Author Archives: me

Sprint Intervals

I learned this treadmill routine from Wayne Gregory, former pro boxer and Thai-Boxer. For those of you who are unfamiliar, Wayne was the first American ever to win Lumpinee Stadium, which is the “home court” if you will, of pro Thai Boxing in Bangkok. He also was a Shidokan champion in the 90’s; kind of pre-MMA. It combined Western Boxing, Thai boxing, and grappling all in one bout. After professional fighting, Wayne was a Boxing/Thai Boxing coach at the CFC on the northside of Chicago, which is where I met him. He currently is an instructor at Tri-City boxing in St. Charles, IL. Wayne is a straight-up guy, and one of the most knowledgeable I have ever met when it comes to conditioning. Anyways, here’s the treadmill routine:

Warm up. 5-10 minutes at a brisk walk or light jog. About 3-4mph w no incline on the machine. Just break a sweat and get the blood moving.

Round 1- 8% incline for 2 minutes. This can be anywhere from 4-6 mph on the treadmill, depending on your conditioning level.

*on your rest period, you will bring the treadmill down to 3-4 mph, with no incline and work on bringing your heart rate down. This will be the same for all rounds.

Round 2- Flat and Fast. This round, there will not be an incline on the treadmill, just bump the speed from anywhere  from 6mph-12mph and sprint; really try to open up your stride during this round.

Round 3- Raise the incline to 10% grade during this round, and the speed will be anywhere from 4-6 mph again, just like round 1. You can adjust the speed down, but do not adust the treadmill down below 10%.

Rest your normal minute with 3-4% speed and no incline. This is your rest in between each and every round.

Round 4- Flat and Fast. Just the same as Round 2, you sprint at anywhere from 6-12mph with no incline for 2 minutes.

Normal rest period for a minute, 3-4% mph for a minute until round 5.

Round 5- This round, bump the incline to 12% grade, and try to keep your speed at 4-6 mph for the duration of the round. This is where is you earn your money.

Last round, Round 6- Flat and Fast. After your I minute rest after round 5 (remember, flat grade at 3-4% walk for one minute during rest periods), you will sprint at anywhere from 6-12 mph at a flat grade. This is your last round, so really “open it up”. After the 2 minute round, you are finished.

So a few key  points to keep in mind, your odd numbered rounds, (1,3,5), will be your incline rounds, with the grade increasing as you get further into the workout. Round 1 is 8% grade, Round 3 is 10% grade, and Round 5 is 12% grade. Your even numbered rounds, (2, 4,6), will be your flat and fast rounds. These  will all be done without an incline, (hence the term ‘flat and fast’), and should be sprinted anywhere from 6 mph-12mph for 2 minutes. All rounds are 2 minutes long, and all rest periods in between rounds are one minute. Very simple routine, once you get the sequencing down with the rounds and the inclines, but not easy. This is a great routine if you are fighting competitively, or even if you are just someone looking to build great work capacity on the treadmill. My experience with the routine is that it can really build the legs and lungs due to the high intensity, and you feel great for about 10 hours afterwards. The whole key to getting the most out of this routine is to push it as hard as you can all six rounds; don’t ‘leave anything in the tank’. Stick to this routine a couple of times a week, and try to progress either by increasing your sprint speed each round, or you could just try to add more rounds. This could be done by continuing with a Round 7, where you would start back over at the beginning and just repeat the rounds in the same fashion as you did starting with round 1. Give this a shot for a few weeks and watch your conditioning go through the roof.

