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.

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.


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?



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.


Dave Hedges

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


Ask Dave: Shoulders, BJJ, and a Shed Load More!

GeriHello Dave!
Firstly congrats for your new book, I find it very interesting, and mostly important, extremely useful. Indeed, after a few months of intense bjj practice, I’ve started to develop internally rotated shoulders, which led to an acute bicep tendon inflammation.

Needless to say, stops from the training became necessary.

I remembered your pieces of advice, so started to train turkish get ups, as well as swings, and used some stretch band.

Now, in my bjj school they also train in what you don’t like, functional training for BJJ. I must admit that it’s been great to get in shape, but yes, they also stress those body parts already stressed by the sport (push ups, sit ups).

Some exercises like kipping pull ups, the use of clubbells and american swings also did not do a good favor to my already weak shoulders. Long story short, I would like to strengthen the complementary parts of the body as suggested by your book. In particular the shoulders, of course. I was wondering if you could advise me if there’s any difference between KB shoulder press, and KB see saw press; and so between double KB swings or one-hand KB swings?

Sorry for bothering you, and thank you for your time.
Also, have you really thought in some on-line training? That’s be great!!!
Cheers, Geri


Hi Geri!
Always good to hear from former clients, hope you’re keeping well mate.
Now lets go through your question as there are several parts:

My New book: Thanks mate, I’m delighted it’s got you thinking, that’s always my aim, which is why I’m not one of those trainers that just releases workout program after workout program.

Click the image to Purchase

Click the image to Purchase


So Called “functional training”

As soon as someone says those two words my eye’s roll back into my head and I start to nod off, usually into a dream about beating said training to death with their own bosu ball.
Push Ups, Sit Ups, Kipping Pull Ups (why?), Clubbells and “american” swings (again – why?) are simply exercises. They’re not necessarily functional unless we first define the function we require.
In your case, the function is as follows:

General fitness and strength for BJJ, specifically strengthen the shoulder complex to better resist injury. 
To prevent the recurrence of the biceps tendonitis/osis

Now this is defined, we can decide which exercises will be functional and which ones will not be.
Lets take the choices your instructor has made for you:

Push Ups – done right, these are a great drill, but if these are simply pounded out for reps, they’re a terrible drill. And guess what most martial arts coaches do…….
For the time being, slow your push ups right down, I’m talking 2-3 seconds on the way down and 2-3 seconds on the way up. Make sure the elbows flare out from the body by NO MORE than 45º and the hands are directly under the shoulders.
Tuck the tailbone under to keep the abs and glutes engaged. In fact, do everything in THIS ARTICLE from Bret Contreras on the subject.

Will this reduce the number of reps you can do? Absolutely, but at least you’ll develop some strength and control.

Sit Ups – I’m not a fan. Poor form in the sit up can lead to tightening of the hip flexors which often inhibits the abdominals so ends up being counter productive. You have my book, if you go to Page 26 where I list the 10 abdominal exercises I’d rather see you do instead of crunches. But first and foremost, get the Dead Bug dialled in, Tony Gentilcore has a great article on it HERE

Kipping Pull Up – Seriously? Why? These are a disaster waiting to happen and serve little to no purpose in the context of BJJ. I’ve written about them before HERE so won’t go into it again. Instead do lots and lots of Inverted Rows, be sure to elevate the chest and get the shoulder blades (scapula) sliding back and down before you even begin to pull.
When you’re getting good at these, start on Chin Ups with the palms facing you, but still focus on the scapula sliding back and down.

Club Bells – I’m surprised at this, very few people use them at all and those that do are usually fairly skilled. Clubs are excellent for the shoulder if done right.
I can only assume you’re not doing them right or you’re going too heavy. 1-2kg is plenty for most peoples needs unless you wish to specialise in clubbell training.
Here’s a clip I made a while ago on how I apply the clubs in training:

“American” Swings – again, why? This is another one I’ve covered before (HERE) so won’t go into detail on. Needless to say, it’s not going to do your shoulders any good at all.

More About Swings:

You asked about the difference between 1 and 2 handed swings, and also double swings.
Basically it’s this:
2H swings are a basic introductory exercise where both hands are on one bell. This is fine, but when you change to one handed swings the value of the exercise skyrockets. Now we have the whole weight in one hand, which causes the core to have to work that much harder to control the rotational force. The weight also goes through one shoulder, which asks the upper back to work a little harder to keep the shoulder secure in it’s socket.
And your grip is under more stress.
All these are good things for BJJ, and everything else in your life.

