Ask Dave: Where’s a Good Place to Do Some Meditation?


This one came from one of our Thai Boxers.
We were discussing an injury he’s been carrying and then afterwards he asked the above question.

Meditation, it's good enough for Leo....

Meditation, it’s good enough for Leo….

My answer:

At home.

Simple.

Most things usually are simple.

Meditation has been a part of the martial arts for as long as martial arts have been around, and for damn good reason.
There’s no better way of settling the mind, relaxing the body and attaining focus than spending a few minutes each day in some form of meditation.

The science community have done many studies on people in a meditative state and pretty much all agree that for brain health, it’s one of the best things we can do for ourselves. (here’s a couple to get you started: Psychology Today wrote THIS, and THIS one is from Harvard Medical School)

The problem arises when you look at all the bullshit and bollocks that’s espoused by the new age tree huggers when they wax lyrical about meditation.
They insist on having rituals and props all in place before beginning any sort of practice. They tell you to sit in a particular way, burn a particular incense, chant a particular sound bite.

Not all tree huggers are bad....

Not all tree huggers are bad….

Is any of this necessary?

No.

Do you need those DVD’s and CD’s?

No.

Whale noises?

No.

So what do you need?

Are you ready for this?

Time.

And that’s it.

How much time?

Well, how much can you spare?
5 mins? Ok
10 mins? Better.
2 mins? Hell. that’ll do
20 mins? Probably ideal, if such a thing exists.

Posture:
Anything comfortable. Sit, lie down, kneel, squat, recline, walk.

Breathing:
This is important. You must breathe deep into your abdomen,
If you’re a chest breather, your going to struggle, so for you I suggest training the breath prior to attempting to meditate, here’s how

Everything Else:
Try to ensure you won’t be disturbed. If you like music, play some. If you like incense or smelly candles, go for it.

The key is the breath and your conscious mind.

warrior meditation

This simple method of meditation is called the 100 and is the simplest place to start.
It goes like this:

Each time you exhale, count.

The “goal” is to count 100 exhales.

The word goal is in inverted commas as it’s not really a goal. The goal is to remain focussed on the task of counting the breath.
Should you lose count, so what? Simply start counting from 1 again, no stress, no panic.
If you get caught up in a thought from your busy mind, so what? As soon as you recognise the fact, start counting again from 1.

It’s that simple.
Not easy.
But simple.

It’s so simple it can be done on the bus or train as you commute.
It can be done in bed to help you sleep.
It can be done walking in the park.
It can be done anytime your mind starts racing with uncontrolled or anxious thoughts.

There are many other forms of meditation, but as a start point, this is possibly the best of them.

Try it for yourself.

Regards

Dave Hedges
http://www.Wg-Fit.com

 

Who’s Got Big Rocks?


We’ve all heard the anecdote about big rocks.

No! Not that one! Get your mind out of the gutter!

I’m talking about the one where the Professor stands in front of his class with an empty jar.
He pours rocks into the jar and asks the students of the jar is full.
Of course they say yes.
So he pours in smaller rocks which settle into the gaps, and asks the question again.
The students once again say yes, albeit less certain.
So he pours in sand, which filters into the gaps that still remain and once more asks the same question.
The students are more confident and answer, “Yes”
So he pours in water.
Now It’s full.

Get it?

Why am I telling you this parable about physics?

It is a story dripping in life lessons, which naturally I’m going to spin into a lecture about physical fitness and training.

It goes like this.

The Proff fit so much into the jar because he started with the big rocks.
If he’d have put in the sand first, he’d not have gotten the big rocks in.

So in our training we must do the same.

What are the big rocks of fitness?

chuck-norris-rock-demotivational-poster

Upper Body Push (Dips, Push Ups, Bench Press, Military Press etc)
Upper Body Pull (Pull Ups, Rows etc)
Hip Dominant Lower Body (Deadlifts, Oly Variants, Kettlebell Swing, Broad Jumps)
Knee Dominant Lower Body (Squats, Vertical Jumps, Squats and erm, squats)

Thats it, four big rocks.

Work these with intensity in whatever rep range suits your goals with the fullest range of motion you can safely use.

Thats the big rocks taken care of, and if you only do that, you’ll probably be alright.

Now the smaller rocks.
This is your assistance work. This is where single leg work and the big core training drills fit in.
So Lunges, Turkish Get ups, heavy abdominal training, Half Kneeling presses & pulls, partials, lockouts, locomotion and grip work all fit here.

