Tag Archives: fitness

Martial Base Fitness Experiment

The Goal: Functional Strength With Less Wear and Tear

This is a great goal for everyone, but it’s especially important as we age and recovery times lengthen.  The older I get the hard it becomes to maintain my ability to perform certain martial/wrestling strength movements without staying sore and crippled half the time.  So I’m experimenting with what I’m calling “MBF” which stands for “Martial Base Fitness.”

Which Got Me Thinking

I watched a few of Pavel’s Strongfirst videos (this is not an endorsement and I haven’t read his books) and they reminded me that I have had success in the past with something very similar to his “greasing the groove” philosophy.  I always called it “greasing the gears.” So I came up with this new program.

The Idea

The idea (as I intro’d in Training Involution #124is that frequent low-rep, low-intensity sets will get you stronger and keep you healthier than infrequent, high-intensity sets. Or as my son once told me, “Just because you’re not doing white-out calisthenics doesn’t mean you aren’t training.”


  • 3×5 sets 2 days/week at 95% load = 3 x 5 x 2 x .95 = 28.5 reps
  • 3×5 sets  5 days/week at 76% load =  3 x 5 x 5 x .75 = 57 reps
  • Double the reps means you get functionally stronger with less risk

Program Outline

Four or five days a week I’m rolling 4 dice to arrive at a list of 4 exercises (see photo right).  Then I set a timer for 8 minutes and do low-intensity sets of no more than 6 reps each until the timer beeps.

Here’s a breakdown of what’s on the dice:

Dice 1 – Upper Body Dice 2 – Lower Body Dice 3 – Core Dice 4 – Whole Body
Push-ups Ankle Picks Shrimps Splays
Pull-ups Shots Jackknifes Reverses
Handstand Push-ups Jump Squats Crunch’n’punches Bear Walks²
Divebombers Squats Back Bridge¹ Bodybuilders
Sit-out Push-ups Duckunders Forward Bridge¹ Get-ups
Hop/Clap Push-ups Mountain Climbers Pikes w/ Triangles Sit-outs

Today I did 4 sets of Ankle Picks, Forward Bridge¹, Sit-outs, and Push-ups (only 3 sets of Push-ups because the timer beeped). 

I will post results in a couple of months

If you are doing anything similar and/or if you have relevant past experience, please comment below.

¹ When I do Bridges, I do them one of two ways: either with weight or with rocking — gently! — forward and back 6 times, left and right 6 times.  I never rock with added weight when doing MBFD because they would violate the low-intensity focus of this routine.

² When I do Bear Walks, I do 6 laps of the CF Temple space, approximately 18 feet per lap, about 100′ total.

Airdyne from Hell WODs

My wife wants to get some exercise. I got her a Schwinn Airdyne because these things involve both upper and lower body, burn serious calories, and are low impact compared to most other equipment (my wife has bad knees and ankles).  Also I know I’ll use it too — especially in the winter when it’s too cold to ride my actual bike.

I’ve been using these things since the 90s.  Whenever I’m travelling for work, I hop on the dusty Airdyne found in the corner of every dingy hotel fitness room in North America.  It’s always available because most folks look down their noses at old, familiar things.

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But people who know their stuff will tell you that Airdynes are no joke.  

Check out these Airdyne workouts I stole from this really cool article.  They are the brainchild of the Michael Blevins of the famous/infamous Gym Jones in Salt Lake City.  This is the gym that made the stars of 300 look like Spartans and Henry Cavill look like a Son of Krypton.

1. The Finisher

Add this to the end of your normal weight-lifting session for increased fat burn and peak power. Aim to finish in the same amount of time each round—don’t slow down as you progress.

Time: Approximately 20 minutes.  Plan: Pedal and pump your arms as hard as you can until you burn 20 calories. (Shoot for under a minute.) Rest for 2 minutes. That’s 1 round. Do 7 rounds.

2. Airdyne to Hell

After a light lifting or body-weight workout, use this interval scheme to burn serious calories and bolster your cardio.

Time: 12 minutes (less is better).  Plan: Ride until you burn 50 calories (do this as quickly as possible, aiming for 1 calorie per second). Rest for the length of time it took to do so. Repeat, this time burning 40 calories. Continue, burning 30, then 20, then 10, resting as long as the previous period of effort.

Mallet, Chain and Medicine Ball Fitness


When I made this mallet to use for fitness training I laughed until I cried real tears. Just holding it in my hands made me feel like Mario smashing barrels in the original Donkey Kong game!

The handle is a solid 34″ maple stick (couldn’t  find a good piece of hickory) and the head is a 6 lb hunk of cedar log.

The stick is about 1.25″ diameter at the bottom and 1.75″ at the top. I drilled the log hole 1.5″ and slipped it over the handle. A few head-down raps on the patio and it’s held there by friction alone. It ain’t going nowhere.

For Mettlecraft month at the martial arts club (in Cabal Fang martial arts, Mettlecraft is the discipline of building fitness, determination and guts) we’ve been bracketing every session between a full pyramid of calisthenics at the beginning and 10 or 15 mins of conditioning at the end.  A pyramid is 1 of each exercise, 2 of each, 3 of each, 4, 5, 6, etc. up to the peak  (usually 8 to 12 depending on the exercises) and then back down again.  Total reps equals the square of the peak.  In other words, a full pyramid to 10 is 100 reps.  For the closing we’ve been doing HIIT workouts (High Intensity Interval Training).

Here’s a video of the HIIT we did on Saturday, featuring the new 6 lb circus mallet, a 20 lb chain and a 12 lb medicine ball. We ran 18 rounds (6 circuits) of 30 secs with 10 sec transition breaks between.  As I say in the video, this is how you burn off Christmas cookies.