Now the double swing is a different animal again, we use it for developing explosive power. It’s in the same category as the barbell high pull and power clean, but many find it less technical to master. Plus we have some interesting physics to deal with as the bells accelerate back through the legs into the backswing, by the time they reach the terminal point on the backswing we have taken our hamstrings, glutes and back into a stretch position and then loaded them with a weight that is moving away at speed. We need arrest that movement before we can reverse it and fire the weights forwards again.
This is really where the value of a swing lies, it’s tricky to replicate with any other tool. Having a bell in each hand, means twice the load and many times the power requirements to get the bells flying.


The Kettlebell Press and the See-Saw press, why one and not the other?
They’re both great presses, but I like the See-Saw with a lot of my guys rather than the straight press where both bells move together.
To be fair this is a blog post in itself, I may sit and write that next, but in short there are two main reasons.
The first is the positioning of the body. If we’re dealing with people who are a little banged up from their sport, the see-saw press can be more forgiving as the body can lean away slightly from the bell travelling up. With two bells the lines are that much tighter and some individuals simply can’t tolerate it.
The second reason is that there’s no opportunity to relax during the See-Saw as both bells are in constant motion meaning the waist is in constant motion. With the double press they both come to rest on the chest allowing time to breath and relax.
Yes, I think a full blog post on the See-Saw press is needed.

Online Training
This is a service I kind of offer. I have a couple of people I help out through online service, but it’s not something I make a habit off. Mostly because I can’t see the person and get my hands on them while their training.
I’m looking into working around this, but lets just say, to get me to train you onine will require some persuasion at this moment!

I hope this goes some way towards answering your questions and helping you on your training journey.
All the best and keep in touch

Dave Hedges

Ask Dave: How to Measure Progress When Not Following a Structured Program

spiderman push up 4sThis one comes from one of my lads who has the enviable task of being sent out to India, Bangladesh and other third world countries to do some kind of business plan/management/jiggery pokery stuff..

In my mind, he’s an international superspy, he keeps telling me otherwise!

When he’s with me, he trains in the Lunchtime Sessions which is a simple Workout Of the Day format and doesn’t follow a structure. The unstructured nature of the lunchtimes suits most of the crew who have an unpredictable work life, those that want something more structured get a plan designed specifically for their needs.

An international super spy, like my boy, simply doesn’t know what he’s doing from one week to the next so structuring a workout plan is a lesson in futility.

But, we still need to keep an eye on progress, otherwise what’s the point?

My regular guys coming in doing the irregular training are easy to track, every now and again I make them lift the heavier kettle, and with a 4kg jump from one kettle to the next, there’s no doubting progress!

But if you travel, especially to third world areas, you won’t have access to kettles or dumbbells or any gym of any sort. So in this case we must use bodyweight training as a guide, and that is much harder to quantify.
There’s no clear boundaries like the kettles, even with adding a tiny plate to a barbell is clearer than bodyweight.

So lets look at a few ways to quantify and measure bodyweight training.

1 – Reps.
This is simple, can you do more?
Every now and again test a particular exercise, be it Push Ups, Chins, Squats or time on a static hold such as a Wrestlers Bridge, Wall Chair or Plank. Keep a track of your best results on each of theses and schedule a test of each one at intervals through the year.

2 – Time.
Take your favourite workout, or better yet take two to three of them. These become your benchmark sessions.
Each time you perform this workout, use the exact same set and rep parameters and time how long it takes. If you manage to reduce this time, while maintaining good form, then you’ve improved!

3 – Technical Mastery
This is a simple and too often overlooked method of progression. Most will sacrifice technique in order to get reps, this is wrong and dangerous.
The more your technique suffers, the more you risk injury. Maybe not this time, or next time, but it is coming for you.
Aim to do the same rep and set scheme but with ever greater technical precision. Eventually you can move to a more difficult technical variation, such as lifting a leg on the push up, or removing an arm.

In fact, here’s ten variations we use commonly:

In essence the whole Random training idea is only relevant if you don’t have a specific goal, but even still you have to test and that means repeating something you’ve done before and ideally doing it better.

So if you happen to be an international super spy like my boy Will, you now have a plan.



