A Genuinely Functional Exercise for BJJ

17 04 2014

Sports specific training was a hot topic a while ago, riding in on the back of the whole “functional training” nonsense.

It’s still around, but I think it’s finally dying out.

But does that mean you can’t put together a gym program that is specific to the needs of your sport?

Of course it bloody doesn’t.

It does mean that taking the actions commonly found in your sport and doing them with a weight in your hand is usually a waste of invaluable gym time.

After all a BJJ player spends his life in a curled up (flexed) position working against the resistance of another human being, why then go to the gym and do more of this with only gravity as resistance?
Why would he put his spine under further stress and play deeper into any dysfunction their sport promotes?

Why not get to the weight room and work an exercise that will develop real strength while going a long way to rebalance the body?

In Fighting Back I look into the posture that becomes very common amongst many BJJ players and it becomes clear that all the time on the mat rolling in a foetal position tightens and shortens the musculature on the front of the body.
We’re talking Pectorals, especially the Pec Minor, the Abs and the Hip Flexors.

This means that while strength in these areas is absolutely necessary , there’s a good chance their getting worked adequately on the mat. After all, what do most people do when they don’t have a gym to train in? Push Ups and Crunches!
I’ll bet that your BJJ warm up contains dozens of push ups and crunches.

When you get in the gym you’d be better of with a simple, yet little known variation of classic lift.
I’ve made this lift a corner stone of many a BJJ player’s training program with great success.

It’s called the Snatch Grip Deadlift.
It’s like a regular deadlift but with a wider grip on the bar. This means you start in a lower position, asking more from the legs and with the arms wide to smoke the upper back. So you work the all important extension pattern of the body, learn to tighten the upper back and control the shoulder blades and develop ridiculous core and grip strength.

Here’s a clip I made especially for the Fighting Back manual

If this is a new exercise to you, start light and focus on form. Keeping a straight spine and the shoulders pulled back and down is more important than the amount of weight you can lift.
Limit strength is not a priority for BJJ, but a healthy spine and shoulders absolutely is. This variation on the deadlift will do more to balance the body than just about any other exercise you can choose, follow it with some high rep  1 arm kettlebell swings and you’ve a training program that will do more for you than 99% of all the other training advice you will see on the internet.


Click the image to Purchase

Click the image to Purchase


Dave Hedges

Fighting Back – How to Stop Back Pain & Improve Your BJJ Game

14 04 2014

It’s finally here!

It gives me great pleasure to finally announce the release of

Fighting Back – How to Stop Back pain & Improve Your BJJ Game

Click the image to Purchase

Click the image to Purchase

If I was marketing savvy, I’d have a really long sales pitch lined up for you here with testimonials and before and after pictures.
But I’m not, so I don’t.

What I do have is a line of BJJ players coming to me every day at my Gym for training. And amongst the GFT BJJ team that train out of Wild Geese Martial Arts, those that come to me for supplementary fitness work are the ONLY ones that don’t suffer with any form of back pain.
They also recover faster between rounds of rolling.
They pick up fewer niggling injuries.
They are simply tougher, which in a bout where skills are equal or even stacked against. This toughness can become the deciding factor in who comes out on top.

Personally I find BJJ fascinating.
I don’t train it myself, my martial preferences lie elsewhere, but from a strength coach / movement therapist point of view, watching the guys roll is fascinating.

Ok, I said fascinating twice there, but I can’t think of a better word.

The fluidity with which they move about on the ground, the agility they display and mad positions they bend their bodies into is incredible to watch. But the cynical coach in me is constantly wincing as their spines are loaded and flexed to degrees that they really shouldn’t.

Watching them train multiple times per week, and on the odd occasion getting in and rolling with them has had me thinking of what they need to train in order to simply survive the rigours of their chosen sport.
What movement patterns dominate the sport?
What muscles and lines of force (I love Thomas Myers Anatomy Trains thinking) are being prioritised by the sport?
What are the potential ramifications of emphasising these elements?
And what can we do about it.

