Category Archives: Training

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



Repetitio mater studiorum est (Repetition is the mother of all learning).

“Repetition is the mother of learning, the father of action, which makes it the architect of accomplishment.” – Zig Zigler

Repetitio est mater studiorum (Repetition is the mother of studies).


(Photo Credit: Tom Kelly)

What happens when you learn a physical skill?

Learning, specifically learning a physical skill, involves enhancing the communication between the nerves and the brain. Your nerves speak to your brain through electrical impulses. The faster and more efficient the communication, the faster and more efficient the movement or series of movements.

Learning happens when new connections are made between brain nerve cells and those connections communicate electrical impulses faster.

A little neurobiology from Wikipedia (Neurons):


A neuron is an electrically excitable cell that processes and transmits information through electrical and chemical signals. These signals between neurons occur via synapses, specialized connections with other cells. Neurons can connect to each other to form neural networks. Neurons are the core components of the brain and spinal cord of the central nervous system (CNS), and of the ganglia of the peripheral nervous system (PNS). Specialized types of neurons include: sensory neurons which respond to touch, sound, light and all other stimuli affecting the cells of the sensory organs that then send signals to the spinal cord and brain, motor neurons that receive signals from the brain and spinal cord to cause muscle contractions and affect glandular outputs, and interneurons which connect neurons to other neurons within the same region of the brain, or spinal cord in neural networks.


When different parts of the brain communicate and coordinate with each other, they send electrical impulses that travel down a cable called an axon. The axon communicates with other neurons in a chain. Firing a nerve impulse is like pushing over the first domino in a chain. This process repeats from neuron to neuron, until the nerve signals reach their destination.




Myelin is the white fatty substance which coats the axon.  Myelination is when the body coats the axon with more myelin. Myelin increases the speed of the electrical impulse by letting the impulse jump across the myelin sheath to the next axon. So those dominos are falling a lot faster.

For our purposes the bottom line is, the more myelin coating the axons the faster and more accurately we move. As children learn they lay down more myelin to make everyday processes easier.

Cells in the brain detect movements which are repeated (ie. practicing a handgun or knife draw stroke). By moving in a specific sequence, we trigger a pattern of electrical signals through our neurons. At first, these signals are weak and uncoordinated.

If an action is repeated enough, the brain cells then determine the very specific sequence of movements are important enough to the organism (you) to enhance the process. The brain cells will make the movement more efficient by producing a chemical which generates myelin around the specific axons which are being used during the performance of that movement, increasing the speed and strength of the signal.




Special communications channels in the nerve cells of our brains called NMDA receptors (N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor) produce associative learning by helping to make new connections.  Researchers have shown a protein called GAP-43 is activated by the NMDA receptor.  GAP-43 makes it easier for a cell to fire its neurotransmitter molecules. The NMDA receptors are needed to produce the receipt signal, the GAP-43 proteins to receive it.

Flooding GAP-43 with impulses gets nerve connections to form rapidly. Repeating the same combination of nerve signals over and over, activates GAP-43 again and again in the nerve cells that form that memory.

Neurobiology is out of my lane and I take full responsibility for anything I have misrepresented in the above description. But a basic understand allows us to begin to understand why accurate repetitive practice is so important.




Vince Lombardi has been credited with the quote: “Practice doesn’t make perfect, proper practice makes perfect”.

Myelination and NMDA/GAP-43 research begins to explain why quantity of a specific sequence of movements makes that movement more efficient and faster. There is no biological research which points to how many repetitions it takes to myelinate an axon or enhance GAP-43.

The research does show you will enhance the EXACT sequence you repeat. So if you have crappy technical instruction, do the movement wrong, or cut corners, you will default to movement errors. Practice makes permanent.

This is why it is vitally important to get a qualified instructor/coach to teach YOU the movement and correct YOUR errors, in the early stages of learning. we want to always groove the correct sequence of movements.  Once a wrong pathway is myelinated, it is very difficult to reprogram. So, be careful how you initially learn a movement and who you learn that movement from!

Myelination and NMDA/GAP-43 enhancement occur regardless of speed of movement! Interjecting fast repetitions of a movement to early in the learning process will lead to movement errors and those errors will be embedded in your system. Movement errors take a lot of work to erase. Especially when first learning a skill, practice that skill slowly, very slowly, like you are practicing Tai Chi. Make corrections early in the process, before myelination occurs. Slow practice allows you to see and feel faults, to correct course early, before your brain lays down myelin.