Now the sand.
Single joint lifts, rotator cuff work and the like all fit here.

And the water.
I don’t know if there’s anything left to do here but it probably involves a Bosu.

The only time this list can be reordered is if there are specific issues that need to be prioritised. If you’re coming back from an injury your big rocks may include some isolation work specific to that injury.
Or if you play a sport that causes certain postural issues, then the prevention of these becomes a big rock in itself. Actually, these preventative drills really should be part of the daily warm up.

Now, what other life lessons can the big rocks story relate to?

Nutrition?
Big Rocks = Veggies, dead animal flesh and water
Small Rocks = Spuds, Rice, Fruits
Sand = Coffee, Herbs, Spices.
Water = Supplements, Alcohol, my wifes Cheescake

Time Management?
Big Rocks = Family
Small Rocks = Sleep
Sand = Work, friends
Water = anyone else

Get the big rocks sorted out and let the other stuff fill in the gaps.
Or to quote a much smarter dude than I, “Don’t sweat the small stuff”

Regards

Dave Hedges
http://www.wg-fit.com

 

7 Random thoughts on Stretching


In lieu of any joined up thinking which may lead to a decent blog post, here are a few random thoughts on the subject of flexibility.

For one reason or another, it’s a topic that’s been floating around WG for the last while so I feel it’s worth noting a few points.

1 – Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.
Many people who love to stretch do so because they’re good at it. And a lot of folk who need to stretch really suck at it.
And guess what, we all love to do the shit we are great at and hate the shit we suck at.
Unfortunately, if we are to progress in our training, we need to suck it up and prioritise the training of our weak points, and if that means stretching, then stretch.
If you can already touch your elbow to your toes but can’t deadlift your bodyweight, guess what…….

2 – Some things just can’t be stretched.
There are times when a muscle just will not be stretched no matter how hard you try.
And usually with good reason.
Two common examples, the hip flexors and the hamstrings.
The hammies are probably the number one go to when someone stretches. Tell anyone to stretch and they likely try to touch their toes. So why can’t everyone touch their toes? Because ole hammie wont stretch.
Why won’t hammie stretch? Because he’s already being stretched by that pelvis thats in anterior tilt all day long. If it stretches any further it’ll be in danger, so sorry bud, I’ll tighten up to protect myself thankyou very much.
Sort the pelvic tilt and the good ole hammie will do whatever you want it to.

Hip flexors are a pain at the best of times. They get so wound up and tight they can cause a whole lot of trouble. Problem is, they’re deep and have several sections meaning that stretch your doing is most likely hitting only one region, and I doubt that’s the region that needs stretched.
Plus when a muscle gets this tight, especially if it forms a “trigger point” or a “knot” the muscle will stretch all around it but the adhesion itself remains steadfast. And that aint good.

3 – Leave your ligaments and tendons alone!
First off, they don’t like being stretched in the first place. They don’t rebound like the muscle does. Stretch these and your likely to simply destabilise the joint. It might feel like you’ve gotten more flexible, right up until the point it falls apart on you!

4 – The IT band WILL NOT STRETCH!
That bad boy is attached to the bone, and bones are pretty solid.
You can stretch the muscles that form and attach to the IT band, namely the TFL, Glutes and Quads.

5 – Maybe you’re flexible enough already?
Ever consider how much you need to be able to move? Will extra flexibility really help you?

6 – If you don’t build strength through your full range of motion, adding more ROM is irresponsible.
Strength + Flexibility = Mobility and mobility is the ability to move fluidly, with full control throughout the full range of motion.
Notice the words “with control” in that sentence? Over the years I’ve met many a yoga practitioner or semi-contact martial artist who could demonstrate incredible passive stretches, yet had no strength to back it up. They struggled to do something as simple as a basic squat.
If you don’t build strength in your range of motion you are simply putting yourself at risk, it’s one fo the reasons back and knee pain is prevalent in the karate world I grew up in.
I myself had bad knees for a time, once I got strong and developed mobility, pain went away.
Move into and out of your stretch, do it slowly and fluidly, even build up to adding light weight to the movement.
As an aside, between Kettlebell Swings and Romanian Deadlifts, you’ll probably develop a better hamstring stretch than any amount of toe touches.

