Monthly Archives: February 2016

Prevent The Number 1 Cause of Death



(Don’t be this guy, watch at your own risk)

What I failed to point out in my LSD training articles is, cardiovascular fitness and dietary control have protective benefits to the number one killer in the US:

Cardiovascular disease.

This is an easy win. Cardiovascular disease (which includes Heart Disease, Stroke and other Cardiovascular Diseases) is the No. 1 cause of death in the United States, killing nearly 787,000 people in 2011.


Cardiovascular diseases claim more lives than all forms of cancer combined. In the United States, someone has a heart attack every 34 seconds. Every 60 seconds, someone dies from a heart disease-related event.

There are roughly 32,000 gun deaths per year in the United States. Of those, around 60% are suicides. About 3% are accidental deaths (between 700-800 deaths). About 34% of deaths (just over 11,000 in both 2010 and 2011) make up the remainder of gun deaths and are classified as homicides. According to FBI statistics, there were 12,664 homicides in the US in 2011.

12,664 homicides vs. 787,000 deaths from cardiovascular disease.

If you live in a safer area and don’t gang bang, your chances of being a homicide victim drop.

According to the Chicago Police Department almost 80% of gun related homicides are gang related. In 2015, 506 homicides occurred in the city of Chicago.

Approximately 106 homicides in Chicago, in 2015, could be classified as non-gang related homicides. 2.719 million people live in Chicago. Do the math.

It is important to prepare to not be the victim of a homicide. Train with your firearms. Train BJJ, boxing, MMA. Integrate these skills within a weapons based enviroment and pressure test.


If you prepare to protect yourself from violent death, it only makes sense to protect yourself from the most likely cause of death, cardiovascular disease.

According to the American Heart Association cardiovascular training significantly impacts rates of heart disease and significantly impacts survivability.  

Obesity is an independent risk factor for cardiovascular disease. You control obesity through diet.

So, independent of the performance benefits of cardiovascular training, LSD training and dietary discipline has a significantly greater chance of saving your life than training with firearms and martial arts.




Filed under Nutrition, Training

Let’s Build a Cardio Base with LSD


In the first part of this article series (Part 1) I outlined why you need to incorporate Long Slow Distance (LSD) training into your training calendar. In this post I will detail exactly how to implement a cardiovascular base building program.


Ideally we would implement two eight week blocks of concentrated LSD training within a twelve month training year. For my own training I will complete a LSD block in January/February and in July/August. You could do a block of training once or twice a year.  More than that and you are filling six months or more of your yearly training with cardiovascular-centric training. Training sessions will be long and boring (for most sane people) so we want to go through these training blocks as few times a year as necessary.

Throughout the rest of the year, one day a week is dedicated to a long LSD session and two days are dedicated to other conditioning modalities. I complete a 60 – 90 minute session of LSD on Sundays and depending on what is on the competition horizon, I dedicate at least one 15-20 minute training session to some form of high intensity interval training and one session 15 – 20 minute session to VO2 MAX training or tempo training.


The mode of exercise is the brass tacks of what training equipment or modality are you going to use to train the heart and cardiovascular system. Fighters have traditionally gravitated to road work. There is nothing wrong with running/jogging and my personal opinion is I see more consistent and better gains with road work. But road work alone, especially during a LSD centric block of training could lead to injury or aggravate old injuries and beat up knees.

We want to mainly use the largest muscles of the body and the training should be rhythmic. Stationary Bicycle, rowing, running/jogging, heavy bag, jump rope, versa climber, Jacob’s ladder, elliptical trainer, rucking, etc.  Our goal in this training phase is to peg our heart rate at a specific number of beats per minute. Because some of the gains in VO2 MAX and stroke volume involve peripheral vascularization (actually growing blood vessels in muscle tissue) and changes in at the mitochondrial level, involving the arms in some way, at least some of the time, is preferable, especially if you use your arms in your sport.