Once you can reproduce the correct movement slowly, you want to encourage myelination as quickly as possible. That means thousands of repetitions of the technically perfect movement.

It is helpful to break down a complex series of movements, like a pistol draw stroke, to their smallest pieces and practice the pieces individually.

For example, if we wanted to learn to draw a pistol from a holster and aim the pistol, we have to move our dominant hand to the pistol grip; establish a grip; release the pistol from the holster; move the pistol up a vertical plane away from our holster, up the body, and closer to our center line; move the pistol into either a retention position or into the horizontal line of presentation; extend the pistol along the horizontal line of presentation to full extension of our arms; have the sights come into our exact visual cone so we have to do minimal or no adjustment of sight picture and sight alignment.

That is an extremely complex series of movements!

As we initially progress through the series of movements in the draw stroke, we are going to make many errors. Early errors (say in gripping the pistol in the holster) will compound into errors later in the sequence (poor grip throws initial sight alignment or sight picture off). We then need to add corrections from an early sequential error into our repetition (initial grip is to low causing our sight picture to be too high, causing us to dip the muzzle of the pistol to compensate). If our grip is consistently off and we have to compensate in every repetition, that compensation will become part of our draw stroke. This is very bad!

To prevent this we could break down the draw stroke into stages and practice the stages. So in our above example we could just practice acquiring a proper grip when the pistol is in the holster. Our first 100 reps should be slow and controlled. We should correct any errors as early as possible. Get feedback from coaches and experienced individuals. Video yourself practicing and correct errors.

Once we could do technically perfect movement, we need to burn that movement out with thousands of repetitions.

When drilling a new move in BJJ, I will just drill the opening grip sequence for 100s reps and try to repeat this day after day, week after week.




Utilize dead spaces in your day to perform some technically perfect repetitions.

Everytime you go to the bathroom, draw the knife from your pocket 10 times.

When you stand from your computer, perform 20 perfect repetitions of pistol grip acquisition.

Every morning, right after getting out of bed do 30 perfect hip escapes.

Find the dead spaces and fill them with repetitions of a skill you want to acquire or enhance.

Do this EVERY DAY, no excuses.

Once you acquire the skill, own that skill, and prove it under realistic pressure, you can push the skill to maintenance but you still have to practice it, rep it, just not as much.

Let’s review and pull out the takeaways:


  1. Identify a skill we want to acquire.
  2. Identify and hire the most experienced and best instructor we can find, to teach us the skill and evaluate our progress.
  3. Practice the skill slowly and receive brutally honest feedback regarding errors. Catch and correct errors prior to performing reps to “groove” the movement.
  4. Use the feedback to eradicate movement errors in the sequence.
  5. Break the sequence of the movement into component parts.
  6. Practice the component parts slowly via repetition.
  7. Fit repetitions into the dead spaces within your day. Groove the movement into your nervous system.
  8. Gradually increase the speed of the repetition.
  9. Rep daily, no excuses.
  10. Practice the movement under ever increasing pressure, until you could replicate it, at will, under any intensity of pressure.
  11. Maintain the skill through less frequent practice.
  12. Identify another skill you wish to acquire.
  13. Repeat until you die.



Filed under Training

Point Driven Fat Loss

The obligatory fat loss article for the new year.  Happy 2016, I hope everyone has a great and productive year!

For this article, I am going to stray away from Managing the Don’t Shoot Yet and discuss losing fat with diet. Many of my friends don’t know my college degree is in exercise physiology. I co-ran the human performance laboratory at Northern Illinois University as a graduate assistant (in 1985) and worked at a human performance testing hospital facility for three years.  During that time I tested thousands of people and provided exercise and nutrition, advice, and feedback.

This is a copy of a post I wrote on a private message board in 2011. You will notice this information is becoming more mainstream these days, but in 2011 there were only three main proponents of this method, Brad Pilon (Eat Stop Eat), Martin Berkhan (Leangains), and the granddaddy of this method Ori Hofmekler (The Warrior Diet). I do not know any of them and have not communicated with them, by any means, but I admire their work.

