Archive for the ‘Strength & Conditioning’ Category

Alactic Sprint Conditioning

by William Wayland ~ posted January 15th, 2015

Scrambler, do you like to sprint?

Ability to produce high power outputs, repeatedly, whilst maintaining low amounts of fatigue especially during rest (stalling and holding periods) in grappling/MMA matches is crucial to good performance.

MMA and BJJ conditioning often takes the form of simulated rounds, doing non-specific exercises in order to build what is perceived to be match specific fitness. Think athletes doing 30s sprawls, followed by 30s swings followed 30s tire flips and so on. This however amount to nothing more than 5 minute grind. Just ask the athletes and they’ll tell you it’s far more frenetic than that. This grinding approach is thankfully losing ground. Shorter sprint intervals with longer periods of rest are starting to receive the attention it deserves.

Alactic sprinting merely a 100% effort where the body is able to use its ATP and phosphocreatine store without drawing on oxygen to deal with metabolite build up. If we can increase our capacity for this type of work we can recover faster between each sprint.

Alactic Power: Maximum output in one endeavor, trained by full recovery alactic drills, like sprint jump explosive throw…

Alactic Capacity:  same drills, but with shorter rest periods (dictated by the sport so in this case MMA and BJJ)

Going back to our physiology text books we know that power and capacity of the main energy systems looks like this.

  • Anaerobic-alactic power — < 8 seconds
  • Anaerobic-alactic capacity — up to 20 seconds
  • Anaerobic-lactic power — 20 to 30 seconds
  • Anaerobic-lactic capacity — up to 90 seconds
  • Aerobic power — 90 sec to 2 min
  • Aerobic capacity — > 3 min

We want to work largely on Alactic power and Alactic capacity. I find this in conjunction with work capacity from sparring and training works extremely well for building conditioning for the rigours of grappling and MMA.

While there are numerous options when it comes to planning sprint intervals here is what I usually use. I like the use of battle ropes, sprints and sled pushing as the main means, sometimes you have to get creative depending on your equipment options. Special mention goes to watt bikes and rowers where you can track power in watts and track for drop offs over time if you are not taking enough rest between bouts.

Alactic Power Sprints

-       <8s : 2min+ rest for 6-8 reps

-       1-2 times per session @ 90-95% of max speed / effort

-       1-2 times p/week usually after heavy lifting sessions

-       Sprints, prowler/ sled pushing, agility, explosive jumps

Alactic Capacity Sprints:

-       10-15s : 60-90s- rest for 6-8 reps (possibly even shorter when peaking)

-       1 times per session @ 85-95% of max speed / effort

-       1-2 times p/week usually after moderate lifting sessions

-       Sprints, prowler/ sled pushing, agility, explosive jumps

After these types of sprints you shouldn’t be on the floor sucking air it probably means you’ve pushed too hard for too long or not had enough rest between sprints.

This is an ongoing series of blog posts from guest blogger and Strength & Conditioning coach William Wayland of Powering Through, who works with UFC, Cagewarriors and other high level combat athletes based in Chelmsford, UK. Facebook

Video: Grapplers Five

by William Wayland ~ posted December 12th, 2014


One of the questions I get asked is about what can I do for strength training after BJJ class. Now most BJJ gyms don’t usually have a olympic bar or squat rack. However on my travels I do notice most gym’s usually have Kettlebells, a place to do pull-ups, willing friends and bands of some sort. I’ve set this “Grapplers Five” workout for a few people who despite minimal time and equipment, move and feel better for doing this routine 2-3 or more times a week.

Grapplers Five 20 Min Session

Partner GHRs 4-5 sets of 5-8 1-1:30 rest between sets
Goblet Squats 4-5 sets of 5-8
Push-ups (with band) 4-5 sets of 5-8
Pull-ups 4-5 sets of 5-8
Plank 1 x 3:00 or 3 x 1:00

or Circuit style

Partner GHRs
Goblet Squats
Push-ups (with band)
Plank x 1:00

repeat 4-5 times
20-30s rest between each movement

The objective is to get all the work done within 20 mins. I suggest alternating the GHR and a KB swing between sessions.

This is an ongoing series of blog posts from guest blogger and Strength & Conditioning coach William Wayland of Powering Through, who works with UFC, Cagewarriors and other high level combat athletes based in Chelmsford, UK. Facebook


Video : Dan John on Joint Mobility

by William Wayland ~ posted November 11th, 2014

Dan John discussing joint mobility for collision sport athletes, yes thats means you scrambler, aging and stretching. When this man speaks listen!

This is an ongoing series of blog posts from guest blogger and Strength & Conditioning coach William Wayland of Powering Through, who works with UFC, Cagewarriors and other high level combat athletes based in Chelmsford, UK. Facebook

Grappling With The Common Cold

by William Wayland ~ posted October 7th, 2014

Credit to r/BJJ user Katamusprime

Grappling With The Common Cold

It’s that time of year again, summer is dead like the leaves on the ground and suddenly a disease pandemic appears to be spreading across social media. The kids have it, your team mates have it and who knows you might get it! I am of course talking about the common cold.

