Remember gym class? If you’re a child of the 80’s or 90’s, you were probably part of a group of kids who had to start writing essays instead of running laps. At least in Massachusetts, where I grew up, the education reforms demanded that kids learned more about how the body works while participating in phys-ed.
So you know there are 5 main components of fitness: cariovascular endurance, muscular endurance, strength, flexibility, and body composition. There’s actually a pretty good breakdown on the way I learned it back in high school right here.
My gym teacher always warned us not to neglect any areas in our training regimens. I’m not sure too many of us had training regimens, but whatever. As a traditional martial artist, I thought I had things figured out pretty well. I used to do katas and lift weights and jog and stretch. I’d even run some sprints every once in awhile.
Then I started watching UFC, and I realized I was really pretty out of shape!
Yeah, “supplements” or not, Sean Sherk is a BEAST!
So I upped my game. Obviously not to that level, but I realized that being a modern martial artist in the age of the super-athlete means getting in the best shape possible. And that’s been my quest for the past few years. It’s a learning process, and you’ve seen some of it develop on this blog.
A martial artist needs to add a few extra elements to the main fitness compnents listed above. Examples include explosiveness (for shooting and striking), agility (so as not to get taken down or hit), and sports-specific drills.
For the amateur athlete, that’s a lot to manage!
What I tend to do is focus on different components during different seasons. For example, during the winter months, when I’m feeling less energetic, I train more for maximum strength and explosiveness. I find these workouts are usually a little less demanding because of their slower pace. Plus it’s really satisfying to throw weights and sandbags around in my garage when it’s too cold to run outside.
In the summer, I train more for cardiovascular endurance and include more interval training in my workouts. Most people want to shed their winter weight to get ready for the beach; I guess I’m no exception. I usually weigh ten pounds less during the summer than in the winter.
I’m starting to rethink this approach to training, though. Like Billy Bob always warned, it’s unwise to neglect any areas of your training. For me, this weak spot is muscular endurance.
I’ve noticed lately that my legs and arms give out on me when working out for extended periods. I’m guessing it’s because I haven’t maintained a high enough training volume, and I rarely “rep-out” any of my main exercises. So I decided to try some training routines to fix this problem.
Have you ever heard about the Lion’s Den tryouts? They’re the stuff of nightmares.
Historically, The Lion’s Den is known for its brutal try-outs because once accepted into the Den, the members would live in Ken’s home having their dinner provided by Shamrock. Ken needed to make sure only the best got through. The try out consisted of the following:
* 500 squats
* 200 push ups
* 200 sit ups
* Sprints while carrying a man of near equal weight on their back
* 2-mile run with a man of equal weight on your back
* Repeated runs up and down bleacher steps
* Bear-crawls up steep hills
* Lugging heavy barrels of water and sand bags up steep hills
The candidates who were still left at this point would then go on to do as many pull-ups as they can without stopping.
From there, the candidates went to the actual Lion’s Den facility for several hours of sparring. Shamrock wanted fighters that could get through this ordeal without quitting, even after their body had failed on them. It was at this point, when the candidate was still trying even long after their muscles had failed, that Shamrock knew he had a Lion’s Den member on his hands.
Somehow I stories about these tryouts might be a little exaggerated. For example, Roy Nelson used to be part of the team, I find it hard to believe he could get through this workout. Maybe I’m wrong, but I bet his partner during the 2-mile run had to drop out!
Following the “Body-By-Shamrock” plan detailed above is a little over the top. (I recently tried half of the first portion, and I couldn’t walk for a week!) But it brings up a good point. A martial artist should be physically capable of meeting the physical demands he or she might face during training or even in a real fight. While you may not need to get through a 25-minute championship UFC bout, it is important to have the muscular endurance to defend yourself in a fight.
Legend has it that Bruce Lee started his obsession with fitness after tiring too quickly during a battle against a rival kung fu practitioner. The results of Lee’s obsession speak for themselves!
The point I’m trying to make here is that it’s important to maintain ALL the different components of fitness. We’re not marathon runners or powerlifters: as a martial artists, we need to be as well rounded in our approach to fitness as possible. Ignore this at your own peril!
Now, if you don’t mind, I’m going to limp to the medicine cabinet for some more Advil. Do you have some great workouts to help with muscular endurance? Please share them here. I could use some suggestions! I have a few I’ve been putting together that I’ll share soon.