S&C for the Multidisciplinary Athlete

One of my favorite, and most effective strength and conditioning programs has been a strongman program. I first used this program in 2010 while training at a very hardcore facility filled with strongman competitors, powerlifters, and Highland Games athletes. I was very pleased with the results as my strength increased, and my conditioning gas tank grew daily.

At times I would switch to other programs for something new, (usually DoggCrapp), or to get ready for an event. However, I found myself returning to this program as soon as possible because the results upon returning to this program were always the same; I’d get leaner, and stronger within weeks.

At this point you’re probably thinking, when does he hit us with the click this link to buy this program? Well… I’m not. Im going to post the template here for you just as it was given to me. I had some really cool athletes share this with me simply because I showed up with an open mind, and a solid work ethic. Also, I kept coming back so either they took pity on me or they respected my stubbornness. Either way, I’ll take it.

The basic template is a squat day, a bench day, a deadlift day, and an overhead press day. You can spread them out in any way that works for you. Some folks combined squat, and deadlifts on the same day or bench, and overhead press day. Some folks work a movement more than once a week, again whatever works. The numbers will be your guide. The program uses a linear progression so results are easy to track, the numbers are going up or they’re not.

Always start lighter than you think you should. Sustaining progress over a longer period of time is optimal, and easier to guarantee if your starting weights are a little lighter. For our template we want to start at 60% of our 5 rep max for each main lift. To keep it as manageable as possible we’re going to keep the progression as simple as possible; each week we’ll increase the poundage by 2.5%. We’re looking for slow, yet consistent progress. Let’s use 5 sets of 5 reps as our set/rep model. There are hundreds of set/rep variations yet for our purposes 5×5 gets the job done without needing a degree in nuclear science to calculate poundages.

We’re squared away on sets, reps, and percentages so let’s look at the next element; session structure. We’re going to work the exercises back to back in a series with no rest between. For example on squat day we will squat, broad jump, and push a car for one series with no rest between each movement. After we push the car, then we can rest for a minute before we head back to the squat rack. Every training session is structured this way, now the directive to start lighter than you think you should probably makes sense? It’s taxing.

Here is a template session to give you an example of how to structure your own sessions.

Squat day;

A1) back squat 5 reps

A2) broad jump 10 reps

A3) ab wheel rollout 10 reps

Repeat 5 times for 5 series. Then move on to the B series.

B1) zercher lift 5 reps

B2) bench or low box jumps 10 reps

B3) car/truck push (start with a shorter distance than you think you should so you can progress for a longer period of time).

Repeat 5 times for 5 series. Then move on to the C series.

C1) side to side squats 5 reps each leg

C2) jump squats 10 reps

C3) ladder drills working side to side movement.

Repeat 5 times for 5 series and you’re done for the day.

Rest for 1-2 minutes between series. Usually when I’m training alone I get a 5 minute break after my last set in say the A or B series because I have to setup equipment for the next series. Once I’m set up though, it’s back to work. This is the basic template for the program. Apply this to each movement session so on deadlift day we do our main deadlift movement in the first series followed by series using a variant. After the main move we do a plyometric or bodyweight movement followed by some form of agility or conditioning movement.

I would recommend starting with one series for your first training session. Get a feel for the training method, and how your body responds. Don’t over-reach, and damage yourself. Your hands, and joints take a beating when you train in this manner so give yourself time to adapt.

Again, start lighter and slower than you think you should. You want to keep adding weight to the bar for 8-16 weeks, not stall out in 4-5 weeks.

Try it out, and let me know what you think. If you have any question feel free to fire away, and I’ll do my best to answer.

The Power of Three

When developing or refining skill the challenge is to focus our efforts. We tend to get caught up in trying to work on too many things at once. That is a fast track to frustration. This endeavor can be physically, and mentally taxing enough without additional obstacles of our own design.

 

Covering all the bases is a never-ending challenge. However, it’s not impossible. The trick is to keep the focus to three or less performance points each practice session.  Whether it is strength training, conditioning work, boxing, or vehicle operations we can’t focus on everything every time. There is no mythical power of three however, there is a power in focused effort. Before each practice session take a few moments to write down 1-3 performance points or cues that you will focus on during the practice session. Other things might come up however, stay the course. Remember the focus of this practice session, and don’t waver. If you don’t know each performance point for the various disciplines don’t worry, we’ll cover that ground in future blog, and YouTube posts. For now, here is an example of 3 performance points to focus on in our next pistol practice session.