Dave Hedges

Ask Dave: Random Training, Training Intensity and More…..

question“Good morning Mr. Hedges!
I know you are busy and I really hesitated to send this and then your article posted today seemed to hit the nail on the head.
I read in many places that workouts don’t have to be all out effort every time like they are in xfit.  And to tell the truth I am feeling really tired these past weeks.  Both mentally and physically.  
Part of me is afraid if I don’t push balls to the wall I will lose the fitness I have gained?  Part of me thinks I should trust what I read from people that know more than me and because of my lack of knowledge I hesitate.
Part of me is thinking do I have it in me to do those type of workouts forever?  Do I WANT to do that sort of workout forever?  And what would it feel like to have more energy for other things?  And I think a lot lately what exactly is the point of all this random work?
Yes, I enjoy being able to do more physically and I want to accomplish more still.  Lots of bodyweight mastery I would love to “get” and have not accomplished etc.
Even with horses and dogs – if you push them hard all the time, many times they break down and develop lameness issues in joints/skeletal structure if a soft tissue injury doesn’t appear first that causes them to be laid up. 
I think of people like Wolfgang Brolley who is out running 11 miles of stairs and umpteen miles and I think that I should not feel tired or dragging in motivation when all I do is an hour  4-5x a week mixed in with the other things we all have in life.  I dont’ think I’m comparing myself exactly, however, that stresses to me that our bodies are capable of much when we can overcome our brains telling us to stop. 
Anyway – just thinking about the current state o’ things… 
Not sure there is an answer to all this.  I will only know by experimenting and trying different things – we are the experiment – N1 – after all right? 
Hi Shannon,

That’s a lot of questions in a short email, so let me just summarise them so we can address them point by point.
  • Work outs don’t have to be all out effort every time
  • If I don’t give 100% every time will I lose fitness?
  • Do I want to train at 100% all the time, would this energy be better used elsewhere?
  • What is the point of random training?
  • How do people maintain a high workload while maintaining balance?
The first three points all really ask the same thing, and it’s about modulating intensity.


Intensity has a specific definition in the strength and conditioning / sports science world, it is a percentage of your 1 rep max.
ie if you have a 200kg maximum deadlift, then this is 100% intensity. If you lift 150kg, then this is 75% intensity.
Black and white, eh?
This is the scientific idea of intensity and it’s the way all strongmen, weightlifters and powerlifters workout their training loads and is the foundation of Prilepins Chart, widely considered to be the golden rules of strength training.
Prilepin's Chart

Prilepin’s Chart

But the term “intensity” has been hijacked and is very commonly used as a substitute for the what is known as “Rate of Perceived Exertion” or RPE.
For a runner, you don’t have a 1 rep max speed. Extended training, ie that of an endurance athlete, a body builder or general fitness doesn’t have the black or white characteristics of a single rep on the deadlift. So measuring how hard an athlete is working is often done according to how they feel.
The standard for this was created by Gunnar Borg who came up with the Borg Scale of RPE.
His scale runs from 6-20 and is actually a measure of heart rate, ie a heart rate of 60bpm to 200bpm, of you report an RPE of 15 during a workout, it is expected that your heart rate reached 150bpm.
Many coaches simply ask you rate your RPE on a 1-10 scale, it’s simpler than 6-20 but doesn;t have the direct correlation to heart rate that Borg was aiming at.
Me crossing the line at the 2004 Dublin Marathon. RPE - pretty fucking high!

Me crossing the line at the 2004 Dublin Marathon.
RPE – pretty fucking high!

If we look at the training cycle of an athlete, we will clearly see a variety of intensities used. And by intensity I am referring to both definitions above.  A strength focused work training session will work according the first, a more conditioning workout out, the second.
So our Power lifter may spend a week working at 70% intensity, then the following week build to 80% and so forth until he sets a brand new 100% which translates to a personal best in that lift.
Bolton going for 100% intensity, evidence of this intensity is running out of his nose

Bolton going for 100% intensity, evidence of this intensity is running out of his nose