This is my thought process for developing athlete specific training programs.
This eBook lays out pretty much the whole thought process.
If you read and digest the information in the book, you will be able to take it, and the sample training programs laid out in it and start to figure out how best to apply this to your own training.

I’ve given you details on how to warm up in a manner that will target all the common BJJ problem areas, there’s an equipment free bodyweight workout and gym workouts for training, 2,3 or 4 days per week.
These are carefully considered workouts that if work diligently, patiently and progressively will help you develop a strong body that is resistant to injury while becoming faster and more enduring.

Once you’ve toyed with them and the other information and exercises laid out, you’ll then be able to adjust these programs to make them more specific to your individual needs.

And that’s about as much of a sales pitch as I can stomach to write.

You can read more and purchase the book from THIS LINK


Dave Hedges

Warming Up for BJJ, Are You Doing It Wrong?

7 04 2014

Warming up is a pain in the back side. Everyone hates it, many skip it, other just go through the motions and the rest probably do it plain wrong.

Warming up for a weight session is fairly well documented, I’ve written about it myself in the past and I’ve a request to write about it again from a good and respected friend.

But today I want to talk about your martial arts practice. Specifically you BJJ guys.

Warming up for a sport isn’t much different initially to a gym warm up, we need to follow the same basic sequence:

Raise core temperature
Raise heart rate
Eliminate stiffness
Encourage full range of motion
Practice specific skill
Get the mind and body firing together

So those few minutes of holding a stretch aint going to cut it.

I’m not saying stretching doesn’t work, I am saying it’s a poor choice for a warm up.
What we need is movement. Stretch dynamically, ie go into the tightness and straight back out, do it multiple times, going deeper each time.
After a few reps we ought to feel the muscle just let go as it awakens and starts to fire. It ought to feel awake and ready to go.

Which is the whole point of warming up in the first place.

The next part of the warm up should be dealing with specific issues the sport brings up.
This is almost never done, unless the instructor is extremely switched on.

What do I mean by dealing with specific issues the sport brings?
Every sport has its particular movements and postures that are repeated more than any other.
For BJJ, it’s essentially the foetal position, curled up, spine and hip flexed.

So we often find BJJ players who have terrible extension. So why not work on that while warming up?

If we only ever strengthen the sporting postures, eventually the body will put it’s breaks on and prevent further progress or it’ll get injured. So spend time opening the hip flexors, extending the spine and retracting the shoulders.

The following video is one of the clips I have filmed to support the upcoming release of the Fighting Back eBook.
It shows the suggested warm up sequence from the book:

Now, if there’s a group of you, you may not all have rollers and bands. So here’s a bonus that only needs a skipping rope and less than 10 minutes:

Of course, if skipping is impractical, skip the skipping and instead run on the spot (get those knees HIGH!) or use star jumps.

The Fighting Back manual is still with my editor having the many spelling errors corrected, but we will be releasing it for purchase this coming Monday.

Be sure you get your copy.

Almost there!

Almost there!


Dave Hedges

Build a Power Back to Devastate your Opponents

18 09 2013

Today’s post is about power.

Specifically it’s about putting as much shocking, traumatic power as possible into the body of another human being.

In other words we are going to talk about one of my favourite subjects, throwing a punch.

In fact the entire post is inspired by an incredible photograph taken by the awesome Mrs Cecile “Ce’s the Day” Gordon.
Here it is (please click on the image to open Ce’s website where you can see more of her excellent fight photography…)

Cian Cowley introduces his fist to his opponents Liver...

Cian Foley introduces his fist to his opponents Liver…

Have a look at that shot. Not only has she caught the punch as it sinks into the body, but she also beautifully illustrates the anatomy of Cians back. He is notorious for his powerful body shots, and this image tells you exactly why.
See the Lat?
See the Teres Major?
See the Lower Traps?

You want to hit hard? These are key players.


Too often fighter (and the “normal” gym goer) focuses on the muscles on the front of the body and neglects the back. Gym goers want to look good in the mirror and fighters think that it’s these muscles that power their punches, as well as looking good in the mirror.

