Strength is an attribute that cannot be significantly improved through the practice of participating in Combat Sports, therefore it makes strength training a wise investment, particularly if you want to win. The purpose of increasing strength is to develop physical capacities necessary to handle the unpredictable nature and stressors of the sport. Athletes need to be prepared for all aspects of physical combat including punching, kicking, takedowns, takedown defense, arm bars, guillotine, grappling, and clinching, not to mention proper conditioning and muscle endurance. A simpler way to say it would be, to achieve victory an athlete needs to be faster, more explosive and last longer than their opponent. Also, let me make it clear before I go any further, strength does not replace technique — wrestlers should prioritize wrestling, just as martial artists should ultimately work to perfect their discipline — but improving strength will transfer to better technical performance (e.g., technique) on the mat or in the cage.
"Don't fear the future and don't regret the past."
This seems like an easy aphorism to apply to life, but never really has the impact it should as everyone inevitably thinks about the choices they made. However, if we think about it in terms of bettering ourselves in the gym, rarely do we find anyone who regrets where they started and instead embraces all aspects of progress, including the choices they have made, that took them from the place where they may have thought less of themselves.
Life shouldn't be any different. So no matter what you do, every decision and subsequent outcome is simply the sum of every prior decision you have ever made. Hence, every decision you made was the "right" one and everything that happened after that was supposed to happen so you can be the person you are. So live your life and never look back because it's all working out how it was meant to be.
1. Essential Amino Acid’s (EAA’s) are better than Branched Chain Amino Acid’s (BCAA’s).
When it comes to making gains you want the full amino acid profile because it has been found that loading up on Leucine, Isoleucine and Valine can have a negative effect on neurotransmitter balance effecting drive and recovery. BCAA’s lack essential amino acids like L-Tryptophan and L-Tyrosine (precursors to dopamine and serotonin) which can throw off neurotransmitter balance over time. Also, net protein utilization are profoundly affected by the limitations of the complete amino acid profile, therefore it is important to have all essential amino acids present to make optimal gains.
2. Essential Amino Acid’s (EAA’s) combined with a Carbohydrate source are best for making strength and hypertrophy gains.
A 2006 study called “Independent and Combined Effects of Liquid Carbohydrate/Essential Amino Acid Ingestion on Hormonal and Muscular Adaptations following Resistance Training in Untrained Men” showed surprising results in that Carbohydrates alone outperformed EAA’s in almost all categories including, Muscle Fiber (Type I, Type IIa and Type IIb) improvements; Post-Workout Glucose Uptake, Insulin response and favorable reduction in Cortisol response. Yet, when EAA’s were combined with Carbohydrates for intra-workout nutrition, the positive effects on all categories were greater than either EAA’s or Carbohydrates alone. The best results for Body Composition were also seen in the EAA/Carb group. Moral of the story, to optimize your workout use EAA’s and Carbohydrates together.
3. The more carbohydrate sources you take in before/during/after your workout the better the absorption rate.
Your body can absorb 1g of carbohydrates from a single source from dextrose, maltodextrin, fructose, cluster dextrine, etc. per minute. However, if you combine sources you can increase carbohydrate uptake into the muscle by a factor of 5. Products like PentaCarb are formulated for this specific purpose and as the name implies, it has five different carbohydrate sources.
4. Improve insulin sensitivity for optimal hypertrophy.
The easiest way to recognize that you are not insulin sensitive is that you do not feel the “pump” when you are working out. The more insulin sensitive you are the better able you are to increase glucose and amino acid uptake into the muscle cells, thereby suppressing cortisol and reducing muscle breakdown. Plus, if you are insulin sensitive, when you eat carbohydrates the are better able to be used for fueling your muscles rather than storing them as fat.
5. Don’t have a bolus dose of Antioxidants around your workout.
This can turn off your insulin sensitivity and reduce the amount of hormetic stress placed on your mitochondrial which are both drivers of growth.