‘Llewelyn Moss’ grip workout

I came up with the idea for this post when I was watching the movie No Country For Old Men last night. If you’ve never seen the movie, there’s a scene where Tommy Lee Jones’s  character, Sheriff Ed Tom, and his deputy, Wendell, go looking for a fella named Llewelyn Moss, played by Josh Brolin. As they go into LLewelyn’s trailer after he skipped town, they find a recently drunk half-gallon of milk. Next to the milk, there’s a set of old-school hand grippers. (The movie was set in 1980, so they were really old-school). Actually, I have a similar pair in my car that I use all the time. About 3 years ago, I had bursitis in my shoulder and needed to get a cortisone shot in it. Needless to say, before I got the shot, my whole right arm felt weak. And when I say weak, I mean weak as a baby. I attribute this all to feeling like I had no grip strength. Anyhow,  after I got the shot, I drove to parent’s house to look for an old hand-gripper that I used when I was in high-school. Matter of fact, it almost looks like the one from No Country For Old Men. Anyhow, I made it a point to work on my grip strength from that day forward. This is how I use when I’m driving:

-2 max-effort holds on each hand, trying to go longer each time I use them. For instance, depending on the level of tension on your particular gripper, try to see if I can hold it for 45-60 seconds, alternating sides each time for a total of two sets.

-Burn-out sets. This is where I open and close the grippers as fast as possible, sometimes adding a 3-second hold when I close them. I usually try to get 2 sets on each hand for this one also.

Try doing this every time you are in your car. Whether you’re an MMA fighter, boxer, powerlifter, or just and average joe trying not to become an old man too early, use this routine.

*Bonus. Using the hand-grippers while driving can relieve stress and also allow you to avoid “road rage”. I know I have.

 

Push-Up Ritual

Push-ups. The ol’ standby. They’re done everywhere. Gym classes, beaches, garages, bedrooms, boxing and MMA gyms…. The list is endless. O Ya, just a hunch, but I guess inmates have been known to do a few in prison too. Who says that push-ups aren’t effective at gaining upper body strength? The secret to making gains with this exercise is to make them progressively more difficult. This can be done in a number of ways. Once you hit a certain number, say 50 or 60, you can add a weighted vest to make them harder. Also, you can work on one-arm push-up progressions to increase your maximum strength levels. One-arm push-ups require a significant amount of core strength and total body tension. This is a key point. Remember,Tension=Strength.

Tension=Strength

Another important point to remember is that you have to breathe when performing high tension exercises. Don’t hold your breath, as it will drive our blood pressure sky high. Think about it as “breathing behind the shield”. Remember the movie 300? Well if you don’t…. or if your a loser and you never saw it, here’s my point. The Spartans in the movie had a bronze torso shield in the outline of the core muscles that covered the abdomen area. Imagine this as your core area when performing these exercises. Brace your abs hard like your about to take a punch in the stomach. Inhale on the lowering portion and exhale on the lifting portion. It’s also been called “setting the core”. This needs to be done to protect the lower back. This technique can be used on many different exercises that require max strength including Squats, Standing Military Press, Deadlifts, and any of the pull-up variations. Since this post deals with push-ups, we’ll focus on these now.

Push-ups are a great “bang for buck” exercise because they work your core as well as the chest, arms, shoulders, and back. Another advantage is that they can be done anywhere, even when you’re watchin’ t.v. There really is no excuse why they’re not getting done. Here’s a push-up ritual that I do almost daily. Forget about over-training and all that other bullshit. Push-ups can be done often. The human body is highly adaptable and can withstand a lot of volume once you build yourself up. Notice I said ritual, not routine. I believe that when you look at it as a ritual and not a routine, you actually trick the mind into believing that it is something that you want to do as opposed to something that you have to do. Well, enough talk, here it is…

First, I usually try to bang out anywhere from 50-60 fast push-ups to get the burn going in the arms and shoulders. I don’t use a full-range of motion on these: I just try to go as fast as possible. Once I hit that number, I go into a plank a position and hold it for about a minute or more. This is where you should focus on the high tension technique discussed above. Keep your abs braced hard and try to stay straight as a board. Try to slow your breathing down during this time because you will likely be sucking wind from machine gunning the first set out. Don’t worry about it if your not great at it at first…it’s gonna take some practice. After the minute or so is up, you will perform 3-point push-ups. Simply raise one of your legs off the ground and try to spread the legs apart a little wider on these. By doing this, you will engage the core a little more. I usually shoot for 10 on each side, focusing more on form. Full range of motion and a little slower. Finally, alternate your grip on the last “mini” set. I go from regular (arms under the shoulders), wide (arms extended well past the shoulders), and then bring it back to the narrow position (hands inside the shoulders) to give the triceps one last blast. Try to continue this sequence as long as you can. The set is then over.  Like I previously mentioned, this can used as warm-up for a strength training session, or just as something you can do in the morning upon  wakening to get the blood flowing. Also, if you start to feel like you’ve been on the couch too long at night, this routine could be done during commercial breaks. Remember, millions of people have been doing push-ups since the beginning of time, make it a ritual and you will be rewarded.