This emphasis on the front side of the body is a false economy. Many an older boxer or weight room enthusiast has banged up shoulders for exactly this reason. If instead you spent more time developing some back, your career may well be far longer and certainly more fruitful.

If we develop the back we are creating:

  • A better link to the hips.
    The Lats are the only muscle that connects the arm directly to the hip, and we all know that the hip is where we generate power.
  • A tighter core unit
    Have you read THIS POST yet? You should, it’s one of the most shared articles I’ve ever written and is all about what the core is and what it does.
    Your Lats are a big part of the core unit, they are basically your lower back as they attach to pretty much every lumbar vertebra and the top of the pelvis.
    So if you want to be able to effectively transfer force from the lower body to the upper body (and vice versa) you need to be able to stiffen the linkage in between, ie, the entire core unit as laid out in the post I linked to above.
  • Increased Shoulder Stability
    The Humerus (upper arm bone) sits in a very shallow socket on the body. It’s joint (the Gleno-Humeral Joint) is designed for maximal mobility, which comes at the price of stability.
    Now, lets say we’ve spotted an opening on our opponent, he’s moved just right and left the corner of his jaw wide open. You are positioned perfectly.
    You step just a little, throw your weight across, turn the hip, release the torque built up in the waist, your shoulder whips forward catapulting that left hook out to its target.
    It is the perfect moment.
    You make contact, exactly as you saw it in your mind.
    As you fist impacts into your opponents jaw, you feel a shooting bolt of white hot lightning around your shoulder blade. Luckily, he goes down, because if he didn’t, you’d be continuing the fight with one arm.This is a dramatised version of what actually happened to one of the Thai Boxers I work with while he was in Thailand. He hit his opponent so hard, the shock of the impact tore tendons in his rotator cuff.
    It’s been a long road getting him back in business.Going back to our anatomy class, the shallow Gleno-Humeral Joint relies on the Scapular (shoulder blade) to give it some stability. The shoulder blade relies on the upper back muscles to hold it steady so it can do it’s job.
    No upper back, no scapular stability. No scapular stability and you have very little structural integrity with which to take the shock of a heavy impact.
    And lets face it, we ALL like hittin really hard!

So what should we do?

Here’s a list of exercises that MUST be in your strength and conditioning arsenal if you are scrapper:

  • Deadlift – Gets the whole back strong, as well as the hips.
  • Kettlebell Swings – The deadlifts little brother, same muscles, different training effect.
  • Rows – Pull ups are great, but horizontal rows are probably more applicable. You can be on the rings doing Inverted Rows, doing bent over rows with a bar or dumbbells, or renegade rows for the counter rotation benefits.
    It doesn’t matter, do them. Pause at the top of the row to ensure full contraction and work a variety of rep ranges from high & light to low & heavy.
  • Band Pull Aparts – A light stretchy band can save your life. Hold it out in front of you in straight arms, stretch the band by pulling with straight arms and lifting the chest out to meet it. You’re doing it right when everything between your shoulder blades lights up and feels like it’s on fire!
    Do lots, change the angle frequently.
  • Scap ups – Imagine doing a push up without bending the arms, yup, you just shrug the shoulders. This trains the muscles under your armpits known as the Serratus Anterior. It’s a sexy muscle, so well worth developing, but it also stabilises the shoulder. Here’s a video of it being used in conjunction with a couple of other movements:

A big back is a sign of a powerful athlete. Build one and you will strike fear into your opponents because they know it is a launch pad for devastatingly powerful punches.


Dave Hedges

15 Way to Ensure your Training is Actually Functional

23 08 2013

Did you catch Wednesdays guest post from Mick Coup?

coupropeI decided to publish it as I was actually chatting to Mick online when I should really have been writing a blog, so I stole one of his.
The message in his post was spot on though.

Mick may be a self defence coach, but he’s no stranger to the weight room. His principle based approach to his fighting training is also apparent in his strength & conditioning work. It’s probably why we get on so well. We’re often swapping ideas on fight specific fitness as well as more general physical preparation.