Our runner may do similar, but on an RPE scale, eventually topping out with a personal best time in his event.
After the PR, intensity will be pared right back and a new cycle begins.
For a fitness enthusiast, these scientific methods may not be necessary and the simpler RPE scale of 1-10 may be a better gauge.
I’ve just read Matthew Perrymans excellent kindle book “Squat Every Day” it’s a worthy read and talks a lot about RPE and it’s application.
He’ll tell you that your RPE is a good guide as it will keep you safe. In other words on the days you feel great, that 100kg Power Clean will float up with an RPE score of maybe 6 or 7. Later that week, the same weight will get a score of 8 or even 9.
Available on Amazon

Available on Amazon

Same lift, same weight, different day.
On the days it feel light, either load up the bar or crank up the volume. On the days it feels heavy, do the minimum and call it a day.
Even Jim Wendler, renowned powerlifter and author of the massively popular 5/3/1 ebook offers similar advice.
Some days your on fire, you get the work done and crank out extra, because you can. Other days, you simply get in, do the prescribed sets and reps on the main lift and bin the assistance work. Simple go home and save it for another time.
Now what about that white elephant in the room, that polarising force that is Crossfit?
Even Willie from the Simpsons does Crossfit these days!

Even Willie from the Simpsons does Crossfit these days!

As much as the marketing and internet bragging goes on about “elite” “hardcore” and “our warm up is your workout” nonsense, the truth is, the top crossfit coaches follow the above guidelines. They push the guys who can be pushed and reign in the ones who need to back off.
All the noise and nonsense bravado bullshit comes from the unfortunate majority of crossfits online presence, the ones who seem to be better at bragging than actually training and keep posting ridiculous claims and even worse videos all over the web.
So back to the original question, “can I or should I go all out all of the time, and if I don’t will I lose my hard earned fitness”
The short answer is no.
The only people who train all out all the time are the rank amateurs and also rans. The pro’s go in ebbs and flows, cycles of ramping up and backing off. And that goes for the elite crossfit games guys as much as it does the track athlete or the combat athlete.
And an important point to remember is that unless we are a professional athlete, we train to improve the quality of our life, we train to live, we don’t live to train.

Random Training

Does random training have a point?
Well yes and no.
A random image, you decide it's purpose.....

A random image, you decide it’s purpose…..

Why yes?
The point of randomised training is th development of non specialised fitness or General Physical Preparation (GPP).
GPP underlies all other forms of training, if the better your GPP the wider you foundation will be when you come to developing fitness for a specific purpose, ie a sporting event.
Why no?
If you only ever develop non specialised fitness, it’s very different to quantify. It’s almost impossible to track your development and to tell whether or not you are actually moving forwards.
Crossfit initially used so called “benchmark” workouts which would be repeated at intervals over the year. If your random training is moving you in the right direction then the times taken to complete these benchmark workouts, assuming all other parameters are constant, should reduce.
Randomised training is useful, but you still need to test and tests must be standardised.
So even in chaos, there must be order.
How often to we hear the champions of randomised training, the Crossfit community, talking about a new PR in the Snatch or the Squat, a new fastest time in Sally or whatever they call their workouts.
Does this sound random?

The problem with random is if you have specific goals in mind.
If your goal is to burn fat and look good, then fire away. If your goal is to be in the best possible shape in which to enter a 12 week pre fight training camp, then power to you. If your goal is to PR on the deadlift, then you’re going to struggle. If your goal is to get a certain time in the Dublin Marathon, you’ll be disappointed. If your training goals include mastering certain skills, you are going to have to pray to the training gods that these skills are on your workout of the day.

Work Capacity

You referenced Mr Wolfgang Brolley, a man with seemingly limitless endurance. But, pay attention to his facebook posts and you’ll see a variety of training going on.
Yes he runs Ultra marathons, which requires hours and hours of going out and running, day in day out in order to prepare. But he also posts about the days he stays home or the days he hits the weight room instead of the trails.
In other words, he follows the rules we laid out above about RPE and intensity. When he’s good, he’s good and goes for it, other times he backs off, sleeps in or gives his mind and break from the monotony and goes to lift heavy stuff instead.
All this took years to develop, Mr Wolf is no spring chicken, he’s developed his work capacity over the course of years.
You can only do the training you can recover from. For the better part of this year I’ve been putting in 3-4 one hour workouts per week, now I do 4-6 sessions roughly lasting 40 minutes or less.
Previously I’ve trained up to 10 times per week. Other times I’ve put in 4 hours per day, 5-6 days per week.
I have guys train with me anything from 1 hour to 8 hours per week, it’s down to their training needs.
Training volume, is all down to training goals.
You do the work that will get you the results you desire.
You can’t decide how you want to train, unless you know what your training for.
If your training for quality of life, 2-3 sessions per week, no more than an hour at a time is plenty, so long as the time is used wisely.
If your competitive, up to 5 or 6 sessions.
If your pro, it’s your life.
It is all about your individual wants and needs. After that it becomes about a wee thing called “progressive resistance” which is the underlying principle behind any and all physical training protocol. It’s about gradually building the work.