 

 

 

What if I’m too far out of shape?

Some of you might be asking yourself this same question. Speaking from personal experience, I faced this dilemma about seven years ago. A co-worker of mine was involved in a local boxing gym. I always was a fan of the sport and it piqued my interest, and I decided to go check it out. While I was  involved in athletics in the past, I had let it slip away for a period of about 4-5 years. All I really did during my mid to late 20’s was work and go out to bars. Needless to say, the booze and smokes are not conducive to cardiovascular health. I found this out the hard way. My first round hitting the heavy bag since high school proved difficult to say the least. F#ck that….it was damn hard. I didn’t even make it through one,  two-minute round. Damn, I got some work to do. Well, here’s how I got back into it…. and you can to.

Most boxing timers either have two or three minute work intervals, with either a 30-second or 1- minute break. Instead of timing the rounds in the traditional manner, I turned it around. What I mean by that is this: Instead of punching for 2 minutes with a 30-second break like you are supposed to, I used the rest portion on the timer to work, and the work portion to rest. Confused? No prob. It’s simple.

Let the timer start and run out the traditional 2- minute work interval. When the 30-second bell goes off to rest, you will then begin to punch. It’s only 30-seconds, so go hard. You’ll have two minutes to rest in between rounds. It makes it easier to mentally handle.

As a few weeks go by, change the rest portion on the timer to 1- min. Keep the timer’s work interval at 2 minutes. You will now punch during the 1 minute “rest” portion,  and then take 2 minutes in-between rounds. So you see, you’re just making a gradual increase (30-seconds) in the amount of time spent hitting the bag, and you keep your rest at 2min in-between rounds. Simple….but not easy.

After another couple of weeks, you should now start to really see your conditioning levels improve. You are now ready to work for the full 2-minutes on the timer, and keep your rest at 1-minute in-between rounds. As you progress even further, feel free to try to work for the full three minutes with a 30-second break in-between rounds. If you can do this, you now know that you have built a solid base of conditioning.  Who knows, you might even be ready for some sparring??

**Tips** -When first starting on the Heavy Bag, make sure you get some good hand wraps to go under your gloves. You have to allow time for tendons and ligaments to get use to the blunt force trauma of punching the bag. For your first few sessions, your hands, wrists, and elbows will be extremely sore. Don’t worry, this is only normal. Look at it as a way of “paying your dues,” so to speak. What’s happening is that the trauma induced on your joints and wrists is actually  causing acute micro-tears in the muscle and cartilage, and your body just needs time to adapt. This adaptation will take place; just stick with it. Also, try to find a heavy bag that is already broken in. New bags are notoriously stiff and they take a while to soften up. You’re best bet would be to try to find a used bag online, or go to a second-hand sports store. Your hands and wrists will thank me.

 

boxing timerThis is similar to the first timer I picked up when I started hitting the bag. It can be found at most any major sporting goods store, and it is relatively inexpensive. Good buy.