“A cold is basically an inflammation of the upper respiratory tract caused by a viral infection. The common cold is probably the most frequently occurring illness in humans worldwide. More than 200 different viruses cause colds, and rhinoviruses and coronaviruses are the culprits 25-60 percent of the time. Rhinovirus infections often occur during the fall and spring seasons, while the coronavirus is more common during the winter.” –ACSM

Contrary to common belief damp, drafts and cold weather does not increase your risk of infection. What does, however is contact with other people, particularly wet nasal discharge from the infected. Hence a lot of colds are brought home by snotty children. The worst colds in particular are spread by coughing and sneezing, because virus count per volume is higher. In athletes we see phenomena called the ‘tournament cold’ where lots of people travel to a small enclosed space with lots of personal contact especially in martial sports. This is a perfect environment for a transmissible disease like the common cold to spread.

Should I train?

The burning question! Most athletes especially martial athletes hate time off from training with a passion and will often try to train even when sick. Mild-to-moderate exercise when sick with the common cold does not appear to be harmful. It does go without saying that BJJ or MMA training should only be resumed once symptoms have disappeared unless you want to upset your team mates and risk them catching what you have got.

More serious colds bring out symptoms like fever, tiredness and muscle aches. In this case we follow a simple rule if the symptoms are from the neck up moderate training is acceptable but if from the neck down  your probably better off staying in bed or on the sofa. Lifting weights is usually fine also, but be polite and wipe down any equipment you use and carry a tissue to stifle sneezing when you train. If you have Flu which is more serious training should be suspended and you do have flu and not ‘man-flu’ your desire to train will be seriously diminished.

So to be clear, moderate exercise is fine. But BJJ or MMA is out of the question due to communicability of cold viruses.

How Can I Stave off and Treat Common Cold?

Regular and moderate exercise lowers the risk for respiratory infections so by already training you are doing the right thing! Immune function is linked to stress levels, sleep, diet and age, you need to do what you can to keep it in the best shape possible. Immune function is suppressed during periods of very low caloric intake and quick weight reduction so fighters cutting weight for competitions have to especially wary.

For cold to propagate firstly enough virus has to enter the body before the immune system crushes it in the first instance. If enough virus does get in to multiply the body takes 3-4 days to ready an immune response. Most colds last for around 7 days and for the most part your body is equipped with what it needs to fight cold. What you can do is look at cough medicines, decongestants and other remedies to lessen symptoms and make yourself feel more comfortable. Inhaling steam doesn’t improve recovery times but it does help with congestion. Vitamin C doesn’t prevent colds either but some studies show that it can lessen symptoms and speed recovery slightly. So those of you training hard for competition during cold and flu season pay heed to the advice above to try to stay virus free and if you do get sick don’t be that guy, take a few days off.

This is an ongoing series of blog posts from guest blogger and Strength & Conditioning coach William Wayland of Powering Through, who works with UFC, Cagewarriors and other high level combat athletes based in Chelmsford, UK. Facebook

Recover: Saunas Steamrooms and Dan Gable

by William Wayland ~ posted September 15th, 2014

The sauna usually strikes fear into the heart of any combat athlete at the mere mention of its name. This is a place of misery and suffering. Convincing them to step back in is a real struggle. However usage of heat therapy seems to be a nearly universal human tradition, from most well know swedish/finnish sauna (never tell either the other invented it) to  Japanese Onsen, Korean JimJilbang, Roman and Turkish Baths and Russian Banya. In England traditionally a smelly bunch we tend to be a bit prudish and still find sauna/bath house culture a novelty.

The sauna or steam room produces a very mild sympathetic stimulus, I’ve discussed manipulation of sympathetic and parasympathetic responses here. This is why subsequent cooling is so important a part of the process also.

Its interesting to note that traditional warrior cultures were also some of greatest bath house cultures. Some sort of secret to recovery? Now before I make an appeal to the ancients there is some good science under pinning the usage of sauna’s and heat therapy.

Saunas can lower cortisol (stress hormone) in fighters

Saunas facilitate recovery from muscular fatigue

Submersion in 42C water can help promote recovery from future training sessions

May aid fatloss 

Stimulates immune function in athletes

One other slightly less tangible benefit is quiet contemplation

Dan Gable endorses their use and when Dan Gable tells you to do something you do it! “Theres getting to be science!”

I generally suggest the usage of sauna is done during hardest training cycles.

Here is a routine I adapted from Joel Jamieson. Only difference is I add a short steam into the mix, as I find it helps breathing and evidence suggests it also has similar but slightly different benefits to sauna.