 

A Caliber and Capacity Post

Seriously. As crazy as it seems, I had this bright idea for a firearms related post. Particularly firearms a multidisciplinary practitioner would likely carry.

 

So of course I thought, how about one on caliber and capacity? I will preface this by saying I take a pragmatic approach to this subject.

 

Let’s dive headfirst into caliber. I’m not sure what caliber an ice pick might be but that caliber has wrecked a whole bunch of people. Same can be said for the screwdriver caliber. It seems that when one person introduces an icepick or screwdriver into another person’s aorta or brain, bad things follow. This isn’t always a life stopper, yet it’s effective enough often enough that simply googling the words ice pick death or screwdriver stabbing death yielded 4,810,000 results in 0.85 seconds. I realize this isn’t a very rigorous scientific study, yet despite this lack of rigor there might be something to it. Maybe it’s safe to say, within reason, where the hole is placed is as important as how big the hole might be? I don’t carry or recommend anyone carry anything smaller than a 9mm, particularly since M&P Shields, and Glock 43’s are tiny while still giving the user 6 – 8 rounds of 9mm in a super compact package. However, lots of folks are comfortable carrying smaller calibers such as Smith & Wesson revolvers in everything from 22LR to 38PL, or a Ruger LCP in .380. My absolute favorite pocket pistol is a Beretta 21 A Bobcat.  Regardless of what caliber one chooses just make sure it’s housed in a reliable, and accurate gun. You need the rounds to go where you intend for them to go, every time you intend for them to go there.

 

How much capacity is enough? In general I follow Tom Givens of Rangemaster advice which is to carry a pistol that has at least ten rounds on board the pistol. I’ve also spent quite a bit of my life carrying a single stack 1911 also known as God’s Gun which gives me 8 rounds on board the gun with several 10 round magazines in mag pouches on my belt. If we look at the data compiled by Tom Givens, the FBI, and DEA as well as the the NRA Armed Citizen we find when rounds are fired the average, (if we can call a life or death event average), defensive gun use involves between 3 – 5 rounds. In quite a few incidents the presence of the gun is enough to deter the criminal assault which means neither capacity nor caliber mattered when no shots were needed. Although my opponents unwillingness to fight isn’t something I’d want to bet the life of my loved ones on, it still gives credence to something James Yeager has been known to say which is; carry your damn gun.

 

Essentially I don’t think caliber or capacity matter unless you think it matters. We can find passionate, and convincing argument from both sides. I don’t think it’s possible to find a gun forum on the internet or a gun store counter that hasn’t been the site of a heated 9mm versus 45ACP debate. Everyone wants to believe they are carrying the magic bullet. However, it seems that whether the gun you choose has 5, 7, or 15 rounds of 22 LR or 45ACP on board isn’t as important as actually having the gun on you when you need it. Followed closely by the ability to put holes in your opponent’s vital areas specifically the upper chest, and/or the brain.

Steinbeck

So if I don’t think caliber, and capacity are overly important what do I think is? Skill and will. Know the limitations of your chosen weapon then train, and practice to circumvent those limitations to the best of you ability. Sometimes those limitations are imposed by our work environment. A large framed male working outdoors in an environment where he can wear loosing fitting clothing versus a small framed female in a closed environment where she wears scrubs will have to make choices based on challenges faced. A few resources I know, and have turned to for solid training, and advice regarding adapting to, and overcoming the challenges of small guns are; Claude Werner, thee Tactical Professor, Dr Sherman House, Legendary Lawman Chuck Haggard, and Chris Fry of MDTS. Each of those guys can get you up to speed on carrying, concealing, and running a full sized gun as well. 

Train intensely.

Train intelligently.

When the time comes be willing.

Everything else, including caliber and capacity, is supplemental. 

 

Verification versus Validation

One of my favorite training tools is reactive targets. Anyone that has run a few plate racks will agree it’s a lot of fun. Reactive targets are also an excellent learning tool. Instant verification; I executed the fundamentals at speed correctly or… I didn’t. I emphasize to trainees, (as well as myself), that any drill we run is a verification not a validation. This keeps us in the correct mindset of a learner. Every time I mount the gun a learning opportunity presents.

During a recent REV Pistol course, I shared with the trainees my approach to coaching which has been heavily influenced by the book; Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol Dweck. My good friend The Bastiat Blogger recommended this book to me when it was first published. Sebastian has never steered me wrong, and this was no exception.

