2 Ab Wheel Variations, because it not hard enough already!

core-training-129x300Anterior core training or “Dem Abz” is important.

It’s kind of fallen out of favour in this era of functional training, especially as any abdominal training is usually seen as vanity work and the domain of body builders and those horrendous group gym classes.

But in athletic terms, having a midsection that is strong and powerful is essential.

Proper full body compound lifts like the Squat, Deadlift, Swing, Snatch, Push Up and Military press all work the core, as do Kettlebell essentials like the Turkish Get Up.

But sometimes, it’s worth giving them some extra love.

There are probably more Ab training tools and tricks on the market than anything else, but one has stood the test of time. The humble Ab Wheel.

It is one of my favorite training tools. One reason is that the roll out takes the abdominals into a stretch position as it loads them. This, I feel is a better way to train for most. Especially as most athletic power movements involve the stretch loading of the core musculature, so being strong at length and resisting that stretch is kind of important.

Here are some abs:

sprint abs

The Ab wheel roll out is rough. There few enough people that have the strength to do them from standing, most struggle to do the standard kneeling roll out.
But once you can do it, the jump from the knees to the feet is huge, too much for most. So in this post I want to share two variations that I like to use with my guys once they’ve mastered the standard roll out.

First the Pennate Roll Out
Roll one to the front, one to the left and one to the right. Here’s a video:


Knees Elevated Roll Out
This increases the load on the abdominals quite significantly so take care to keep the hip tucked under and a rounded back (the opposite of when you squat or deadlift)

Both of these up the ante a lot, but not as much as trying to go from the feet.

If you do want to go from the feet, I recommend the method outlined in Fighting Back and use a ramp of some kind to roll up onto.

Try these, just don’t sneeze the day after!


Dave Hedges


Random Friday Stuff

Had a client cancel on me last minute, so I’ll take this opportunity to write a few words down for you to stare at instead of doing whatever it is you usually do at this time on a Friday….

First this:

1 – Cat saves boy from Dog Attack!


Now I’m definitely a Dog man, but I’ve had a cat in the past. But see this cat? It’s bloody Ninja!

A take away point with some relevance to fitness training and all round awesomeness?


Identify the problem (in this case, a dog is attacking my best buddy)
Formulate a plan (take out the dog)
Execute the plan with maximum aggression (dog gets taken out)
Move onto next thing

You don’t have to be a cat attacking a dog to learn something from this, but you can learn.

In your fitness training, have you identified your problems?
Are your glutes not firing?
Has your progress stalled?
Are you moving towards your goal?

If so, have you formulated a plan to fix this?

Are you now executing that plan like your life depends on it?


2 – Book Review

Mr Gan Power of Tramore Tactical Fitness and Tramore Kettlebell Club has just reviewed my Fighting Back eBook.
You can read it by clicking the image:


3 – A really cool article in the New York Times called “You Walk Wrong – How We’re Wrecking Our Feet Wih Every Step We Take”

Now, this is ironic that I am reading this just after the people behind the Vibram 5-finger shoe are being sued for false claims about the effects of barefoot simulation shoes.
So they took the message and spun it out to make money, well, hopefully they’re now learning their lesson because, as the NY Times points out, our feet are designed to move and shoes are preventing this happening.
However, taking a knee jerk response and simply shedding your shoes and going out pounding the pavement bare foot, is just as bad!
These athletes and tribesmen that run barefoot their whole lives, have run barefoot their whole lives. They don’t sit for 8-10 hours a day and then strap on their Nikes to pound out 10 miles on concrete.
No, they have run about in their bare feet since they could walk. You on the other hand were put in shoes and told not to run in the corridors.
So to suddenly jump up and start running, especially over uniform concrete surfaces, is a recipe for disaster.
You want to run barefoot or in minimalist footwear? Good, but get out to the woods and the hills and do it.
Break in slowly
Don’t throw out your other runners, still use them.

The problem, in  my opinion, is not really the shoe at all. It’s the way we move and what we move on.
Back when I lived in the English Lake District I used to run the fells, along with some of the knarliest bastards ever to lace up.
These guys were balls of sinew, barely human at all. They hardly ever ran on roads or any flat, even surface and other than twisted ankles, they as a group seemed to have fewer leg or running related issues than the road runners.