The Wrap Up

You say that “we are the experiment” which, to some degree is true, but there are plenty of tried and tested training protocols that are time proven to get certain results. In other words the experimentation has been done and it’s just a matter of following the program and doing the work.
Random training produces random results, this suits most as they don’t have specific wants, if you do, it doesn’t.
Food for thought indeed.
Dave Hedges

Ask Dave: I Gas Quickly When Drilling Power Punches, How Should I Train Them?

This question was asked on Sunday at the end of the Basic Self Defence Skills workshop.

I know the asker well. He’s no spring chicken and a lifetime student of the martial arts, a guy who has attended several workshops I’ve either run or hosted on self defence and even attended Wild Geese Martial Arts classes on and off for several years. These days he trains mostly out of his garage.
He’s the kind of guy who has thought long and hard, who has tried and tested, and when he asks a question, he’ll see right through you if you attempt to feed him with bullshit.

He’s my kind of student!

So when he asked the question in the title, I had to turn the answer into a blog post, because, like most of Brians questions, if you haven’t thought about this yet, you will.

So, you’re training to hit with maximal power, yet you find yourself gassing early.

This is problematic, especially for those with a self defence / combatives mindset.
Training for combat sports is very much centred around conditioning, it’s about building up to and peaking for an event where there are a predetermined number of rounds with predetermined work and rest times. Your opponent will be matched as closely as possible to you in terms of weight and experience.
If you stand on the door, work in any field of security/law enforcement or hold down a full time job and have a family you train to protect any time, any where against anyone, it’s a little more tricky to prepare.

That isn’t to say the protocols used by the combat sports athletes aren’t useful to you, they are. They just may not be ideal. So lets look at how we can train with maximal efficiency in minimal time.

Rule 1: Train like a sprinter or Weightlifter

sprint absThis is a debate I’ve had ad-nauseum with several other coaches, but I will stick to my guns here.
I do not, never have, probably never will mix high level skill training with high level conditioning training.
This means that if you’re working to train that perfect punch, you need to prioritise the mechanics of the hips and shoulders as well as the alignment of the skeleton upon impact above all else.
Fatigue will reduce the ability to focus upon and develop quality.

So we take a look at the training undertaken by sprinters and 1 rep max weight lifters.

These guys spend a large part of their training time doing nothing at all, yet they are some of the most powerful people on the planet. Yes, their cardio may not be that of a UFC fighter, but in the combatives world, our job is to end a fight as soon as possible, we’re talking three to five seconds. The longer it goes on, the higher the stakes get.

So, train like them. Short bouts of incredible effort with plenty of rest.
If you’re building pure power into your strikes, do them in sets of 3-5reps. Treat each rep as a single unit rather than a set of 3 reps (think along the lines of rest-pause training), so do one, quick reset, do the next one until the set is done. Then take all the time you need before repeating.
Maybe set a timer, have the buzzer go off on the minute, even every 2 minutes. On the sound, bang out three to five perfect and powerful punches. This goes on until the impact, speed or movement quality begins to break down.

If your happy with the quality and are looking for the ability to hammer in a cluster of strikes, be that a simple repeat of that big right hand or even a more boxing style left right combination, then we do things slightly different.
Set your timer now for 10 seconds work with 1-2 minutes rest.
On the sound, launch into the heavy bag with everything you have. Make it swing away and use your strikes to keep it at that angle until the 10 seconds are up, then rest.

Perform several rounds of this, as many as you can while maintaining quality of work.

Rule 2: Keep You Conditioning Work Short and Sharp

Short, intense bouts of conditioning work are the order of the day here. Simplicity works best, don’t add anything complex to these workouts as you’re looking to improve your power output, power endurance and strengthen movement patterns.
Use whatever equipment you have at hand, but focus on developing hip extension, Core Stability (including the shoulder) and upper body strength.
Train the body as a unit, as a whole.