1.You want the Sauna to be at around 190F or 90c
2.Begin by getting in the sauna and stay in until you first break a sweat and then get out.
3. Take a Luke warm shower for a minute or so. Rest until recovered or start feeling normal again.
4.Get back in the sauna and stay in for 5-10 minutes.
5.Take another shower this time COLD as cold as possible. For 30seconds to a minute (be ready for cold shock!)
Get out of the shower, and rest in a cool place for 3-10 minutes, some fancy leisure suites have tepidarium for this.
6.Return to the sauna 10-15mins or alternatively a steam room for 7-10mins (in the UK we often has both in the same facility)
7. Take another shower this time COLD as cold as possible. For 30seconds to a minute (be ready for cold shock!)
8.Get back in the sauna for another 10-15 minutes and then get out
9.Take another shower, this time make it fairly warm and stay in for 1-2 minutes
Dry yourself completely off, lay down and relax for 5-10 minutes

The more experienced you are the longer you could potentially stay.

This comes with a warning be prudent when making use of the sauna or steamroom build familiarity first, everyone’s response to heat stress is different.

This is an ongoing series of blog posts from guest blogger and Strength & Conditioning coach William Wayland of Powering Through, who works with UFC, Cagewarriors and other high level combat athletes based in Chelmsford, UK. Facebook


Ido Portal, Calisthenics and “Movement” as Strength and Conditioning

by William Wayland ~ posted August 27th, 2014

Tim Stokes, A client with very favourable leverages practicing L-sits and ring push-ups.

At the moment across social media Im seeing a lot of posts about Ido Portal, primal movement, holistic movement and the idea that these are somehow superior to conventional strength conditioning. The concept of holisms in movement attracts fitness yuppies with money to burn and what I’ll call “fitness free thinkers” like pigs to truffles. In a recent scramblog post I cautioned against getting caught up in pseudo scientific methods. In the past we’ve seen these types of coaches with a holistic USP such as Paul “astral projection” Chek, who is coined the father of core/functional training (Im sure Vernon Gambetta, Gray Cook and Stuart McGill would be better candidates) using the alternative therapies badge to push his methods. A beautifully edited video with nice Tibetan chanting doesn’t measure your value as a coach either(looking at you Naudi Aguilar) which is another promotional means. The same goes for those displaying various skill in video’s themselves, someone’s ability to train themselves while important is not a measure of their ability to train others either. These people are master image crafters and Ido is no different.

Conceptually I really like what is being said. The buzz around Israeli Ido is enormous with him hosting seminars all over the place. The price can be steep however, but the feedback seems largely positive. While there are other movement experts Ido is the most prominent and expensive it seems. Somewhat polarising hes made fast enemies of vegans and crossfitters criticising them both.

What doesn’t seem to help is Ido and other movement practitioners, keep their methodologies opaque and make heavy use of obfuscation in their language when discussing what they do. I know this lack of clarity ruffles the feathers of friends in the gymnastics, freerun and parkour crowd. I recently listened to Ido talking on London Real and while I found myself nodding in agreement with his sentiment, I was clutching at straws to pin down what his method was. Convenience of the vague maybe or maybe I’m just being dense. I just find the whole thing nebulous, when you start using vague neuro-physiology sprinkled with rehabilitative jargon as justification for what you do, you enter Depak Chopra and quantum physics territory. The thing is this, you present the idea that you possess a knowledge base that only you can teach and enact. Or as one of my twitter followers put it “justify their jobs by pretending they possess secrets/knowledge that only they can translate and apply?” very possibly. We had this when the Iron Curtain fell and suddenly every ex-soviet coach had Russian training secrets to sell. More over what irks me is the amount these people charge for their services.

Problems with strength and conditioning from a movement perspective.

There is a certain amount of indictment of strength and conditioning coaches from the “movement” crowd and its true, there are coaches who appear to let their powerlifting and olympic lifting biases control them. The Americanisation of S&C has probably not been particularly helpful, as it is heavily dominated by bench, deadlift, squat and bodybuilding approach which has proliferated all over the internet. What happens is a drift away from holism we further create mini powerlifters, mini Olympic lifters, strongmen etc the.  A prevalent “get them strong let the sport sort em out” attitude isn’t helpful either.

When we see displays like the above I can understand the undercurrent of willingness to reject mainstream strength and conditioning convention. However often it’s a case of difference for the sake of difference.

A good strength coach IS holistic its at the core of what we do. It’s just that some see it is STRENGTH and conditioning rather than what it is, physical preparation. I think maybe the confusion stems from what a strength coaches purpose is.

My personal definition is; A strength coaches job is varied application of stress to basic movement patterns to bring about systemic adaptation that allow athlete to better handle stress of sport.

What are the basic movement patterns? If you ask Dan John its “Squat, Hinge, Push, Pull, Carry”, if you ask the primal movement people is “Squat, Lunge, Push, Pull, Bend, Twist, Gait”. Now what Ido seems to be concerned with is the movement between these movements and the integration of these things. This is a notion that is hard to determine, it does allow for goal post moving in terms of objectives and outcome from training, measurability being crucial in S&C.

It was this video that someone sent me that first made me aware of Ido portal. Personally I don’t think this is good preparation for combat athletes, I do however use some low level gymnastics and suspension work with my athletes and context of video is hard to grasp from 5 minutes of video. Collision sport athletes need stability and hypertrophy (see dan john vid below). Now before you mention the letters GSP, George had a foundation in lifting from Joel Chaimberg and Pierre Roy before taking on gymnastics type work.

