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Exercises For Isolation

Personal Trainer, Door Supervisor and Former Soldier Alvin Soosay, gives his suggestions for maintaining and developing condition during lockdown.

As most of us right now do not have access to a gym and grow increasingly frustrated with not being able to train with the usual equipment we’re used to in a gym setting, we must not slack of training. There are hundreds of exercises that can be done whilst in isolation without the typical gym equipment. The key is to get creative. If you have resistance bands GREAT, this is a vital piece of kit that can be used to train the whole body. If you don’t have resistance bands think outside the box, use furniture at home, objects, boxes, suitcases, rucksacks, bricks. Recently I got chopped tree stumps from my local park and now have them in my back garden and walkway where I use it for strongman lifts and distance walks whilst carrying them.

Here are a few examples of exercises you can do with everyday objects and furniture in your house:

3 sets of 15 reps per exercise. To make it more of an intense workout select 6 or more exercises and perform in a circuit type format non stop back to back exercises per rotation. Then take a 2 minute break and perform the rotations another 3-4 times.

  • Push ups- normal push ups, legs up onto a sofa (decline) or hands up onto a chair (incline). Make this harder by putting a rucksack on your back whilst doing it. Can be done with 3 chairs. Elevate your legs onto a chair behind you and each hand onto a separate chair left and right. As you lower your body it will dip into the gap between the chairs making it a harder variation.
  • Squats- air squats, box squats by sitting onto a chair and getting up, again make the exercise harder by putting a heavy rucksack onto your back.
  • Triceps dips- this can be done of the back of a chair, vary the width of your hand placing to make it harder/easier. To add resistance put something of weight onto your lap whilst doing dips.
  • Lunges- put 1 leg onto the sofa/chair with 1 leg forward and squat down, switch legs after completing a set of 15 per leg. To add resistance you could carry shopping bags full of items in each hand or water bottles, again a loaded rucksack can be used.
  • Suitcase carry- pack a suitcase to the weight you desire, hold it in 1 hand and walk a distance then switch hands. Repeat this several times and you will feel your core muscles on fire.
  • Sit ups/ ab crunches/ laying leg raises/ flutter kicks/ Russian twists- all these simple core exercises can be done at home if you want to add resistance simply hold a weighted object whatever you have around your home.
  • Planks- can be done in traditional way, incline with your arms rested onto a chair or table and decline where your legs are elevated higher than the torso. For added resistance wear a rucksack whilst doing it.
  • Reverse hypers- I cannot stress the importance of doing this exercise even without the actual machine itself it can be done with improvisation. After suffering back injuries, myself the reverse hyper and hyper extension helped me recover my back and aided me in lifts to the strongest and best shape of my life thus far. If you suffer from lower back pain in stongly encourage you to do this exercise multiple times per week in a high volume and you will see improvements in your lower back strength, posture and a reduction in back pain. Here’s how to do it at home; Jump up onto a bench or table where your waist line meets the edge of the surface. Your upper body will rest on the surface without moving. Raise your legs up by contracting your glutes muscles and lower back muscles, lower the legs back to starting position. If you have ankle weights then attach them for extra resistance.

The above are an example of exercises that can be done at home with everyday objects, get creative, think outside the box. Also think about movement fundamentals such as pressing, pulling, squatting. Consider the normal exercises you do in the gym such as shoulder pressing and bench pressing, now improvise the same pressing biomechanics but with a loaded suitcase or a ruck sack or camping bag.

The importance of strength training to fighting systems/martial arts

Strength training will develop overall strength which will allow you to generate more force, power and speed. DO NOT make the mistake of thinking weight training will turn you into a slow muscle bound freak it will not if done properly with specific rep and set ranges as I will explain in further detail.

Everything in sports is based on force, power and speed. Lets look at force….

Force = mass X acceleration

The quicker you can move a weight you are going to develop more force. This can be done with several methods but I recommend concentrating on 2 principles which are maximal strength (1 REP MAX) and speed strength (ability to move weight with speed approx. 0.8-1 metre per second). If you are a 100kg man who can bench press 100kg with ease at a relatively fast speed, imagine that force being translated into fighting… that’s a 100kg force that you can generate into a punch, your opponent is going to feel some pain when hit with that force.