6. Fasting is beneficial, even for those seeking hypertrophy.
Due to the amount of calories one must consume to put on size, the gut can take quite a beating. Fasting allows the gastrointestinal tract to relax and have time to heal so that when the fast is over, nutrients can be better absorbed. A 24 hour fast once a week can offer improvements. Also, intermittent fasting for 3 days a week has the same benefits as intermittent fasting for 7 days a week.
7. Over 90% of athletes are deficient in Iodine.
This fundamental nutrient is often lost through sweat and can cause hydrochloric acid (stomach acid) deficiencies, migraines, insomnia or brain fog if not repleted through supplemental or dietary means.
8. When it comes to nutrition, the 80/20 Rule is Bullshit.
You have to take into account the inflammatory affects of food and the cumulative effect it can have on your body. A study recently produced a study that said 100% of people who consume gluten have intestinal inflammation within 30 minutes!
9. The first step towards success is taken when you refuse to be a captive of the environment in which you first found yourself.
This is the basis of all change, and fundamental to my 7 Pillars of Health. Realizing that the environment that surrounds you makes you who you are; the people, the food, the job, the situation all have an effect, whether good or bad. To make a change, start by changing your environment.
10. The things that are done to you or for you are rarely as effective as the things you do for yourself.
Read that over a few times.
“Do you know that most of us today are suffering from certain dangerous diet deficiencies which cannot be remedied until depleted soils from which our food comes are brought into proper mineral balance? The alarming fact is that foods (fruits, vegetables and grains) now being raised on millions of acres of land that no longer contain enough of certain minerals are starving us — no matter how much of them we eat. The truth is that our food vary enormously in value, and some of them aren’t worth eating as food… Laboratory tests prove that the fruits, the vegetables, the grains, the eggs, and even the milk and the meats of today are not what they were a few generations ago.”
— 74th Congress, 2nd session (senate document no. 264) 1936
It has long been thought we can eat a balanced diet and remain healthy, yet, increasing rates of illness and disease have proven otherwise. The Department of Agriculture has estimated that 99% of Americans have some type of nutrient deficiency. This becomes important when we understand that our body’s require adequate nutrition to simply stay alive and significantly more nutrients if we wish to optimize our health and lifespan in this increasingly stressful and polluted world.
Why has this happened? Very simply, the food we eat — fruits, vegetables, grains, etc. — is being grown in soil which has become depleted in minerals from modern agricultural practices. In turn, our soil has become so impoverished that it has negatively effected the nutrient yield of the foods we consume. Research from the Life Extension Foundation in 2001 showed the vitamin and mineral content of several foods has dropped dramatically between 1963 and 2000. For example: Collard greens were shown to have a 62% loss of vitamin C, 41% loss of vitamin A, 29% loss of calcium, 52% loss of potassium and an 84% loss in magnesium! Furthermore, in 2004 the Journal of the American College of Nutrition found similarly significant declines in the vitamin and mineral content of over 43 crops grown in US markets.
Adding proof to the claims of nutrient insufficiency through dietary intake, lets take a look at a 2002 study in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA). The authors examined several nutrients including vitamins A, B6, B12, C, D, E, K, Folic Acid and Carotenoids to which they concluded that the current US diet, while sufficient to prevent acute vitamin deficiency diseases, such as scurvy and pellagra, is inadequate to support long-term health. Continuing the theme, in a 2006 study from the journal Advances in Therapy it was stated: “Only supplementation was able to significantly boost nutrient levels and confer beneficial effects on general welfare, physical performance, and resistance to infections. Therefore, it appears that nutritional supplements are advisable for everyone.”
How can we optimize our nutrient intake? Along with eating as fresh, local and wild as possible, the incorporation of a high-quality, nutraceutical grade supplementation program is warranted. It is essential to find a supplement company which guarantees both potency and purity of their products, can provide proof of their effectiveness in human trials, with all ingredients are Generally Recognized As Safe. A good place to start is with The Comparative Guide to Nutritional Supplements by Lyle MacWilliam. This provides a comprehensive review of over 1,300 products in the United States and Canada.