UFC’s Luke Barnatt does ring work and crawling drills

Athlete, Artist, Mover?

Ido also makes a point of being not an athlete, but an artist and generalist, this is key. Art is only given value by the observer where as athletic movement is about efficiency. The athletes physical preparation model needs to be like a pyramid it always has to have a base but it also needs a point! Athletes must specialise because their lively hood comes from being a specialist. But we know that the best athletes are the one who in their youth developed high movement literacy, by playing multiple sports and engaging in multiple activities. Ido and others talk about foundation of movement but at what point does being able to squat to being able to do Cossacks become a specialism? Or being able to do hand-stand into single handed hand stands or HSPU become specialism. Mastering these skills pose a risk of becoming a time sink that could be spent doing other things.

The other thing I see movement experts tout is what im calling the “The gymnastic fallacy” is the idea that gymnasts are the most complete athletes. It is similar to the “Olympic lifting fallacy” touted by oly coaches that their athletes are the most powerful. The notion that because one set of athletes displays mastery over a domain of movement or force expression means that this would translate well to other sports. This does’nt work because it does’nt respect required task specific performance, skill acquisition and respective anthropometries (limb/torso lengths) of athletes. For instance being light helps the gymnast to achieve a high strength-to-weight ratio, and being small helps with rotational skills. Olympic lifters also are smaller athletes with excellent lifting leverages. You have 2-3 hours a week in which to get a 6’9 110kg basketball player to improve his performance are you going to do planche straddles and handstand push-ups? Or do something that helps him put force through the floor and make it through a playing season. Anthropometrics have a larger effect on our movement biases than you can imagine. Vernon Gambetta talks about the notion of focusing on what they can do not on what they can’t. Ido talks specialism having a trade off, we know this, the athletes knows this. Training for well-being is not the same as performance. Dan John explored this in one of his intervention video’s the idea that we spend our post athletic career undoing the damage of career in sports.

Now before we play necromancer and resurrection the old the bodyweight vs resistance training dialectic, we love dualism which is weird because the intent is holism, but most coaches know that a foundation of bodyweight movement is crucial. The patterns mentioned earlier are developed initially with bodyweight alone. Most decent programs will have you dipping, chinning and doing pull-ups. Even Ido suggests squatting and olympic lifts for gross lower body training.

The notion of having fun with physical expression vs performance to perform work is important and I feel one of Ido’s most import messages. Physical expression and self mastery are intrinsically very important and extremely satisfying, its the same reason why Scrambler Dan Strauss bends stuff. I recently took it upon myself to get good at one armed push-ups, it took about 1.5 hours spread over 4 weeks to go from incline reps to floor reps. My upper body strength did’nt really improve but my core strength shot-up, but most importantly I had fun! And better yet I did’nt pay someone thousands of pounds to show me how.

Methodological silver bullets just do not exist, good athleticism is built on a foundation of movement but what determines good movement is down to the coach. While I like Ido’s message of reconnecting with physical expression and movement and the idea’s of squatting everyday and hanging for shoulder health. His methodologies are somewhat confounding and vague. Just remember it’s exercise (sorry movement), not making world peace.

This is an ongoing series of blog posts from guest blogger and Strength & Conditioning coach William Wayland of Powering Through, who works with UFC, Cagewarriors and other high level combat athletes based in Chelmsford, UK. Facebook

Diaphragmatic Breathing Drill for better BJJ, Lifting and Recovery

by William Wayland ~ posted August 19th, 2014

A few weeks back I wrote post for scramblog Meditation, deep breathing and avoiding quackery

I thought I would expand a little on “Deep Breathing” element and how to get started with a beginner deep breathing drill, we use for recovery and relaxation but also to teach people how to breathe in diaphragmatic fashion.

This is an ongoing series of blog posts from guest blogger and Strength & Conditioning coach William Wayland of Powering Through, who works with UFC, Cagewarriors and other high level combat athletes based in Chelmsford, UK. Facebook

Meditation, deep breathing and avoiding quackery

by William Wayland ~ posted July 21st, 2014

Combat athletes are prone more than any other athlete to superstitions and weird ascetic practices. Weird diets, behaviours and other practices are all pretty common among high level and amateur competitors and practitioners. I can understand why this is appealing, I have met some BJJ athletes many of whom interpret zone of optimal functioning or heightened arousal states as a near religious experience. Now we all love a good post roll endorphin glow, but you probably haven’t touched the face of Buddha. For some reason Brazilian jiujitsu has a propensity to appeal to new agey types who bring alternative practice with them. Considering the modern martial arts movement is so fixated on outing quacks, its surprising that they still get a pass in topics suck as wellness, health and sports performance.

I can’t help but shake my head when I hear a legit fitness personality and BJJ Black belt such as Steve Maxwell speak on Joe Rogan’s podcast and espouse a known pseudo science such as Ayurveda (Ayurvic medicine – Good examination on quack watch here).  I have in the past had to explain that keeping blood pH neutral via Gracie diet is physically near impossible, seeing as the body is very good at maintaining its pH levels. Another one that I think has peaked was the brief obsession with Acai that everyone seemed to have, eating Acai because you do BJJ is like chowing down on kimchi because you do taekwondo. The studies on the benefits were not particularly convincing either. While eating fresh fruit, drinking veg smoothies and doing kettlebell swings is great we have to divorce the pseudo science fluff from the legitimately beneficial stuff. What works, what is placebo and what is down right waste of time?

