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Archive for the 'Training' Category

Forgotten Fighters From Myanmar

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Throughout this blog’s history, I’ve featured several athletes who have thrived in rudimentary environments. We have seen fighters in countries such as Thailand, Ghana, Brazil, Cuba, and Uganda. Many of these athletes have excelled at the highest level despite training amidst poverty.

In the documentary below, we can add to the list by looking at a group of fighters from Myanmar (Burma). These fighters compete in the Burmese martial art known as Lethwei. Lethwei is a full contact sport where there are no gloves and head butts are permissible.

Myanmar is one of the poorest nations in Southeast Asia. It has been estimated that 70 percent of the population doesn’t even have access to electricity. Fortunately for the fighters, lavish conditions are not necessary to achieve peak fitness. As you can see in the brief clips below, lethwei fighters thrive on the basics.

Much of the training seen above is similar to the approach that was recommended by Jack Dempsey in his 1950 text (see here). There is clearly an emphasis on sport training through sparring, mitt work, and bag work. Such training is also supplemented with rope skipping, running, and calisthenics. You won’t find any extravagant equipment or complex routines. The work is simple yet intense.

And while the non-fighters in the crowd may miss the relevance of this entry, there is actually plenty that can be learned. If these Myanmar fighters can condition themselves in such an environment, the rest of the world can as well. I don’t say this to suggest that you immerse yourself in poverty or bare knuckle fighting, but instead to remind you that fitness does not require high-end equipment or complex programming. Most people need nothing more than consistency and effort. How these attributes are applied is often irrelevant. As long as you consistently apply yourself through some form of physical exertion, you can expect to be well ahead of the average person. It is entirely possible to be healthy and fit without ever stepping foot in a commercial gym.

If you are interested in additional examples, look no further than the links below.

Ghana’s Fighting Spirit

Boxing Their Own Worst Enemy (Brazil)

The Kampala Boxing Club (Uganda)

Buakaw Banchamek Training Footage (Thailand)

The Boys Who Fought For Castro (Cuba)

The Zama Boxing Club (South Africa)


Necessity is not an established fact, but an interpretation. – Friedrich Nietzsche


Outdoor Workout in Germany

Last month, I created a video entitled The World Is Your Gym (see here) to highlight the exercise potential that exists in the world around us. Since creating that video, I’ve had several readers of the site pass along similar videos from different parts of the world. One recent example can be seen below.

Within the video, you will see two athletes work through a strenuous session in an open field. Once again, we are reminded of the fact that successful training does not depend on a specific piece of equipment or facility. These individuals, run, jump, work through a series of calisthenics, and make the most of their surroundings. They are clearly hard working and creative. For instance, I have never seen any fitness books that highlight the potential of bales in an open field. In other words, no one told these individuals that rolled bales could double as calisthenic aids. They went outside and figured it out.

Once you are determined to get up and move, you will find a way to get up and move. Regardless of your location, you will make the most of your surroundings. These individuals have demonstrated the potential of an empty field in Germany. I am thousands of miles away and often head outside to train in the woods. Therefore, while our environments are entirely unique, we are similar in our quest to make the world a fully functional gym.

Fortunately, you can do the same. The exercise potential of the world around us remains largely untapped. The fitness industry will never profit from you walking outside to exercise in open field. As a result, you will never see such environments garnering widespread attention. Profit potential will always dictate exercise trends. Hopefully, videos such as that above can at least counter some of the nonsense the industry continues to deliver. Just because the industry isn’t profiting from your outdoor workout doesn’t make it any less effective. Make the world your gym and you’ll never need anything but your own creativity and effort.


The world is but a canvas to the imagination. – Henry David Thoreau


Hill Based Rollout Progression

In previous videos, I have demonstrated how a ramp can be used to increase or decrease the difficulty of a standing rollout. For example, rolling up a ramp is one of the fastest ways to progress from kneeling to standing. Conversely, rolling down a ramp is ideal to increase the difficulty for those who are already proficient with standing rollouts. Not everyone has access to a ramp however. If you find yourself in that position, try to find a moderately sloped hill and you can accomplish the same thing.

Below is a brief example.

In summary, if you can find a hill, you have an ideal place to either increase or decrease the difficulty of an excellent core exercise.

