Fighting Series – Getting Ready to Get Fit to Fight

So I want to talk generally about training for martial arts but before getting into specifics I want to outline and qualify a few things. Firstly, I am not going to get into the physiology and science of training…I am happy to do that after if people would like me to but I don’t think it’s the best use of my time. The best way to do that if you are interested though is for me to point you in the right direction to get after it yourself because most of it is a matter of just reading up. Personally I have never stopped reading and never stopped studying either. I did yet another unit of advanced exercise physiology and neuroscience last semester and I was bored beyond believe talking about it and writing about it ‘academically’…it is boring as hell and I would much rather write and talk with you about the practical and real life implications of the material in question. I figure that we can define some terms and talk about the components of strength and conditioning along with some of the ‘traditional’ ways in which people approach there physical preparedness for martial arts.

One of the problems that some people have when they are considering the topic of strength and conditioning is that they don’t really know what they are looking at when they are looking at displays of what they think of as ‘fitness’. When some people say a particular athlete is ‘fit’ some people are talking about the appearance of their physique…and even then some people are saying they are ‘fit’ because they are super lean and yet others because the athlete in question is jakt. Some people think of fitness as speed and power and yet others as endurance. So we need to ensure that we are properly defining the terms. I always get people asking me ‘How can I improve my fitness?’ and what they are after is always some attribute on the athletic spectrum with power on one end and endurance on the other and with things like speed, anaerobic power and repeatability along with strength in between. Sometimes what they are after is improvements in EVERYTHING which is fine as well.

To save some time and so people can bail on this post now if I’ve already bored the hell out of them…I will get to the ‘take home’ points right up front:

1. You can’t improve everything at once.

2. You need to ensure you are focussing and prioritising the attributes that are going to give you the greatest returns with regards performance in your chosen martial art.

More on these take home points later.

So where to start….that’s simple.

Fitness Assessment

“If you are not assessing you are guessing.” – Someone awesome (Years Ago)

Put simply if you aren’t testing and measuring then you have no way of monitoring the effects of any intervention (training or training alterations) you put in place. Winning fights is not a way to measure the ‘effectiveness’ of your training…winning fights is how you measure the effectiveness of your fighting. You can be a bad athlete and a great fighter and vice versa.

So what comes first with regards fitness assessment.

Mobility and Stability

This is always where I start because it has by far the biggest impact on your overall performance.

I am planning to delve into all this area as with the others I outline here in detail but to start this series I just really want to give you an overview of where I am coming from.

If your mobility and stability is appropriate (again…I will define this in detail in later posts) then your chances of acquiring a chronic injury are almost non existent. Your chances of acquiring an acute injury are also greatly reduced…for sure freak accidents are unavoidable in contact sports but having appropriate mobility and stability will pretty much reduce your chance of injury to just that…freak accidents.

Here’s a really simple and easily repeatable test of functional mobility.

You can do it regularly and video it and monitor your progress.

Speed, Agility and Fitness Testing

This is what I think comes next because when it comes to martial arts…strength and power is great but if you are unprepared to ‘go the distance’ then your chances of being able to use your strength and power are severely limited. The spider test has always been my ‘go to’ test in this regard. I think for martial arts it’s hard to find a more economical test…in that you can test lots of attributes individually but this is a test that stresses all your attributes simultaneously. The spider test is 6 x 30 seconds efforts with 30 seconds recovery between efforts…the fastest and most agile get the furthest on the first effort and the fittest athletes get the biggest total. This test gives you both fantastic objective and subjective data.

This is a video of me discussing fitness testing

Here is a video of a GAA player doing a modified spider test…probably the most appropriate fitness test for martial arts.

Here is a video of some Camogie players doing a traditional spider test

Here is a full description of the test….this is a pretty exciting video…you might want to get some popcorn

Strength, Power and Muscular Endurance

Here is a video description of basic testing.

Then below you will find a video outlining my thoughts and rationales for testing and testing methodologies.

Lower Body

Standing Broad Jump – I think this test is easier to administer and more reliable than a vertical jump.

Bodyweight Squat – Your body weight rounded up to the nearest 5kg and done to a depth below parallel for repetitions.

1RM or 3RM – Squat, Deadlift or TrapBar Deadlift – I’ve traditionally done 2 different tests. A 1RM trapbar deadlift at the beginning and end of each training cycle and a 3RM squat test mid cycle.

Upper Body

Push Ups – Repetitions in 60 seconds.

Inverted Rows – Repetitions in 60 seconds.

Bench Press –  Your body weight rounded up to the nearest 5kg and done for repetitions.

Pull Ups – Done for repetitions.

1RM Bench Press – Everyone wants to know….how much do you bench.

3RM Pull Ups – Weighted pull ups.


So that’s Fitness Assessment outlined. Firstly, you need to assess your mobility and stability and look for any areas of weakness or imbalance. Secondly, I think you need to assess your speed, agility and endurance and a modified 30/30 test is a great way to do that. Thirdly, you need to assess your power, strength and muscular endurance and again look for areas of weakness and imbalance.