7 – Stretching is NOT a warm up
This just will not go away. Stretching is for after training, better yet, several hours after training.
It is no way to warm up.
OK, once you have warmed up and done some mobility work you may find yourself in need of some specific flexibility to work to get into the positions you’ll be training that session, this is fine, the stretch you do there and then is perfectly functional.
Otherwise, save it for the cool down or for in front of the telly that evening.

Regards

Dave Hedges
http://www.WG-Fit.com

Ask Dave: How Can I Use Exercise to Keep Myself Sane?


Here we go with another “Ask Dave”

This one comes from a member of the Wild Geese Martial Arts Eskrima group:

Wild Geese Martial Arts Founder Paul Cox "teaching" Eskrima, in this case it's not Brian

Wild Geese Martial Arts Founder Paul Cox “teaching” Eskrima, in this case it’s not Brian

“Hi Dave,
Sorry to bother you but I could use a bit of advice.
I’ve started into the final year of my PhD and the stress is starting to get at me, to the point where I’ve been struggling to get a full night sleep for the past few months and it’s really starting to affect me. I know that exercise helps with stress levels and I do try to keep active but recently it’s gotten harder to face doing anything. I’m currently spending close to four hours a day commuting so I’m fairly limited with my time in the evening and find it difficult to fit everything in. I play 1-2 hours of 5 aside on the weekends and do a combination of bodyweight and kettlebell exercises when I get the time and energy. In the past, I had been aiming for the Wild Geese minimum standards that you had posted up but I’ve been forced to put that to one side. The thought of adding more goals to what I have to do already is frightening and I just end up frustrated with myself when I don’t make any progress.
Reading over this email it seems kind of rambling but I guess I’m looking for some advice on how to use exercise (I’ll not even bother to call it training) to keep myself sane without stressing my body out anymore than it already is.
Regards,
Brian”

Hi Brian,

Good question mate, if you don’t mind I may use it for a blog post (naturally he said yes!)

But first, 4 hours commute? Every day? Are off your head?
(he did reply with an answer to this, it’s merely down to logistics)
Exercise is stress relief. Training is stress.

So, don’t train, merely exercise.

You’re only goal is to maintain a basic level of fitness, prevent any muscle loss / excess weight gain / postural disruption that will happen as you focus on your main goal which is of course the Phd.
I would suggest you use the “exercise break” method.

ie, at intervals through the day you do sets of an exercise. Some call it “Grease the Groove”

Recently Ido Portal has had the 30 Squat challenge, where the goal is to accumulate 30 minutes of sitting in the resting squat per day for 30 days. He also did the hanging challenge where you accumulate 7mins of hanging per day for 30 days.

30-Day-Squat-Challenge

These are good examples.

You simply pick 1-3 exercises / physical skills that you would like to improve on and drip feed them into your day. You may or may not predetermine a set amount to do.

Some suggestions:
Pull Ups
One Arm Push Ups
Regular Push Ups
Single leg (pistol) squats
Wrestlers Bridge
a Gymnastic movement such as a handstand or cartwheel.

Pistol Squat

Pistol Squat

I recommend you stick with one skill for the whole day, the next day you can do a different one. But only choose 1-3 skills in total. Obviously there shouldn’t be too much overlap between the skills, so if you choose a handstand, you wouldn’t do a push up as well.

Next is to work in sub maximal sets, whatever your max effort is, do approx 50% of that each time.
Example: If you can do 10 pull ups, you will start out by doing a set of 5 pull ups every two hours over the day.

You get me?

If you choose a skill you can’t yet achieve a single rep, that’s cool too. You simple do a practice or two at it at several intervals through the day. This is fun as it gives you something else to think about for the few minutes you’re doing it and a massive sense of achievement when you get your first one.

Example: One Arm Push up – initially work the lowering portion trying to go slower with more control on each rep. Do these in single reps, one each arm at intervals through the day. One day you will lower al the way down under control, you will smile. From here on in you attempt to lower and then lift. Still working in singles.

A "do anywhere" drill for striking power

A “do anywhere” drill for striking power

One day you will lift, and again you will smile.

Then you make that single rep smoother. Then one day, maybe on the weekend, you get down and test your max and fuck me! You get 3 on each arm!

How does that all sound?

Dave

 

Brian since replied telling me that he’s using the exercise break method and is finding it to be a great benefit to him.
Which is great to hear.

As a follow up to his original question, I’d like to elaborate on the “exercise vs training” thingumy.