 

General health tips

For any of you out there who have allergies or sinus problems, this one is for you. Speaking for myself, as soon as I hit about 30-31 years of age, I started to develop some allergies. It just happens. First, I noticed that if I eat any dairy products or bread, my head fills up and get all that sinus junk and it just sucks. No bueno. I really started to notice it when I would go out drinking on a Saturday night, at the end of the night have some McDonald’s or a burrito, and pass out. The next day, to beat the hangover, I would go workout and try to get some sort of cardio in to sweat it out. Well, I soon realized that the booze wasn’t the only thing coming out of my head. All kinds of ‘good stuff’ was coming out of my sinuses. Shortly thereafter, I noticed that this not only happened after a night out, but also during the week when I ate or drank certain foods. If this sounds like you, there are a few things you can do:

1). Try to lay off the wheat and dairy. Milk is for baby cows, not adults. As far as wheat, I know it’s everywhere, but keep in mind, grains have only been introduced into the human diet in the last couple of hundred years. Some people can get away with eating breads and grains; unfortuneately I’m not that lucky. If you’re reading this… you probably aren’t either. No big deal though, at least you know that going in. The reason a lot of people can’t tolerate them is because they are inflammatory foods and they wreak havoc on your system. Bloating and swelling are two major effects, along with digestion problems. You’re probably just better off finding other food alternatives. No big deal.

2). If you do splurge, and everybody does, here’s what you can do. Let’s say you go out on a Saturday night and gorge down pizza and about 16 beers. The next day you feel like sh*t. Well, go get some kind of cardio in, say about a good 20-25 mins should do the trick. Really try to ramp it up at the end. When your done and have caught your breath, do some sort of push-ups or planks. I have found that the holding your head in the correct position that it needs to be in to perform these exercises really starts to loosen up all the junk that is lodged in your head. Note* have some sort of towel or rag nearby, its gonna get ugly. Don’t be that guy (or girl) at the gym. Alternate planks and push-ups for about 3-4 times. That’s it done. Hit the shower; start it warm for a few minutes, and then finish with cold water for about a minute or two. As long as you can handle the cold. Don’t like it?? Tough. I didn’t tell you to go out drinking. You do the crime, you do the time pal. Do this and I gaurantee you’ll be back to brand new.

Hill Sprints

Hill sprints. Hall of Fame football players have been running them for years. Jerry Rice, Walter Payton, and Mike Singletary all come to mind when I think of hill sprints. They were the best at their respective positions during their time, and it’s no surprise that they also possessed unwavering work ethic. It’s been rumored that Jerry Rice wouldn’t even take a full week off from training after the final game of the season before he started to prepare for the following year. Bottom line, hill sprints have been used for many years to get top- level athletes in excellent shape, and you should too. Many athletes shy away from running them for a few reasons:

  1. They’re hard, and they get you breathing really heavy, and
  2. When you start to gas out, they get Really hard because you don’t want to fall back down the hill (or stairs)………. which would suck.

However don’t let the above reasons give you an excuse to go for some leisurely jog or some p*ssy shit like that. Find a hill, or toboggan chute with stairs alongside it, and start sprinting up it. Find one with an incline that allows you to get to the top in anywhere from 10-25 seconds. The hill I used to run took about 20-25 seconds to get to the top, and I found this to be ideal. Anything longer than that and it takes away from the explosive aspect of the workout, which is what you want to avoid if you are a competitive athlete.

When implementing hill sprints into your existing routine, there are a few things you need to keep in mind if your a newbie:

  1. Start with a low number of total sprints, say 2-3, if you have never done them before.
  2. Don’t run them all out at 100% intensity. Stay somewhere in the 90-95% range. Stay just below an all-out sprint. This way, you’ll still reap the benefits while recovering faster the following day.
  3. If you regularly perform squats and Deadlifts in your existing routine, don’t run hills the day before a heavy lifting session. Your legs will be rubber and you’ll be shot for the rest of the week.
  4. As your body starts to adapt to hill sprints, you can increase the total number of reps. I found that 8-10 seems to good number to shoot for if it takes you about 20-25 seconds to get to the top. This is a good rep range because it pushes you just enough to improve your level of conditioning, while still allowing you to recover and train hard the rest of the week.
  5. If you only have access to a smaller hill in your area, and it only takes about 8-12 seconds to get to the top, then I would recommend doubling the total number of reps. 20 would be a respectable number to shoot for.