For this I advocate circuits, especially Power Circuits and / or complexes.
Keep these tight, 20 minutes or even less. Work hard, but maintain quality. If you’re training with and anyone-anytime mindset, you can’t afford injury or burn out. These workouts must support and improve your main training, not hinder it.

Here’s me doing a power circuit:

Rule 3: Every now and then, go fucking nuts!

One of the greatest assets a fighter can develop, any fighter whether their arena is the ring, the octagon, the pavement or the jungle is tenacity.
It’s the will to push and push. To work beyond their physical limitations.

For this I advocate that from time to time, it may be once per month, once per quarter or even once per year, but be sure to take on a challenge that pushes you way out of your comfort zone. Something that leaves you sick in the stomach just thinking about it. The kind of thing that keeps you awake at night.
See it through, no matter how much you want to pull out before hand or how much you want to quit doing it. See it through.

You can make yourself more accountable for these kind of events by using them as charity fundraisers, or you can simply do it for yourself.

It could be entering a competition, be it Kettlebell lifting, Power Lifting, amateur boxing. It could be a marathon or a mile of walking kettlebell swings.
The actual nature of the event is unimportant, it’s the physical, mental and emotional stress it instills that counts.

A training session may look like this (example only):

1: Power emphasis: Rear Cross 10 sets of 3L/R, full bore strikes.

2: Speed / Power Endurance: Repeating Rear Cross (piston style) x 10sec burst x 5rounds L/R

3: General Fitness Power Circuit:
3A: Deadlift x 3-5
3B: Clean & Press x 6-8
3C: Seated Russian Twist x 6-8 L/R
3D: Anything goes bagwork x 30seconds
Repeat for either 3-5 rounds, adding weight to the deadlift each round, or do a 20 minute AMRAP with a set load.

4: Yoga type stretches to cool off.

If you don’t have time for this, separate it into two sessions, combatives specific in one session, circuit in the next.

If you train out of your garage, or even if you are training for general fitness but with a view to being able to protect your family if needs be, try this training template 2-3 days per week and see how you get on.



Ask Dave: How Does One Increase Their Capacity for Work?

It appears that the “Ask Dave” category is kicking arse. You comment, email and stop me in the gym to ask me to write about some of the best topics.
And I like that.

From time to time I get completely stumped by a question, which means I’m guaranteed to hit the books and scour the internet to fill that knowledge gap.

From time to time I get asked a question that stops me dead in my tracks, something that is asked in a way that I’ve not come across, or is searching deeper than the norm. I love these as it shows a genuine interest in fitness and training.

And from time to time I get questions like below, where people are asking how they can do a little extra to improve themselves, and that I love.

The following question comes from the US and a woman who says she came to fitness late in life, she’s in her 40’s, and from what I see, she’s killing it! We’ve chatted over facebook a few times and I’m blown away by her attitude, so when she asks something I do my best to answer.
I’ve a feeling this’ll be a long post, but first, here’s the question.

Shannon talks about her journey into fitness in the My Mad Methods magazine

Shannon talks about her journey into fitness in the My Mad Methods magazine

“May be a topic to write about?? How does one increase their capacity for work?

I have my regular work in my 6AM class and yet I still want to improve other fitness skills. Dan John talks about “greasing the groove” and if you want to be better at a skill, do it daily.

I found when I did an additional workout over lunch or after work for a period of time, that I got a little “wonky” in my brain… more tired, more whiney, more grumpy, too serious about it all. I backed off the add’l work and things improved mentally as well as physically in my AM class.

Tho’ it seems to me bodies can be conditioned to do more… people train for so many endurance events and do such demanding things all the time with life in general vs. an hour workout a day.

What are your thoughts about your clients doing more on their personal time and improving thier skill base? Curious.


So, work capacity and skill building. Two things close to my heart.

Lets start with the part on “Grease the Groove”
Grease the groove is a concept that has garnered popularity through Pavel Tstasouline. Dan John does a lot of work with Pavel and is a giant in the industry. If Dan gets behind and idea, then its a good idea.



But what is Grease the Groove?