This article is very long. It violates every bit of advice my friends gave me regarding length of blog posts, people reading on cell phones and whatnot. You don’t have to read all of this, the first half or less is more than enough information to effectively begin to lose fat.

This information has been effective for a multitude of people. Anytime I travel to train at least one person comes up to me and thanks me for the information.  Most of the people have lost fat and kept it off.

Enough with the preamble, here’s the content of the forum post, slightly modified:

This is a post about a subject that seems controversial and frankly extremely confusing. Diets, nutrition, Paleo, Zone, high carb, low carb, iso caloric, meal timing, post workout nutrition, supplements, what are we supposed to do about nutrition? Of all the “physical” disciplines nutrition is the toughest. It is the toughest because we have to deal with it 24 hours a day, every day of our lives. We have unlimited choices of what to eat and we can eat almost anything, any time of the day. I am going to make this as simple as I can, not easy, but simple. I am going to dot point this for simplicities sake. Most people pay attention to their nutrition because they want to lose fat. People who say they want to do it for health are, for the most part, lying. You don’t have to buy a pamphlet, just read the dot points and implement…simple in theory, hard in practice.

  • BMR is lower than you think and similar for people of the same height. I am 6’0” and my BMR is about 1800 kilo-calories (kcal). If YOU are 6’ your BMR is approximately 1800 kcal.
  • BMR is mostly composed of organ function. Muscle contributes about 5 calories per pound. That’s a hell of a lot less than bro science would lead you to believe.
  • Unless you are juiced, you don’t have 40 pounds of actual muscle mass above the average dude or dudette. If you did, you would burn 200 more kcals than the average dude or dudette…200 calories, that’s NOTHING!
  • You don’t burn as many calories exercising as you think you do. Heart rate monitors and exercise machines are wildly inaccurate when it comes to calories burned. They also don’t account for the calories you would have burned doing something else, like watching TV or just surviving.
  • Don’t even worry about exercise calories. Use cardio to develop conditioning, not lose fat.
  • Afterburn, increased calorie burn after intense exercise, is largely bullshit.
  • Thermic effect of food is true (eating protein uses more calories than carbs and fat to digest) but the difference is so small, that it doesn’t really matter.
  • There are a ton of theories of why we get fat: insulin, trans fats, fat, etc. They are THEORIES. Here’s one…you’ve been eating too much.
  • The laws of thermodynamics actually friggin work.
  • All successful diets control calories, they just don’t say they do. EATING LESS FOOD ALWAYS WORKS.
  • Basically every health marker improves as you lose fat, regardless of method. If you are in a caloric deficit, your body will use it’s fat stores to make up the energy deficit. If you are in a caloric surplus, your body will store the excess energy (regardless if it’s from fat, carbs, or protein) as FAT, if you are in energy balance (calories in = calories out) you will maintain weight.
  • Metabolism is not affected by not eating, until you are DAYS into a fast. Ethiopian type starvation effects metabolism because organs and muscle tissue are damaged and lost.
  • You don’t have to eat every 4 hours to stoke your metabolism. This is complete and utter bullshit. You will not lose muscle if you don’t eat.
  • Muscles “grow” because of SAID (specific adaptation to imposed demands) not because you are eating protein. .8 grams per pound of body weight is a good start.
  • After juvenile muscle growth…every pound of muscle is a pain in the ass to develop.
  • Five pounds of muscle makes a huge visual impact…so does 5 pounds of fat. If you lift weights while dieting, you will not lose muscle mass.
  • You have to be a lot lighter than you think to be ripped. Bodybuilders take about 1000 pictures the day of their show (photo studios are set up backstage, by supplement companies to facilitate this). They take the pictures because they can only keep that ripped look for mere hours. They will use those photos for a year (or longer). That ripped, bodybuilder look, is very transient. Using them as inspiration for what you could actually look like, day to day, is delusional.