One thing we agree on is that most of the current crop of “fitness instructors” are as mislead by the industry they operate in as the clients they train. It’s the reason places like WG-Fit and the growing number of independent gyms are becoming more and more popular.

One of the things that riles Mick and I up are those two little words


In fact it was the centre point of our recent conversation.

So here are a few ways in which you can ensure your training becomes actually functional:

  1. If the word “function” means to “to serve a purpose”, your training must bring you closer to attaining that purpose. If it doesn’t, its non functional.
  2. Using a particular piece of kit does not mean you are training in a functional manner, see point 1.
  3. The absolute basics of Strength, Stamina and Mobility must never be ignored.
  4. No one ever complained about being TOO strong
  5. Strength and Flexibility are two sides of the same coin, neglecting flexibility may lead to becoming muscle bound. Simple training through full ranges of movement on the big compound moves can be enough to prevent this.
  6. Master your bodyweight before hoisting iron. Building a foundation of Push Ups, Squats, Pull Ups, Dips, Jumping, Rolling, Sprinting, Jogging and anything you see kids doing as they play will give you the best foundation to build upon.

    Rings Push up

  7. When you do hit the iron, load the movement patterns you were working with just bodyweight.
  8. Think Movements not Muscles. Unless you are a bodybuilder or working out an injury, why isolate? Look at fundamental movement patterns and work to strengthen them. Saying  that, Bicep curls are great for elbow health…..
  9. If we think about movement patterns, then a horizontal push is a big movement. What’s the king of horizontal pressing strength?
    Why yes, it’s the bench press, so quit the internet arguments and accept that it’s almost impossible to load this pattern to the same extent with any other lift.
  10. Stop trying to replicate sporting actions in the gym, it’s a pointless and potentially detrimental to your performance. Instead load the force vectors of the action.
  11. The best and most functional training is the training that revolves around eliminating your weak areas, doing the things you suck at and redressing imbalances brought about by your primary activities.
  12. rounnerPrimary activities are the things you train for, such as being strong, fast or really really good looking. Training is a secondary action designed to get you there.
  13. If you enjoy it, do it. Don’t listen to the nay sayers.
  14. Progress only happens in the face of struggle, train like you mean it and keep progressing.
  15. The more experienced you become, the less tools and toys you need.


Dave Hedges

Next Workshop:
Kettlebell Lifting Levels 1 & 2
September 8th, 1000 – 1600
At Wild Geese Fitness, Dublin 2
Details HERE.

Kettlebell Instructor Training Certification:
October 5th & 6th, 0900 – 1700 both days.
Details HERE

Active Recovery, What is it, and how should I apply it?

15 08 2013

Here’s a question I get from time to time, and it’s also something I feel to be extremely important, especially for the majority of the people I train.

A huge amount of my crew are involved in contact sport, either full contact martial arts, Rugby or Ireland’s native GAA.

For my foreign readers, GAA comes in two codes, Football and Hurling.
Football is essentially a fight with a football involved, but in hurling, they’re armed with sticks. Have a look:

Sorry about the music…….

Anyhow, what’s that go to do with active recovery?

Well think about it, these guys all go through flurries of highly intense activity, often involving giving and taking heavy hits, interspersed with periods of lower intensity activity.
So the better able an athlete is to recovery between these bursts, the better able they will be to perform when the next flurry happens.

The ability to recover is paramount to athletic domination, especially if you’re performing in a chaotic, full contact environment.

This is a little thing that my original coach and Sensei, Jack Parker drilled into me as I was growing up. And it’s a lesson I have taken to heart.

So what is active recovery and how can we optimise our recovery between bouts/sets.

Active recovery is simply being active while recovering from the high intensity set. This means walking around shaking the arms and legs, bouncing up and down on the spot or taking care of a mobility issue as you bring your heart rate and breathing back closer to homeostasis.
As you do these motions, focus on the breath. Recovering the breath is key.

The better we breath, the more gas exchange we will have and the better our muscles will refuel.