Also see: Standing Rollout Variations


The imagination is man’s power over nature. – Wallace Stevens


Athletic Improvement – Past vs. Present

The video below was recently passed along to me and is well worth a look. First and foremost, the presentation itself is quite interesting. In many ways, today’s athletes have not advanced nearly as much as the average person believes. And while I would have preferred to see more attention directed towards performance enhancing drugs, I suppose such aids classify as a technological advancement.

More importantly however, the topic of athletic progress is actually relevant towards exercise and training. There are countless trainers today who live under the false assumption that athletes from previous generations were archaic with their methods. They naturally assume that today’s athletes have evolved above and beyond those from the past. As a result, they spend little time studying those who came before.

The reality though is that not all sports have experienced the same level of technological change. For instance, consider sports such as boxing and wrestling. Does anyone truly believe that a prime Dan Gable could not compete with wrestlers today? Yet when you look back at his training style, there was nothing revolutionary about it. Gable simply outworked everyone. He was not a product of technology, but rather one of ridiculous work ethic and effort.

Similar arguments could be made in regards to boxing greats such as Sugar Ray Robinson. Once again, his training style was not revolutionary. He trained hard with his sport, fought regularly, and was obviously talented. He did not have any strength and conditioning specialists or any of the other so-called advancements that are present in most modern camps. Yet despite his rudimentary training style, the Ray Robinson who fought professionally over 70 years ago could contend with any of today’s top fighters.

In summary, the take home lesson for the typical exercise enthusiast is fairly straightforward. Don’t be fooled to believe that the old fashioned approach to exercise was not effective. I don’t know too many people who wouldn’t want to be as well conditioned as a prime Ray Robinson or Dan Gable. When you strip away technology and performance enhancing drugs, the athletes from the past were not nearly as far behind as many would like you to believe. This is not to say that there aren’t ways to improve on certain methods from the past, but it is difficult to improve on something that you don’t know. While it is obviously important to study the present, it is often equally useful to study the past. Human intelligence is not new. Plenty can be learned from athletes and coaches who excelled in previous generations without the technology that exists today.


The future, according to some scientists, will be exactly like the past, only far more expensive. – John Sladek


Outdoor Pull-up Bar

If you have watched any of my videos, there is a good chance you have seen me exercising on an outdoor pull-up bar. For example, you can see a demonstration at the 15 second mark within my most recent video.

You can also see a picture of the bar below. I have shared similar images on social media sites such as Instagram. Whenever I post one of these images, my inbox typically fills with questions about how to safely secure a pull-up bar from trees.

outdoor pull-up bar

For starters, it is worth noting that you will not always need to secure a bar outdoors. A strong tree limb is an ideal alternative. I have used the branch seen below for the past three years. It is still holding up well despite repeated use.

My reason for creating the outdoor pull-up station between trees is because it is located at the top of a hill sprint path that I cleared last year (see here). I enjoy integrating hill sprints with other exercises such as pull-ups and sledgehammer swings. Adding an exercise to the top of a hill sprint makes for a tremendous conditioning challenge.

With that in mind, I needed to secure a pull-up bar to the two trees that are located at the top of the hill. I wanted something that was inexpensive yet durable. My solution was to use eye-bolts and a piece of galvanized iron pipe. To attach the pipe, I secured one eye-bolt into each tree. The bolts are lined up perfectly so that the pipe can run through the opening from each bolt. I then turned each bolt a quarter turn more to prevent the pipe from sliding. If you look closely, you’ll notice how the bolt is slightly angled. The result is a pull-up bar that is completely immobile. I cannot even force it to slide out of the bolts.

outdoor pull-up bar connection

As for tree safety, most experts agree that using a single bolt is the preferred solution. A healthy tree will compartmentalize around the wound that is caused by drilling into it. Using multiple screws or nails is more likely to damage the tree. It also becomes more dangerous if the tree is ever cut down. Small nails will eventually become embedded within the tree as new bark grows around it. If you are ever cutting a tree with a chainsaw, the last thing you want is to come across a hidden nail.

In summary, I am not suggesting that anyone copies my approach to creating an outdoor pull-up station. I am simply sharing what has worked well for me. There are certainly other options for outdoor stations, but this inexpensive set-up has proved quite useful and durable.

For additional homemade equipment ideas, please refer to the following page:

Homemade Equipment Archives


It takes half your life before you discover life is a do-it-yourself project. – Napoleon Hill


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