Let’s filter all this stuff into a workable action plan:

  • Eat less on a weekly basis. How much you eat under your BMR will determine how fast you will lose fat. I could include exercise calories, but don’t.
  • You can use 2 – 24 hour fast a week to lower weekly calories. This allows me to eat more when I’m not fasting and still stay in a weekly deficit. Some of you Nancy boys don’t want to fast…ok, just find other ways to eat less.
  • You can also just not eat for 6 – 8 hours after you wake up. I do this, I don’t eat breakfast.  I have black coffee with stevia (a packet of Truvia), ice water, and a diet soft drink or two, until I eat my first meal between 12pm and 1pm.  I work out in the morning.
  • An average daily deficit of 500 calories is fairly doable. That gives you 1300 calories a day to work with. If I fast 2 times a week, I could up the calories on non-fasting days.  If I don’t eat breakfast, I spread the meals over two large meals (lunch and dinner) and 1 snack.
  • You could skip meals to compensate for excess. Have a few drinks a burger and fries on Saturday night…don’t eat breakfast and have a very light lunch on Sunday.
  • You could eat 5 small meals a day…but it kind of sucks and makes you look like a tool carrying around a cooler everywhere you go. Don’t overcompensate before or after a fast, just eat normally.
  • Breakfast is important…if you’re 8 years old and go to school. If you are an adult, you don’t HAVE to have breakfast, unless your mom makes you.
  • Look for ways to cut calories but still have foods you like. This is where lower calorie versions of food help, like frozen yogurt, low fat cheeses, etc.  Remember, you could eat the “regular” version of these foods, just account for the extra calories.
  • You want to eat paleo, zone, south beach…go for it. If you eat 5000 calories of cheese, eggs, and beef, you’re gonna get fat, you still have to control for calories.
  • 8 ounces of Coke is 100 calories…8 ounces! Friggin stop drinking this shit, on a daily basis, multiple times. Once in awhile, ok.
  • You are not a special snowflake, if your calories are low and you are not losing weight…lower them some more. Food calorie information is screwed up. Portion sizes are screwed up. We underestimate how much we eat. We under report how much we eat.
  • Drink coffee, tea, and water, chew gum to deal with hunger between meals or during a fast. Oh, and man up, seriously man (or woman) the F up…losing fat is not fun, you’re gonna be hungry and irritable. It’s simple, not easy. Anybody who says it’s easy is lying to you.
  • Special foods are bullshit. Fat burning supplements are bullshit. When you see a list of “5 superfoods to eat to lose fat”, understand this is predatory marketing. You lose fat by not eating food, not eating special foods.
  • For a week or so measure your food and use calorie counting software. You are going to be surprised at how little you should eat, especially if you are having 5 – 7 meals a day.
  • If I put a gun to your head and told you, you had to lose 8 pounds in two weeks or I blow a hole in your head, would you eat a specific mixture of macronutrients or…just not friggin eat at all? See, it’s pretty simple.
  • Use the scale, mirror, and clothing size to determine if you are on track. The scale will lie due to water weight fluctuations, make sure you are trending down. If not…lower calories.  Weigh yourself every day to observe trends and intervene when the trend goes in the wrong direction.
  • I used to eat nuts (almonds, walnuts, you know good fat profile nuts) and wondered why I had a hard time losing fat. Look at the calories in a handful of nuts. Keep them for maintenance.
  • Supplement with D, fish oil (or krill oil), creatine (if you want to) and vitamin K2.
  • You could pretty much eat anything. It is more filling to eat meats, vegetables and fruits, but I eat a few hard pretzels almost every night. I also have ice cream and alcohol on a weekly basis. Somehow the inflammation has not killed me or shown up in any health markers.
  • This is for fat loss. If you want to eat only for “health” restrict yourself to only eating grass fed, organic, paleo, blah, blah, blah…you will eventually break and go crazy and I will find it amusing. Seriously, you want to be so dogmatic that you will not eat a piece of your kids birthday cake, you want to be “that guy”, have at it…you were warned.
  • THIS IS HARD. Two pounds a week is brutal. Having a goal, like a wedding or better yet a BJJ or other weight class sport competition will give you the motivation to not make an ass of yourself.
  • See, the hard thing about this is having the discipline to lower the amount of food you shove in your mouth and deal with being hungry. Looking at this as a week long problem, rather than a day by day problem, helps. It allows me to compensate for indulgences. For Thanksgiving, I ate anything I wanted…but only during dinner. I did not eat breakfast or lunch, I fasted the next day. Going out to drink, don’t eat until you go out, now you could drink all your calories and get really wasted.
  • If you are celiac, have issues with lactose, or are allergic to foods, don’t eat them. Seriously, if you don’t have grain issues…a piece of toast or oatmeal is not evil.
  • I don’t want to argue theories here. I really don’t care and have read Good Calories, Bad Calories, the Zone, Atkins, The South Beach Diet, The Anabolic Diet, Body Opus, etc. etc. I have tried pretty much every diet for fat loss and performance. I also have a degree in exercise physiology, which I ignored in lieu of bro science, and have taken Master’s level nutrition courses. I’ve come back to the realization the whole scientific evidence thing is pretty valid.
  • If you calculate out the calories in a typical Zone, paleo, Protein Power, or Atkins, diet, you will find the calories run towards a deficit for most people. If you want a structured diet, follow one of them. I like paleo. I think it’s unrealistic, dogmatic, and amusing that some of the paleo dudes sell bars and protein powders. but whatever, it might change your life and you too could join the cult. If you have questions, please fire away. If you want to post studies and argue that a calorie is not a calorie and that human physiology is not as simple as calorie in calorie out…frankly, I don’t want to go there. If you are interested in this…Google it, there are thousands of Internet flame wars going on regarding this very subject. I am not arguing health, I am talking about fat loss. You will naturally find eating meats, vegetables, and fruits will be more filling and nutrient dense.
  • Extreme contest prep and weight cutting are completely different subjects which has been covered in another post. They involve water manipulation, low carbs (to manipulate water), and playing with super-hydration and sodium.