Shoulder Mobility and Stability Work

Sorry for the delay in getting around to the next part/post in the series on taking up fighting. I’ve actually just been busy with my real work this last couple of weeks but I have some time off this week and I’ll get a new post up dealing with the considerations, issues and options with regards to physical training for martial arts.

I thought I would put this video up to buy some time and because I’ve had a few emails about why shoulder mobility and stability work is important and some of those issues are discussed in this video.

On a more positive note…training is going well…even mine

I just basically wanted an excuse to post this video of Jonny military pressing while drunk…if you think he’s staggering a lot under this you should of seen him getting around the gym before and after.

His training is going along well besides his drunkeness. He’s testing in 3 weeks time and expect him to post some big numbers.

Just thinking now I will post vids of his squats and ‘straightbar deadlifts’ this week along with some benching from last week…not to flog a dead horse…but it does make me laugh…and I know it will make you laugh…and since it is all about tonight….and because I know that they love it when I talk about them…apparently…none of the lads I train would stand a chance in a powerlifting competition…including Jonny. There has been some great comments come out of…along the lines of…lifting in rugby is nothing but high squats and heavily spotted benches…I don’t see too much heavy spotting in this video do you?

There has been some other fantastic lines…like the one that stated that apparently Jonny’s trapbar deadlift was nothing of significance as there’s little or no carry over to ‘real’ deadlifting.

Now that trapbar deadlift is very old but I think in Jonny’s defence…it went up pretty easy and more importantantly…it was only 310kgs because that was all we could strap onto it at the time. I suppose we’ll have to wait and see how much carry over he gets in competition.

Bench Arch
I was asked about arching the other day on the bench. For me it is really simple…I want to get as tight as possible to limit to as great an extent as possible any movement through out the rest of my body. I want to decrease the distance travelled by the bar as much as possible so I can maximise the loading. I want to turn every flat bench press into a decline bench press…as you can see I do this quite effectively.

If you have particular questions about benching…then be specific. The way this blog works is that you ask questions and I give you ‘my’ answers…I don’t know what you don’t know.

My training progress
I am happy at the moment…the fat is still coming off and my weight is actually climbing a little. I am banging in a lot of volume at the moment…for example today I did Day 1 in the morning and Day 2 in the evening. I was asked about how I was progressing so quickly…the main reason is because I am training my arse off. Training 3 to 4 hours a day works…especially when you eat well to support it. I will do a proper update at the end of the month but if people have particular questions then ask away.

Continuing here rather than starting a new post
I want to clear a few things up…I don’t hate powerlifting. I enjoy it like I enjoy all sports….except golf…I hate golf. I know that a lot of powerlifters and those that are involved with powerlifting read this blog…I know this because a huge number of the few friends that I have are or have been involved in powerlifting.

Anyway…I would like to have a crack at competing at some stage…not because I think I will set the world alight but because I love competing and I am very goal orientated. I want to encourage the lads that I train to compete because I think it will be good for them on lots of levels…it will give them something different to focus on other than whatever sport they happen to be competing in and because it will require them to really hone their technique.

Anyway…Sully was talking about my bench. As I said in my last update on my training…the targets I had were as follows:

Bench – 150kg
Pull Ups -12 reps
Push Ups – 50 reps
Inverted Rows – 30 reps
Trap Bar Deadlift – 200kg

Well today I had a weird sort of session…I was planning on doing some light squats and some stretching then a heap of core and prehab work because today was supposed to be a down day and I was still sore from yesterday….that didn’t actually happen….instead it went like this:

Warm Ups
Hip Mobility Work
Squats – 5 sets of 5 @ 60kg…this is where it goes off script…I felt good so I thought I’d try 5 reps @ 80kg…keep in mind I basically haven’t squatted for 2 years and have only been back squatting this last 6 weeks…the heaviest I’ve gone is 100kgs…so 80kg felt good…then I did 90kg for 5 reps. I decided to put my belt on and did 100kg for 10 reps…still good…so did another 2 sets of 10 reps @ 100kg. Then 5 reps @ 120kg, 5 reps @ 130kg, 5 reps @ 140kg, 5 reps @ 150kg, 5 reps @ 160kg…at which time thankfully a fully paid member stepped in and said you should only do singles from here…so this is my single @ 180kg.

Basically I chickened out…I was actually searching for the bottom…but like I said this is the first time I have squatted over 100kg in over 2 years…so not too unhappy…I went back to 150kg and did another 5 reps just for the craic.

Then I decided that since I wasn’t going to be able to train tomorrow as I had tomorrows DOMS already…I might as well bench as well and see how that was going.