Here’s the counter intuitive part though:

Exhale as violently as possible, at least at the start. Don’t pay any attention to your inhales, they’ll take care of themselves as a reflex action.
And we all know that reflex actions are faster and more powerful than conscious actions. So the harder we blow out, the harder we trigger the tonic breath reflex and the more air we will unwittingly suck in.

As your heart rate slows and normal vision returns, you can exhale gradually less aggressively, aiming to get as close to a normal breathing pattern as quickly as possible.
Adding in gentle movement helps the process, to be honest, I don;t know the answer why this is so and I’ll not bullshit you with made up facts, like so many other internet Guru’s do. All I know is that when I bang out a hard set of something, in fact just the other day I was training Kettlebell Long Cycle (Clean & Jerk). I did 5 x 2min sprints with a 1 min break between sets with a pair of 20kg bells. This was after setting a PR with my Barbell Power Clean into Front Squat.

As soon as the buzzer sounded the end of the second minute, I’d dump the bells, and forcefully blow air out repeatedly, essentially hyper ventilating, while at the same time very loosely bouncing up and down. Within 20 seconds, my breath had returned to a level where I could relax and switch to automatic. I still kept moving, chalking hands etc, but I was about ready and by the time the minute was up, I was well able for the next set.

During the strength work prior to this, I still used similar breathing practices between sets, but as it wasn’t such a cardio exercise, I wouldn’t need to be as aggressive with the breath, but I would stretch the lats, shake my arms and legs and just keep moving gently until ready for the next set.

Where people go wrong is they work between sets, this is NOT recovering.

Yes we can Super Set, but that goes like so:

1A: Squat
1B: Push Up
Rest 30-60 seconds between 1A & 1B, repeat for three rounds.

Here you do your heavy squat, rest a while, do your active recovery breathing and shaking, then knock out your push ups, repeat the active recovery before returning to the squats.

Your still recovering. Yes you get less time between 1A and 1B than you would if you were doing just straight sets, but in total, you get a full recovery period, two full recovery sections and the time you’re doing push ups. Often times you end up resting longer between sets of squats than you might have normally.

What we want to avoid, unless pure work capacity is the goal, is to go back and forth between two exercises without rest. This will not breed strength or power gains, but will increase your basic endurance capability.

So to wrap up:

Take time to recover between sets.

During this time, to exhale vigorously triggering the tonic breath reflex and promoting gas exchange.

Move, but keep it gentle. Bouncing loosely or doing gentle mobility work is ideal.

Applying this principle will aid you either save time in the gym, increase work capacity or become a more efficient athlete out in the arena.

It’s a topic I’ll be discussing in much more detail this Sunday at the Bodyweight Training Workshop.

Try it.


Dave Hedges


7 Exercises to Increase Punching Power

2 08 2013

There are a few things I really love doing.

They are (in no particular order):

  • Playing with my Boys
  • Playing with my Dog
  • Playing with my wife
  • Seeing my clients reap the rewards of their training
  • Lifting heavy things lots of times
  • Hitting stuff, really hard.

Lets talk about that last one.

I like hitting stuff really hard. I’ve been around the martial arts my whole life, starting Karate at the age of 11 and studied a variety of arts in the 25 years since that day.
I also spent a good bit of time working on Doors and did the odd Private Security job.

These days I co-own Wild Geese Martial Arts and have a fair amount of scrappers come to WG-Fit to get their physical attributes built up in order to become more efficient at their chosen means of hurting people.

So for strikers, those that prefer to punch their opponents into submission, here are a few of my top training drills to get maximum power into every strike.


The squat may be lauded as the king of all exercises, but for real full body strength, the deadlift trumps it.
All strikes come from the ground via a powerful hip extension and tight core. What does the deadlift train?
Oh yeah, tight core and powerful hip extension.
Load that bar and lift it off the floor. Stick to sets of 1-5 reps, around 3 is ideal and do several sets.



Power Clean

This is the deadlifts little brother.
Power that bar from the floor and catch it on the shoulders. This is a little technical, so get someone to take you through it (remember I said “Power Clean”, don’t let some Oly lifting purist convince you to do anything else!”
We’re training the same things as the deadlift with this, but with the addition of some serious speed and explosion.
Again, around 3reps for a few sets is good.