Some added content from answers to various questions on the post:

  • I haven’t touched on the physiological issues regarding weight loss, but outlined the mechanical issues.
  • Some people gain weight as psychological armor. I have seen many sexually abused girls become clinically obese. It’s so bad that when I see an obese teen, I automatically think sexual or physical abuse. Psychological issues are way outside my lane and should be dealt with, by a professional, prior to working on physical issues. Women or men who have been diagnosed, at any time of their lives, with anorexia or bulimia, should not be fasting.
  • When a person makes the decision to lose fat. It’s a mechanical issue. Control calories under BMR any way you can.
  • Body for Life is crap. It’s 5 small meals per day…buy my MRPs. It is unsustainable, if it was sustainable, we wouldn’t be having this conversation. If you are currently not happy with your fat status, every “diet” you have been on has been unsustainable for you (this is not a specific you, it is a general you).
  • May be I need to clarify something. It is NOT EASY TO LOSE FAT. It is not easy for me or anyone I know. I feel hunger. I want to destroy a bag of chips. I feel hunger pangs. I get irritable. I have seen grown MMA fighters cry due to a cutting diet. I have seen lean high school state wrestling champions cry like babies, because they are low calorie:
  • In most admirable endeavors your ability to sustain suffering will determine your success. Hard shit is hard, because…it sucks.
  • When someone tells me “it must be nice to be naturally lean.” I want to punch them in the face and say “Yah, if natural includes consistent dietary discipline, working out, at an intensity level you have never experienced, 7 days a week, and researching optimization, then you’re right…it’s easy.”
  • I’ve never had an uncontrollable physical addiction. The jury is out as to sugar being actually physically addictive to humans (it appears to be in rats). Caffeine is physically addictive. I guess the first step is admitting you have a problem, then you have to want to change. After that I got nothing.
  • A meal replacement shake has approximately 250 calories…two a day is an extra 500 calories. Replace the shake with a regular coffee and half and half 10 total calories. Diet coke…zero calories. Water…zero calories. Nothing…zero calories.
  • When losing fat it’s about calories consumed vs. calories expended. You are on a high fat diet, because your body is pulling from your fat stores to generate energy to meet your body’s demands.
  • Don’t worry about healthy or not healthy. Don’t worry about having protein at every meal. Don’t follow the dogma you have been pushed for the last 15 years.
  • If you have an issue with gout, well then don’t eat shit that sets gout off. If you have an issue with carbs (celiac), don’t eat carbs. If you cannot handle milk, don’t friggin drink it. But don’t let other people’s crusades suck you in. Don’t demonize foods. Soda is not inherently good or bad. Trans fats or high fructose corn syrup is not evil. Too much of it equals too many calories.
  • This is not a diet. Eat whatever you want, eat less weekly and you will lose fat. Really understand this and you will never read another diet article or book again.
  • CHEAT DAYS, once again, cheating implies you are restricting something. I don’t restrict foods, I don’t believe foods are good or bad. I think TOO MUCH FOOD is bad, if you don’t want to be fat. If you don’t care, then no problem. If you want to lose fat and maintain it, then this is the way to do it and still enjoy an occasional coke or piece of cake or pasta.
  • So, as we restrict calories, do we lose MUSCLE. For people who are on a low calorie diet AND WHO DON’T LIFT, there is a danger of actual muscle loss. If we maintain protein at, at least, .8g/lb and lift…there is no evidence of muscle loss in healthy humans on a low calorie diet. Will LEAN MASS go down, absolutely! Remember lean mass is everything but fat, including water retained in the muscles.
