Monday, March 30, 2009

operational fitness

i've always been an advocate of operational fitness or practical strength. that's probably because i've always been a smaller person, so it was undesirable to bulk up or to try to bench 200 lbs. multiple articles i've read in men's health and men's fitness have advocated strength for real life situations rather than useless gym-only muscle development (although, hypocritically, there are probably more articles on "how to get huge in shorter workouts" and ads for "extreme muscle growth powder").

decathletes are probably the closest to this type of fitness that modern organized athletes get. bryan clay, the US decathlete who is probably the most fit athlete in the world, has a 100m sprint of 10.36 sec, but also a 1500m of 4:38. as well as long and high jumps that are taller than me. but still, he is a modern, trained gym athlete, unlike people who do parcour. when you leave the stadium and the gym, you can really feel what your body is capable of. if we were freed from the constraints of modern society and desk jobs and were suddenly put in the middle of the natural world, it should be like become a child in a huge playground.

that leads to the article i read while on the stationary bike (yea it was stationary, blah) in men's health: fitness to survive in the wild. looks like those frenchmen are at it again - maybe it has something to do with always being in the middle of european wars, but the originator of La Methode Naturelle originally had true survival in mind when he came to understand the meaning of true fitness. and ever since watching jackie chan's ability to clamber up walls to avoid the mobs of mafia, or tony jaa from ong bak leaping over cars, i've always thought that fitness should lead you to be able to survive some sort of catastrophe, and not just win a gold in some preset, repetitive athletic task.

of course, to achieve that level or to pursue that purpose is not practical since we do live in a modernized world, and we do participate in a very regulated sport, taekwondo. but getting some aspect of that fitness, or at least the mindset, would still be beneficial, especially when you come up against someone who has no practical knowledge of their own body's fitness. today i thought about how some small changes in a gym workout could add practical strength and fitness to our taekwondo-trained bodies, and how that could improve our overall athleticism and still elevate our technique. and as i tried a couple of different exercises, avoiding the drone of the treadmill and the mindless lifting of the benchpress, i kept wondering if people who were watching me jumping around in the gym thought i was amazing or crazy. after two sets of weighted plyos, i thought i could almost do a flip off of a roof and hit the ground running. almost.

here is the exercise routine i did today, from a combination of many months of experimenting in the gym, being bored with men's health workout routines, looking for the ones that might enable me to hit a standing dunk, etc etc. and the ones that look the most gaudy while a bunch of elliptical bound people look on in fear.

1) medicine ball slide and squat jump
- start with a 5-10 lb medicine ball in a squat position. do a vertical jump, while propelling the medicine ball above your head and into the air.
- land standing up straight. catch the medicine ball over your head, then as you receive the ball down to your chest, fall into a squat.
- while in a medium squat position, slide twice to the side.
- at the end of the slide, go into a deep squat position and repeat routine, going in the other direction.
- do 5 reps of back and forth slides.

2) medicine ball pushup
- start in pushup position with your feet spread out. have one hand on the ground and one hand on a small round medicine ball.
- do a full pushup to the ground (not the medicine ball.)
- on the upward motion, explode off of both hands, and land with the opposite hands on the ground and ball. go into this position by moving your body to the side instead of just up and down.
- repeat for 5 reps of back and forth.

3) weighted lunge jumps
- with two light dumbbells (5-10lbs) start in a front lunge. be sure that the lunge is deep so that the back knee is almost to the ground.
- jump upwards and switch the position of the feet (do a split jump.)
- at the peak of the jump try to thrust the knee that was down up to your chest.
- land in the lunge position with the opposite foot in front.
- repeat for 5 reps, switching feet twice in each rep.

4) pull-up L's
- from a standing position grab the pullup bar. do a pull up without swinging.
- at the height of the pullup, bring your feet and legs horizontal so your body forms an L.
- slowly lower your feet again so your body is straight, still at the top of the pullup position.
- lower the pullup, again keeping the body from swinging.
- repeat for 5 reps.

Today i worked on two sets of this circuit before my quads started to fatigue. i think that after a warmup on the erg and stationary bike the quads were overworked, otherwise the pullup L's would include releasing and doing a squat jump each time.

wednesday's routine would include some more abs and lower back exercises, but i think in general all my exercises are focusing on explosive leg power (for jumping but also for taekwondo kicks) and upperbody arm strength, just in case i ever have to climb up a coconut tree.


Ed said...

hey man. really interesting thoughts.

have you tried rock climbing? i have to say that it will actually give you real coconut tree climbing skills and make you see the world a bit differently.


Ed said...

another thing that i thought was interesting (this post about functional strength etc etc) was listening to BJJ teacher talk about the difference between "lifting/running" and martial arts. lifting/running have great benefits but ultimately will be lost shortly after you stop doing it. in contrast to martial arts... which convey knowledge that will stay with you for the rest of your life.

at any rate, the medicine ball workout sounds monstrous.