Well, this is just me rambling on about some things. Well, many things. Doesn’t mean I am ultimately right or wrong, just my way of looking at things. As with all things, take what helps you and discard the rest.
“Looking to build a rugged body that will withstand any activity I want to throw at it…”
is what I train for.
I don’t sport. Did that as a young buck. I don’t need it now and many will find sports will give you a nice collection of injuries over the years.
That is what I found. Ask any person who has been in and trained for one sport for the past 40 years or so and get your notepad out to record the injuries. Same if you compete in many sports.
Sports are great for creating injuries.
Don’t get me wrong, however, I do like sports.
Part of the problem with Crossfit, is they have taken training for exercise or sport specific training and turned the training/exercises into its own sport with specific parameters people try to achieve and train by, endeavoring to set constant PR’s. Basically, Crossfit IS a sport.
Forget the glory is forever mantra.
Glory fades and is not remembered by others. Pain will be with you the rest of your life.
I can think of only one time I was injured while training and exercising.
I could care diddly-squat about how much somebody dead-lifts. Well, not really, but I am trying to make a point. Dead-lift but don’t chase max efforts.
I do them (dead-lifts) but not to max and not too often.
A real heavy dead-lift won’t do you much good when your body is all twisted up off balance playing some sport or you are all out of whack back-packing sideways up some steep slope and you happen to slip.
Don’t get me wrong, deads do build brute strength, and do have their place in a routine.
But for what you are after, you don’t want to focus on one form of training over all others.
For example, focusing on power-lifting alone (squat, bench, deads) won’t get you what you want. Same with focusing on just Olympic lifting.
Does this mean you shouldn’t power-lift or Olympic lift?
As mentioned by others, for dead-lifts, drop the reps down to 2-5 reps on your deads. Only a couple of sets.
Try drop deads: deadlift the bar and as soon as it hits near the top of the lift, drop it. You need bumper plates or rubber mats to do this. Or simply do them outside in the dirt. This method saves a lot of wear and tear on the lower back.
Pushing the deads for max reps or max weight as you get older can be done, but:
Can you spare another injury to the lower back?
Could you recover well enough from it to still enjoy what you want to do in life and be able to continue to train?
That risk isn’t worth it to me. How about you?
If not, try the drop deads. Do them once every week or so.
As mentioned, hyper-extensions are good, as are swings for reps or for weight (you can build up to a heavy weight here for a few sets of 10 or so).
The goat bag swing as outlined by Dan John can be a great benefit.
Half-pulls are good but you need to keep the back locked in even more since it is a faster movement, sort of the same as a power-shrug.
Faster movements with heavy weights means the time frame is compressed, so a lapse in attention for even an instant can garner an injury. Whereas a slower grind may (I said may) give time to re-align or add tension to prevent an injury.
The old health lift might be just the ticket, since you pull the weight like a dead-lift, but the bar starts off blocks or pins in a rack and you start pulling the bar from about just above the top of the knee level or slightly higher.
Not having to go as deep with a heavier weight in the health lift is easier on the back even when you pull heavy. Just don’t hyper-extend at the top.
Trap bar deads might really work well for you, again don’t push the weight (or reps) constantly trying for a PR
You can work the top part of the pull with any form of half-pull once/twice per week depending on how you feel.
I like the method of doing several sets of deads at a lighter weight one time per week (it doesn’t take much out of you) and then once per week or so, dead-lift heavier.
Then work the bottom part of your dead-lift movement with things like deep goblet squats, snatch-grip dead-lifts with a lighter weight, bear-hug a rock or keg and lift it from the ground, etc.
I really like the snatch-grip style deads, cause you have to go deep, so you maintain and train deep flexible strength, but I also find it is very conducive to keeping a nice straight back even in the hole.
A few exercises devoted to developing some brute strength done twice a week is good. Something like a dead lift or similar exercise. Some sort of heavy press and a good squat move.
Then the rest of the week I would focus on exposure to other elements. Things like bent presses, windmills, slosh-pipe work. Sled drags and sled pushing. Sledge hammer work and a mixture of KB training and some body-weight stuff.
You’ll want to do imperfection type training, like contra lateral deads (one leg dead-lift but holding weight in opposite hand of leg you are standing on).
Also, things like half-kneeling presses, OH squats, one arm work is good.
I’ve also done dead-lifts with one hand on a barbell while standing on two feet. It is not a suitcase style dead-lift. The bar is dead-lifted in front of you just like a conventional dead-lift, but with one hand.