What should I take? The following is a list of fundamental recommendations to get you started:
Most people do not meet their vitamin and mineral needs through diet alone, and as we have learned above, it would be hard to get all the nutrients we need from food alone. Supplementing with a MultiVitamin is essential to optimize health and performance, however most multivitamins you find in retail stores contain inefficacious, synthetic forms of vitamins and mineral that aren’t readily absorbed (or even usable) for your body. Therefore, it is imperative to find quality brands like NutriDyn or ATP.
Fruits & Greens Powder
A 2014 meta-analysis of 16 studies found that “higher consumption of fruits and vegetables is associated with a lower risk of all-cause mortality, particularly cardiovascular mortality.”* However, less than 10% of Americans consume sufficient amounts of fruits and vegetables per day. The NutriDyn Fruits & Greens provides 20+ servings of fruits and vegetables in a single scoop and tastes great.
Magnesium is the second most abundant mineral inside human cells, or at least it should be. It is essential for over 700 enzymatic reactions in the body, such as normal nerve and muscle function, supporting the immune system, keeping a steady heart beat, helps bones remain strong and it is also needed to regulate blood glucose levels. According to Carolyn Dean, author of The Magnesium Miracle, as much as 80% of Americans are magnesium deficient. This is largely due to unsustainable farming practices and the use of Roundup which binds magnesium, removing 50% of what little is left in the soil.
EPA/DHA Fish Oil (Omega-3)
The majority of animal protein — beef, poultry, pork — in America is fed an unnatural diet of grains containing soy/corn. The downstream effect of this is inferior quality meat that is higher in inflammatory Omega-6’s and lower in Omega-3’s. On top of this, the Standard American Diet consists of highly processed foods, also high in these same inflammatory oils. Historically, it has been estimated that humans evolved eating a diet close to equal in Omega-6 and 3 fatty acids**. However, the current ratio in the Western diet is closer to a 15:1 to 30:1 ratio. This is cause for a host of inflammatory diseases. Improving your Omega-3 ratio can improve insulin sensitivity, lower triglycerides, mitigate the effects of stress, and has the ability to turn on lipolytic genes (fat burning genes). Additionally, out of 14 omega-3 trials, which followed patients for an average of 2 years, the overall reduction in mortality was almost twice as good as statins, 25%. This is significant for at least 2 reasons: 1) that is a huge difference, and 2) the studies only lasted 2 years on average, meaning that the benefits of omega-3 fatty acids are fast-onset and robust. In other words, statins take ~50% longer and are only ~50% as good as omega-3 fatty acids.
** Simopoulos AP. Omega-3 fatty acids in health and disease and in growth and development. Am J Clin Nutr. 1991 Sep; 54(3):438–63.)
The conventional advice given to those who are tying to obtain a goal of weight-loss is to “eat less and move more.” This operates under the calories in, calories out model whereby you need to exercise off more calories than you have coming in. Sounds great in theory, but I am here to tell you that a calorie is not a calorie and exercise doesn’t really burn that many to begin with.
During a simple calorie restricted diet the weight lost is usually comprised of 2/3 fat and 1/3 muscle. So, if you lose 15 pounds, approximately 10 pounds would come from fat and the other 5 pounds from muscle. The loss of muscle is unfortunate and in a perfect world (e.g., prioritizing adequate amounts protein in the diet) would not be as significant, however if you are following the “eat less and move more” mantra this is pretty much to be expected.
Take a look at this example: a 200 pound woman with 30% body fat (200 x 30% = 60 pounds of fat mass), after losing 15 pounds would weigh 185 pound with 50 pounds of fat mass. She lost 10 pounds of fat and her total body fat was reduce from 30% to 27%.