  • Now let’s flip this around a little. Anyone here broken an arm? Does the muscle shrink because of lack of use…hell yeah. So now you are permanently walking around with a shrunken arm, right? One gun is friggin huge, the other a little girly arm? Nope…after a few months out of the cast, the broken arms muscle mass went right back up to it’s old, huge gun, size. So worst case, if you lose a minor amount of muscle, dieting down (which you won’t, but for sake of argument let’s pretend you will)…you will gain it back rather quickly.
  • Now if you are so calorie restricted that you can’t lift…now we have a problem. If you are a vegan and don’t lift…you have more problems than I can deal with.
  • Just a cholesterol number is not precise enough. Your total cholesterol number may be high because your HDL number is off the charts (mine was 76 last time it was tested) a high HDL is very good. Additionally there are two kinds of LDLs…small LDL = bad and potentially atherogenic, big or “fluffy” LDL which are good (google fluffy LDL for a crap load of info). These could be tested, and I would prior to taking any medicine, which may have pretty bad side effects. There is a book: “The Cholesterol Myth” which makes the claim the whole hate cholesterol thing is bad science. Here are the claims:
  • Cholesterol is not a deadly poison, but a substance vital to the cells of all mammals. There are no such things as good or bad cholesterol, but mental stress, physical activity and change of body weight may influence the level of blood cholesterol. A high cholesterol is not dangerous by itself, but may reflect an unhealthy condition, or it may be totally innocent.
  • A high blood cholesterol is said to promote atherosclerosis and thus also coronary heart disease. But many studies have shown that people whose blood cholesterol is low become just as atherosclerotic as people whose cholesterol is high.
  • Your body produces three to four times more cholesterol than you eat. The production of cholesterol increases when you eat little cholesterol and decreases when you eat much. This explains why the ”prudent” diet can not lower cholesterol more than on average a few per cent.
  • There is no evidence that too much animal fat and cholesterol in the diet promotes atherosclerosis or heart attacks. For instance, more than twenty studies have shown that people who have had a heart attack haven’t eaten more fat of any kind than other people, and degree of atherosclerosis at autopsy is unrelated with the diet.
  • The only effective way to lower cholesterol is with drugs, but neither heart mortality or total mortality have been improved with drugs the effect of which is cholesterol-lowering only. On the contrary, these drugs are dangerous to your health and may shorten your life.
  • The new cholesterol-lowering drugs, the statins, do prevent cardiovascular disease, but this is due to other mechanisms than cholesterol-lowering. Unfortunately, they also stimulate cancer in rodents, disturb the functions of the muscles, the heart and the brain and pregnant women taking statins may give birth to children with malformations more severe than those seen after thalidomide.
  • Many of these facts have been presented in scientific journals and books for decades but are rarely told to the public by the proponents of the diet-heart idea.
  • The reason why laymen, doctors and most scientists have been misled is because opposing and disagreeing results are systematically ignored or misquoted in the scientific press.
  • I present this information not to encourage you NOT to lower your cholesterol, but to tell you to do your research prior to any intervention (dietary or not).
  • There is evidence a lower carb diet increases the incidence of fluffy LDL and raises HDL. LSD Cardio training increases HDL. Fish oil is good.
  • Bottom line is realize the goal is not to lower cholesterol, the goal is to prevent cardiovascular disease. The fact you are lean now would indicate to me your high cholesterol is due to genetic factors (ie. your body is producing higher cholesterol, you are not getting it from your food). I assume you don’t smoke. What’s your family history regarding cardiovascular disease, heart attacks and strokes?
  • Granted, I am not a doctor and would never give or contradict medical advice, I think your diet plan will be fine. If it was me, I would research this until I became a layman expert, I would then take an active role in my treatment, or lack of treatment.


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