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
This 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.