Essentials of Rest and Recovery at Martial Arts Camps

Here’s my latest article on the essentials of rest and recovery. Check it out.

Rest, and recovery are critical components of any successful training program at an intensive martial arts training camp. In my experience it is a component under-utilised in intensive training environments. Students want to get the most out of their time, so push hard. In this article I discuss the ‘Essentials of Rest and Recovery at martial arts training camps’.

Rest to enhance performance

As a way to enhance performance rest and recovery is too often overlooked. Understanding the difference between rest and recovery and how to properly implement them both is the key. If you’re training 5-8 hours per day for 5-6 days a week, you have to consider how sustainable that is. Making the most out of your rest, and recovery time is essential. If you define rest as a combination of sleep, and time not training then the quality of your sleep, and the time you spend not training will be critical. With many full-time martial arts schools packing their timetables with morning, afternoon, and evening training sessions. How you sleep, and spend the time in-between these classes is even more important.

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Chapter 2 – Eat right, be tight

by Bryan Balandowich

It seemed fitting that with the first chapter being about starting the New Year right, and hint: this writing is full of many metaphors, a New year is not just Dec.31st, but can be any day, only you can tell yourself what day it is so to speak. Time in the grand universe is relative.

Body Back Guarantees

One of the biggest topics during this time of year is getting in or back into shape. Gym memberships sell hard and customers go for broke to get that beach body. Problem is that unless you’re living in the tropics, summer isn’t coming around the corner for a few months and therein lays our first predicament. Just as smokers keep on smoking even though the stats couldn’t be more clear, put a chimney in your body and you become the chimney and drinkers keep on drinking, drink too much vodka and you’ll become the vodka. Not that it’s a fact that all smokers get lung cancer and all drinkers experience liver failure, game set match, but if you don’t play with fire you won’t get burned in the first place, right?

Shaken Not Stirred

conneryThe reason? Psychologist’s attribute it to time. Like Pavlov’s experiments, the dog is only trained if the conditioned stimuli and response sets are timed in close proximity to one another. Smoking a cigarette and sipping a martini feels good today, but could have dire consequences down the line. So yes, doctors cannot say smoking or drinking definitely gave you your unfortunate situation, but by logical conclusions, it must have been a contributing factor.

Location Location Location

In real estate, it’s location, location, location, in movies its about the actors and actresses and distribution, when it comes to getting that six pack, it’s all about the diet. In fact, no matter how many sit ups you do, if you don’t count your calorie input and output ratio, then tough luck, it isn’t going to happen no matter how hard you try. A

general consensus is 10-12% body fat ratio to see your abs. Once you’re at that body fat ratio they pop naturally, the more crunches you do the more defined and sculpted they get. It’s also up to genetics; everyone’s different, so again, one person who has an eight pack does not mean that he is stronger than the one pack.

Mr Olympia

Tip, never underestimate the one pack. Like an idiot savant, weakness in one area usually implies strength in another, usually, not always, my digression is more towards yin-yang and the idea of opposites and more specifically a balance of energy. So let’s use your energy right.

“Frank Zane, three time Mr. Olympia did 1,000 abdominal reps pre competition, so once you get your body weight down, you chisel your body, with the chisel being hard work, sets and reps.”

frank-zane

Tight shorts and a fitbit

Most people when they first start to want to get in shape, run over to the local fitness store and load up on the latest fashions, trends, supplements and so on. However, when you see the big guy at your local gym, he’s usually wearing clothes that look like they desperately need a wash, however not always the case, but to make my point, they don’t care about the clothes, in fact these guys are usually more than happy to take their shirts off. They have painfully learned the truth, which is that it’s all about sets and reps and hitting the gym week in and week out. It’s about going when you don’t feel like going, getting in that extra training session, that’s what it’s all about. That’s when you see results and feel good about yourself and your achievements.

An Ongoing Quest

So in the ongoing quest of creating good habits I encourage you not to buy anything. Instead, try a new approach. Throw out all the crap, the sugars, the chips, carbonated beverages; all the stuff you know is bad for you. Now once the foundation has been set, you can start to build and stock your shelves. With minimalism comes the idea of a bottom up approach, the problem we have herein discussed is that most people want to start from the top from day one, and hence buy all the clothes to “look good and look in shape”. Spanx makes a lot of money let me tell you. So instead of wasting your time and money, drink water, eat lots of fruits and vegetables and the river will run its course. And the great news is that once you look and feel good, you don’t want to go back to the old you. Habits build habits. You are what you eat, we all know that, it’s time to stop knowing and start doing.