So toss out your tongue scraper, maybe keep your blender, but listen up because there some practices that are particularly useful.

Deep Breathing & Meditation

Eastern mysticism, Gurus and new age consciousness expanders has done much to undermine two of  the perfectly legitimate practices of meditation and deep breathing.  Western scepticism means they wind up being shelved shrugged off as new age wishy-washy crap with everything else.

First up Deep Breathing. Rickson and Kron are defiantly on to something here and its great that some BJJ practitioners do examine deep breathing practices.

There is some evidence that it can help with CNS recovery by decreasing the amount of time it takes an athlete to return to a parasympathetic state. Most combat athletes I’ve met are very sympathetic dominant types (probably why they are great at fighting), who can trigger a strong fight or flight response, but have a hard time coming down after training. I’ve had clients especially those that train in the late evening report back that they have trouble sleeping.

This fight or flight ‘high’ puts us in a state of elevated cortisol levels which is useful short term, but repeat exposure can be destructive as it eats away at the body’s recovery capacity. By performing deep breathing we can get the body back into a parasympathetic state and get cortisol back under control

Other Research has shown that it can also improve posture, improving lumber lordosis which is great if you spend time stuck in lordotic or kyphotic posture. This is particularly useful post training after heavy loading of the posterior chain. We  often perform deep breathing drills as part of recovery or in warm-up to encourage proper breathing patterns for lifting.

Mike Guadango has talked about deep breathing drills over on freak strength website, applying the method to baseball players.

Try this post workout and see how your recovery improves:

50 Belly Breaths or 5-15minutes of belly breathing after your workout

  • Supine (laying on back) with feet elevated
  • Seated
  • Seated with back against the wall
  • Prone (face down)
  • 5 seconds in 5 seconds out or 4:6

Meditation is another practice bound up in eastern mysticism. A broad term but for us its a practice that promotes relaxation. We know that stress, devastates recovery , impairs immune response and influences your perception of things like energy levels and muscle soreness. So with a proven practice like meditation it is shocking we don’t do it more. With benefits as wide ranging as improved cognitive functioning, the need for less sleep and improved recovery times. Some people take it further and claim it improves emotional states and sense of self, this is some what subjective, however research does state it improves mental health measures. While similar it does differ to deep breathing drills.

How to do it. (abbreviated from nate greens 5-minute monk)

1. Find a place with no distractions, turn off phone, computer.

2. Find a comfortable sitting position with a tall spine, cross legged, chair key is comfort.

3. Eyes Can be open or closed.

4. Focus on breathing but don’t actively try to control it.

5. Distracting thoughts will appear but push them aside and go back to focusing on breathing.

6. Focus on this process of breathing and keeping your mind free of intrusive thoughts

7. Set a timer, theres one here you can use

Nate suggests trying it for 5 minutes a day for a full 30 days and then gauge how you feel.  While this just one way to approach it, I personally find walking, sauna’s and steam rooms meditative. While the last two can be stressful they do allow opportunity for quiet and introspection.

In a mile a minute society people are moving but not being productive especially when you look at the average population. People have a real problem being comfortable with silence and presentness, I see this in athletes who reach for phones during rest periods, chat endlessly and look for distraction. I even see it in coaches who find a quiet gym perplexing. Stillness is something that is almost reviled and thats a shame.

This is an ongoing series of blog posts from guest blogger and Strength & Conditioning coach William Wayland of Powering Through, who works with UFC, Cagewarriors and other high level combat athletes based in Chelmsford, UK.

How I train ‘Lifting for the non competitve grappler’

by William Wayland ~ posted June 2nd, 2014

Last week I posted a blog post on Scramblog, which outlined my thoughts on lifting for non competitive grapplers. It proved real popular. I’ve had a few questions about how I apply the method to my own training. I’m a non competitive grappler too, being a physical preparation coach is my job which means my training has to fit around clients, consultations and desk-work. Much like my clients I perform regular break downs on myself and assess where I was, where I am and where Im going. I’d like to think im pretty strong for a natural dude with horrid mechanics for everything but deadlift. Long arms are great for pulling, crap for filling out t-shirt sleeves. At 92-94kg I deadlift 255kg, bench 155kg, back squat 205kg, front squat 160kg and clean 130kg. I have had two LCL tears on both knees, a tendency towards patellar femoral pain if I don’t stretch my hip flexors and tibialis, in the past I have subluxated my right shoulder which can flair as AC joint problems if my pressing gets out of whack with my pulling. As a side goal at the moment im striving for 270kg/600lb deadlift.

