Lift Three Times and Call Me in the Morning

I started lifting weights with sincerity two years ago.  Since then I have noted significantly enhanced martial arts performance, reduced lower back pain, and improved functional strength.

After listening to Dan John on the Art of Manliness Podcast I added the Bear Hug Carry to my regimen.  Here’s me walking off 110 lbs using a Size L Ironmind sandbag.   I had worked my way up to 140 lbs using a heavy bag strapped with weight plates, but that started to feel unsafe.  So  I bought the bag, de-loaded 25% and restarted the progression (details below) because the new set-up requires me to squat really low and that really changes the game.

So, what’s my prescription?  Add Bear Hug Carry to your training regimen.  Start light and work your way up the way I did.

To be clear, I’m not a weightlifter,  power lifter, or bodybuilder.  I’m just a martial arts instructor in his mid-fifties who’s looking to stay strong as long as possible.  I’ve got grand-kids I want to be able to spar with someday (assuming they want to do martial arts of course).  

I’m not trying to give my life over to weights — martial arts are my primary focus!  So I just train three days per week for about half an hour.  Here are my current lifts and PRs:

Mon/Fri Dumbbell Bench Press (60@ hand) Yoke Squat (175 lbs) Bear Hug Carry (140 lbs)
Wed Handstand Push-ups (6 reps) Sandbag Get-ups (just started) Back Bridge (110 lbs)

I use a slightly modified version of the Greyskull LP program, which means all lifts work as follows:

  •  2 warm-up sets — 2 x 10 at 50% of your current weight.
  • 3 working sets — 2 x 5 at 100% of the current weight.  Third set, as many reps as you can.
  • Never push to failure — stop at the rep before failure when you say to yourself “I’m probably not going to make the next rep with good form.”
  • Rest 1 minute between sets.
  • Add or reduce weight each and every training session.
  • If last session you got 5 to 9 reps on the third working set, add 2.5 lbs to an upper body lift or 5 lbs to a lower/whole body lift.
  • If you did less than 5 reps on the third working set, de-load 10% next session.
  • If you got 10 or more reps on your third working set, double the standard increase.

If you’re a martial artist training with weights, please share your thoughts and insights in the comments — thanks!


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