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Do or do not, there is no try

When I first started training there was this man at the gym with crazy arms, I mean fully ripped, cut, lean and muscularly massive. I asked him how long he’s been working out for, and he said casually, as he chatted to the cute girl on the treadmill, 16 years. Hannibal the calisthenics king has been at it for about the same length of time, which draws us back to the first article regarding habits and the 10, 000 hour rule, which is approximately ten years. This is why most athletes become legendary at one point in their career, their “hey day”, a combination of being at the top of their craft, both mentally and physically in addition to little bit of luck, and opportunity.

So you say, some athletes are amazing at 16 or 18 years old. I reply to that, they probably started practicing around 2-4 years of age. The point here is this, whether it’s Martial Arts, Body Building, Calisthenics, or any kind of training, as Bruce Lee once intimated, a punch is first a punch then not a punch then a punch again. An exercise starts out easy, gets hard, then it becomes easy again.

Socratic Method

Socrates would start philosophical inquiry with inducing doubt, not knowing, accepting one’s ignorance. Socrates would for example, approach and ask a poet on the streets of ancient Athens, what is beauty? The poet would answer quickly, “beauty is a baby asleep in their mothers arms, the daily dance of the sunrise and set, a flower in bloom, and so on . . .” Then Socrates would point out that these are examples of beauty and not answering the question, begging the question fallaciously in fact.

Thus the poet realizes that they do not truly understand what beauty is. They sit in quiet meditation on the edge of a cliff overlooking the vast blue oceans of the Agean sea. Only then do they realize that no words can express beauty, because of its breathless connotation, and only then does the dentation become clear in their heart.

Relevantly speaking, you get muscles fast when you start working out, then it lags after a year, the gains are less visible, then after 10 years of day in and day out exercises like sit ups and push ups start paying off. Start with the basics, pull-ups, dips, pushups, both horizontal and vertical plane to work chest and shoulders. Add some squats for your legs and your set.

healthy-eating

Eat Right, be Tight

Back to diet. Another thing to keep in mind is portion size and not eating until one feels fully satiated. Raisins and Chia seeds are great for tricking the body to feeling full because they absorb water and expand in your stomach. This will mask the hunger, so it’s a good snack idea.

Snacking in general is a good idea. Eating 6 meals, 3 staples and 3 snacks is the best way to dance all day. It keeps your metabolism busy. Therefore, eating more often is better than eating less and less often. A lot of people like to skip meals and replace them with feasts later on. Remember, your body is a habitual routine based machine. It also has a memory, muscle memory. This has an inherent pro and con.

10,000 hour rule

The more you do an exercise, the better you get at it and the better your muscles adapt to it. You get used to it, as with anything else in life. This is why having desires and needs for material possessions having fleeting happiness, we get used to the new house, car, wife and husband. Because the muscles get used to the exercise and they don’t tear and fatigue as easily, if your goals are strength and growth, you need to trick your body and throw some curve balls, workout at different times, different lengths, conditioning vs heavy weights, and the same goes for Martial Arts. The goal is to get super conditioned automatic reflexes, but there’s a reason that there are multiple training drills, forms, and exercises to strengthen the same muscles . . . My friends and I once discovered a Martial Arts group run by a lady and all they do is kick trees. One move. That’s it. You must imagine how many kicks thrown and broken forests lay in the wake of 10 years, 10, 000 hours of shin kicking practice. Treat your body as a temple and a weapon and the forces of ying and yang and the river will steer you clear.

Have you eaten?

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The problem for most people starts with how they eat and what they eat. Starting the day with a coffee and bagel, salad for lunch and then a big t-bone with fries for dinner is not the way to get it done.

The first time I came to this realization that diets were a very cultural and arbitrary thing was when I went to my Korean friend’s house in Toronto for breakfast.

His mom asked me what I wanted for breakfast and I replied some cereal or the usual bacon and eggs would suffice. She said, “we don’t no this stuff”. How about some kimchi, with fried beef and rice? I was excited, authentic Asian food at 8 am, I didn’t have to wait for dinner!

For 20 years I had only eaten the usual, yogurt, cereal, bagels, croissants, bacon and eggs, the staples, sandwiches, fruits, pancakes and so on. This was the first time I was eating dinner food for breakfast and I felt normal about it because it seemed normal to them. I even put hot sauce on it to be compliant with the house culture. Now, you don’t have to have steak for breakfast everyday, because too much red meat is not the best coronary medicine, but you might want to have it before a rugby match like my Korean friend used to do.

