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Archive for the 'Training' Category

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.

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

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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

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

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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.

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

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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

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

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A Fighter’s Comfort Zone

As an athlete, it is natural to believe that you control your own destiny. We’ve all been told that hard work will allow us to accomplish anything we desire. Hard work is supposed to solve all problems and conquer all obstacles. Unfortunately, the success of an athlete requires more than individual effort. Speaking as a boxing coach, there is only so much that a fighter can do on his own. And while my examples for this entry are related to boxing, the general message is relevant to athletes from all sports.

Comfort zone

A Conditioning Example

One of the most common questions that I receive from young fighters is how to deal with pre-fight anxiety. The specifics are almost always the same. The athlete does not understand why he fatigues prematurely on fight night after working so hard in the gym. Others share frustration over their inability to pull the trigger. In other words, there were opportunities to land punches but the fighter couldn’t let his hands go. He froze under the bright lights.

These athletes write to me desperately seeking solutions to their problems. Many ask what else they can do in the gym or at home on their own. For example, they ask how to run and what other exercises to perform. Many request sample routines. They want precise details in terms of sets and reps. In their eyes, the solution to the problem is to perform more work than they did in the past.

And while such ambition is commendable, the solution to these problems usually has nothing to do with supplemental exercise. Often times, the best training aid for a fighter is not a new routine or tool, but instead another fighter. Young fighters learn by doing. The best way to become a better boxer is by spending more time boxing. This is particularly true for those boxers who are only accustomed to sparring with coaches or friendly training partners.

When sparring a friend or coach, there is a certain level of comfort that exists regardless of how hard you are working. For instance, it is safe to assume that your coach is not going to intentionally hurt you. While he certainly wants to teach you, he is also there to protect you. As a result, you are able to spar hard without the anxiety that exists on fight night.

Everything changes when you are up against another fighter. Chances are that you don’t know anything about your opponent, other than his intent to win. Consequently, you are entering an environment that you have not experienced in the gym. The comfort that you’ve become familiar with is nowhere to be found. The nerves and anxiety that develop from this uncertainty lead to fatigue.

Running more or exercising harder will not solve the problem. What you need instead is to become more comfortable operating outside of your comfort zone. One example for a boxer is to spar against fighters from other gyms. The best sparring you receive usually comes from someone you hardly know. Neither of you know what to expect in terms of style, temperament, and pace. There is no comfort or familiarity. It is also useful to box against more experienced fighters who will not always take it easy on you. When in against such fighters, you aren’t sure what to expect. There is always the chance that the more experienced fighter will open up and catch you with a big shot.

The best fighters in the world certainly earned their share of bumps and bruises on the way up. If it was easy, everyone would do it.

Variety

Powerlifting coach Louie Simmons once shared the following words to emphasize the importance of variety,

Think about it, if you read only one book, no matter how many times you read it, you will only learn so much.

The same idea applies to boxing. If you always box the same sparring partners, there is only so much you can learn. The time will come when it is necessary for you to box other fighters with different styles. This means sparring with fighters from other gyms and traveling elsewhere to compete in tournaments where you aren’t always up against the same local athletes.

Unfortunately, not everyone is eager to hear this advice. Whenever I suggest traveling to spar or compete, I am met with resistance. Athletes often tell me that it is inconvenient to spar elsewhere. That’s when I remind them that I did not suggest otherwise. I know firsthand that it is not always convenient to travel. Inconvenience does not change the truth however. There have been many nights when I’ve driven fighters well over an hour each way just to spar. These fighters didn’t need more running. They needed better sparring. We had to travel to find it.

Relevance To Other Sports

Despite the boxing emphasis within this entry, the primary message has relevance far beyond any boxing ring. To become better at a sport, you need to practice the sport. Supplemental exercise is useful, but it should never take precedence over the actual sport. And while such a message may appear obvious, it does not receive nearly as much attention as it should. Most articles that are written about athletic development come from strength and conditioning coaches who are not involved in skill related activities. It’s no surprise that such activities receive secondary attention.

Yet regardless of what is written, improving at exercise does not guarantee that you’ll improve at your sport. Great athletes practice their craft more than anything else. There are elements to almost any sport that cannot be replicated without competing against other skilled athletes. You can’t do everything on your own. Therefore, while exercising harder or better may prove useful, such work will never serve as a replacement for skill.

Unfortunately, I am noting more and more athletes who are highly invested in strength and conditioning , yet perform such work at the expense of their skill development. I urge you to avoid making this mistake. Never allow supplemental exercise to interfere with sport training. It may not always be fun to compete or practice against others who are more talented, but that’s how you learn. You need to become accustomed to performing in environments where you lack comfort and control.

Once again, if it were easy, everyone would do it.

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Life begins at the end of your comfort zone. – Neale Donald Walsch

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