The Power Clean just before the catch

The Power Clean just before the catch

One Arm Push Up

While many talk about sports specific training and try to replicate a punch with dumbbells and bands, I prefer this. Personally I’m not a fan of replicating skills in a gym environment, but I do believe we can replicate force vectors and the OAP is as close as you get from a strength perspective.
I tend to work these to technical failure, ie when stop when form starts to break down. But if reps start clocking up, try elevating the feet or adding a weight vest.

A "do anywhere" drill for striking power

A “do anywhere” drill for striking power

Standing Russian Twist

All strikes, and for that matter all combative techniques involve a huge amount of rotary strength from the spine. There are few exercises that trump this beauty for strengthening this pattern.

Also called the "Twisty on your belly" by one of my black belt members!

Also called the “Twisty on your belly” by one of my black belt members!

Circular Cleans

This is a little known kettlebell exercise that can also be performed with clubbells or sledgehammers.
Again we are looking at the rotation but also building a lot of stability through the shoulder.
High reps on this will leave you exhausted for days.

oooh look, a video!

One Arm Clean & Jerk

Again, we’re talking force vectors, and the One arm long cycle pretty much hits it all. High reps with a heavy weight feel just like you’re slogging it out in a scrap. This is one of the most effective drills for building that power endurance to get you through those later rounds.

Sledgehammer Slams

Pure combat conditioning. Get a big old tyre and beat the crap out of it with a sledge hammer. Go for time with this and use it either as part of a circuit or a finisher.
In fact, a great conditioner for any fighter to end their workouts with is a combination of Kettlebell swings and Sledgehammer slams, occasionally I set the two stations apart and have the poor bugger sprint (often dragging a sled) between the two.
Yeah, they always love me after that one.

Myself on Swings, Dave G (our Muay Thai Coach) on the hammer

Myself on Swings, Dave G (our Muay Thai Coach) on the hammer

This is far from a comprehensive list, but if you do nothing but the exercises listed, then you’ll notice your striking power and endurance will skyrocket.

Here’s a wee power circuit combining a few of the above exercises:

Have fun.

For more on how to arrange these into circuits and power circuits, check out the WMD manual, written specifically for Martial Artists and hard charging folk.

Click Here to begin Training like a Combat Athlete

Click Here to begin Training like a Combat Athlete


Dave Hedges


Workshops for 2013:

Bodyweight Training
Wild Geese, Dublin
Sun 18th August, 1000 – 1600

Kettlebell Training – The Basics (Levels 1 & 2)
Wild Geese, Dublin
September 8th, 1000 – 1600
This workshop is a prerequsite for those attending:

Kettlebell Instructor Certification (yes, the inaugral certification!)
September/October. Details TBA

One more workshop to be added in November and possibly one in December (I’m thinking a two day self defence course in December due to the seasonal increase in alcohol related violence.)

And that’s it!

If you want me to come to your place to run an event, you can book me for Nov/Dec or it’s a wait till next year.

Building a Workout part 1 – Movements

31 07 2013

hands upI’ve been fielding a few questions of late regarding the topic of how to construct a workout.

This is quite a big question. But one well worth answering.

To be honest, there’s no one simple answer as there are as many workouts as there are people training.
But as with all things, there are basic principles which can be applied almost universally.

I’m going to start with a quote I stole from reading Dan John’s work, but seeing as he stole it from Dan Gable, I’m sure he won’t mind!

“If it’s important, do it every day. If it’s not important, don’t do it all.”

So there, you go.

Everything you need to know about training, life and love in one simple sentence.

Dan John

Dan John

But lets look at it from a training perspective.

1 – Movements.

Like many strength and performance coaches I view the body as a series of movement patterns rather than individual muscles.
This view isn’t idea if you’re a body builder but for athletic and even pure fatloss, it’s a winner.