Many see “training” to be superior to “exercise”
And in many ways they are correct.
Training has purpose and direction. For example, you train for a marathon, you train for a fight, you train for a Kettlebell Sport competition or a Triathlon or whatever.
There is an end goal in sight and the training provides the steps to reach that end goal.

Exercise then, is ticking the boxes. It’s general, not necessarily devoid of direction but without the laser like focus of a training plan. It must still have design behind it, it must be thought out and lead to progression.

For people like Brian who already have a shit tonne of stress on their plate, exercise is by far the better option.
The additional stress of ensuring progress is made on a training program along with being on top of sleep and nutrition can sometimes be too much.

It takes a smart guy to know when to take the foot of the gas and slip into exercising and when to floor it and train with purpose.

Sometimes we just need to punch the clock because other things are a priority.

Regards

Dave Hedges
http://www.WG-Fit.com

If you like the idea of adding bodyweight exercise breaks to your day, please check out the No Equipment – No Excuses ebook:

Bodyweight Training eBook

 

Minimal Training, Maximal Results


Once again the blog has been a bit on the barren side.

It seems that it is now October and Autumn has set in, last time I looked up It was the start of September and the Missus and I were preparing our kids to start back at school.

The last 4 weeks have been off the wall.

Off the wall in a good way, but off the bloody wall!

While my group classes have been a little quite of late, but hell, with the unseasonally good weather, why wouldn’t people want to be outside, but my private/semi-private services have been nuts.
Add to that the weekend workshops and September has been a blur.

That said, even though time has been against me, I feel I’ve made great gains in strength and mobility.

How?

By taking on a minimalist training program built around the big rocks and then taking movement breaks whenever I can.

Lets explain.

The big rocks of training:

Upper Body Push
Upper body Pull
Lower Body

In my case they’ve comprised of:
Dips on the rings
Pull ups, again on the rings
Back Squats

2dbe3-gymnastics2009a

As I have good mobility I can use a high bar position on the squat to go full range, ie my hamstrings touch my calves on every rep.
If you can’t et this deep, you’ll need to add in some extra work on the hamstring/glute with some kind of deadlift.

These three drills, hit 3-5 times per week with high intensity in the 3-5 rep range, albeit never to failure have helped with strength and muscle density.
Working the rings has been lovely on my old dicky shoulder.

Now for movement breaks.

Before you say it, yes I spend all day every day in my own gym, so I can train whenever I want to. While you are stuck behind a desk or whatever it is that you do to earn a crust.

But we all work.

Yes I work in a training environment, but I’m still short on time and have a family life to get home to.

This is where the concept of exercise breaks comes into its own.

It’s ridiculously simple.

Whenever you have 5-10 minutes, get down on the floor and move.

That’s it.

You may be working on specific actions, I do a fair bit of crawling and hanging. Sometimes I move into and out of various bridge type positions or work hand stand progressions.
Maybe it’s merely a few reps, other times its several minutes of unbroken motion.

Hovering is an advanced form of movement....

Hovering is an advanced form of movement….

All in, I think I train three days for around 40 minutes at a time, and then accumulate another maybe 30 or so minutes per day of non specific movement work.

If you’re a busy person, and lets face it who isn’t, this is more than adequate to keep you strong and healthy.

When you have the concept of exercise breaks down, the idea of not having time to train goes straight out the window.

Try it for yourselves.

Regards

Dave Hedges
www.WG-Fit.com

How to Develop a Wheelie Strong Anterior Core


I know, terrible pun, but forgive me…….

Core strength is important.

No news there eh?

For years now the emphasis has been on developing the posterior chain strength, which is basically your hips, hamstrings and back. This includes your core with a posterior emphasis.

The strength and fitness industry as a whole pretty much threw out all anterior core work outside of planks and turkish get ups.

But as good as these movements are, their still not enough. Our anterior core, aka “da six pack” deserves more.

This is where the Ab Wheel roll out comes in.

If you deadlift, squat, swing snatch, then this is the opposite action.

The reason I like so much is simple.
It keeps the spine relatively neutral, which is good news for many people with a forward flexed posture, thunk of your fighting posture or even how you sit at your desk.
It loads the abdominals in a lengthened position. What the hell does that mean?

It means that as the wheel rolls out, it is stretching out the abdominals and the lats, while at the same time loading them. This pretty close to the way in which the abdominals fire in real world movement, the muscles are usually stretch loaded prior to firing. Have a look at this thrower to see what I mean:

 

javelin

What do you think, has she stretched out the anterior chain, including the abdominals in order to generate more power for that throw?
Now what if you were throwing a punch or a person?