To break up long sessions you could mix modes, ie.: 13 minute session of jump rope (4 X 3 minute rounds with 30 seconds rest between rounds), 15 minutes on the Air Dyne, 15 minutes on the treadmill, 13 minutes heavy bag (4 X 3 minute rounds with 30 seconds rest between rounds), and 20 minutes running/jogging outside. Mixing modalities also helps to lessen overuse injuries.

For shorter interval sessions I usually use the Air Dyne bike or C2 rower.


If left to their own devices, most athletes and regular people will train LSD too hard. Going for a run becomes a death race. Endurance trainers call these training sessions “junk miles”. They are junk miles because they are not hard enough to train VO2 MAX or anaerobic threshold and they are not easy enough to allow for full filling of the ventricles to allow a training response to enhance stroke volume.

We eliminate this “go by feel” training by training with a heart rate monitor.

I like the Polar “Bluetooth” heart rate monitor with the Polar soft strap. The soft strap allows for contact training (like sparring in BJJ) and the Bluetooth allows you to train without a watch. The monitor feeds straight to an app on your smartphone.


There are many methods to determine the ideal heart rate for LSD training. I’m going to suggest Dr. Phil Maffetone’s 180 formula.

180 – your age = your training heart rate or MAF

According to Maffetone, you should modify this number:


  1. “If you have or are recovering from a major illness (heart disease, any operation or hospital stay, etc.) or are on any regular medication, subtract an additional 10.
  2. If you are injured, have regressed in training or competition, get more than two colds or bouts of flu per year, have allergies or asthma, or if you have been inconsistent or are just getting back into training, subtract an additional 5.
  3. If you have been training consistently (at least four times weekly) for up to two years without any of the problems just mentioned, keep the number (180–age) the same.
  4. If you have been training for more than two years without any of the problems listed above, and have made progress in competition without injury, add 5.”


So a 35 year old who has never trained LSD before would come up with the following training heart rate:

180 – 35 = 145 – 5 (see number 2 above) = 140

So our untrained 35 year old would peg their heart rate at 140 beats per minute for the entire LSD training session. I like to see the average HR on the Polar Training as close to 140 as possible. Will your heart rate go higher than 140 during a 3 minute round of jump rope? Possibly, but try to keep it around 140. Will the heart rate go lower than 140 during a 30 second “rest period” between rounds? Sure, it really doesn’t matter, just try to get the average heart rate at 140 and try to spend the majority of your training session at or around 140 BPM.


I don’t count sport specific training towards my cardiovascular training. So if I spar for 30 minutes, 3 times a week, that time is not counted as a cardiovascular training session. One exception is if you are in a “training camp” for an event. As we progress in the training camp our cardiovascular training becomes more specific to convert our general gains into specific gains.  Joel Jamieson at 8 Weeks Out, has excellent material regarding conditioning and specific conditioning for events.

I keep weight training simple, hard, and intense. I only recommend lifting two times a week during an LSD training cycle. We are looking to maintain strength, not enhance strength.  It’s possible to reduce strength specific training to one session and maintain a majority of strength but two sessions seems to be ideal.

Ideally, we would train strength and cardio on separate days. If we have to train them on the same days, ideally we would separate our training sessions by at least four hours. If you are a normal person, you may not be able to do that so, train cardio first and strength second. There is emerging science to back this recommendation up which has to do with muscle growth signaling. But if you don’t want to do train cardio first, then strength train first. I don’t think it’s a deal breaker either way.

A sample eight week program:

Weeks          Session 1                             Session 2                          Session 3

1                     LSD 30                                  LSD 20                              LSD 30

2                    LSD 40                                  LSD 30                              LSD 40

3                    LSD 50                                   LSD 40                              LSD 50

4                    LSD 60                                   LSD 50                              30:30 x 5

5                    LSD 70                                   LSD 30                              60:60 x 6

6                    LSD 80                                   LSD 60                              3:1 x 3 x 2

7                    LSD 90                                   LSD 60                              3:1 x 3 x 3

8                    LSD 90                                   LSD 70                               5:1 x 4

LSD: Choose a modality or mix of modalities and after a 5 minute warm up, keep your heart rate at MAF for the required time. Time is in minutes (60 = sixty minutes).