The basic movement patterns are:

Upper Body:
Vertical Push – Military Press and the like
Vertical Pull – Pull Ups, Pull Downs
Horizontal Push – Push ups, Bench Press
Horizontal Pull – Rows

Lower Body:
Hip Hinge or Lower Body Pull – Deadlifts, Swing, Clean
Squat or Lower Body Push – erm, Squat. And lunge etc

Yes, it’s a simplistic model, but it honestly works a charm as long as each box gets ticked on a regular basis.

We can also add in spinal actions, especially rotary motions as well as flexion and extension.
But the big guns are in the list above.

So to put together a solid workout or program we may choose:

Military Press, Bent Over Row and Squat.
1 arm clean & press, Inverted Row and Double Kettlebell Front Squat

All the other movements can be ticked in the warm up, but we focus on the three main movements with vigour.

Next time we train it may be:

Bench, Pull Up and Deadlift.
Push Ups, Pull Ups and Kettlebell Swings.

Simple eh?

You can expand on this anyway you wish according to your individual training wants and need, but the basic principle will never change. Tick all the boxes, but emphasise certain ones more as your actual training focus for that day / week / month.

Right now, my own training at the moment looks like this:

Every day:
Empty Barbell – Deadlift, RDL & Bent Over Row, High Pull, Clean, Front Squat, Press, Overhead squat. All for 5-10 reps depending on the day.
Barbell Power Clean to Front Squat, work up to my daily minimum then see where I go. I usually aim for around 10 reps at this weight or more with whatever rep range suits ( 1 x 10, 10 x 1, 2 x 5, 5 x 2, 3x 3 etc….)
Then I’ll do a few other movements to plug the gaps. My current choice is from:
Day 1: Kettlebell Snatch
Day 2: Dips & Chins
Day 3: Ab Wheel Kettlebell Long Cycle

You’ll see how each box gets ticked. Obviously the emphasis is the lower body with the clean & squat every day, but each other movement gets hit during the warm up and at least one other time in the week.

Of course, this is just my training at the moment.
But it does serve as an example of how I build training programs.

I’ll cover a different aspect of developing a workout next week.


Dave Hedges

To Deadlift or Not To Deadlift?

19 06 2013

Last week over on the WG-Fit facebook page, one of my lads posted the following article:


Dropping the Deadlift from Scramblestuff.com
Click the image and the article opens in a new window

The article caused some of my lads some concern.

They love BJJ and they love to Deadlift.

When an article suggesting that they stop deadlifting came out, much concern was shown and I was inundated with questions. When I said that the article was actually correct, jaws dropped!

jaw drop

Dave? what the hell?

Now don’t worry, I haven’t lost my senses, and there’s no way I’d ever tell you to NOT deadlift without a damn good reason.
And if you re-read that article with a fresh eye, you’ll see the author actually says the same.

The question comes when we ask, “How strong is strong enough?”
At what stage does the pursuit of ever greater numbers in the gym become an issue for an athlete?
When does a strength & conditioning program cross over from being supplementary to the sport and when does it become the main deal and actually hinders athletic performance?

With the exception of my Kettleheads GS Team, all my guys train to improve at something other than being good at lifting weights.
Amongst the crew are the BJJ guys, Muay Thai, Kyokushin, Rugby, Gaa, Triathletes and game for a laugh lunatics who’ll do anything that sounds like a laugh.

Only the Kettleheads are interested in lifting gradually more weight for more reps in Kettlebell Sports competitions. I’ve no power lifters, Oly lifters or strongmen.

So we only need to get people as strong as they need to be, not as strong as they can possibly be.

There comes a point where the pursuit of strength, in any given lift, not just the ol’ Dead, becomes a full time job.
The powerlifting community are prime examples of this. Look at their training protocols, their dietary needs, their rest requirements and ask yourself if this kind of lifestyle will really help me with my next fight?

World Record Deadlift, but at the cost of mobility and endurance.

World Record Deadlift, but at the cost of mobility and endurance.

Chances are it won’t.

Is the risk associated with maxing out on the Big Three week in, week out, really worth it when you’ve a big event on the horizon, maybe a month from now?

Hell no!

So how and when do we decide how much to lift and when to back off?