My program

I run a triphasic training variation boiled down to its simplest parts. I have just finished an above 80% block, working through its eccentric, isometric and concentric parts. The focus on this program was front squat to give my knees and back a break from heavy back squatting in the first part of the year. Im now moving on to a 80-55% lifting block or what Cal Dietz would call high force high velocity block. I think the upper end of this is probably where most ordinary folks should lift. You can make a lot of progress lifting sub-maximally at high velocities. For the 80-55% block im moving back to back squat as my main training means.

The program has two main lifting days, a conditioning day and an EMOM (not included for simplicities sake) Deadlift day. I do still follow a Bondarchuk complex type of set up. Omitted from this phase are explosive exercises. Having just finished a six week block with french contrast, I now switch to doing box jump as part of my warm-up.


Warm-up – Prehab, mobilise, foam roll etc

A) Total Body Explosive Movement

B) Lower Body Movement (Squat/Hinge)

C1) Upper Body Press (push)

C2) Upper Body Pull (pull)

D) Weak Area (brace/everything else)

Clean grip OH squats are still part of warm-up so 2012.

Day 1 

Explosive box Jumps warm-up

Lowerbody Chain Back Squat (67.5-72%) taking as many sets as needed to warm-up, paired with hip flexor prone iso’s and Pull Grip trainer Rows

Push (67.5-72%)

Weak Area Back ext, OH lat raise, Tri’s-Bi’s and Chest Support Iso’s, which is a bottom position push up hold (which covers bracing and shoulder stability)

Day 2

Extended Warm-up tea cup stuff, calf raises, pull aparts (largely shoulder health focus.)

Explosive box Jumps warm-up

Lower Body Back Squat (75-80%)

Pull Push away pull-up

Push Bench Press (75-80%)

Weak Area Ball Leg Curl, RDL, Side plank

Day 3

Litinov Sprints. I’ll usually pick 2-3 variations of the ones listed of what I feel like doing.

Now I’ve recently started getting back into doing more BJJ, in the past I’ve taken brief periods off due to work or moving and suffered the subsequent guilt that comes with not doing it. But the fire in your belly never really dies. I love lifting so I want it to complement my other pass-times. For more on triphasic training for ordinary folks check out Steve Collins excellent blog post over on Lost in Fitness

Be sure to hit me up on twitter or facebook.

This is an ongoing series of blog posts from guest blogger and Strength & Conditioning coach William Wayland of Powering Through, who works with UFC, Cagewarriors and other high level combat athletes based in Chelmsford, UK. This is a cross post from

Lifting for the non competitive Grappler

by William Wayland ~ posted May 28th, 2014

Lifting for the non competitive Grappler

When we look at the conditioning and strength programs of high level grapplers, its easy to make the assumption that the way they train is surely the way you should train. What works for them must be good for me right? This piece in esquire ‘Stop working out like an olympian‘ got me thinking  Its easy to forsake basics for more advanced routines. Let’s face it most of us not going to be pan-ams, ADCC or worlds champs. A silent majority of largely recreational grappling athletes needs something else. Something that will allow us to work and play for a long time. Athletes need intensity and complexity, most people are not athletes, but giving up the notion of ‘elite’ training for one of reasonableness is hard for many and causes much anxiety. I’m guilty of giving exposure to higher level training methods, mainly because I am passionate about sharing what I do. But some of these methods may well not be right for you.


Grappling is a contact sport and a potentially injurious one at that. Especially when the intent of the end game is causing injury to someone else. Most people spend most of their day sat down and then go zero to sixty in a grappling class. Most ordinary people have tissue quality like beef jerky and the movement capacity of a drunken tortoise beyond sitting standing and walking. Applying sudden dramatic forces to an already dysfunctional body is asking for trouble, when I talk to most grapplers they will have ‘something’ that hurts.

In the past I have talked about posture issues I see in grapplers “Jiu jitsu and grappling athletes also usually have what’s called flexion-dominance in the lower back and pelvis.  Most training drills involve repetitive flexion at the waist causing the tightness of the hip flexors and weakness of the hip extensors. Think about how much time in a BJJ class you spend bent over or sitting, drilling hip flexion over and over.

Over time, the lower back muscles become tight while the hip flexors become shortened. This is further compounded by our habit of sitting, all the time in our day to day lives! Sitting shortens hip flexors and weakens the glutes, compounded with the flexion-dominance (active sitting, imagine sitting in guard) I mentioned earlier. Over time adaptive shortening due to sitting regularly leads to tight hip flexors.” This is an ever persistent issue that I have had clients report that they were literally unable to get out of bed in the morning after a training session, largely due to being painful through the thoracolumbar region and often lower. Another ever present issue is ‘micro trauma’, which is caused by the repeat activity, such a grabbing, pulling and twisting which applies subtle but repeated stress to tendons, joints and bones. In most situations it causes minor inflammation at a rate at which the body can overcome and adapt to. However repetitive micro trauma can develop into more serious injuries. Im sure you have all sat rubbing that bad elbow or knee while reading this.