30:30s: Choose a modality and stick with it throughout the entire block of training. Go as hard as you can for 30 seconds, rest for 30 seconds. Complete the prescribed number of rounds.

60:60s: Sticking with the modality you choose for 30:30s, go as hard as you can sustain for 60 seconds; rest for 60 seconds for the prescribed number of rounds.

3:1 x rnds: Same modality as 30:30 and 60:60, 3 minutes as hard as you could sustain, 1 minute rest for three rounds. Rest for 3 minutes and repeat for the prescribed number of rounds.

This isn’t the only way to build a cardiovascular base but it will get the job done and allow for sport specific training and resistance training.

Day 2, 4, 6, and 7 are left blank for resistance training and sport specific training. Switch this up to fit your schedule but try not to put two days of cardiovascular training together.

This is not the time to be in a calorie deficit. This is not a fat loss program. I don’t believe in using exercise to create a calorie deficit for fat loss. You need to be at maintenance + estimated expenditure for this program. If you are losing weight, increase calories.

This program is specific to improving cardiovascular function. HIIT and sport specific training is layered on top of the base you build from this program.



Filed under Training

You need LSD

(This is a multiple part article regarding Long Slow Distance training for the combat athlete. I first published this article on a private message board in the summer of 2009. Parts of this post have been edited from the original).


You need to do LSD…not that kind of LSD, the long boring kind of LSD. Long Slow Distance training!


One of the most common comments we hear after a first time student completes a force on force evolution of training is: “I need to get in shape”. Working against a fully resisting human being, with the free will to do anything to win the battle, is an exhausting endeavor.

Vince Lombardi (or possibly George Patton) is credited with the quote “fatigue makes cowards of us all”.  Spend one evening watching UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championships) and you will observe what happens when an athlete crosses over his or her anaerobic threshold, for too long, and gasses. It looks like they are fighting in molasses, they dramatically slow down and cannot mount an offence, their defense crumbles.  They “gas”.

Gassing is a colloquial term for the failure of aerobic and anaerobic systems to keep up with the muscles demand for energy. When an athlete “gasses” their body essentially quits.

For the purposes of this blog post we’ll look at blood as the delivery system for oxygen. Oxygen is used by the muscles to produce energy. When we outwork our muscles ability to reproduce energy, we gas.

If the blood is an oxygen carrier, the heart is the pump which gets the blood to our muscles. The heart is a muscle with four chambers. The stronger the muscle and the bigger the chambers, the better…to a point.


There is a training method which enhances our bodies ability to pump more blood, extract more oxygen, and use that oxygen more effectively to produce energy.

This method of training has been vilified by trainers worldwide and has been blamed for muscle wasting and making athletes slow.

Since the 90s, interval training has been heralded as the be all end all conditioning modality. Interval training has its place within a training year but it must be layered on a large, efficient aerobic engine.

The method to get that engine is:

Long Slow Distance or LSD training.

There has been a resurgence of Western fighters doing roadwork (LSD) or longer bouts of aerobic exercise. I say Western fighters because Thai Boxers never stopped doing roadwork. It is a staple of their morning training. Thai Boxers don’t gas.

We are going to dig into what changes occur during LSD training and why these changes enhance enhance athletic performance for athletes who relay heavily on their aerobic systems (this includes self defense enthusiasts who train to fight).



The maximum volume of oxygen a person could use. Sometimes called maximal oxygen uptake. VO2 MAX is measured in ml/kg/min. VO2 MAX is genetically limited so thank or curse your ancestors. As a side because VO2 MAX is measured in ml/KG/min, if you lower the kg (that’s body weight, ideally body fat) you will increase MAX VO2.