Uneven terrain forces you to constantly adapt, to constantly change stride length, stride frequency, ground contact times, weight shift. In fact no two steps will be the same.
Whereas on road, each step is like groundhog day. Can you say “Pattern Overload” or how about “Repetitive Strain Injury” ?

Running doesn’t injure you.
Shoes don’t injure you (unless their really don’t fit, or are simply stupid)
The way you run and what you run on is what injures you.

Oh, I suppose I’d better post a link to the article, click the image:

NY Times Barefoot


Dave Hedges



Knackered Knees part 2, It’s Not Your Knee!

I didn’t post much last week, my apologies, but it seems the “knackered Knees” post seemed to tick the boxes for many of you. It’s the most read post this year, so thank you, especially if you shared it.

I’m going to continue on the theme of knees in today’s post then.

knobbly knees

A huge, sorry, HUGE part of your knee struggling is down to the joints above and below not doing their job properly.
You see, the body is a system, a single integrated unit. It will do its absolute damnedest to keep functioning to its absolute best. The problem is, if one section of the body isn’t working right, something else will have to take up the slack, and pretty soon will burn out, passing the load to something else, which will burn out passing the load onto something else, which will. Well you get the idea.

Gary Ward, the man behind Anatomy in Motion told me on our first meeting that, “There’s no such thing as a dysfunctional body, it is always 100% functional”

Gary Ward

Gary Ward, the founder of Anatomy in Motion

As he said this I seriously considered getting my coat and asking for a refund on the course.
But I thought I’d allow him continue.

You know, I’m nice like that…

He then gave an analogy, which I loved and will now share, albeit paraphrased somewhat.

Gary said, “Imagine you have three cups each with an equal amount of water in them. This water represents 100%. Now if I pour water from one cup into the other two, I now have an empty cup but still 100% of the fluid.”

It took a while for this to sink in for me. But after taking many of my regular members through the Anatomy in Motion (AiM) assessments I am amazed that they can do the incredible things they do despite the “dysfunctions” the assessment process highlighted. Their 100% may not be equally distributed between all their “cups” but they were certainly using it to the best of their ability.

Keeping an AiM mindset during my regular work training a variety of people in various settings, I can see their “dysfunctions” screaming at me, yet these guys are currently pain free and doing awesome things.

Take today as an example. I was asked by our BJJ coach to warm his lads up and give them some new stuff to play with. So I did. We had a blast, lots of laughing and joking as I took the lads through animal movements, AiM movements and some of John Wolf’s EKG drills as well as some partner games.
I’ve seen these lads train week in and week out and am in no doubt that they’d tie me into a knot in a heart beat, despite my strength and endurance advantage, their skills would easily negate me and I’d be toast!

However, as we went through various movement patterns, I could see areas of weakness and probable future injury sites.

Sure enough by the end of the session one of the lads asked about a certain problem. When he asked, I spotted every ear in the room pricked up. This was a common problem.

His problem, tight hip flexors.

Hip Flexor

Hold on Dave, you said you were going to talk about knees…

Yes, coming to that in a moment, bear with me.

Now, hip flexors.

If there’s a muscle that give people crap, it’s the hip flexor. The ramifications of your hip flexors being tight go far and wide, here’s a few of them:

- Sleepy glutes
- Tight IT band
- Poor VMO function
- Low back pain
- Tight Hamstrings
- Weak Abs
- Anterior Pelvic Tilt
- Turned out feet
- and much much more

But the good news, the body will still perform to the best of it’s ability. You just may feel it, the next day.

Take another look at that list, tight IT band, poor VMO function and tight Hammies.
Does that sound like a combination of events that will keep a knee happy?
Consider that the hamstring and IT band both cross the knee joint and the VMO is pretty much the “Knee muscle”
If these structures are all working at less than 100%, something else must make up the deficit.

Tight hamstrings, well what else assists in bending the knee? Yes, your calves, so they’ll be tight too.

No VMO, what else straightens the knee? The other side of course, the Vastus medialis runs to the inside of the knee, the vastus lateralis is on the outside. The VL and the rectus femoris have to work that bit harder meaning the force is now going down the outer edge of the leg, and where’s the IT band?
Yup, on the outside. How do you think that will that effect the position and tracking of the knee cap?