Another consideration is age, as we age capacity for recovery drops, micro trauma accumulates, chances are you have had some sort of injury that has forced a lay off is high over your training career. As a young athlete in my early 20s I had the mentality of “why would anyone not give their training  all of their time?”  As a man in my early 30s and two torn LCL’s, sprained ankles and a subluxated shoulder later, I now appreciate what the old guys where telling me. Its important to ask yourself ‘if you knew how you would feel now, would you train how you did then?’ Key point is this; as we get older we should look to train more like bodybuilders, you know the guys in Do-rags and work boots you laugh at down the gym. We don’t care about rate of force development or high levels of strength. What we should care about is structural integrity and deceleration qualities. Hypertrophy is pretty useful for that particularly in the key areas of back, glutes and shoulders. What we need to do is build some Armour.

What strength and conditioning can do for you?

I’ve always maintained in the past that as bare minimum, you should engage in some sort of strength work that has largely injury prevention intent. To quote Dan John;

• ”Most adults need to strengthen the phasics and stretch the tonics.
• Next, deal with a lifetime of asymmetry issues.
• Finally, deal with too much sitting and not moving.”

I believe moving is one of the best correctives there is. Many people often when dealing with injury, stiffness, tightness or soreness, look at static solutions to a dynamic problems. So off they trot to a chiro, osteopath or doctor. Who will try to snap crack or medicate a problem, fixed at least temporarily. Too bad that you are still sitting like an orang-utan in the front of Ferrari while you work. You probably need to move and im not suggesting taking up yoga either. It’s a simple as this you need to do the following;

• Push
• Pull
• Hinge
• Squat
• Loaded Carry/bracing

And everything else

Its pretty simple right? Problem is most folks in the grappling community seem to gravitate towards deadlift (hinge) and Bench and Pull-ups (Push/Pull). Most start chasing the deadlift without an effective brace pattern and often they over extended or flexed and weak through the lower back. I have a collation of stories of grapplers who have gone to snap city due to rounded back deadlifting with good intentions, but as we know the road to hell is paved with those. For some reason they gravitate away from squatting, probably because most gyms lack squat racks (join a better gym) and because the technical and mobility requirements are higher than the deadlift, which at its simplest is just picking something up off the floor. Don’t get me wrong I love the deadlift I just think that there are simpler hinge variations that are better for the non competitive.

This goes for both the competitive and non competitive grappler, we need to engage in some serious armour building to make it through the sport in one peice. This requires looking at how we can develop a solid brace pattern and a solid squat pattern. Bracing is crucial as it protects the lower back, so we need to gravitate towards exercises that improve our “Human Inner tube”

Building a program

Often attempting to apply Biff Harringtons, ‘Megabolic bench and deadlift’ method that requires 4 days a week of balls out weight training while attempting to get in 2-3 BJJ sessions a week on top usually will not end well. Most popular programs are geared towards largely powerlifting or olympic weight lifting with bodyweight only and Kb enthusiasts at the fringes. Often these programs speak to the authors biases, we need to appeal to simplicity in these instances.

I’ve mentioned before how I am fond of the Bondarchuk complex. The Complex offers straight forwards planning for 2 or 3 day strength and conditioning sessions, excellent for beginners and athletes looking to maintain and build general physical preparation. Works well in 3-4 weeks training blocks before rotating exercises. If we run this complex 2 or 3 days they will be different from each other, Monday might be deadlifts and Wednesday will be Squats for example. For the non- competitive it would be fine to repeat the workout more than once a week. I’m not going to discuss percentages or sets and reps in any great detail as that would need greater scope. Muscles can’t count but you can, when choosing loading those who have been lifting for a while can feel out what feels like a good working weight. As a rule I suggest using enough to get the prescribed reps + 1/2 in the tank. When the load starts to feel easy and your velocities improve you can look to increase weight used.

Warm-up – Prehab, mobilise, foam roll etc
A) Total Body Explosive Movement
B) Lower Body Movement (Squat/Hinge)
C1) Upper Body Press (push)
C2) Upper Body Pull (pull)
D) Weak Area (brace/everything else)

Program slots in with the idea of “big to small” in our training, biggest most neurologically demanding exercises are put first in our program. I’m in favour of a very limited movement palette, our time needs to be well used and effective rotating exercises very regularly can damage proficiency.  As for rep for the main lower body movements sets of 5-8 work well and for everything else we can look at my hypertrophy oriented rep ranges of 8-12.

Exercise Selection for the non lifter

We have our basic workout structure from Bondarchuk, now we need to choose some exercises. Below is an non-exhaustive list of movements I would recommend for the non competitive grappler.

To start we can probably leave much of the explosive movement out of our training, poor movement, injured joints and the like don’t appreciate high velocities. If you want some gentle, skips, bounding or skipping be included.

Many grappler’s are not fond of conventional barbell work and or do not have access to a fully equipped gym. Exercises of choice include the Goblet squat, which a great exercise for learning the squat pattern, holding a load anteriorly encourages people to brace but also sit their weight onto their heels.

Goat Belly Swing is another Dan John idea who describes it as “an excellent way to slow down the hinge and teach the keys to the more dynamic work: pressurized breathing, the correct feeling of the swing hip, and the abdominal tightness that insures stability.”