Bench Press – 10 reps @ 60kg, 10 reps @ 70kg, 10 reps @ 80kg, 5 reps @ 90kg, 5 reps @ 100kg, 3 reps @ 120kg, 1 rep @ 130kg, 1 rep @ 140kg, 1 rep @ 150kg….which was shit…

Then had another crack at it…

This was better but still crap…still a little arse lift….didn’t get as much air as the first attempt. The thing I am happy about is that when I last tested I missed @ 145kg and am confident I will hit 150kg ‘properly’ on the 1st of July.

Finished the session with 5 sets of 8 reps on pull ups. So a completely off the wall session but felt good and it was fun… definitely progressing.

Already recieved an email…

Calling bulshit on all those squats. That didn’t take long did it. All I can say is that the gym was pretty full and there were actually quite a few witnesses and have a good few of the sets on video so I will post some more.

These are not instructional videos by the way….and the form is not great…but in my defence I’ve been back training for less than 2 months and this is the first time I’ve squatted anything over body weight…I will keep posting though and we’ll see if the load and form improves.

If you want to see what the new gym looks like!
You have to go and check this out Barry’s blog…he has video of the gym up.

It’s all about the bench

Here’s Barry’s warm up set from today. We sorta kinda did a testing session.

I wasn’t going to test him today but he picked up a little niggle in his hip training on the mat last night so decided to take it easy today and let it settle over the weekend. I was thinking of just doing a heavy bench session with a view to doing his testing next week…but once we got started I thought we might as well test today so as to not waste another days training next week.

So we benched…last testing session he got 60kg….went for 80kg and got stapled to the bench…he didn’t even get close to moving it off his chest…today he did his first proper warm up set at 60kg for a triple, 70kg easy for a double, 80kg for an easy single….missed 85kg and this is why I need a cameraman…I did my whole coaching thing…I’ll let Barry tell you how complex and detailed my coaching points were and next time he got 85kg easy. His technique is really unrefined…but that is basically because he really hasn’t benched since he’s been training with me…it is way down on my priority list…his imbalances in his back was a much bigger issue as far as I was concerned and injury minimisation has been one of my major priorities. If we focused on it there’d be another 5-10kg there fairly readily and if we made it a priority he’d get a 100kg bench I’d say pretty confidently.

Then we did his inverted rows…like I said I wasn’t going to do a full test…just wanted to see how he’d go…he got 6 reps in 60 seconds last time. That isn’t a fantastic score. Well today he got 30 reps…that on the other hand is a great score.

I figured at this stage we might as well finish testing…he got 39 push ups, 8 pull ups and 170kg on the trap bar deadlift. So all in all I’m pretty pleased with his progress…a lot done and yet more to do.

The Seminar
The money is already rolling for Lyle’s Seminar on the 5th of April and the first of the names are on the list. Lyle obviously has much better drawing power than I have…but I suppose that’s a given…. after all Lyle’s American and that’s where Lindsay Lohan was invented so he must also be fantastic. I’ll be working out the capacity for the venue this week and putting a cap on the numbers attending. I’m secretly hoping that we’ll hit the number before hand just so I can tell the people who turn up and think they’ll be able to just pay on the day to attend to piss off. I’ve worked out that if I can sell another 36358 places than Lyle and I will both be millionaires…I have counted the chairs…but it may be pushing it.
So if you want to go be sure to send me an email and arrange to get the money to me soon and make sure you get your name on the guest list.

I saw this gem of advice from Lyle just then:
Originally Posted by Lyle McDonald
If you check the macros on a standard donut, it’s actually not that bad. At about 250 calories, like 8 grams of fat and the rest carbs. Two donuts plus 30-40 grams of protein will be about the same as a clean meal macro wise. And taste better. And leave you hungry again in 20 minutes which facilitates the eating needed to get huge.

How could you not want to come and get advice from a genius like that?

This ones going out to my main man Joel

I can’t find Joel’s question but I think it was something about inverted rows…or more to the point..improving them…so Joel if this isn’t what you were after ask again and I’ll have another crack at it.

Just as an aside. I was checking out the stats on YouTube and this is the video of all the videos I have on YouTube that has the most views.

I just thought I would throw it up here because it seems like soooo long ago now and I thought the lads in the video would get a kick out of it.

While I’m at it…well done to James McGee who although he lost his first ever Davis Cup match going down in 4 sets backed up the next day to win a thrilling doubles match to seal the deal for Ireland…well done James…yet another successful athlete that I don’t coach in the facility that I don’t have.

James practicing his Jedi levitation skills that only a Yoda like myself could teach

James practicing his Jedi levitation skills that only a Yoda like myself could teach

As an aside to my aside…I heard yesterday that as per usual I had no one to coach…that athletes and clients were leaving in droves and that it was all doom and gloom for me apparently…and I just want to confirm that yes….things are so bad that I will be opening another new 6,500 square foot facility on the north side of Dublin just to keep up the façade and am in the process of hiring yet more actors to pretend to be athletes…that’s how bad things have gotten for me…more news in the not too distant future.