The most immediately productive improvements to my fitness have been:
- Going from essentially no exercise to the varied (some might say haphazard) and moderately demanding conditioning and strength-endurance work of light-contact karate
- Going from light-contact karate to running and sprinting several miles, five to six days a week, as part of Ultimate
- Going from light-contact karate to judo, jiu-jitsu, muay Thai, wrestling and MMA
- Going from judo twice a week to yoga five times a week
- Going from not lifting (or lifting light and infrequently) to lifting heavy
These changes to my strength-conditioning-mobility regimen each provided a tremendous return on investment within only a month. It was quite dramatic each time: a wicked trough of pain, followed by a surge along some axis of physicality. Adding yoga boosted my flexibility; adding Ultimate shot my flexibility and conditioning through the roof; trying new combat sports wildly improved my conditioning, speed, and proprioception; starting lifting gave me never-before-known strength, mobility, and power.
To that list I now add the most basic of mobility exercises: spending time in the third world squat. K* obviously considers it a fundamental; it was the first thing he showed in his MobilityWOD. I have felt the power of this drill once before, when throwing brief sit-in-a-squat breaks throughout my work day. This helped my barbell squat a great deal, but it wasn’t really earth-shattering.
Now that I have added a “squat test” to my lifting workouts, I see the true power. The “squat breaks” gave me a third world squat, but actually timing them, increasing my times each workout, has been transformative. I can straighten my back in the bottom of the squat. The upright ass-to-grass squat, which had eluded me for so long, and so infuriatingly, is now in reach.
I’m so excited for what this means for my barbell squat. My best is still only about 5 minutes sitting in the squat. Maybe if I keep on it my pistols will start to look better? I can only assume it will help my jiu-jitsu.
Mobility > Strength
In the interests of:
- addressing long-standing mobility and joint health issues,
- recognizing the simple fact that my desired volume of lifting is greater than my normal recovery capabilities,
- allocating more of my limited recovery to a planned increase in running and combat sports,
I have decided on the following lifting program.
- A: Warm-up, back squat 3x5, mobility work, chin-ups (2 sets of 3 to 5 with holds and negatives, 1 set for reps)
- B: Warm-up, front squat 1x5, deadlift 1x5 or 1x3 or singles, mobility work, overhead press 3x5.
Warm-ups consist of a thorough rotation of all the joints, five minutes of jogging or jump-rope or shadowboxing, leg raises/swings, and arm circles/swings. (The latter two cover the two major complex joints, the hips and shoulders.) I have been slacking on these, because it’s easy to put them aside and focus on getting under the bar. Until, that is, one notices that lifting the bar hurts.
If I have extra time during the warm-up, or during the re-warm-up for the second exercise if necessary, I like to do some pistols and lunges in order to stay fresh on those unilateral movements.
Mobility work consists of mandatory and optional exercises. Mandatory are a 3rd world squat test, three sets of five wall slides, and band work for the shoulder and hip. (Doing a test-retest of the rack position before and after shoulder external rotational work with the band was educational.) Optional are overhead squats with a broomstick, duck walks, and physical therapy stretches for the wrist and elbow.
I aim to regain the habit of morning runs and stretches, as well.
In reference to discussion of the minimal five, Jack said:
This reminds me: the missing piece of Dan J’s movements pattern collection is a rotation/counter-rotation exercise. His choice of one-arm exercises for push/pull here fixes that to some degree.
From discussions with Mr. John, he considers loaded carries, particuarly lopsided ones, to cover this base. Kettlebell waiter’s walks, for instance, turn out to be great fun.
However, I think it would make sense to distinguish ”force to produce rotation” from “force to resist rotation,” which is why the fundamentals currently floating in my head are squat, deadlift, push, pull, carry, rotate. (As time passes, squat/deadlift tends to look more and more like “lower-body push/pull”.)
"Rotate" seems to be of particular importance for throwing arts.