Simply put, it’s practice. It’s taking a skill that you want to develop and practicing it as frequently as possible, but never to fatigue.
If we take strength and look at it as the skill of activating our muscle fibres in the right sequence, at the right time to create powerful movement, then we can see how frequent practice can be useful.
Any skill requires practice, if you want to get that perfect triangle choke, you practice it at every opportunity.
If you want to kick a ball like Johnny Wilkinson, you kick at every opportunity.
If you want to get good at pull ups, you need to hit them at every opportunity.
If you want to play guitar like Mark Knopfler, you pluck the strings at every opportunity.

But you must always, always ALWAYS prioritise quality over quantity. Always.

So when it comes to fitness related goals, we must avoid the one thing that most people actively seek in the gym, fatigue.
You must not approach this with the “workout” mindset, we’re not looking for the pump, we can’t afford to take a set to failure and we certainly don’t want to induce DOMS. Hell, we should barely break sweat.

So pick your lift. I mentioned pull ups and that’s the one that comes up the most in my gym, and pull ups actually do reward frequent training. But it could also be deadlifts, clean & press, maybe you’re learning the olympic lifts.
A basic start point to work with is to work at 50% of your training max. But even less is fine.

If I can do ten perfect pull ups and want to get better, then I’ll do sets of 5 over the course of the day.
If I can press that 32kg bell for 3, but want to do it for reps, lift it once, maybe twice in a set but do it frequently over the day.

Never go to failure, avoid fatigue at all costs. The more tired you become, the less total work you’ll be able to achieve, which is detrimental to what we’re trying to achieve.

So that’s Grease the Groove in a nutshell. It means practice.
My old karate instructor, Jack Parker, the man who bears much of the responsibility for who I am today, used a similar idea, but he told it differently.
Jack gave me the following nuggets of advice:
– Everytime you go through your bedroom door, do some push ups.
– Practice wherever and whenever you can, if your brushing your teeth, punch with the other hand, if you’re sat on the toilet, visualise your kata, while you wait for the kettle to boil, practice your stances.

They’re not his exact words, but you get the drift. He espoused grease the groove, before grease the groove was even heard of.

It is Jack’s teachings that form the foundation of many of my training beliefs and principles, add to that the research and reading from many other coaches. There is no doubt in my mind that people should practice outside of their training sessions and that greasing the groove is probably the best way to do so.

Next then is overall work capacity.

This is a deeper question for several reasons, no less so as Shannon is a touch over 21 years old.

We’ll start with a nutshell, a soundbite that is easy to understand and pretty well on the button:

You can only train as much as you can recover from

Now here’s the catch, as we age, we recover more slowly.
The harder we train, the longer it takes to recover.
Duration can take longer to recover from than intensity.

The more we do, the more fuel we need, so our calorie intake must go up accordingly. This simple fact seems to be the most often overlooked element when people up their training load.
There are too many nutrition programs out there to follow, and the main ones work. However I strongly advocate listening to your body before listening to any Guru.
It took me a long time to realise that I do well on a high fat intake but still need a good amount of carbs. Too few carbs and I’m not a nice man, too many and I’m sluggish and lethargic. Get it just so and I’m the duracell bunny!

Like I said, it took a good bit of experimentation to figure this out. You must do the same. have a nice food tracker, it’ll tell you your macronutrient breakdown. See what you do best on and stick with it.

Overall, we can adapt to anything, so if you want to train every day, even twice per day, it is possible. Just be sure that you have the recovery protocols in place, that means, stretching, eating, hydration and sleep.
We must also build slowly, gradually ramp up the work load, don’t just jump in with both feet.
If this means cutting your regular training back a touch while you add in an extra workout, do it. Once this is working, start upping it again.

Slow and steady wins the race on this one. Shannon doesn’t state how she trains or her training goals, so I can’t be too precise with advice here.

The next question that must be addressed is kind of the elephant in the room.
Is increasing my training volume going to work to my advantage or detriment?

Chatting to James Fennelly, Irelands strongest man and recent Worlds Strongest Man competitor. These strongman guys know a thing or two about work capacity. James’ specialty is the deadlift, yet he only trains the lift every two weeks.

355kg for 11 reps, gotta be the socks!

355kg for 11 reps, gotta be the socks!

Recently I dropped my training from 4 days per week to three with an optional fourth. As soon as I dropped a day everything improved.
My energy on the floor coaching went up, my overall productivity increased and I hit a PR pretty much every week while my injuries and well and truley in check.
So overall, it’s a plus.