One of the key points I emphasize when coaching is learning versus non-learning. Every rep is an opportunity to collect data. If a trainee has this mindset then there can’t be a failed drill, or unsuccessful attempt. There is only learning. There is data collected. There is growth. We have to disconnect failure or success from our approach to training, as well as competing, and replace those words with learning or non-learning.

In grappling, even though it’s a highly competitive arena there is also an understanding that there’s no win/loss record in practice. I’m in the practice room to work on my game. This might involve quite a bit of what appears to the uninformed to be failure however, learning is taking place. I’ll leave that practice a better grappler than when I arrived because learning occurred. (Sometimes I’ll drive home from practice with a bag of ice on my neck because I learned so much…). I encourage you to take this same approach to your shooting skill development. Unhook success or failure from your practice or even matches. Make it about learning. If we learn every time we mount the gun our progress as a shooter is guaranteed.

Swing For The Fence, II

In the first post of this series we talked about some fundamental technique. In this post I want to expand upon some of those elements. In the first post I wrote about techniques that work well if we have a bit of distance between ourselves, and our opponents. This time I want to share with you a tactic that works well when we want to keep our opponents off of us, and maintain striking distance particularly when using a shorter impact weapon.

 

The challenge in impact weapon fighting aka stick fighting has always been to keep our opponent in that sweet spot, that perfect range where we can apply the most force to our target. Hitting them at the peak of our swing so they experience the joy of that pain train crashing up their spine, and into their brain, shutting them down or at least making them want to quit. Every shot we can land of that order is a deposit into the making-them-quit bank account. However, on the receiving end we are looking to crash through that range or stay outside of that range while pot shotting their lead arm, and leg.

 

Enter Piston Striking. This is a simple tactic that keeps your opponent right there in the sweet spot. Think of how a piston works. If one piston is up, the piston on the opposite side is down. Watch this if you need a mental image. Even if you don’t need help understanding how pistons work, watch this because it’s pretty cool. You’re going to mimic this action with your arms. Your non-weapon bearing arm comes out in a straight shot essentially stiff arming your opponent, keeping them off of you, while the rotation of this shot cocks your weapon bearing arm by rotating your weapon bearing arm back. Fire the weapon bearing arm striking your opponent with the impact weapon while retracting your non-weapon bearing arm. The movement is still on the X so your firing a 1-2 combo however, in a rotational path due to the nature of the impact weapon. This is a non-stop salvo. You want to be firing lefts-rights repeatedly, one after another. Non-weapon bearing arm popping your opponent off of you, and keeping them off of you while the weapon bearing arm is landing clean shots with the impact weapon.

 

For a simple training progression I would suggest starting on a heavy bag in what would usually be boxing or striking range. Practice slowly throwing a jab with your non-weapon bearing hand then throwing a strike with your weapon bearing hand similar to a cross as you retract your jab. Begin with 5-10 rounds to work on your sense of range, and timing. This is where having solid Boxing mechanics comes into play. There is a lot of carry-over from throwing hands with bad intentions to striking effectively with an impact weapon in this range. After some time on a heavy bag, it’s time to work this tactic using Thai pads. Have your training partner feed by trying to slowly crash the range, making you work to keep them off of you with straight shots with the non-weapon bearing arm while landing shots with your impact weapon. Again, work 5-10 rounds a session, getting a feel for the timing, and distance now with a live feeder. Once your good to go with a feeder it’s time to add some more resistance. Using soft sticks agree with your training partner to stay in this range. Don’t allow yourself to be sucked into a full on sparring session. If you crash the range have a set time to work to get yourself unentangled. If you can’t get unentangled, break clean, and restart. Have your training partner simply work to crash, so you can focus on keeping him or her off of you, and in that sweet spot where you can land clean shots. Use your imagination and continue to add resistance until you go to integration phase where you incorporate this tactic into full sparring to test your ability to apply this against full resistance.

 

Give it a whirl, let me know how you like it, and how it works for you.

Push Me Pull You

During my first trip to The Tactical Shooting Academy to train in the Fist-Fire shooting system with D.R. Middlebrooks the subject of running a long gun came up. I had always been trained to pull the long gun tightly back into my firing side shoulder to keep the gun from lifting or moving excessively under recoil. This works fairly well but in a world of good, better, best? I’m not going to rest, I’m going to keep looking for the best way. By the time I went to D.R.’s for the first time my agency had already spent quite a bit of money sending me to various schools to take my long gun skills further than I ever thought possible. I had also paid my own way to every long gun training course I could afford. Even though I had learned several approaches to running a long gun, the best way for me at that point was still to simply pull the long gun back into my shoulder aka “the pocket” as hard as I could.