There are a few important pointers that you must adhere to in order to both keep the spine safe and also get the most out of the exercise.

This video shows how it ought to be done:

 

Once the basic gets easy we have a few ways to progress the drill:

“Pennate Roll Outs”

 

Decline Roll Outs

 

Standing Roll Outs to a Ramp

Obviously the standing roll out is serious work, so be sure to have a solid base of kneeling work before even attempting it.
On any variation, stay within your safe range of motion, if you lose control at any point, then simple drop to the floor, trying to save it can put tremendous strain into the lower back.

This cheap piece of kit is highly underrated but if used well can and will build some serious core strength and give balance to a body.

Regards

Dave Hedges
http://www.WG-Fit.com

If you want to know more about strength training for BJJ,check out the Fighting Back eBook:

Click for more info

Click for more info

Which includes a discount code for the new Fighting Back Rash Guard

Fighting Back sales

Battling the Micro Manager and Being a Better Coach


Having kids can be great.

A few months ago my Missus went off for a few night away with her friends which meant I was left in charge. It was the weekend that the Lego Movie came into Irish cinemas.

So naturally I booked three seats and took my two boys with me as a cover for me dying to see it!

And I wasn’t disappointed.

I think I’ve seen it about 32 times now.

It’s taken till now for me to have a topic for a blog post where I can blatantly reference the awesome Lego movie.

And here it is……

Bring out the Micro Managers!

micro manager

 

Recently I’ve been working with an up and coming coach.

When I watch her working I see she has a great eye for detail and genuinely cares for the people she’s working with. She also knows her stuff.

All good so far.

But then it happens, out come the Micro Managers.

It’s a very common issue with many new coaches/instructors. I’ve worked with many new to teaching/coaching and more than not do exactly the same. Hell, I did it.
As I grew up training Karate, there was a time where I was given teaching responsibilities, and at the tender age of 16, I thought I was the dogs bollocks.

And I micro managed.

I wanted the people I worked with to be perfect. I wanted them to move right, have their stance perfect, back leg straight, front knee bent, hand pulled back to the hip and a sharp, crisp punch.

So I worked on the minutia, I tried to get the polish on the technique before there was any technique to polish. Essentially I did those guys a disservice.

My own instructor took me aside and gave me a vital lesson on become an instructor.

He told me that I wasn’t training black belts, I was training white belts, so I needed to work at the white belt level. As a shit hot brown belt, I’d almost forgotten what it was like being new, uncoordinated, unfit and intimidated by the higher grades as well as the volume of information to absorb.

My instructor told me that as long as the students were good enough, then it was good enough.
There was always next week, and the week after, and the month after.

Or to put it another way, they are like a lump of rock in the hands of a sculptor.
You don’t start smoothing out detail straight away, you first have to hammer and chip away until you have a rough shape.
Then refine that shape.
Then add a little detail.
Then work into that detail.

It might take a day or might take a year.
It’s not important as long as the process is happening and moving in the right direction.

This is coaching.

It’ about getting people training, causing a training effect, getting them working and building their confidence.

So what if the lifting technique is a little off, as long as their not in any danger, why change it, why slow down their workout and rock their confidence by nit picking.

Why not instead let them at it, encourage, maybe drip feed pointers here and there. But only add in a new piece of info once the first has been absorbed.

Only change one thing at a time.
refine the shape, add a detail, refine the detail…..

People learn at different speeds, and very often it takes time for a piece of info to soak into the body. You may very well find that when the client comes back the following session, they move like you wanted them to do without need for more coaching.

If you really want Everything to be Awesome ( <– see what I did there?) you must learn to not micro manage. Learn to drip feed info, to not present new info until the student is ready, and then present it in the simplest manner possible.

This is coaching.

It’s taken me the last 21 years to get the hang of it, but I reckon in another 20 or so years I ought to have it nailed.

Over the last few months I’ve gotten a stack of emails asking about kettlebell workshops, I have plans to take the kettlebell workshops and instructor program off the shelf and dust them off over the next few months. They will be relaunched early next year with the intention of providing accessible, high quality information and providing the tools for those wishing to genuinely coach the lifts and integrate them into their clients training.

Until then, stay awesome.

awesome

Regards

Dave Hedges
http://www.WG-Fit.com