Once you feel that you have a good handle on these, you can make a few modifications to increase the difficulty. When running sprints at a closed down toboggan chute by my house, there was a steep set of stairs running alongside it leading  to the top. I found that by taking the steps two at time made the workout significantly more difficult. Also, I started to mix in a set of push-ups (maybe 25-30 at a fast pace) at the top of the hill. Be forewarned though, don’t attempt these modifications until you are sure you’re ready for them. I found that out the hard way, with an ambulance having to be called because I wasn’t quite ready to step it up to the next level. For your sake, don’t make this mistake. So again, it’s:

  1. Progress slowly. Start with a few warm-ups. Stretch out a little. Then hit it hard for a couple of trips up. Wrap it up early your first couple times out….. You’ll thank me the next day.
  2. Run them with intensity, but stay just below 100%. Leave some in the tank for the rest of your training sessions during the week.
  3. Your goal should be 8-10 sprints with minimal rest periods. This could be anywhere from 30 seconds to 1-min., depending on the size of the hill, or however long it takes you to get back down to the bottom.
  4. Once you get up to 8-10, you can increase the difficulty by adding in some type of strength exercise when you reach the top. This could be push-ups, any type of bodyweight exercise for that matter, or even leave a set of dumbells at the top for presses or hammer curls if you’re a real trooper.
  5. If you only have access to a smaller hill with less of an incline, you can increase the total number of reps. If it takes you about 8-12 seconds to negotiate the hill, then a good rule of thumb would be to shoot for 20 total sprints.
  6. Make sure you do something active the following day,( i.e. foam rolling, stretching, light calisthenics), to help speed up recovery. Don’t just sit on the couch, although it may be your first inclination to do so because your legs are sore as hell. You must get some blood flowing in order to speed up the healing process.

Bottom line.  If your looking for an workout that will increase your explosive leg drive, improve your stamina, and build unrelenting mental fortitude all at the same time,  then find a way to implement hill sprints into your existing program. Your overall conditioning will be rewarded if you do.

 

 

 

 

Boxing Arm and Shoulder Workout

Here’s a brief but effective workout for building up your arm and shoulder muscular endurance. For those of you involved in combat sports, you’ll find that this drill will increase your punching power by strengthening the tendons and ligaments deep within the joints. Gone are the days of your arms being dead at the end of the round. For the ladies, you can use this workout to get rid of the ‘Olive Oil’ arms, and you don’t have to worry about getting to “bulky” ( As most women do). Since you will be working at a high intensity for 30-second bursts, there is an automatic conditioning element built into it. Like other forms of interval training, you are not counting repetitions; just try to get as much work in as possible in the 30-second block. Oh Yeah, Don’t be half-rep McGee either, use good form with a full range of motion.

For those of you who are not familiar with Jeff Fenech, he is a retired Australian boxer, a three-weight World Champion, and currently, a trainer. His most notable fight came against Azumah  Nelson in ’91, which was the featured undercard bout on the Mike Tyson/Razor Ruddock card. After twelve grueling rounds, the fight was declared a draw. Non-stop action, Fenech just kept comin’ at him. Pull it up on Youtube, good stuff. Ironically, the then-retired Fenech became Tyson’s trainer in 2005, trying to resurrect the ex-champion’s career. This guy’s been in the game for many,many years and knows what works as far as training goes. The only thing he might not be too up on is athletic apparel, as is evident by the spandex pants in the video. Wouldn’t be my first choice, but hey….. whatever blows your hair back right? Well, getting back to the task at hand, this is the way that I like to put it together for a brief and intense workout:

  1. Bas Rutten MMA all-around fighting CD, 4-8 rounds. Then…
  2. Boxing Arm and Shoulder workout, 4-8 rounds. Then…
  3. Core work. Usually the P90X ab ripper.

That’s it. 25-30 minutes continuous work with minimal rest peroids. Hit it hard and fast and be done. Simple as that.