10-Minute Grappling Conditioner

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Regular auto tires are great for building core strength for grappling and wrestling, and for general fitness.  Click the pic to download the booklet at PTDICE.com

Grappling.  To avoid confusion,  when I say “grappling” I am referring to stand-up wrestling or clinch fighting, not wrestling.  The following conditioning drill is meant to improve fitness and hone valuable grappling skills.

10-Minute Grappling Conditioner

  • Set your timer for 10 minutes.
  • Grab the medicine ball with palm-to-palm grip and squeeze against your upper chest as hard as you can while completing a deep Rear Lunge.  Switch grip and lunge back with other leg.  Do 10 Lunge/Squeezes.  Note:  Left palm should be down and “sword bone” of left forearm should be punishing the ball when you step back with right leg.  When you switch, right palm should be down, right forearm bone against ball, left leg lunges back.
  • Put the ball down, face the heavy bag, and immediately Splay 10 times as fast as you can with good form.  Forearms against the bag; legs, from thighs all the way down to shoelaces, flat to the floor with toes back.
  • 10 Diamond Push-ups on the medicine ball.
  • Repeat until timer beeps, taking as few 12-second breaks as you must to finish.   Try to make 6+ sets in 10 minutes, but don’t feel bad if you can only do 5.

Coming soon: The Calisthenics Codex

Calis Codex cover final for webGet ready — pre-orders will be opening soon.  More to come!

More about the eBook:

Centuries old and still going strong, calisthenics remain the most effective and efficient way to get in shape and stay that way. Whether you are a beginner just starting out, a dedicated weekday or weekend warrior craving variety, or a hardcore athlete looking for a fresh perspective or a new challenge, “The Calisthenics Codex” has something for you.

People who know the truth about functional fitness — from elite military forces to boxers, MMA fighters, models and actors — rely on calisthenics to realize their goals. Are you sick of not being in the kind of shape you want to be in? All you need to remedy the situation is a copy of “The Calisthenics Codex”, fifty square feet of available floor space in your basement, garage, den, or backyard, and a little bit of attitude and determination. What are you waiting for?

Over 2,000,000 possible workouts! “The Calisthenics Codex” features 50 calisthenics, each fully explained, illustrated with photos, and arranged into lists that target your interests and fitness level. Choose one of 12 different workout types and then select exercises from 26 groupings like “Gym Class Flashback”, “Steampunk Nightmare”, and “Self Destruct Sequence” to create workouts that suit your goals, interests, and fitness level. The possibilities are virtually endless.

Beginners get started right, with easy calisthenics such as Front Planks, Dirty Dogs and Lunges, and learn how to warm up, cool down, and stretch. Advanced players are presented with brutal exercises like Barrel Roll Push-ups, Hindu Squats, and Bodybuilders, and face tough challenges like “Gut Check” and “Death March.”

And as an added bonus, you’ll find out how to complete any workout and get your name in the Calisthenics Codex Hall of Fame!

No equipment. No gym memberships. No excuses.

Fitness circa 1941


The FM 21-20 U.S. Army Basic Field Manual for Physical Training, circa 1941 (click photo to view .pdf file)

Check this out — it’s the 1941 edition of the FM 21-20, otherwise known as the U.S. Army Basic Field Manual for Physical Training.

I went searching the web for log exercises for us to use at the martial arts club, and I found this thing.  Spent the best part of an hour skimming it.  If you’re anything like me, you’ll find it fascinating how much has changed and yet how much has remained the same, when it comes to working out.  Example: they may call them “Squat Thrusts” but whether you call ’em (I refer to them as Burpees or Down-Ups) they’re still great for fitness.  And as popular now as they were then.

As for those log exercises, I think if we’re going to do the ones they have in the manual we’re going to need a smaller log!

Fitness for Knife Fighters

This is one of our dull practice knives.  We cut them out of wood and wrap the handles in orange duct tape.  Orange makes it clear to observers that we aren't trying to actually kill each other.  And it keeps them from getting lost easily.

We cut our practice knives out of wood and wrap handles in orange tape. Orange identifies them as dull to casual observers and keeps them from getting lost easily.

This month at my martial arts club we’re practicing knives (specifically, knife targeting and precision).  We try to tailor our Constitutionals (the fitness part of our workouts) to mesh with whatever we’re working on technique-wise.

Now, the two fundamentals of using any weapon are (a) retention and (b) command and mastery.  In other words, you have to be comfortable holding and using the weapon, and you must retain it all times (dropping it is a serious no-no).

With that in mind, here is what we came up with. Note that this could be easily adapted for use with other weapons as well.

Constitutional Fitness Drill for Knife Fighters

All exercises must be completed while holding your dull practice weapon.  Each time you drop your weapon you must complete 50 Push-ups (on palms with the unarmed hand, on knuckles with the live hand).

  1. Russian Squats (25 reps each way, knife hand forward)
  2. Get-ups (25 reps, switching knife between hands each rep)
  3. Sit-ups w/ Slash (50 reps, lock feet around/under object, slash an “X” at the top of each rep)
  4. Help-ups (25 reps each side)
  5. Push-ups (25 reps on left palm and right knuckles, 25 reps on right palm and left knuckles)
  6. Sprints (25 reps out and back.  Mark off about 20′ and slash an “X” at each turn.  Switch knife hands half way through)
  7. Twisters (25 reps.  Instead of touching the floor on each side at the top of the crunch, slash an “X” on the floor on each side)

This should take about 15 minutes.  And it should help you with retention, command, and mastery.