Martial Arts, Fitness and Bonding

A few years ago one of my sons went to a birthday party at a local Taekwondo school.  He had a great time and was interested in giving it a try.  Almost three years later he is still at it and in addition to having a great time he has improved dramatically.

I have been interested in giving a martial art a try for a few  years now and last year for my birthday my wife bought me twelve lessons for Krav Maga.  Krav Maga is a self-defense fighting system developed for the Israeli military and is derived from a combination of techniques sourced from various other martial arts including Aikido, Boxing, Wrestling, Judo, and Karate.  I finally started taking the classes this past February and immediately felt like I was learning valuable skills.

Once the corona virus quarantine hit classes came to an end.  Thankfully the school began offering online classes via Zoom.  This has been a true blessing because my son and I were able to continue our classes.  Not only that but my other sons have been doing the online Krav Maga classes with me during the quarantine.  This has been a great bonding experience for us and given me more chances to help them learn new life lessons.

Due to the expense and time commitment required for the classes I don’t know if I will continue to take them once the quarantine is lifted.  But for now it has been a chance to better understand how to defend myself and my family if I needed to, round out my fitness and bond with my sons.

Changing up my fitness

I have always had a short attention span with my training plans.  A couple of years ago I actually managed to follow a plan for fifteen months.  The first twelve months were focused on strength training and then I placed an emphasis on conditioning for the next three months as I prepped for the Murph Challenge last Memorial Day.  Due to the success I had with the Murph Challenge I continued with the program after Memorial Day throughout the summer.  Last fall I was once again all over the place with my training.  Some of that was due to experimenting with different modalities but some of it was caused by injuries that kept me from being as focused as I wanted to be and caused me to have to work around injuries to my back and shoulders.  As I healed and started to feel better earlier this year I went back to follow the same routine that I had utilized last year to prep for the Murph Challenge.  In spite of seeing results and getting back to a good fitness level I decided a few weeks ago to switch up my training.  There were multiple reasons but one of the biggest was that I had done that program so many times that it was feeling stale to me.  Due to feeling physically as good as I had in a long time the staleness was holding me back and keeping me from getting where I wanted to be and this was proving frustrating.

Being on the new training plan for about three weeks now has been eye opening to me.  I felt that I was in pretty good shape after around three months on a strength and conditioning program that has always put me into my best condition.  Upon switching to this new program I discovered that I was not in as good of shape as I thought.  And this is where I realized that I need to continually challenge myself by switching up my routine and trying new training programs.  Even though for me the proven program was still producing results I don’t feel I was pushing myself as hard as I should have been due to my familiarity with it.  I was only working to my previous capabilities and not pushing myself beyond it.  For me personally my best results come when I have a new program which pushes me and is new and fresh or if I am training for a specific goal with a deadline.

For the first time in my life I am now following a subscription based program.  It has been fun to try new things and to constantly be changing things up.  I have been excited each week to receive the new programming and look forward to seeing the results after I have been with this program for a few months.  Hopefully it will keep me motivated and help me to keep producing results.

 

Burpees

One of the best exercises I have ever done are burpees.  There are many different variations of the burpee; burpee with a pushup, burpee without a pushup, burpee over a barbell, burpee over a box and burpee with a pull up to name a few.  One of the great things about burpees is that you can change them up in so many ways.  My favorite variation is the burpee with a pushup.

The burpee is one of the few exercises that combines strength training and cardiovascular training into one.  With this one exercise you can work your entire body. You will strengthen your arms, chest, shoulders, back, core and legs all while giving your lungs and heart a great workout.  Burpees do this by combining a squat, squat thrust and a pushup into one exercise.

But while burpees are a great exercise which has a lot of benefits they are also horrible while you’re doing them!  They will quickly get you breathing heavy, sweating profusely and make your muscles feel like they are jelly!  When I’m doing them I always start off feeling like I can do them forever but quickly that goes away and I start questioning why I ever wanted to do them.  In that way burpees also help train your mind.  Often your mind has to fight with your body to keep going.  It quickly becomes a battle of wills.  After I’m done I always feel fatigued but happy I did them as I know they are making me fitter and healthier.

burpees

 

Dealing with Injuries

While I’ve been training consistently the last few months it seems I have had to deal with one injury after another.  I’ve had issues with my always wonky lower back, hip pain, knee issues and shoulder injuries.  I’m used to dealing with the lower back and knee issues.  This time it was my shoulders, specifically my left shoulder, my good shoulder that caused me to change up how I was working out.