While a total loss of 15 pounds is worth bragging about, as per the above example, the loss in muscle mass will cause a reduced metabolic rate, slowing down continued weight loss. In other words, because she burned off 5 pounds of muscle it will be harder to continue losing weight as easily as it would be if she hadn’t lost 5 pounds of muscle. Why? Muscle is an expensive tissue to maintain, it consumes nearly 40% of your body’s resting metabolism. To combat the negative effects of reduced muscle mass, while seeking a goal of body recomposition, it is important to increase total protein intake as to not hinder future progress,
Dietary protein requirements are largely affected by the amount of muscle mass you carry around as well as your total calorie intake. There is an inverse relationship between calories and protein, whereby increasing calorie intake reduces dietary protein requirements, while reducing calorie intake increases dietary protein intake. Applying this to the above situation, our 200 pound woman would make better long-term progress from an increased total protein intake of say 150-180 grams: 180 grams of protein x 4kcal/g = 720 kilocalories from protein; 720 calories is 36% on a 2000 kilocalorie diet and is 48% on a 1500 kilocalorie diet (this is purely for illustrative purposes as I am not a proponent of counting calories). Thus, the absolute and relative amounts of protein in the diet are increased. By doing this, muscle mass is much more likely to be retained, improving long-term weight loss and body recomposition goals. This is clearly supported by clinical trails; high protein diets consistently result in more successful long-term diets…
Exercise is definitely beneficial for optimal health and longevity as it increases overall fitness, improves cardiovascular health, promotes a positive well-being and if done properly can increase muscle mass which can pave the way for a long life full of vitality. However, one thing exercise does not do is cause weight-loss. When someone starts an exercise regimen without a specific dietary intervention, long-term weight loss fails to occur in the majority of people because the calorie deficit produced from exercising is offset by the increased hunger and subsequent food intake. In other words, energy intake will rise to meet the level of energy expenditure. Another way “eat less and move more” falls short of optimal advice.
This is not to say that exercise is worthless when it comes to weight-loss because exercise has the ability to do one thing that dietary intervention cannot: it builds muscle. Learning from the above mentioned example, it is our ability to maintain muscle that creates a beneficial atmosphere around weight-loss because muscle is metabolically active — the more we have, the greater amount of energy we must expend to keep it, even at rest.
For conventional purposes, exercise can be broken down into two categories; aerobic and anaerobic. Aerobic training revolves around extended periods of heavy breathing which makes the heart work and improves cardiovascular fitness, generally at the expense of precious muscle. Examples are running and cycling. Anaerobic training is performed at a much higher intensity than aerobic exercise, albeit much shorter bouts with plenty of rest in between which promotes muscle growth and increase strength. Examples are sprinting and weight lifting/strength training.
While both forms of exercise will increase energy expenditure, the amount of calories expended when not exercising is much greater than those spent when exercising. Time spent not exercising is roughly 45 times greater than time spent exercising (60 minutes at the gym vs. 23 hours not at the gym). Office work, sitting in traffic, grocery shopping, cooking, watching television, and sleeping are all lower intensity activities than any exercise; having a substantial amount of your body composition comprised of muscle will allow you to utilize your calories for the health of that expensive tissue and not have it stored as fat. Therefore, it is important to prioritize your exercise regimen accordingly.
Anaerobic training, specifically strength training increases skeletal muscle mass. This has a positive affect on our metabolic rate allowing us to use energy more efficiently (e.g., burn fat), in addition to improving overall strength, coordination and quality of life. Having stronger muscles makes all activities easier, and thus of lower intensity. And lower intensity favors fat burning as a primary fuel source. In other words, to optimize the effect of exercise on fat burning, get in the weight room.
A better way to think about getting in shape would be to “Eat and Train.” This seems to be a much more productive piece of advice as I have hopefully illustrated above. The idea of “eat less and move more” is aesthetic whereas the other is functional. The former may not have a clear goal, but the latter always does.
The default in nature is health, so why are we fat, sick and broken? It is because our environment has change, our bodies have not. We share 99.7% of the same genetics as our relatively disease free hunter-gatherer ancestors yet eat worse, move less, sleep worse, encounter more stress and toxins, and wonder what the cause is of chronic disease. It's really not that hard! Take control of your health with the 7 Pillars of Health.
Who doesn’t want to look lean and have the strength to back it up?