 

 

Rich Franklin Treadmill Workout

Here’s a  treadmill routine that I use to improve lung capacity, endurance, and to flush the lactic acid out of the system that gets built up from other workouts. It’s a routine that MMA fighter Rich Franklin uses in the morning five times a week when he’s in training, and I think that it’s a great way to start your day and open the lungs up. He adds some sprint work in at the end to increase his anaerobic conditioning (which is just another name for that “burst” wind you need when you need to react quickly and powerfully) and improve the quick flinch muscle fibers in the legs. Depending on your conditioning level, you might have to dial it down a little when you first try this routine. Keep in mind, this guy’s a top level fighter and has been training for many, many years. Whatever level you may be at, just keep the principles of this workout in place. Start off at a moderate pace, increase the speed every few minutes, and finish strong. You should be cranking out a good clip at the end of the session; I try to think of it as staying in the 80-85% range of my lung capacity towards the end. In other words, it should less then a sprint but definitely more than a jog. Don’t fall into the trap of pacing yourself: your goal is to build up your wind and mental toughness. If you have gas left in the tank, feel free to try to add the sprints in at the end.

Bonus: Rachelle Leah at the beginning of the video…..enough said.

 

 

Randy Coutre Plyometric Routine

Whatever sport you’re involved in, plyometric drills will improve your fast-twitch muscle fibers, reaction time, and cardio conditioning. They will also help you to be lighter on feet, allowing you to move faster and easier. Most of us who been around athletics know that guy who is strong as hell, but he can’t move for shit. What good is a 300lb. bench press if you can’t use it? I’m not sayin’ you shouldn’t work on maximal strength, because strength is important for sure. Just make sure you can use it….. and use it fast.. How do you get better at doing that you ask? Well, here it is. This is a great plyometric program that MMA legend Randy Couture uses and I strongly suggest adding it once or twice a week to your existing program. You’ll definitely feel the difference in your legs after a couple of sessions. You can find the video here:

 

 

30-second intervals

In order to get the most out of this style of training, there are two things you need to do.

1). Buy an interval timer that you can break down into 30-second increments. It would also help if you have a timer that can automatically do this for multiple rounds. I recommend the gymboss timer. It can be found at gymboss.com.

2). Try to get as much work in as possible in the 30-second increment. Don’t pace  yourself. 100% effort. You won’t get as much benefit out of the drill if you pace yourself.

I usually use this as a stand-alone workout, then throw in some core work afterwards. 30-second intervals will greatly increase your work capacity, allowing you to train longer and with greater intensity during the week. These type of interval workouts are effective because they are short, intense, and allow you to increase your cardio without sacrificing muscle. (Long distance, slow paced cardio workouts can actually make you lose muscle.) The interval that I most frequently use is as follows:

  1. Burpees x 30-sec
  2. Jumping Jacks x 30-sec
  3. Split Jumps x 30-sec
  4. Burpees x 30-sec
  5. Jumping Jacks x 30-sec
  6. Mountain climbers x 30-sec

That is one round. It will last for three minutes. You will work through the six calisthenic exercises with no rest. (You will find that the jumping jacks and split jumps actually give you a little rest since they are not as intense as burpees and mountain climbers.)  You can either set the rest period in between rounds from anywhere to 30 sec. up to a minute. This will depend on your conditioning level. Try to complete 4-6 rounds. Be forewarned…..the burpees and mountain climbers will jack up your heart rate like crazy, so start with longer rest periods in between rounds. As you continue to practice this drill, your work capacity will greatly improve and you can then shoot for shorter rest periods. Notice I said Practice. I found that by thinking about it in this way takes away some of the pre-stress workout and allows you to just jump right in. You will make rapid conditioning gains by adding this to your existing routine 1-2 per week, not to mention feel lighter on your feet and,believe it or not, increase your flexibility. I can’t say scientifically how it does it, but it just does. Try it and see for yourself. The great thing about interval training is that it can be done almost anywhere, provided you have a timer and about 15 minutes to spare. It’s easy, start the timer, work your ass off for 15 minutes and your done. Simple and effective.