 

D.R. Middlebrooks recommended I try a method espoused by Rob Haught which is based in a push-pull approach to mounting the shotgun. Essentially D.R. instructed me to mount the shotgun, (I was using a Remington 870), directly under my dominant eye to economize movement. By bringing the shotgun up to my dominant eye rather than moving  my head to meet a rising shotgun I am able to mount the shotgun in a consistent manner every time. Once I make my cheekweld I pull back with my firing side arm while pulling forward with my support side arm. This creates a tension between the arms that absorbs practically all the recoil. I was immediately impressed, and became a fan of this approach to mounting a shotgun, as well as any long gun.

 

A few performance points I’d like to share with you. Don’t apply the isometric tension until the long gun is mounted, and you’re prepared to press the trigger. The tension will slow your mount speed. Once you do mount the long gun, and are ready to apply the isometric tension do so with gusto. Some folks suggest various percentages regarding the amount of tension to apply between the hands. I prefer to go for 100% tension from each hand. I pull back as hard a I can while pulling forward as hard as I can. I’m trying to pull the gun apart. Isometric holding exercises where I mount the long gun while applying as much isometric tension as possible, and then hold it for one minute followed by a two minute rest period have been extremely valuable in training myself to learn this method.  I do five holds for a total of five minutes work, ten minutes rest. When in doubt grip a little harder, push-pull a little harder.

 

Give it a try, and let me know what you think. I’ll post some dry, and live fire demonstrations of my approach to this method in the near future.

Swing For the Fence

When we examine the use of an impact weapon to defend ourselves we find a lot of complicated ways to approach something that should be fairly simple. I know I spent quite a few years doing a lot of things that were little more than a fancy choreographed dance routine with an impact weapon as an accessory. Through trial and error my training partners and I were able to boil impact weapon work down to a few essentials.

 

Impact weapon work is similar to any other weapon we might use to defend our life and limb. Some principles are universal such as; 1) Choose the right tool for the job. 2) If you aren't regularly practicing with the tool don't expect skill to magically materialize when you need it. 3) Hit what's available until something better to hit becomes available.

 

Coach Matt Thornton, president of the Straight Blast Gym, International streamlined impact weapon work within the SBG in the early 2000's using the acronym SMAC to best summarize our approach. Through the process of constant pressure testing we had discovered a few truths regarding impact weapon work. We found a target hierarchy of; 1) weapon bearing arm, 2) lead leg, 3) the head to be the best way to deal with an armed opponent. Particularly if our opponent was armed with an impact weapon, aka we were stick fighting, the best way to deal with them was to beat on their weapon bearing arm to take away their ability to hit us, attack their lead leg to reduce their mobility, and finally attack their head to knock them out. We found it worked best if we used this hierarchy within our stick fighting strategy.

 

(It was also through this impact weapon testing process in the 1990's that I discovered the Helmet, now called the Default Response by master trainer Craig Douglas. We learned a lot of valuable lessons beating on each other with sticks… mostly that it hurts. A lot.)

 

When it comes to using an impact weapon to defend ourselves outside the arena of a consensual stick fight, there are a few things we need to understand. (Beyond the legal aspect. For that you'll need to speak with an attorney that understands the law and self defense). I'm a believer in attacking the limbs with impact weapons. A shot from a sap across the wrist or top of the forearm will make it difficult for your attacker to hold onto you. The same can be said for shots to major muscle groups. A baseball bat or table leg to the outside of your attacker's upper arm or thigh will most likely cause them to alter their immediate plans, and a second and third shot will create some mobility issues for them.

 

Regardless of the size of the weapon I try to keep my hand within the four corners of my upper body meaning I don't lift my hands above my shoulders or let them drop below my hips. If I'm swinging an impact weapon in an X pattern I won't let my weapon bearing arm go outside of the four corners of my upper body. Power is generated by rotation of my upper body, weight shift of my lower body, and the weight of the tool I'm using. This really becomes important when using the shorter impact weapons such as an extendable baton, a sap, or a short improvised impact weapon. With longer impact weapons that require two hands we can loosen this rule a bit however, it's never a good idea to develop bad habits.

 

In the next post we'll get into some specific concepts and principles as well as some training ideas we can use to develop our impact weapon skills.