Speed strength as I mentioned is achieved my moving a smaller weight in an explosive manner with multiple sets of 3 reps at a time with short rest periods in between. For example 9 sets of 3 on bench press with 30-40% of your 1 rep max done as explosive as you can. Again… imagine being able to generate that speed of throwing a punch or kick, you are going to be a devastating fighter !!!!

Strength training makes your body stronger hence more “bulletproof”. You will be more conditioned and stronger than your opponent in a fight or in training. Compared to a fighter who neglects strength training you will have more power and force behind your punches and kicks and your body will be harder to “break” you are a more robust athlete overall.

In fighting as well as every other sport, all major movement patterns occur at the shoulder and hip region. In any martial art/ combat discipline all power derives from the shoulder and hip. Therefore it is essential to perform strength training exercises that target the shoulder, hips, glutes and core muscles.

Please do not be ignorant in thinking core muscles involves ab crunches to look like an FHM model, proper core training should include movements that target the obliques, rectus abdominus, spinal erectors and iliopsoas muscles that tie into the hip. Exercises such as reverse hypers, Russian twists, suitcase carry, kettlebell swings among other should be conducted on a regular basis. A strong core will give you that balance and ability to generate force through your body when throwing punches, kicks, take downs and ground grappling. Very important for those practicing judo where hip tosses are common, a strong core is needed to toss your opponent over your hip and to the floor without injuring yourself.

Exercises for glutes such as; glute bridges, glute kickbacks, duck walk with bands, hip abduction and adduction, Romanian deadlifts, walking lunges, mountain climbers. These should all be incorporated into your training. Strong glutes will allow you to develop a tremendous power when kicking, movements such as round house kicks, push kick will be much stronger once you develop bigger and stronger glutes.

Exercises for shoulder such as, landmine presses, overhead military presses, punching with dumbbells, face pulls, single hand med ball throws. These will develop incredible punching power, if your able to press weight above your head or in front of you with force…. Imagine how much power you can generate when you are punching an opponent without any resistance.

This is an example of a workout I recommend you implement into your training regimen:

I want to briefly touch on another training system that I believe is vital for any fighting system; CONTRAST TRAINING. It involves core compound lifts such as a bench press followed by explosive dynamic movements done back to back in a circuit fashion for a rotation. It works explosive power and strength, crucial in developing that “fight muscle”. Below is an example of a contrast training circuit

Perform these exercises non stop back to back. Once completed each rotation of this take a 1 min break and repeat 3 times. Remember the point of this is explosive power, you want to perform the reps in a highly explosive manner. If you struggle to develop punching power try this workout twice a week and see the difference in the power and speed of your punches.

As I said earlier on in the article strength training is vital to becoming a better and more effective fighter regardless of what martial art discipline you participate in. It will not turn you into a bodybuilder or inhibit your flexibility, technique or fitness in regards to fighting. It will turn you into a stronger, faster, fitter and more efficient fighting machine with less chance of injury to yourself and a greater chance of exerting pain onto your opponent.

I would like to briefly touch on how strength training can also have real life applications outside of a martial arts setting. I was a doorman for 10 years, during this time I’ve encountered dozens of physical confrontations and scraps where I was able to take necessary action to diffuse the situation using physical force without injuring myself. I attribute a lot of this to strength training. Being a bigger person allowed me to exert more force over another, overwhelming them with power and speed that they could not handle giving me the upper hand. I am not an expert in martial arts and not that technically great at fighting however I was able to be effective many times over with physical confrontations purely through having the added advantage of strength. Strength coupled with pre-emptive strikes enabled me to always get the better of the person I was dealing with. Do not hesitate in situations like this you do not know the skill level, capability or whatever weapon the person may possess. Overwhelm them with force before they have a chance to attack you and you put yourself in a better position to then use your martial art techniques and neutralise that threat with minimal damage to yourself.

I hope you have enjoyed reading this article and remember if you are training at home without a gym, don’t forget the fundamental movement patterns you normally do, adapt it with whatever weighted objects you have at home. BE CREATIVE WITH YOUR WORKOUTS AT HOME, THINK OUTSIDE THE BOX ALMOST ANYTHING AT HOME CAN BE USED.

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