I’m still not sure what I did to it.  I simply started noticing discomfort each time I tried to bench or do pullups.  That discomfort suddenly became agonizing pain.  I was sure I had torn something, probably a rotator cuff.  Fortunately I was able to work around it and keep going.  I rested the shoulder and focused on lower body exercises and conditioning.  Thankfully I am feeling pretty good now and this week have started going all out again.

DIY Dip/Chin Belt

In order to add weight to my chin ups and dips I recently made a dip/chin belt.  This is one of the easiest DIY fitness devices to make.  All that is needed is some chain, a pool noodle (make sure it is the kind with a hole in the middle), a carabiner and duct tape.

Once you have your material it is easy to put it together.  First you will need to measure the pool noodle and cut it to the correct length.  The easiest way to do this will be to wrap it around your waist and cut it to fit you.  I cut mine a bit longer than what I thought I would need and then cut it down later after a trial run.  After you have the pool noodle cut to the correct length run the chain through it.   Put the carabiner on one end of the chain.  Next wrap duct tape around the entire pool noodle.  Make sure to use a lot of duct tape.  If you don’t, the chain will eventually start to pull through the pool noodle.  This will be the longest part of the process.  Now you can slide some weight plates or a kettle-bell on to the chain and you’re ready for weighted pull-ups, dips or even hip belt squats.

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Make sure to start light and work your way up.  I found that a 20 lb vest felt much lighter than 20 lbs on the belt.  So far it is working great.  It is comfortable, strong and versatile.

Training Direction

When I began this blog I had three goals in mind; increase strength, become fitter and gain some muscle.  I started with a program that combined strength and conditioning but had strength as the main focus.  During this first year I got stronger, slightly increased my fitness and gained five pounds of muscle.  In March I switched to a different program that combined strength and conditioning but this one had conditioning as the main focus.  The reason for this was I wanted to put up a good score on Murph in May.  Mission accomplished as I did better than expected.  I intended to then switch to more of a bulking program over the summer to gain some muscle.  But I was on such a high from the score I received on Murph that I continued doing what I was doing.

Recently I decided I was ready to change things up a bit.  But I was undecided on how to go about it.  Due to my physical limitations; knees, shoulder and lower back I was wondering if it was time to play it a little safer.  As I explored that option I found it to be boring and I wasn’t ready for that.  I enjoy varying my workouts by type of exercise and intensity.  I didn’t want that to end.  After looking at different options I decided to program my own workouts.  What a novel concept!

I decided to use the following weekly format that I can best describe as my version of Crossfit or functional fitness or whatever term you want to use:

  • Monday – strength training followed by a short intense circuit.
  • Tuesday – body-weight only circuit done at high intensity.
  • Wednesday – explosive strength training followed by a short intense circuit.
  • Thursday – some type of interval or circuit using the airdyne.
  • Friday – strength training followed by a short intense circuit.

So far I have found myself re-energized by being able to follow a program that is tailored to what I need and what I enjoy.  I am able to have a good structure while providing variety in the circuits I use.  Training is no longer stale and I look forward to training each day.  I once again have a clear training direction.

DIY Landmine Base

Landmine exercises are typically done by placing one end of a barbell on the floor (typically in a corner of the room) or into a landmine base attachment.  I had been interested in trying out some landmine exercises in the garage gym for a while now but kept running into different problems.

  1. Cost – A landmine base that does not attach to a power rack can cost anywhere from $60 to over $200.  Power rack versions can be purchased for around $25 but I do not have a power rack so this wouldn’t work for me.  There are also versions which can be inserted into a stack of weight plates on the floor.  But I do not have enough plates to make this work for me.
  2. Space – You can simply place one end of the barbell on the floor in the corner of your room.  However, since my garage is used for storage as well as my gym, this would not work for me either.

My solution was to make my own landmine base.  I scrounged around and found a piece of particle board and an old 2 x 8.  I even had the screws to put it together so my cost was $0.

landmine 2

So far it works great.  I put a dumbbell or other weight on the back to keep it from moving and am able to do any landmine exercises I want anywhere in the garage.  So far I have been doing front squats and one arm presses with it, but I plan on adding more landmine exercises to my fitness journey in the future.