Whose ready to tackle in the morning scrimmage, oatmeal or t-bone?

The lesson here is not forgoing pancakes and all that stuff, but to realize that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Food is really about calories, which is literally energy. There is thermal energy, electrical energy and so forth and all forms of energy can be measured in Jules. A calorie is X Jules. So in essence, as far as science and your body is concerned, all energy is energy, 1+1=1, if it smells like water, and tastes like water, then it must be water.

The average person needs around 2,000 calories a day to get by. The guys and girls who look like they belong on a magazine cover have figured it out. After years of not caring about math, they can count calories upside down and inside out. It’s not that hard. After all, just like we wear the same t-shirts over and over while we keep the others in the closet, we usually eat the same brand of cereal since we were 5 and as pointed out, we are habitual creatures, some much more than others. Some people eat exactly the same thing everyday. And there is nothing wrong with that.

messyfridge

A lot of people are trying to be healthy but they buy way too much

Chlorella, algae, is said to be the one food you can eat, nothing else, and be totally healthy. As one of the first simple forms of life, it contains all of life, only life can give life to life, 1+1=1. Now, nobody wants to eat algae everyday, but the point is valid. Again, a lot of people are trying to be healthy but they buy way too much at the grocery store and then throw most of it out. I need to eat this because I saw it on this show, and my friend says this is good for you, and oh, this is great for my new yoga class, etc . . . but truth is, there are no superfoods, no be it all.

First off, if you’re happy eating algae everyday, do not read on. For all others who enjoy life and live to eat, foodie or not, and you want to be in shape, first off you don’t need to eat anything special. Just like the neighbour who is always inviting you over for dinner and they use 20 spices to prove they are a chef and then it tastes like ass. A true chef, can create a dish of beauty and simplicity. The perfectly poached egg, the filet of sole fried to perfection, the spaghetti, al dente, not to hard and not to soft, just right to the taste.

You don’t have to eat concentrated foods

Goji berries, kiwi fruits, lemons, grapefruits, oranges all have vitamin C, so does spinach and broccoli. You don’t have to eat the one with the highest concentration; they all got what you need. Buy seasonal so that it’s fresh and budget friendly. So not only is it important to keep it simple in terms of ingredients, it’s also important to keep it local and fresh. If it’s about nutrients, crops begin to transpire the second they are harvested. Farm to table is what it’s all about. So if you live in New Zealand eat Kiwis, if you live in Florida, have an orange, if you’re in China, have a goji berry, and have the others when available and when you can. The superfood buying health nut is not going to have a better body or mind frame, just a smaller bank account at the end of the month.

quackeryWebMD

When you get sick, people always have suggestions for you, you should do this or eat this or eat that, my cousin or friend swears by this and so forth. Sometimes there is merit to what they are saying but other times it is folklore passed down from the stone age. Our concern here is to strictly speak in reference to studies and their link to advice. Everyone knows that the above fruits have lots of vitamin C, etc . . . First off, its because these fruits have had a lot of studies conducted, secondly they have had a lot of studies about that particular vitamin and other fruits and vegetables are not being studied, or studied less or in different ways.

This means, what’s good today may not be good tomorrow and what’s bad now may no be good later. Just look at prohibition laws and one will see the absurdity. And the funny thing is, adults are just like little children and Eve in the Garden of Eden, everyone wants to bite the forbidden fruit and everyone knows that the snake in the apple will bite them as recourse. Just like you know that the fast food option was not the best course of action, it was your choice, you’re the idiot, no one else to blame. Unless drugs or aliens are controlling your mind, you always have a choice which movie you want to watch.

Don’t give up on life to have a six-packscreen-shot-2017-02-15-at-12-00-05-am

You don’t have to give up on life to have a six-pack. Most athletes have a cheat day, and the more habitual your training, the more cheat days you can have. So the chocolate cake is not the problem. Ask Hannibal from YouTube what’s up? The man is absolutely shredded and admitted on YouTube that he eats whatever the hell he wants. He however also does his Calisthenics for 3 hours a day (morning and night), 7 days a week!

Happy Rooster!

 

Fascia. What is it and why should I care?

by Luke Sherrell / Director of Operations class

AMN Academy

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What do you think is more important, Strength and Power, or Coordination and Flexibility?

It depends on the goal I hear you cry! Plus, how strong or how flexible are we talking here? There is a big difference between achieving box splits when compared with touching your toes or bench pressing 200kg’s vs nailing a pull up.