All in, it’s a bad situation for the poor old knee joint.

If your knees are bothering you, check your hip flexors, including the Rectus Femoris.

The Thomas Test is the easiest and best well known way to do this, google it and you’ll get literally hundreds of articles on it, it’s a good test and it’s also a good solution in itself.
But on your own it can be impractical.
For the most people your best served by simply bridging.

I have many other drills for you, for example an AiM 3D Hip Flexor stretch but to describe that is a monster article by itself.
For most people, most of the time, the bridge is relatively idiot proof with many progressions to use as you improve.

The Activate Bridge plays a central role in the training of ALL my BJJ guys, and features front and centre in the training advice laid out in the Fighting Back book.
Rather than bore you with several paragraphs of instruction, here’s a video:

You’ll see in the video we use a resistance band, but a belt or even a training partner can be used to provide you with the resistance.
This will give your glutes little choice but to get involved in the fight while giving the hip flexors the option to relax.

Once they the glutes are singing and the hip flexors are relaxed, you need to move. You need to go through some of your drills in order to to for the body to realise that having functioning glutes is a good thing and that the letting the hip flexors relax from time to time really does allow the body to move more fluidly.

I recommend getting up and doing some bodyweight squats and lunge movements. After the bridge, these should feel like a dream to perform, as the hips and knees will flow much easier.
Deep walking lunges with the back leg kept as straight as possible will further open up the hips and strengthen the glutes, hamstrings and vmo.
Your poor tortured knees will think it’s Christmas after the 10-15 minutes it takes to bridge then integrate with the squats and lunges.


Dave Hedges
Some feedback from the Fighting Back eBook:

Fighting Back sales“The first thing that struck me was how fucking relevant that information is. I’ve done BJJ for years and coaching BJJ athletes in a Strength & Conditioning setting these same things are seen almost across the board with athletes who’ve given an appreciable amount of time to that sport. This is a product I’d recommend for anyone who deals with BJJ athletes, or anybody with postural issues in general. So, everyone! Great stuff mate well done” - Alan Sherry, Crossfit Strength & Performance

“I have been intensely involved in the martial arts for over 34 years, and with Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu for 20. In that time, I have competed at more tournaments that I can remember, and have put in a lot of time on the mat. In doing so, I have done some damage to my body, both through the physical training as well as the wear and tear of life. I wish I would have had Dave Hedges’ book Fighting Back years ago. In simple language even someone like me can understand, he gives you the prescription not just to fix bad backs, but to make them better and stronger so you can keep training hard for years to come. I truly enjoyed this book and have already implemented his advice into my own personal training regimen. I heartily endorse this book, and look forward to more from Dave.” - Cecil Burch, 1st degree Black Belt in Brazilian Jiu-jitsu, http://www.iacombatives.com


Knackered Knees, No More!


Lets take a show of hands. All those who’ve NEVER experienced knee pain or injury put your hand up.

Those who’ve had PAIN in their knees put your hands up.

Yeah, as I thought, a few more that time.

It’s a joint that get hammered by just about everything we do.

Yet, with a bit of smart thinking and common sense we can keep it strong, health and functioning long into our twilight years.

What we can’t protect against are the bangs and impacts we take as part of our sports and martial arts practice.
But as the knee is the number 1 non contact injury reported, it seems the heavy impacts are the least of our worries!

All through last year I had the pleasure of working with Seb, a big Polish BJJ player who wrapped his leg around a lamppost when he crashed his motorcycle. So I’ve had a very good look at the knee, how it works and how to look after it.
I was helped out by top Physiotherapist, Mr Andy Watson over at the Raglan Sports Medicine clinic as we took Seb from knee reconstruction, regaining the ability to walk, to run, to squat to return to BJJ and eventually to bring home gold from the European BJJ Championships.

That 14 month period has taught me more than any amount of reading and researching could have. But even still I did the reading and research, just to be sure.

So what does the knee need to stay healthy?
My mate “Kettlebell” Jim Higgins just wrote about that on his blog. He’s coming at it from a BJJ viewpoint, but if you’re not involved in BJJ, he’s still on the mark for the wider audience.