Anaerobic Threshold / Lactate Threshold:

The point during exercise of increasing intensity at which blood lactate begins to accumulate above resting levels, where lactate clearance is no longer able to keep up with lactate production. During low intensity exercise, blood lactate remains at or near to resting levels. As exercise intensity increases there comes a break point where blood lactate levels rise sharply. Researchers in the past have suggested that this signifies a significant shift from predominantly aerobic metabolism to predominantly anaerobic energy production. (1)

For our purpose, aerobic energy production could go on for a very long time at lower level intensities. As intensity of the exercise increases, we cross a threshold where we exceed our ability to reproduce energy. Once we cross this threshold (anaerobic or lactate threshold) we have about 20 or so seconds until we cannot function effectively and have to slow down to recharge.


According to Wikipedia:

Stroke volume (SV) is the volume of blood pumped from one ventricle of the heart with each beat. It is calculated by subtracting the volume of blood in the ventricle at the end of a beat (called end-systolic volume) from the volume of blood just prior to the beat (called end-diastolic volume). The term stroke volume applies equally to both left and right ventricles of the heart. These two stroke volumes are generally equal, both approximately 70 ml in a healthy 70-kg man. 

Stroke volume is an important determinant of cardiac output, which is the product of stroke volume and heart rate. Because stroke volume decreases in certain conditions and disease states, stroke volume itself correlates with cardiac function“.

Slow rhythmic cardiovascular training increases the chamber size of the heart and increases the heart muscles ability to contract. This leads to an increase in stroke volume.

Stroke volume and cardiac muscle hypertrophy are importantly linked. Dilation of the heart chambers without the increase in muscle size leads to heart failure.

The muscle is physiologically set to produce “x” amount of contraction per cubic mm. Functional dilation of chamber size is always accompanied by a corresponding increase in muscle size in the healthy, enlarged heart.

To review, LSD training makes the heart chamber size bigger and the heart muscle stronger so the athlete could pump more oxygen rich blood to the working muscles.

The cardiovascular training effect is best elicited through LSD-type training. The physiological adaptations take several months, so you have to do the work to get the benefits.

The increase in stroke volume, due to training, is one of the hallmarks of this cardiovascular training effect.  LSD training has the following effects on the cardiovascular system:


  • Increase in ventricular stroke volume: being able to do the same work at a lower heart rate is more efficient and leaves extra headroom for higher workloads
  • Dilation of coronary arteries: larger conduits to supply blood to the heart muscle also provide higher capacity for work
  • Increase in pulmonary diffusion coefficient: the lungs become more permeable to gases, meaning that respiratory exchange allows more oxygen to enter the bloodstream per breath, and more CO2 to be removed. Increases in vital capacity (size limit of the lung) can also contribute to more gas exchange.


Another factor in stroke volume is the contractile ability of the heart muscle. If your heart can more fully empty the ventricle during a single ejection phase, your stroke volume will be proportionately higher. Larger ventricles (heart chambers) need more muscle to empty efficiently; it’s simply a law of physics.

The competence of heart valves is an important factor in the ability to pump more blood per beat. Many people have subclinical leakage in one or more valves, leading to less potential development of extreme athletic cardiac performance.

If we could increase stroke volume, we could increase the amount of oxygen the tissues could access, faster. Bigger heart ventricles (chambers) equal more blood pumped per beat, equals more O2 to the muscles, faster.

Muscle tissue in the legs, arms, and torso, also adapt to aerobic training. On the physiological side, trained muscle tissue is able to extract more oxygen from the blood supply and, combined with changes in the control of energy metabolism, has increased capacity for work.

This is one of the reasons we can’t just run/jog but need use all the muscles we use for our endeavors. We could do this by using rowers, Versaclimbers, Airdynes, or any other machine or modality which incorporates the arms.

My personal observation is running is the most efficient and effective way to enhance conditioning. So, running/jogging, should at least be a part of your LSD session unless your injury history precludes it.