Prior to this I was training 5 days per week in a competitive cycle, after that I started a 4 day strength program. I have in the past trained up to 20 hours in a week, but right now, with my other commitments, 3 hours is plenty.

Well three hours plus some playing and a bit of grease the groove and a 4 mile cycle to & from work each day….

So, we’re almost at 1500 words and I’ve probably created more questions than I’ve answered.
Lets see if we can round it up with a summary of some sort:

  • You can adapt to anything, just do it slowly.
  • You can only train as much as you can recover from, so prioritise this.
  • Get your calories. “There’s no such thing as overtraining, only undereating” – A bodybuilding maxim that holds a fair bit of truth.
  • Ask the hard question, “will added work hinder or help?”
  • No seriously, ask the question and give an honest answer.
  • Set your goals, then arrange your training to get you there, not the other way around.
  • Little and often is usually good advice.

Now, if that makes sense to you or leaves you completely confused, leave me a comment or hit the share buttons.



Ask Dave: Can you Still Make Progress While Training Without a Routine

Here we go with another Ask Dave question.

This one comes from Peter out in Ennis. Peter is a friend of mine, he drops by the gym every time he comes to Dublin and was a long time user of the (now defunct) online training service. He’s also the guy I use to proof read and edit my eBooks.

That last fact may surprise you when you read his question which I copied and pasted direct from his email with no alteration….

“I had a question/suggestion for you that might make fodder for one of your articles…
It has to do with assessing progress while using the sort of short intense programmes you post for lunch.
Kinda – how do you balance exercise and work style variety with a framework where you can accurately assess your progress.”

Essentially Peter wants to know if it is possible to track your progress while following an unstructured training program.

Most days I post up on the WG-Fit facebook page the workout that my lunchtime crew did. Each day it’s a short, full body workout using Kettlebells and Bodyweight exercises. Due to the nature of the lunchtime sessions, we have a variety of people coming in of a variety of fitness levels with a variety of goals. They also come in at various times and with varying frequency.
So while many do have bespoke training programs that they follow, many simply look at the workout written on the wall and get on with it.

So what’s on the wall?

Here’s a few from the last week or so:

1A: Split Squat x 4-6L/R
1B: Pull Ups x 80%
3 rounds

2A: Clean & Press x 4-6
2B: Double Swing x 8-12
3 rounds

3: Hand to hand swing x 100


1A: Push up / Renegade row combo
1B: Deadlift
1C: Cleans from dead start
1D: Thrusters
1E: Front Squat
4-6 reps of each, no rest between exercises.
4-6 rounds, rest as needed between rounds.


1A: Clean x 4
1B: Press x 1
Amrap x 15mins.


1A: (Jump) Lunge x 5L/R
1B: Swing x 20
1C: Sit Through x 5L/R
1D: Swing x 20
1E: Hindu Push Up x 5
1F: Swing x 20
AMRAP x 20mins


1A: Clean to Front Squat x 5 x 5 (don’t be shy with the weight)
1B: Push Ups x 12 – 15
2A: Clean & Press to Windmill OR Side Press x 5L/R
2B: Lateral Lunge x 6-8 L/R

3: Hand to Hand Swing x 100


As you can see, there is a variety of styles using a variety of exercises.

So can you track progress?


There are many movements that repeat, Front Squats and Clean & Press are staples. As are pull ups and swings. It’s a simple enough to monitor how these individual lifts are progressing.
But perhaps a better way of judging is the use of what crossfit call “Benchmark” workouts.

This is exactly how the Boot Camp program has run. The Bootcamp is a structured program but it begins and ends with a fitness test, a single test that brings together all the attributes we aim to develop over the 4 week program, which are:
Strength, Power, Endurance and Mental Fortitude.

If the second fitness test is done quicker than the first, then the program has been a success.

But back to our lunchtime fitness  sessions. Every now and them we throw in a test, or a favourite workout.
These workouts pop up more frequently than any others and always follow the same parameters and so can be used to check progress.

Can you perform the workout quicker? If yes, then you’ve improved your power output.
Can you perform the workout but do more reps? If yes, then you’ve improved your work capacity.
Can you do the same workout but with more weight? If yes, you’ve gotten stronger.

So from this we can see that a highly structured training program isn’t always necessary  unless you have specific goals in mind.
If general fitness is your goal, variety can keep life interesting while still providing gains.

Just be sure to test every now and again.