These are fair comments so let me put this another way. If you could be naturally gifted with strength and power or coordination and flexibility, which would you choose?

In the absence of specific goals, the way I’d answer this question is to consider which of the movement qualities are the most difficult to acquire? Without wishing to upset vast numbers of strength and conditioning enthusiasts and coaches, having worked with hundreds of clients for many years, I am inclined to say that it is a simpler process to gain strength and power than it is to become more coordinated and flexible!

Note that I said simpler and NOT easier.

The pursuit of high levels of strength is hard work but if you utilise a progressive training system that involves the manipulation of intensity (load) and volume, over time, you will get stronger. If you also practice moving quickly while applying force, you will become more powerful. I would also like to point out that depending on the individual, the constant pursuit of these two qualities exclusively is often to the detriment of overall movement quality.

Flexibility, mobility and coordination are a little more complicated to acquire. Gaining large increases in flexibility for example is such a long and slow road that many trainers simply don’t include it in their programming. If a client came to you and said I want to become more coordinated, it would be understandable if you felt a little out of your depth. You would first need to understand why the individual is poorly coordinated, which systems to stimulate and which sort of movements are appropriate.

In the world of body weight training, people who are coordinated and flexible require less strength. They have the capacity to manipulate their bodies into angles of leverage that are advantageous instead of fighting against their own tensions and having to muscle their way through things.

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Effortless coordination also suggests that someone also has a highly developed motor system. The peripheral nervous system, cerebellum, pre-motor and motor cortices are well educated, they have a large movement vocabulary, or as I like to call it they have a high level of Movement Intelligence.

So are the elusive skills we speak of more important than strength and power? That really is open to debate, a debate that I do not wish to get in to at this stage. Maybe it’s not that coordination and flexibility are vastly harder to achieve, rather most trainers are less comfortable with how to coach these qualities.

In the AMN system, skill work is the expression of all four qualities and I would like to make a case as to why we should start looking at skill movements as viable exercise options for clients.

Stuntman Olympics 

If there was such a thing, I would be there to watch every single year because of all the athletes I’ve worked with, stuntmen are simply the most awesome.

To be a successful stuntman in modern movies you need to be able to perform:

Acrobatics

Martial Arts, Gymnastics, Parkour, Tricking, Diving, Deep sea diving and Swimming and at some point become comfortable with explosions and being set on fire. These guys are the most impressive athletes I’ve ever seen and their movement skills completely eclipse those of traditional sports.

Our skill based movement system is designed to give the novice trainee, that’s the vast majority of personal training clients and with all due respect, most trainers, somewhere to start learning skill based movement. But its not just friend impressing awesomeness that is up for grabs here.

Skill work combines the expression of strength, power, coordination, mobility, flexibility and balance. There are untold benefits to this kind of movement neurologically but in an industry obsessed with mechanics, many will be pleased to hear that its pretty good for the fascial system too.

Fascia is not simply a mechanical system, far from it! In fact there is no part of the human that is simply mechanical.

Fascia

Fascia has had a pretty big push in the manual therapy and Health & Fitness literature over the last 10 years or so, putting it right at the top of the most popular and often talked about tissue in the human body, and quite rightly so, it’s very important and influential stuff.

Fascia is the primary connective tissue of the body and has many recognisable guises such as ligaments, retinacula, tendons, aponeuroses, fascial bands, plura, meninges, perimysium, epimysium and even the pericardial sac. It is the very fabric that makes the body one single unfathomable piece of genius engineering!

There are a several fascial researchers and therapists whom I greatly respect. Luigi Stecco of Fascial Manipulation is one of them;

Fascia, what is it?

“In medicine, it has always been considered to have a mere function, or role, of containment or restraint, a type of packing material. In recent times, this view has changed somewhat. Fascia actually extends within the muscle, via the perimysium and the endomysium. This continuity means that the contraction of each single muscle fibre transmits to the deep fascia, or the outer most layer of muscle compartments. It is now thought that the fascia could be considered as a conductor of an orchestra playing a symphony of movement, where it synchronises the crescendo of some muscles and the diminuendo of others. The result is harmonious motion.”

Interview of Luigi Stecco by Massimo Ilari

Since some very smart surgeons and anatomists realised that fascia may be more than just the white stuff you need to cut away to get to the muscles, research and hypotheses have come out thick and fast. While some of the claims of fascial based manual therapy techniques may still be unsubstantiated, one description of the fascial system seems to hold true.

