce as leftovers in my house.  Three career changes, two moves, a marriage, and my first child later, I found a home to train in 2007 at Evolve Academy of Martial Arts, where I am currently a Brown Belt under Master Mike Moses.

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Me and Master Mike Moses

Putting it All Together: HW3 JIUJITSU

While I continue to strength train and use various conditioning workouts that include boxing and thai boxing styles, BJJ is my main passion by which everything else is anchored.

One thing I’ve [and everyone else that trains] had to learn is that strength alone is not enough to deal with a skilled BJJ martial artist.  Saulo Ribeiro’s quote in Jiu-Jitsu University says it all:

“If you think, you are late. If you are late, you use strength. If you use strength, you tire. And if you tire, you die.”

Fatigue will happen if all you use is strength, and you’ll get swept or submitted.  When you are a white belt, this is the only reaction you know, because you fear the unknown. It’s very humbling and “ego-checking” when you are starting out if you don’t deal with it up front and every time you train.  Remember that BJJ was created to work for anyone, regardless of age, size or strength.

I will share with you how I’ve dealt with and continue to deal with this and other problems during my training inside the academy.

I’ll also share with you the power that JiuJitsu has to make you a better person.

Our goal, with HW3 JiuJitsu, is to promote being a better human through hard work and heroic will.

Being a better human in all areas of life can give you the tools to leave behind a life worth following; a Heavy Weight legacy.

We want to showcase these stories; YOUR stories, on how JiuJitsu has made you a better person.

Continue reading through the articles on this site and we hope you find something that “clicks” with you.