Tag Archive: conditioning

Over the last couple of years I have become a big fan of Martin Rooney. I have most of his books, subscribe to his newsletter, frequently visit his Training for Warriors website and enjoy his blog posts on T-Nation. My brother-in-law recently forwarded me an older post of Rooney’s co-authored by Bryan Krahn entitled “11 Myths of Warrior Training”. This piece, as well as Rooney’s “Train Like a Man” series of posts on T-Nation, have made me realize that for far too long I have neglected good old-fashioned strength training in favor of metabolic conditioning and circuit training.

I pride myself on not getting sucked into fads, on doing my own thing rather than subscribing to particular programs such as CrossFit, Insanity, P90X, etc. However, I do confess to being influenced by the general trend toward the methodologies inherent in these types of high-intensity, functional training workouts, and I became hooked on hard-core circuits, interval training and other conditioning workouts after being introduced to them when I trained in mixed martial arts a couple of years ago. There is nothing wrong with these training methods, but my problem is that I have relied on them almost exclusively, to the exclusion of any traditional strength training.

When I refer to “strength training” in this context, I am speaking about “maximal strength” as Ross Enamait defines it in his excellent 2006 article, “Strength Training for Fighters.” As described in this piece, there are other strength attributes, many of which can be improved by metabolic circuits. But I have clearly neglected the attribute of maximal strength, which is the foundation for all other types of strength. While this is in no small part due to chronic shoulder problems that prevent me from doing heavy pushing exercises or overhead pressing of any kind – and a deadlift-induced groin strain that left me concerned about a hernia – I have allowed the pendulum to swing too far away from strength training. It is time to swing the pendulum back in the other direction.

BJJ is my primary focus, and I try to make class three times per week. The gym is just cross-training for me, maybe two sessions per week. Those sessions will now be focused on maximal strength training. If I can squeeze in a third gym session, it will be metabolic. If I am preparing for competition, I will shift the mix back toward metabolic conditioning. But the rest of the time, BJJ sparring itself should provide enough conditioning.

It is all about goals. Swimmers, runners, and people focused on general fitness might do fine sticking with circuits. But right now I feel the need to improve maximal strength, and it is strength that can help my BJJ and prevent injury. And I’m not afraid to admit that there’s an element of vanity too – I wouldn’t mind spending some time putting on a little more lean muscle mass.


Just 2.5 pounds shy of a 300 lb deadlift. Not an impressive amount of weight in absolute terms, but it has been a personal target since I started deadlifting – which is only about a year ago, despite years and years of working out prior to that point. 300 lbs wouldn’t be bad considering my bodyweight (just under 155 lbs), although I really need to get to 310 to hit the 2x bodyweight benchmark. In the interest of full disclosure, this is with a trap bar – I moved to this from the straight bar a couple of months ago after a bad shin injury (resulting from box jumps gone wrong, but that’s a blog post for another day). But I have found this to be a safer way of deadlifting anyway, particularly for a guy my age that is not trying to be a competitive power lifter and does not want to be sidelined from BJJ because of a lower back injury. Ironically, I may actually be over 300 lbs already: my calculation of 297.5 lbs conservatively assumes that the trap bar is 45 pounds, although the gym owner claims it is 50; if he’s right, then I’m already over 300. (In case you’re wondering about the odd poundage, it just happens to be the conversion of kilogram-denominated plates loaded onto the bar.)

As for today’s workout…

Recently I’ve been adhering to a couple of adages I picked up on T-Nation. One is “the warmup is the workout,” and the other is “if it’s important, do it every day; if it’s not important, don’t do it at all.” (I wish I could locate the specific post/article on T-Nation where I first saw this, but I can’t. However, at least a portion of the second one is mentioned here.)

My important, every day (well, not actually every day, but every workout) are: pull-ups; kettlebell swings; pushups OR dumbell bench presses; and single-arm landmine 45-degree shoulder presses. The latter two pushing exercises are done with light weight as part of my self-prescribed shoulder rehabilitation process.

So finally, today’s workout:

– Jump rope and dynamic stretching

– 3 sets of single-arm landmine 45-degree shoulder presses (weight too embarrassing to mention – see above!)

– 3 sets of dumbell bench presses (weight too embarrassing to mention – see above!)

– 3 sets of pullups (10, 8, 5)

– 3 sets of kettlebell swings (45 lb)

– Deadlifts: 5 @ 133 lbs, 6 @ 199 lbs, 3 @ 243 lbs, 1 @ 288 lbs, and 1 @ 297.5 lbs


It was a cold morning in the box at Transcend / Carousel CrossFit yesterday. Cold AND tired, not a great combination. I went through a longer than usual warmup (light jogging, side stepping, knee pulls and other dynamic stretches, jump rope, etc.) of about a half hour, before putting together the following two circuits:

First circuit, repeated 3x (1 minute rest in between circuits):

– 2 min jump rope

– 15 kettle bell swings (45 lb)

– 100 yard farmers walk (55 lb kettlebells)

– 10 wall ball shots (20 lb medicine ball)

– 5 dead-hang pullups

Second circuit, repeated 3x (1 minute rest in between circuits):

– 500 meter row (pathetic, but I haven’t rowed in a few weeks: 2:03, 2:15, 2:13)

– 15 pushups

– 25 situps (knees to chest, wrapping hands around shins)

As I started the second circuit, a bunch of CrossFitters began their WOD for the CrossFit Open, putting me to shame…