Slipping and Sliding 

“Musculoskeletal dysfunction is considered to occur when muscular fascia no longer slides, stretches, and adapts correctly and fibrosis localises in the intersecting points of tension, known as cc and cf. Subsequent adaptive fibroses can develop as a consequence of unremitting non-physiological tension in a fascial segment”.

A Pilot Study: Application of Fascial Manipulation(c) technique in chronic shoulder pain – Anatomical basis and clinical implications. By Day JA, Stecco C, Stecco A (JBMT, 2009)

Whilst I would add a few different and influential factors to explain musculoskeletal dysfunction, I accept the fact that the fascial system works optimally when it is mobile.

Form follows function?

Is a principle associated with modernist architecture and industrial design in the 20th century. The principle is that the shape of a building or object should be primarily based upon its intended function or purpose

We’ve all heard this phrase used within the health and fitness industry to promote a term I hate; ‘functional training’. Well, I don’t really like this statement about form and function either. In an evolutionary sense and with regards to movement, the function of the body was to be capable of interacting effectively with the environment.

Walk, Run, Jump, Hunt, (fight), Climb and Swim : Adaptable Locomotion 

A hypothesis as to why we have such incredibly powerful brains is due to our capacity for complex motion, the variance of the environment and a necessity to be able to predict outcomes of such interactions so as to promote our survival.

These days, the function of the human body is having the freedom and potential to do whatever we want with it. Our form, our design if you will, affords us near limitless movement potential.

Move in a manner that promotes and integrates our form and improved function will follow

Move in a manner that over simplifies our form and function can degrade

Collagen

In response to regular physiological strain, collagen, the basic compound of our connective tissues adapts by altering its architectural properties to meet the imposed demand.

In healthy subjects 50% of collagen fibrils are replaced annually as part of the natural cycle of cellular life. There are hypotheses to suggest that certain movement practices can influence this cycle so as the renewal process promotes improved extensibility, hydration and sliding of fascia which is displayed via increased mobility through open joint angles.

As ever I shall point out that fascia is not alone in this process. In fact it is the proprioceptive sensory system that does the learning, the tissues do the adapting. 

If you’ve ever been amazed, annoyed or both at how incredibly mobile kids are, don’t worry. The example thrown around comparing adult mobility to that of a toddler is plain stupid and in fact, it annoys me! The connective tissue matrix of a child is structurally different to that of an adult. The collagen structure of a child is more undulating, making it naturally much springier. The elderly show fascia that is much flatter and less responsive and there’s even variability in these qualities from person to person.

My 3 year old may have a pretty sweet looking straddle with no training but ask him to jog on the spot as silently as possible and he’ll bash around like a baby rhino.. He may have springy fascia but it’s not all its cracked up to be without motor control!’

Whether it’s been proven in a lab or not, (and apparently it has been) anecdotally we see it all the time. Tissue extensibility improves with the right kind of movement practices. It’s no coincidence that the connective tissue AND nervous systems of Capoeiristas, Gymnasts and Dancers allow them to move with grace and fluidity through full ranges of motion and those of your average weights trainee does quite the opposite.

How we choose to move is important. 

Counter movement and elastic recoil

As if learning to be awesome wasn’t enough! The pursuit of athletic drills and movement skill practice is right on the money to enhance the energy store and release capacity of fascia.

The elastic storage capacity of fascial tissue can be enhanced with correct practice. When performing an athletic warm up we kick shoes off and coach clients to stay on the balls of the feet. We advise that ground contact time should be minimal and they should aim to be as quiet as possible.

Becoming fast and reactive through the lower limbs is a product of training. It strengthens the feet and goes a long way to improving athletic movement in ball sports such as tennis and squash. Some have it naturally while others have to earn it, but it can always be learned and improved.

The energy returning, recoil extensibility of the connective tissue matrix is subconsciously utilised any time we ever jump, throw or kick a ball, it’s also present in just about every one of the dynamic skill movements we provide in the fundamentals.

Flexibility

Flexibility is not gained with a single approach. It is the net result of several complimentary practices of which movement skills like cartwheels, handstands, rolling, athletic drills, bridges and scoots are part of.

With this in mind, let me conclude this article with another question.

“What is more useful and rewarding for you and your clients?”

1. Learning to move in complex patterns that build strength, mobility, coordination, are in tune with our form, improve the brain by engaging in the process of learning and make you look awesome at house parties?

Or 

2. Generic dumbbell rows and chest presses?

I’m a bit biased so I’ll leave you to decide on that one. 

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