Have a read HERE


I want to expand on the strength and mobility section of Jim’s article.

For mobility, you should aim to be able to sit comfortably in a deep squat. When I say deep, I’m talking hamstrings against calves deep, If you can get down there and stay there, it’s fair assumption your knees are being supported by ankles and hips that are doing their job. Three joints harmoniously working together through their full ranges of motion.

Lack of movement in 0ne places greater stress on another. If the hip is stiff and the ankles don’t move well, that leaves the knee (and low back) to pick up a lot of the slack.


Al Kavadlo showing a box pistol

How we achieved this with Seb was through the use of the Pistol Squat. More specifically, the Pistol Squat to a box.
Now, with Seb as our example we have a man used to training, but with a catastrophic injury. But I’ve used this same process with “normal” folk, and barring the odd special exception, it’s a winner if patience and diligence are applied.

We’re looking to simultaneously develop strength and stability while creating an environment for mobility to flourish.
Damn that’s a sexy line, you can tweet that if you like by CLICKING HERE

Start with a box that allows your knee and hip to both flex to 90 degrees.
If you have to stick an elevation under your heel, so be it, do it.

Now with your hands on your hips and the non weight bearing leg held out in front, stand up. Be sure to fully extend your hips, even tuck it under at the top of the rep by flexing your glutes and lower abs hard. Sit back down under control, and that’s 1 rep.

When you can do 30reps per leg in 2 sets or less, lower the height of the box.

The strength you’ve built, will allow you to go that bit deeper, yes people, being strong will get you more mobility than stretching alone ever will.

Each time you get to 30 reps, lower it until eventually you can get a full range free standing Pistol Squat. Anytime you wobble or lose balance, that rep doesn’t count. Be strict, we’re talking about building up to 30 PERFECT reps where each one looks identical.

Great Form

Great Form


Getting this done will take time, but it will bullet proof those knees better than almost anything going.

How often should you train this?
Why not everytime you train?

Seb did this 5-6 days per week, sometimes twice a day. He ended up being able to pistol squat while holding a 28kg weight for three reps per leg.

Have a look here:

You may not want that level of strength (why not?) but 3 days per week would be the minimum necessary dose to get the most out of this challenge.

All that means is getting to your BJJ class, Rugby training or Gym session 15 minutes earlier and getting on with it.

The Fighting Back Warm Up and the 30 reps per leg of the box pistol will take you 20mins, 30 min tops and will leave you better warmed up than just about anything else your competitors are doing.

Click the image to Purchase

Click the image to Purchase

Let me know how you get on.


Dave Hedges




Get Up and Get Awesome

If it's good enough for Iron Man.....

If it’s good enough for Iron Man…..

I think it’s fair to say the Turkish Get Up is one of my favorite things to do.

It’s also pretty fair to say there’s a lot of people who would agree with me that it is an incredibly valuable lift, for a number of reasons.

It’s also fair to say that a lot of people talk a lot of bollocks about the lift.

There are many ways to work the get up depending on the type of response you’re trying to elicit from the body.
And just the other day I had two very different lads in who have get ups programmed into their workouts but for very different reasons, and as a result, they do the lift differently.

The two lads are Don and Les. Don is a BJJ player, fairly new to the sport coming into it with very little of any sort of training. Much like most people who take up a martial art, it was his first real training experience.

Les on the other hand is a bit of a machine. He’s a hockey player (proper hockey, not that padded up ice dancing thing…) and loves to train hard.

The two lads both partake in sports that live in a forward flexed posture. The hockey player is hunched over with his stick on the floor to control the ball. The BJJ guy, especially the new guys, are usually on their backs in a foetal position trying not let the better guy fold them in half.

Don realised early on that he needed to get some serious core strength going, so he came to me. At first he couldn’t hold a plank steady for 30seconds.
With some “gentle persuasion” he accepted my homework assignment and  couple of weeks later he passed a 2min plank test.
But he despises the plank, and to be fair, 2mins is plenty,.at least that’s what Dr Stuart McGill says and who am I to argue.
So what next? Various exercises, all very core centric with an emphasis on developing the get up.
Some days he worked volume with a comfortable weight, other days he’s pyramid up to a max.
Just the other day a 75kg Don did this with a 40kg bell

In total he worked up to the weight before managing 3 reps each side. It was only the second time he’d worked the 40.
Interestingly, a shoulder injury he picked up from an overzealous submission attempt has magically cleared up.

