November 23, 2013

lifting pumping iron

Sorry I have been away from the keyboard for awhile, but I have been keeping busy!

Although my knee hasn’t recovered as quickly as I hoped, I have been able to roll for the past two weeks. I’m still not quite 100% yet, but I would say I am around 87% combat effective. 🙂

To keep myself strong I have been doing some old-fashioned weight training. What does that mean? Well from my understanding of the human body, it is not possible to do a 100% muscle building and a 100% cardio workout. There are on opposite sides of the spectrum.

An easy way to understand this is the concept of intensity. Workout intensity means that you are putting the maximum amount of effort in the smallest time interval possible. For example, sprinting is the most intense running workout you can do. Long distance running (e.g. a marathon) is the least intense running exercise you can do. Both are great workouts, but they utilize different energy systems for fuel. It is not possible to effectively work both – it is either one or the other.

Now, a common misconception is that you can do intense workouts over a long period of time. For example, a workout consisting of a 60 minute sprint session is NOT an intense workout. You might be sprinting at 100% for the first 5-10 minutes, but afterwards you will retrograde into a fast jog; thus becoming a cardio workout. Intense workouts are short by nature. Small interval of 100% effort, followed by a long break that is at least 3 times longer than the actual workout (e.g. 10 seconds of work, 30 seconds rest). The moment you can no longer give 100%, the workout is done.

What is important to understand is that muscle growth is triggered by intensity. It is your body’s response to a high workload. Remember, your body doesn’t like having lots of muscles, because that means you require more energy to stay alive. Your body is a machine, and it tries to be as efficient as possible. It will only add muscle when it really, really needs it to survive. That is why people in comas shrivel up. The body sees that use of muscles is no longer required to survive, so it consumes the excess muscle tissue to allow for a much smaller energy input.

If you get this, then you see the dilemma – how do I build muscle and cardio at the same time? The answer is you can’t. You have to focus on one area in each workout. If you do all muscle building workouts, you will be like a muscle car with a gallon of gas. If you do all cardio, you will be a Prius, lol!

The compromise, is seasonal training. On your off season, you can do a lot of intense, muscle building workouts. Weight lifting, sprints, stairs, and other explosive workouts. It takes much longer to build muscle than stamina, so you can invest your time into becoming as strong as possible. When you are 12-9 weeks away from a competition, you switch gears and go into cardio mode. You will lose some muscle mass, but you will keep enough to make it worth your while. World class cardio can be developed in as little as 4 weeks if you train smart.

I will elaborate more on my methods in my next blog. Until then, see you at the gym 🙂

  • eric berman says:

    Hi David. You have obviously not tried the Insanity workouts – LOL. While your analysis above is 100% correct, the Insanity workouts, in my experience, are about the best way (in fact, the ONLY way) I have ever encountered to work strength, cardio and flexibility all in the same workout (except for rolling of course! Which doesn’t target body parts the way Insanity does – and you don’t work a lot of legs rolling because you are not standing)… (No, I am not on the payroll – LOL – just a big fan of that program)…

    Also, I think you fail to make the distinction between 100% effort and 100% results/performance. Just because you are not able to perform at your peak due to exhaustion, you can still put forth 100% effort and you are still reaping the returns – in fact you are reaping greater returns by giving 100% effort even though you are exhausted and cannot perform as well (for example, in your sprint example) than when you are starting out fresh…. This is because when you are fresh you are NEVER putting forth 100% effort because you don’t yet have to, even to run as fast as you can out of the gate, you are not using all of your resources. So in a sense training before your tired is ALWAYS inefficient, even though you will probably get your best time on sprint #1…

    It’s like working out in the hot sun. Let’s say, for example, I go for a 5 mile run in 65 degree weather and finish in 40 mins. Then the next day I go for the same run and it’s 95 degrees. My time is likely to be much slower, maybe 45 mins, but my body has worked harder and the cardio benefits are greater…

    This is why when we lift weights, we generally pyramid – because after you warm up and then do your heavy sets, you are simply not able to lift the same amount of weight going on your 4th or 5th set… But those are the most important sets, because you are working tired… And as you know as a BJJ/MMA guy, the work (and the benefit) doesn’t really start until you are tired…

    Just my $.02… Dig the column though….

    • I haven’t tried Insanity, but I have seen the commercials and they look like a great workout.

      I agree with what you are saying about the distinction between effort given towards a tail-end of a long workout. It is mentally tougher to push through when you have already lost the ability to given 100% effort. However, I would say that once you keep pushing you have now switched into a cardio workout. It will not be a good workout for building muscle, but it will be great for developing muscle stamina and mental toughness.

      I wouldn’t recommend doing mass building workouts before a fight, as they do nothing for conditioning. You would be very strong, but probably dead tired in less than 5 minutes. That is why I do this routine in a season. I reap the benefits of increased muscle mass and strength in the off season, than build my cardio and muscle stamina once the fight date is within 12-9 weeks.

      With that being said, you can definitely build muscle doing an insanity workout, cross fit, or any routine for that matter. However, the quickest way I have experienced gains is by the method I have mentioned above. I will go into more detail next post. Thanks for sharing!

  • Awesome, Dave, I hope to get down to MIA to train with you in Dec.

  • Don Rendall says:

    Dave, excellent and informative article. Please write some more and in detail about weight lifting for BJJ and physical conditioning for it. Thanks.


  • Matthew b says:

    I was very fortunate to meet a UFC fighter that showed my heavyweight body how to get strength and mma cardio in an hour or whatever. Starting with high intensity things like box jumps or ladder drills. Active movement then back to some weight training and then immediately switching back to sprints. I do high intensity stuff at my gym and do all kinda of crazy stuff that meatheads would never do. I guess you call it crossfit

  • Looking forward to tips on cardio training

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