Hot in the Cold: Late Season Workouts

ValkyriesOnTheRingsThe Saturday class is a special one for us. We don’t do any martial arts training. It’s pure conditioning. It’s a bonus class for students who want to get an edge over everyone else, by having just a little bit more strength and speed.

In the hot days of summer, the workout is primarily sprints and ring work. Martial artists, especially those who specialize in weapons work, need speed. Speed comes from the right kind of strength. The kind of strength we want is the kind that involves more fully activating a muscle than normal. You develop this kind of strength by making the muscle work as hard as possible in the shortest amount of time, and having a nice long recovery between exercises.

We sprint on a short soccer field, and only use part of it. Twenty metres. Not really enough time to build up top speed for a proper sprint, but perfect for our needs. The whole sprint is a struggle to find the right groove, without having enough time to find it. By the time you start to come out of the crouch and get the hip drive going, you are starting to get some good speed going and have to stop before you run out of field. Racing each other in that fashion leads to seriously aching thighs.

One sprint, two to three minutes rest. It’s almost enough time to fully recover, but still short enough to retain the warm-up state. We start with very slow sprints to work on our form, then do a speed sprint with no effort (a “light” sprint) before we hit the true sprints. The chief difference between workout cycles is the rest phase. For maximum strength, very long rest. We have short rest phase variations, and loading rest phases (doing another activity instead of actually resting.) Over the course of the year we spend time in each phase, cycling through as we adapt.

Ring work in the summer is basic static strength work. L-sits, Split-L, Manna/MSH and Planche work. We work some basic skills, back and front levers, as our strength grows. Again, cycling rest is key. Longer rests are somewhat easier with ring work, as we don’t have a lot of equipment to work with. Managing shorter rests can be tricky, but there is also room to alter the method of exercise to get the same results.

That’s all fine and dandy while the weather is nice, but when it gets wet and cold, things must change.

I’m more concerned with injuries. Numb fingers can mean falls or sprains. Wet grass means slipping. It takes longer to warm up, and you cool down very, very fast.

When it’s just raining, we hit the nearby sheltered area and swap parkour work…mostly wall runs…instead of sprints. When it’s cold, I drag the medicine ball and lighter kettlebell up to the park. We add in more twisting and throwing motions and weight walks of various kinds.

Mostly, as we hit the cold and wet season, I want the athletes to stay warm as long as possible. I switch our training at this point from strength building to muscle building…It’s our roughly once-a-year cycle where we exercise just to build bigger muscles. The rest of the year will be spent getting those newly bigger muscles to the same uniform strength the smaller muscles had. To make the muscles bigger, I make sure our workouts suck every last drop of glycogen out of every muscle. The exercise loads are heavier, but not as heavy as we are used to. We do more sets, dragging out repeats and adding exercises long after we think we are done. Rest between sets is minimal to non-existent. We do other exercises instead of resting.

Because the risk of injury is higher, we are doing the technically challenging exercises first. Rings dips for Planche work to start, then MSH, Split-L’s and L-sits until we are exhausted. Once we are exhausted…Pull-ups and chin-ups to finish out the session.

This last Saturday was cold and very, very wet. I wanted to keep the workout short, so we alternated each ring exercise with Depth Jump drills from a one metre height for a full body workout. The depth jumps were done continuously until your turn on the rings came back up again, so there was some pressure for the person on the rings to fail as soon as possible. Much fun.

As we moved through the ring progression, the depth jumps also progressed. We started with a tuck jump, knees to chest, after the landing. Second variation was a standard depth jump for height, third was lunging for a finish. Fourth was stiff(ish) leg bounces. Fifth was a straddle jump. We finished with minuscule straight leg box jumps of about ten centimetres. Pull-ups and chin ups on a fat bar to finish, and we were toast. Took us a little over an hour to do the whole thing.

On the same day, Crossfit’s Workout Of The Day was 7 sets of two “Barbell Thrusters.” Looks like they had a good warmup. Wonder what their workout was?

One Comment

  1. Sounds…sound David. 🙂

    I like the focus on injury prevention although I reckon depth jumps are fairly poorly placed on the cost-benefit scale. I understand the science (and benefit) of the extreme stretch shortening that is going on with them but I think that there are better ways to increase explosiveness such as speed deadlifts. I also like the short sprints. The benefit in sprinting for explosive power comes in the starts rather than in any other part and IMO the injury risk of all out sprinting for the average armchair athlete is way too high. I would say that if you are going to sprint, you should keep it really short and/or us a hill to shorten stride, reduce impact and increase the ground force required.

    Barbell Thrusters make me scratch my head. I get that they are an extreme metabolic stress when done for high reps but they seem to me like a shoulder injury waiting to happen. Also, if you were going to do only 7 sets of 2, why wouldn’t you clean and jerk? Doing thrusters seems like a great way to not lift very much weight. Crossfit folks are often really fit people but with exercises like thrusters and kipping pullups in the mix, I don’t understand how they don’t spend more time injured than healthy.

    That young lady doing the one-arm assisted hang is doing some burly work. I certainly can’t do what she’s doing. I can move a 200 kilo deadlift, but somehow this bodyweight thing I decided to really try (after reading your blog actually) is surprisingly hard.

    Love your work, keep it up!

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