Well, that all down to the planning procedure for the event at hand.

Whenever one of my guys comes to me and says that there’s an event on the horizon, or a new client comes in with goal in mind, I ask them several questions, the most important of which is:

“So, what do you suck at?”

I want to know all about your weaknesses. To be honest, I couldn’t care less about your strengths, they’re already strong. I want to know all about where you fall down, what is holding you back and what needs to be trained to get you in fighting fit condition.

If you need brute force, guess what, you’ll be deadifting till your eyes bleed.

But if strength isn’t an issue, why bother? Why not work to increase speed or reduce recovery time? Do you need more endurance? How’s your agility? Is that old injury holding up?

These are the real reasons we may take out your favourite lift.

One BJJ player came to me with the request for explosive power and agility. Do you think I had him grinding out heavy deads?


We still deadlifted, but they were well down in the exercise order, I think they were the third or forth lift of the workout. We started with jumps and plyos, then Olympic variations such as cleans and high pulls and only then moved to deads. The whole time a close eye was kept on the speed of the bar, so any grinding lifts meant that we had too much weight on the bar.
We did the same with squats too, as soon as bar speed dropped, weight came off.

The Wife doing some cleaning

The Wife doing some cleaning

Now, the same lifter later in the year requested strength and bulk, he’d lost a stack of weight working on stamina and agility. So then, we did heavy (still not grinding) deads with quite a high volume.

My enduro guys spend a lot of time with single leg work, I think their spines take a beating already with their sports so heavy deads are a risk factor unless they are well out of season.

So, I’ll wrap this up now with a round up…

1: Deadlifts are possibly the best strength building exercise available, but they do have risks associated.

2: IF brute strength is not a priority, the deadlift is not a priority.

3: Substituting other lifts in place of the dead is sometimes the best way to progress, be it the RDL (as in the original article) or the Olympic variations as I prefer.

4: Always take the time to read an article thoroughly before getting excited by it. The original article states clearly that only strong lifters are the ones who substitute.

5: You don’t always need to max out on the dead to make progress on it.

6: Your sport is more important than your lifting numbers, unless big numbers ARE your sport.

Can we drop the deadlift?

Yes, just like we can drop ANY lift.


Dave Hedges

Building Real “Functional” Strength in a Hurry

17 06 2013

What do you do when you’ve a limited window of opportunity in which to make strength and conditioning gains before an event?

I know this sounds like poor planning and preparation but this is exactly what happened to a Bjj fighter recently.

He’s been training pretty hard at his Bjj for the upcoming event and also using taking advice from the Guy who runs the “functional fitness” out of the place he trains.

This coach had the fighter swinging light kettles badly but seems to centre everything else around the TRX straps.
I’ve nothing against the TRX but I really don’t believe it can be used as a primary training tool. Especially if the goal is to increase speed and explosive power for a fight.

So the fighter was brought to me where we had a discussion about his wants and needs and put a plan together.

Turns out we only had three weeks until the fight date, that means two full weeks before a taper into the event. Far too late to use any of my normal methods. I usually insist on an 8-12 week commitment.

So in two weeks what can we do?

Simple, train as often as possible, daily if possible.
Instead of targeting the muscles, we’re going straight to the control centre, the central nervous system.
Each day we use the same lifts for the same sets and reps, the weight however will change according to how the body feels.

The lifts are:

1A : Deadlift x 5 x 2
2A : Clean & Press x 5 x 2
2B : Pull Up x lots x 2


Deadlift - as functional as it gets

Each time you train warm up and go to your minimum training weight. If this feels good, keep working up heavier, if you feel sluggish from the Bjj practice, stay at the minimum.
This is a style of auto-regulation where you go by feel rather than following set parameters. If your training daily, especially if your preparing for an athletic performance where the specific skills training is your priority, this style of training allows for progress but will allow you to monitor your fatigue.

In two weeks with high frequency work on the big lifts, you should notice significant improvement in your strength and athleticism.
Just be sure you always hit the daily minimum and whenever possible go over it.


Dave Hedges


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