5 unorthodox exercises for combat athletes

1395353_10151625549470703_1037186411_n Josh bjj

5 unorthodox exercises for combat athletes

in this piece i’ve given some concepts using some of my favorite tools.



1)ultimate sand bag 5 count  bear hug squats-

squatting for any athlete is important. strong, mobile hips and knees will improve anyones game. the way we’re going to take this fundamental movement and make it more specific to the combat athlete is to put a 5 second pause at the bottom of the movement to dissipate any elastic energy in the muscles during the eccentric (down) phase of the movement. doing this will require more motor unit recruitment which in laymen’s terms means you will have to fire more muscle fibers to get out of the bottom of the squat. training your body in this fashion will result in more over all explosive power. Although this movement can be done with other tools I like to use the DVRT/ Ultimate Sandbag as i requires full body engagement in a fashion that i find to be superiorly sport specific and much safer in case you need to bail out at the bottom of a rep.

2)power wheel crawl-

The monkey bar gym power wheel is hands down (pun intended) one of the best over all full body strength building tools in any athletes toolbox. it has a variety of ways in which it can be used for several different movements but one of the best is for a great variation on crawling both forwards and backwards. it put the body into a position that requires the user to really focus on not just strength but proper alignment. my suggestion is to start simply by trying to do be able to do 10 yards forwards  for 3 sets gradually increasing to 5 sets. once you can do 5 sets of ten yard crawls with out dropping your knees to the ground, split the distance to 5 yards forwards and 5 yards backwards gradually increasing your distances as you improve. –

3) DVRT ultimate sand bag cyclone-

Decelerating rotative forces are constant in combat sports whether it’s Jiu jitsu, Muay Thai, or Wrestling and there are few movements that compare to this one when it is done correctly.  Requiring the athlete to generate force through the feet that translates throughout the kinetic chain to propel the Ultimate Sand bag from the hang position up around and behind the head and passing back in front of the body. One of the many movements that makes the DVRT system so unique and effective.

4) JGXT uneven pull up and hold-

A great variation on an old standard. Using the monkey bar JGXT suspension system set the grip so that they are uneven by about 1 to even 6 inches. The larger the difference the more difficult this is so start with a small variance. At the top of the pull up (chin over highest hand) hold for a count of 2 then lower and repeat for 5 reps. try to focus on form and speed during this concentric phase (up) of this movement and lock in at the top. as this gets easier you can of course increase the time of the hold.

5) farmers walk push press-

2 great exercises that go great together. carries should be a fundamental for all combat athletes and this version makes them a big test of all of the characteristics that make a strong competitor. i’ll lay out a basic format for this but please feel free to invent your own concepts and varieties as well as these can be done with a wide array of tools and tempos.

let’s use kettle bells for this in the rack position. take10 steps do 5 double push presses repeat for as many as you can do to “technical failure” meaning once your technique starts to diminish you should stop! I don’t ever prescribe going to tool failure with any of my clients or athletes as it sets up for flawed movement patterns and far worse injuries!!



Now as i said before, play with these ideas using the concepts of rep schematic, tempo and other variables and  i think you’ll find these to be both challenging and profitable both  physically and mentally. Remember play hard but play safe.



Hypertrophy… The Different types and The difference it makes.


Everything in Margaux's training programing serves a propose to increase her athleticism.

Everything in Margaux’s training programing serves a purpose to increase her athleticism. Including putting on some good useful fat burning muscle.


There’s a good chance that if you’ve trained in the same circles that i have and hung around the right people you have heard the topic of muscular hypertrophy being discussed amongst coaches, athletes and clients. If you are new to this terminology let me first give you a definition of the word.


Hypertrophy- the increase in the volume of an organ or tissue due to the enlargement of its component cells.

Now, to simplify this discussion, We are talking basically about muscle tissue here and the “increase in size” of said tissue. This often tends to send some people who are unfamiliar with the concepts of fitness, running in fear screaming “I don’t want to be bulky!!!” The simple facts are the if you don’t understand what the definition of and the different types of  hypertrophy you are kind of sabotaging you efforts to get healthy and this knowledge put into your toolbox can help you get and stay in the shape that both safe and sustainable in the long run.

First we need to understand that all muscle tissue is not the same. It is generally accepted that muscle fiber types can be broken down into two main types: slow twitch (Type I) muscle fibers and fast twitch (Type II) muscle fibers. Fast twitch fibers can be further categorized into Type IIa and Type IIb fibers.

Slow Twitch (Type I)
The slow muscles are more efficient at using oxygen to generate more fuel (known as ATP) for continuous, extended muscle contractions over a long time. They fire more slowly than fast twitch fibers and can go for a long time before they fatigue. Therefore, slow twitch fibers are great at helping athletes run marathons and bicycle for hours.

Fast Twitch (Type II)

Because fast twitch fibers use anaerobic metabolism to create fuel, they are much better at generating short bursts of strength or speed than slow muscles. However, they fatigue more quickly. Fast twitch fibers generally produce the same amount of force per contraction as slow muscles, but they get their name because they are able to fire more rapidly. Having more fast twitch fibers can be an asset to a sprinter since she needs to quickly generate a lot of force.

Type IIa Fibers
These fast twitch muscle fibers are also known as intermediate fast-twitch fibers. They can use both aerobic and anaerobic metabolism almost equally to create energy. In this way, they are a combination of Type I and Type II muscle fibers.

Type IIb Fibers
These fast twitch fibers use anaerobic metabolism to create energy and are the “classic” fast twitch muscle fibers that excel at producing quick, powerful bursts of speed. This muscle fiber has the highest rate of contraction (rapid firing) of all the muscle fiber types, but it also has a much faster rate of fatigue and can’t last as long before it needs rest.