There is plenty of research to show that aerobic exercise, or cardio, produces negligible results when it comes to fat loss whereas anaerobic modes of exercise such as strength training and sprint interval training are exponentially better tools for optimizing body composition because they burn fat and build muscle. Yet it is still a common practice for people to go for a nice jog. Why is that? In order to avoid the continued confusion, the following four points clarify how to use different types of exercise to achieve the best results.
#1: Aerobic training can only help you lose fat if you are just starting to exercise or significantly overweight.
I must say that this isn’t the most effective type of exercise for fat loss but if you are just starting out, this something is better than nothing. However, the window of results for this is relatively short; you can expect to see composition changes for about six weeks, beyond that progress tapers rapidly.
A recent study from Duke University took sedentary, out of shape, overweight people through a fairly intense (roughly 80% of max heart rate) aerobic exercise for 40 minutes 3 times a week for 8 weeks and they lost a significant amount of weight. The total weight lost should be examined as sustained aerobic training is detrimental to strength and muscle gain (which helps burn fat). So yes, they lost weight, but how much of that weight was wasted muscle?
The key to getting results with aerobic training if you are a novice is to be consistent and monitor food intake to make sure you don’t compensate for the exercise by eating more. Additionally, adding a strength training program to your routine will help you keep off any fat you lose after those first six weeks.
#2: In the long run, aerobic training is useless for fat loss (pun intended).
In the Duke study the aerobic group only lost an average of 3.5lbs of fat and they weren’t able to build any muscle to keep that fat away, which is where we begin to see the faultiness in this method. By decreasing their body weight and improving their “fitness” the aerobic group actually lowered metabolic rate (ie how fast we burn calories). They were “in shape” and thinner but no less frail and in turn decreased their resting energy expenditure. In order to maintain that fat loss, they would need to eat less, change their ratio of fats/carbs/proteins proportions accordingly or exercise longer and more intensely. No fun!
In a 2006 study of runners, it was found that only the runners who tripled their weekly mileage from 10 miles/week to 30 miles/week did not gain fat over the 9-year study. That’s a huge increase, in not only mileage but time spent training.
#3: Smart anaerobic training burn fat quicker, while building muscle so that you raise your metabolism.
In a study of women that compared an anaerobic training program with an aerobic protocol, those that were in the anaerobic training program who lifted moderately heavy weights, lost nearly 10lbs of body fat, gained about 6lbs of muscle and had a dramatic increase in strength. The women who did the high rep, aerobic-style lifting program with the light weights had no change in body composition, and no increases in strength.
The benefit of building muscle is that your hard work lasts longer if you quit exercising. A study that tested what happens when subjects stopped exercising for a period of 3 months after doing a cardio/endurance or a resistance/strength training protocol found that the resistance training group maintained improvements in strength, muscle and cardiovascular fitness longer than the endurance training group.
The benefits of resistance training are even more pronounced in people who are in shape. In trained male athletes, a 6-week heavy load strength training program with multi-joint lifts (deadlift, squat, military press, chin-up and bench press) allowed them to lose 1% of body fat, while gaining 1.3% muscle mass for a dramatic improvement in body composition.
If we compare that to the Duke study: the aerobic group lost 1% of body fat but gained no muscle, resulting in less than favorable body composition change.
#4: The bottom line is to lift weights and do anaerobic intervals to improve your physique.
It’s pretty simple really, focus only on an anaerobic style of training and give it all you’ve got. It will not only take you significantly less time to accomplish but the results are exponentially greater.
Resistance training paired with anaerobic intervals, or sprint training, appears to be the most effective way to not only look good naked but to develop your strength optimally. A popular 20-minute sprint cycling workout has been found to lead to between 3-5lbs of fat loss in the overweight, untrained men and women. This is the protocol that was used: 8-second sprints with 12 seconds rest. Its very simple, but grueling. Try it!