For the time restricted I have put these two together in a combo known as the rump wrecker.

Upper Body – Push/Pull up with a twist. For non lifters on these exercises what I like to do is emphasise the eccentric and isometric components of these movements on 2 week cycles. For 2 weeks do eccentric reps 4 secs down, 2 weeks do pauses for 4 seconds at the bottom and last two weeks do higher reps to near failure. What this encourages is more stability in the chest and back, which helps with force absorption. For the chronically tight or those with shoulder issues I like to use a 2:1 pull-to-pushing ratio with those who have significant upper body muscular imbalances, often dropping pushing completely for some folks.

Weak Area –  I often use this to really hammer the hinge pattern, bracing or extra upper back work. Timed Planks, side and reverse planks and or farmers walk to really help develop that bracing pattern. Farmers walks are terrific for helping develop shoulder packing and grip strength.

Layout – for the non competitive grappler who doesn’t do barbells.

This whole workout could be with just a med-ball or single KB. I have a high level female competitor who armed with only a pair of kettles bells does this routine twice a week.

Warm-up – Prehab, mobilise, foam roll, etc
A) Skipping      3 x 1:00
B) Goblet Squats or KB front squats 3 x 10-12
C1) Press up or Ring Push up 3 x 6 4 sec eccentrics
C2) Pull up or Ring row  3 x 8-12 4 sec eccentrics          
D) Goat belly Swing 3 x 15 paired with :30s side planks

Exercise Selection for the conventional lifter

For those of you that are comfortable with the barbell lifts there is a range of options open to you. What we are looking for is exercises with a systemic effect with little injury risk

Front Squat or Zercher Squat, for athletes and non competitive athletes front squat is top-dog, core bracing, lower spinal load and all the systemic benefits of the squat. Only reason I prefer regular back squat for athletes over front is due to higher intensities that can be achieved with back squat.

Floor Press/Bench Press or Overhead Press and Dips are all viable options. However press exercise selection is always going to problematic. Many grappler’s I meet are very internally rotated or impinged at the shoulder and often find issue with one or more of the above. Key is finding a pressing variation that is pain free. If you are pain free however have at it.

Pull-ups/Chest Supported Rows and Single Arm dumbbell work. With these  I like to emphasise eccentric and isometric muscular actions. I’m especially fond of the chest supported row as it is very targeted and eliminates a lot of cheating.

Snatch Grip Rack Pull, Snatch Grip Deadlift or Romainian deadlift. Snatch grip rack pull is one of the exercises I use to teach the deadlift. It encourages people hinge properly from the hips, load their glutes, maintain tension in the upper back and lats due to the wide grip and keep a “neutral” spine throughout the entire range of movements. We usually progress onto the Romanian deadlift or snatch grip deadlift. This is one of my favourite bullet proofing/bad habit undoer exercises.

Deadbugs, Planks, Side Planks – I use the Deadbug quite a lot in individuals that are over extended, many have read trouble maintain good pelvic control largely due to over active hip flexors. Its also great for getting everyone in a commerical gym to think you are utterly insane. Many people diss on the plank despite probably never really giving them a concerted effort, there is a reason Dr Stuart McGill recommends plank variations. You should be able to make at least 3:00 minutes, don’t complain, the record is 3 hours, 7 minutes and 15 seconds.

Extra’s – My suggested extras would be band pull-apart variations, no monies and shoulder dislocations. Arm work would also be something you could finish with.

Conditioning As a recreational player you can probably get away with deriving fitness from actually performing your grappling sessions. If you find your conditioning isn’t up to snuff you can then look to add in conditioning as a finisher after training sessions

Layout – for the non competitive grappler who does do barbells.

Day 1

Warm-up – Prehab, mobilise, foam roll etc
A) Skipping     3 x 1:00
B) Front Squats 3 x 6-10 (+warm-up sets)
C1) Bench Press 3 x 8
C2) Chest Supported Row  4 x 10-15
D) Snatch Grip Rack Pulls 4 x 8-10 paired with Planks 1:00 x 3

Extras) Thick Curls

Day 2

A) Bounds 3 x 5
B) Snatch Grip Deadlift 3 x 6-10 (+warm-up sets)
C1) Over Head Press 3 x 8
C2) Pull-ups  4 x 10-15
D) Zercher Squats 3 x 8-12 paired with deadbugs

Extras) Side Planks

There is no reason why you can’t meld elements from the barbell free workout with barbell work either.

Pretty straight forwards I hope and that is precisely the point. Some of the best workouts I’ve had have included nothing more than performing the hinge/squat combo, a few sets of pull-ups and dips. The other aspect I will touch on is developing a consistent recovery routine. Progression for the non-competitive athlete is simple. As soon as it starts getting easy, start to adjust loading, sets reps and or adjusting tempo which is a very powerful way of adjusting parameters. Just remember it doesn’t have to be complicated.

This is an ongoing series of articles from guest blogger and Strength & Conditioning coach William Wayland of Powering Through, who works with UFC, Cagewarriors and other high level combat athletes based in Chelmsford, UK.