To expand on specificity of cardiovascular training a tad. Having the big engine is fantastic and necessary. We can use general training to get the big engine. But, specific training is king; you need to convert the general adaptations to your sport.


We could work harder under our anaerobic threshold and not gas so fast. We also recover a hell of a lot quicker because we are getting more oxygen to the muscles.

But doesn’t all this endurance training turn all of our muscles into slow twitch fibers? Well, yeah, sort of, if all you do is endurance work. This is really an oversimplification, but it is adequate for our purposes.

You still need to train anaerobically and lift weights. We are trying to get a specific result here, which changes the size of the heart and the ability of the muscles to uptake oxygen.

Once we get that result, we don’t have to put in the same volume to keep the changes and could shift our training to address other weaknesses.

Can we estimate if our stroke volume is good enough for our fitness/martial arts endeavors? We could roughly estimate where our stroke volume is by taking our resting heart rate. The slower the resting heart rate, the better the stroke volume (in most cases, of course there are a hell of a lot of qualifiers here, but in general…waking resting heart rate, prior to caffeine, is a decent guideline). Go ahead and take your resting heart rate. For a fighter, it should be in the:

LOW 50s Beats Per Minute

Yep, in the low 50s. If you are higher than that, you need to work on this and here’s the bad news: LSD training, for 60 to 90 minutes, in a heart rate range of approximately 120 – 150 BPM, is the way to increase SV which will slow resting heart rate. These physiological changes are not going to happen with HIIT, sprints, Crossfit, etc.

Because you are keeping the heart rate slow in LSD training, you are increasing the filling time of the ventricles (heart chambers). The increase in filling time allows for an increase in blood volume and this actually stretches the chamber size, giving you bigger ventricles which pump more blood per beat.

Good news is that as long as the HR is above 120 and below 150 the method of exercise doesn’t really matter. In fact, it’s good to emulate your sport.

“But” you retort “fighting is an anaerobic sport!” Really, it’s all out effort all the time? Nope, it is not. Footwork, punching and kicking, holding a position on the ground, for 3 to 5 minutes is pretty aerobic. Plus, the aerobic system does not just shut off during high intensity bouts. Aerobic metabolism contributes to energy production even at high intensity. Fighting is mostly aerobic/alactic. Long periods of lighter activity with bursts of intense activity. Where fighting falls on a spectrum of purely aerobic to purely anaerobic (think marathon vs. olympic Weightlifting) depends on the type of fight and the rule set. Folkstyle wrestling is different from boxing and both are different from MMA and BJJ.

We need to develop the anaerobic system with high intensity intervals but that comes after we are maintaining a superior aerobic system. Anaerobic adaptations pretty much peak in THREE WEEKS! Go ahead and ask Dr. Tabata about that one.


So why not just do intervals?

The heart is a muscle, intervals increase the size of that muscle but don’t necessarily increase the actual size of the heart chambers. During interval training, the heart rate is so high, the chambers do not fully fill.

LSD training allows for full filling of the ventricles and like a balloon, the filling will stretch the chamber, increasing the volume of blood the ventricles could hold. This is why we need to do LSD for a long time, we are actually stretching the chamber size!

There is a time for interval training after a solid base of aerobic fitness is achieved.

Interval training is useful throughout the year and depending upon the demands of your chosen endeavor.

You will see maximal anaerobic adaptations through high intensity interval training (HIIT) within a month, so there is really no reason to pummel yourself with HIIT when you are not specifically training for an event.

Turns out, doing road work is not antiquated or stupid…possibly the great champions of the past, and the current Thai’s, were on to something. Sorry for the bad news.
The next article in this series will detail an exact eight week program to enhance aerobic function.


(1) Wilmore JH and Costill DL. (2005) Physiology of Sport and Exercise: 3rd Edition. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.

This post was an amalgamation of a blog post and several hundred responses and answers. Dr. Lee Aldridge was a valuable contributor to the post and some of his thoughts and statements are contained within the body of the post. 


Filed under Training