He first noticed his shoulder had cleared up, ie no longer clicked or ached when he started working with the 32kg bell regularly.

Which brings me to Les.
As I said, Les is a different animal. Les is completely anterior chain dominant, he lives in his sporting posture, forward flexed, internally rotated shoulders. Much of what I talked about in Fighting Back direct applies to Les.
It’s no surprise his shoulder blew up and he ended up in physio before coming to me.
Now we have him doing a bottoms up half get up every warm up.
In the beginning he could barely hold the weight out. A strong lad being crushed by an 8kg bell shows a huge problem.
So Les worked the movement with no weight, than slowly added load in the standard grip until eventually he could manage a single bottoms up rep.
This clip shows him performing the drill on his injured side

Remember this is him simply warming up. His training is very much about getting that posterior chain kicking in, but before anything happens we use this drill to turn on the rotator cuff and integrate the shoulder into the rest of the body.

Already in just a few weeks Les’ symptoms are reducing and he’s able to take on more movements.

So we have one exercise, the Get Up, being utilised in two very different manners according to individual athletes needs.
There is no one best way to perform any given exercise, especially something as global as the get up.
The mainstream kettlebell community may deride Don for not bridging up during the get up, but his hips are not our focus. We do other work for that.
They may also be baying for blood because Les doesn’t roll enough, not realising that to get to where he is now is an achievement in itself and a constant work in progress.

The key point here is that we can take an exercise and break it down, tailoring it to suit the athlete. We don’t try to make the athlete suit the movement, we.make the movement suit the athlete.

Spend time with the get up, get to know it intimately, and while a half bodyweight get up is the standard we want to achieve, for many, like Les, it’s not realistic.

Dave Hedges

A Quick Guide to Upper Back Strength & Shoulder Health

Your shoulders take a beating.

Especially when your training partner knows 99 ways to hyper extend the joint to cause enough pain to make you tap before ligaments & tendons begin to tear or the joint becomes dislocated.

It’s not just your opponents attempts to submit you, but the general posture of a fighter that can stress the shoulder joint. Having a rounded (kyphotic for you anatomy nerds) upper back encourages the shoulder blades to “wing”, which stretches out the muscles in the mid and upper back region preventing then from doing their job.
And their job is to control the scapula (shoulder blade) whose job it is to keep the shoulder joint stable.

Poor scapula control leads to poor shoulder stability and a vastly increased risk of shoulder injury.

You must keep the upper back strong and get the muscles firing.

I don’t know if you’ve heard of Joe DeFranco, but he’s one of the world’s top strength coaches and an influence of mine.
It’s through his work that I learned of an exercise called the handcuff drill. It’s the first drill featured in this clip:

The other exercises shown are also of great value for resetting the shoulders and strengthening the upper back, but the handcuff drill, being equipment free is one that should be added to your BJJ warm ups, in fact I feature it in the Fighting Back manual when I discuss how to warm up.

As part of your supplemental strength work for the upper back, there is a one drill that is a must.
It is the Inverted Row, ideally on rings or a TRX unit.

The Inverted Row is classed as an upper body horizontal pull. Which if you think of the direction of pull used most in your BJJ, it’s against an opponent to the front of you, so mostly horizontal.
But why this drill really works is that it is closed chain. That means your body is moving through space.

Using the rings allows the hands to rotate and move relatively free which will allow the scapula to retract as you pull and protract as you lower. Add a 2-3 second pause at the top of the pull and you’ll feel your rhomboid muscles scream for mercy!

Here’s a clip:

Shoulders are one of the most commonly injured joints across the athletic spectrum, but in a sport like grappling where it is actively attacked.
Take care of your upper back as a priority, your training efficacy and longevity will appreciate it.

As a wee bonus, here’s a video of European BJJ Champion Seb going through a conditioning set incorporating the Inverted Row:


Have you got your copy of Fighting Back yet?
Click the image:

Click the image to Purchase

Click the image to Purchase


Dave Hedges

A Genuinely Functional Exercise for BJJ

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

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?

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

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