Keeping this in mind you can see that the different types of fiber serve us in different functions. For long range endurance athletes such as triathletes and marathon runners there would be a considerable amount of type 1 muscle fiber recruitment wherefore when looking at a power athlete such as a sprinter, olympic weightlifter, or a throwing athlete (shot-put, javelin, dwarf) you would see considerably more type 2 use. Then we get into other sports such as tennis, combats, soccer, lacrosse where you will see utilization of both. But I must digress at this point to bring it back around to the main topic of hypertrophy in the muscle cells and its different types.

Myofibrillar  ~VS~ Sarcoplasmic

In the bodybuilding and fitness community and even in some academic books skeletal muscle hypertrophy is described as being in one of two types: Sarcoplasmic or myofibrillar. According to this hypothesis, during sarcoplasmic hypertrophy, the volume of sarcoplasmic fluid in the muscle cell increases with no accompanying increase in muscular strength, whereas during myofibrillar hypertrophy, actin and myosin contractile proteins increase in number and add to muscular strength as well as a small increase in the size of the muscle. Sarcoplasmic hypertrophy is greater in the muscles of bodybuilders while myofibrillar hypertrophy is more dominant in power athletes These two forms of adaptations rarely occur completely independently of one another; one can experience a large increase in fluid with a slight increase in proteins, a large increase in proteins with a small increase in fluid, or a relatively balanced combination of the two.

 Sarcoplasmic Hypertrophy

Sarcoplasmic hypertrophy is an increase in the volume of the non-contractile muscle cell fluid, sarcoplasm. This fluid accounts for 25-30% of the muscle’s size. Although the cross sectional area of the muscle increases, the density of muscle fibers per unit area decreases, and there is no increase in muscular strength . This type of hypertrophy is mainly a result of high rep, “bodybuilder-type” training .

One of the biggest problems I see with the training of power athletes (football players, baseball players, basketball players, wrestlers and even powerlifters) is too much emphasis on training in the 10 – 15 rep range. This type of training has its place, yet should not be the focal point for these athletes. For example, most football lineman benefit from added bulk to prevent from getting pushed around on the field. “Bodybuilding” methods, using these rep ranges, can be beneficial if incorporated during the season to prevent muscle mass loss, as well as after the season to add bulk, which may have been lost during the season. Also, there is some scientific evidence that states a bigger muscle may have a better chance of becoming a stronger muscle once maximal strength training methods are employed. The key to remember is that this type of hypertrophy has little to do with such explosive movements as hitting, running, throwing, jumping or performing a one-rep max. This is why professional bodybuilders, whose training mainly hypertrophies the Type IIA fibers and causes an increase in the non-contractile components of the muscle (sarcoplasmic volume, capillary density, and mitochondria proliferation) are not the fastest or even the strongest of all athletes. This is despite the fact that they generally have more muscle than any other class of athlete! I consider this type of hypertrophy to be form over function.


Myofibrillar Hypertrophy

Myofibrillar hypertrophy, on the other hand, is an enlargement of the muscle fiber as it gains more myofibrils, which contract and generate tension in the muscle. With this type of hypertrophy, the area density of myofibrils increases and there is a significantly greater ability to exert muscular strength (2). This type of hypertrophy is best accomplished by training with heavy weights for low reps (3).
One must remember that the average football play lasts 4.5 seconds, it takes about 3 seconds to complete a 1 RM, it takes less than a second to swing a bat, less than a second to throw a punch and less than a second to jump for a rebound. As you can see, most athletic activities are explosive in nature. This is why it is imperative for athletes to incorporate maximal strength training methods (1-5 reps), which train the part of the muscle responsible for these explosive contractions, into their routines. Repetitions in the 1-5 rep range, using 85 – 100% of a 1RM, also have the added benefit of training the nervous system – which I feel is the most overlooked component of training the athlete. Some of the many benefits of training the nervous system are: increased neural drive to the muscle, increased synchronization of motor units, increased activation of the contractile apparatus, and decreased inhibition by the protective mechanisms of the muscle (golgi tendon organ) (1). These training methods also hypertrophy the pure fast twitch fibers – the high-threshold, Type IIB fibers. Incorporating these training methods into your routine at the right time will undoubtedly improve your muscles ability to generate more force and contract maximally during any sporting activity. In essence, myofibrillar hypertrophy is what I would term functional hypertrophy.


This also brings up the theme of what i describe as “educated muscle” or muscle that saves a purpose and function. Developing a higher rate of contractile power with myofibril hypertrophy will give you exactly that, the ability to perform tasks better by being able to generate more power. Many times we see an “athlete” who although they may be carrying muscle mass that muscle only seems to get in the way when they are given an athletic task to carry  out. In combat sports you’ve heard it said “Buff aint enough.” When a ripped and jacked monster gets beaten around the ring or mat by a seemingly less athletic opponent. Dick Butkis , legendary Chicago football coach made the statement “Looks like Tarzan, plays like Jane.” although I know in this day and age “Jane” is fully capable of keeping up with with Tarzan or even surpassing his performance if she is put on the proper path of training.


Seeing this will also lead us to see that the “light-medium weight/ high reps” methodology that many people utilize might not be the most optimal way to actually get yourself down to a smaller size. I have many clients who have put on muscle mass and decreased size. In all actuality myself and my team have found great results for our athletes and clients by keeping them working in a 2-5 reps range using 80-90% of a modified 1 rep max. This is not saying that higher rep ranges are not at all useful but the point i am getting at here is the overall theme of getting strong, fast and explosive while decreasing overall body fat in the process.