More experience trainees will benefit from running sprints on a track. A Canadian study found that trained individuals who did six 30-second all-out sprints with 4 minutes rest lost an impressive 12.4% body fat after spending less than 45 minutes of actual work. Compared to an aerobic group only lost 5.8% body fat but they spent a total of 13.5 hours training:
Suggestions for developing the best resistance program include the following:
- Multi-joint lifts such as squats, deadlifts, lunges, split squats, step-ups, chin-ups and chest presses in every training session.
- Training with a higher volume – work up to more than 4 sets per exercise. Shoot for between 20 and 30 total reps per training session.
- Train with a higher intensity – include some training in the 70-85% of your one rep max range.
- Include short rest periods (30-60seconds) and count tempo for every lift so that you apply a specific amount of tension to the muscles. In general, opt for longer than (4-seconds) eccentric tempos and short or explosive concentric tempos.
- Shoot for 3 to 4 hours of total training time per week , which includes resistance training and a few short sprint sessions.
Are deep squats bad for my knees? The prevailing wisdom on this topic would lead you to believe that squatting below parallel will cause injury to your knees by placing an unusual strain on your ligaments leaving the knee unstable and prone to injury. This theory was brought to light in the late 1950’s when Dr. Karl Klein was trying to understand why there happened to be a rise in the number of colligate football players sustaining serious knee injuries. He suspected it was due to the use of full ROM squats in university strength programs so he crafted a special instrument to analyze the knees of several of these football players who frequently performed deep squats.
In 1961, Dr. Klein released his findings, which recommended the squat be limited to a parallel depth. His reasoning stated that the use of deep squatting is detrimental to athletic development and “should be discouraged from the standpoint of its debilitative effect on the ligamental structures of the knee.” The following year, Dr. Klein’s findings were picked up by Sports Illustrated which became the catalyst to spread the fear of deep squatting. Next the American Medical Association weighed in on the topic cautioning against the use of deep squatting. It went so far as the Marine Corps even eliminated the squat-jumper exercise from its physical conditioning programs.
There has been a lot of pushback on this theory ever since its inception almost 60 years ago. Dr. Klein’s findings have failed clinical replication, even with the use of his special instrument. Fortunately, now in the present day we can use the advancement in exercise science and biomechanics research to settle this debate once and for all.
When we squat, our knee sustains two inversely related forces – shear and compressive – meaning that when the knee flexes during the squat, compressive forces increase while shear forces decrease. These shear forces are measured by how much our bones – femur and tibia – want to slide over one another in opposite directions. These forces challenge the small ligaments of ACL and PCL to hold our knees together and limited excessive forward and backward movement. In contrast, compressive force is determined by the amount of pressure the body is pushing on two parts. There are two areas that sustain this compressive force; 1) the meniscus as it absorbs the opposing stress between the tibia and the femur, and 2) the backside of the patella (kneecap) as pressure increases through the descent of a squat.
Science tells us that the ligaments inside our knees are under very little stress at the bottom of a squat due to the mechanics of this inverse relationship. Harmful shear forces are dramatically decreased due to an increase in compression and it seems that the deeper we squat the safer it is on the ligaments of the knee. The most well-known ligament, the ACL (Anterior Cruciate Ligament), is under little stress in the bottom of a squat. In fact the stress to the ACL during a squat is actually highest during the first four inches of the squat decent (around 15-30° of knee flexion)* and continues to decrease the deeper the descent. The lesser known ligament, the PCL (Posterior Cruciate Ligament) sustains it’s max forces just above a parallel squat (around 90° of knee flexion).
It seems that Dr. Klein’s detrimental claims of the deep squat stretching out our ligaments, ultimately leaving them unstable is but a myth that just wont die. Science has since shown repeatedly that squatting deep may have a protective effect on our knees by increasing stability. In 1986, researchers compared knee stability among powerlifters, basketball players and runners. After a heavy squat workout, the powerlifters actually had more stability in their knees than did the basketball players did. In 1989, another group of researchers were able to show that competitive weightlifters and powerlifters had knee ligaments that were less lax than those who never squatted. The prevailing research continues to show that the deep squat is a sage exercise to include in a healthy athlete’s training program.
-Adapted from The Squat Bible by Aaron Horschig