Various loaded carries come into play here, too. So does limited amounts of rucking with a pack.
And tumbling drills are a great benefit.
Armor building and impact training are a must too.
Sometimes I just take a slosh-pipe to the park and do as many odd-ball movements with it as I can think up. And yes, that slosh-ppe will probably smack into you as you train with it. Good impact training!
I’ll take a KB and do every move I know, non-stop for 30 minutes or more. Just one set of each move.
Sometimes I’ll load up some weight on a pulley and rope and walk back to get the weight off the ground and then perform a bunch of different moves, pushes, pulls from high and low and various angles. It’s almost like wrestling.
The thing is, you are trying to build and maintain strength but also take that strength and be able to express it over a wide variety of conditions, angles, leverages.
To do that you will have to train your body to learn how to leverage your strength by exposing yourself to varying training implements and conditions.
You are trying to condition the body to really work as a unit, as one piece, no matter what circumstances (sport, work, home, camping, hiking, hunting, off-balance, etc) you find yourself in.
For me, this is a fun way to train. You get to focus on a few basic lifts, something like the Southwood Program from Dan John, but you also get to “play” with a lot of differing implements and training methods.
Done correctly, you get the benefits of Crossfit minus the injuries. And you can get pretty strong doing this. If anyone ever messes around with you, they will find wrestling around with you is like trying to hold a slippery eel infused with a gorilla’s strength.
There are many ways to do this:
Twice a week train basic brute strength.Twice a week play with various implements focusing on developing enduring strength or work-capacity in constantly changing parameters.
Train in two week blocks:
Two weeks focus on strength.
Two weeks focus on a variety of conditioning methods.
Mix it all up as often as you like:
Train brute strength with one or two exercises 2-4 times per week.
Mix in a variety of other training implements and methods, before, after or with the strength training and on the same or on different days.
There are many things that come into play in traing this way. Too many for me to address in this article.
But, for example, you might try Pavels PTTP for two weeks and then switch to Kb clean and presses, done ladder style mixed in with slosh-pipe and sledge hammer training for the next two weeks. Keep flipping these for 8-12 weeks.
After going through that series for 8 weeks you could switch to Southwood Program for two weeks and then a body-weight program mixed with loaded carries and KB work and sprints for two weeks. After 6-12 weeks, switch to another program.
This doesn’t mean you try to do everything all at once.
It also doesn’t mean you have to do or learn every single exercise you can think off with a particular training implement.
Just learning 5-6 basic exercises with each implement will give you plenty to mix and match.
If you use KB’s body-weight, barbells, slosh-pipe and sledge hammers/tires, that’s about 30 to 36 different exercises you can rotate around.
It also doesn’t mean you cannot acquire new skills. Skills build upon and compliment each other.
Learn to play one instrument well and playing another gets a little easier. Especially if you learn the musical notation or the basic rules behind or underlying music. Then you can apply those notes, chords and scales to any instrument with some practice.
Learn the proper mechanics of throwing a baseball and learning to throw a football, rock or stick is even easier to learn. They all have a similar basic movement pattern.
I don’t buy into the “my bodies too dumb to learn too much” crap.
I can run, jump, throw, swim, carry, weld metal, play guitar, wood work, paint, fix a car, build a fire, shoot a rifle/handgun, make a bow and arrow and shoot it, cook, sew, etc.
What’s this “don’t train too much stuff business”?
Sure it can and will mess up a competing athletes sport specific skills.
But for average non-competing people, I think it’s a rule they can ignore to a certain degree.
I know some of this flies against the current focus on only doing one thing or training one thing at a time, which works very well, particularly if you play one sport and/or compete in a sport.
For sport you have to be goal specific, and sports have rules you play by and certain qualities you need and skills specific to that sport. You train them to perform under the conditions encompassed by the sport.
“Looking to build a rugged body that will withstand any activity I want to throw at it…”
you must play with a set of specific rules applied non-specifically.
In other words, you have to apply specific rules that work as regards getting stronger. We can’t get stronger lifting pee-wee weights. But we also need to train outside the “sport specific” box. You are not training for one particular thing.
You have to look at your goal as developing toughness in all areas.
And at times, you have to throw some of the rules out. But, you have to know which ones and when.
You also need to be aware that when you are engaging in a lot of other activities, perhaps during a certain time of year when you can engage in them frequently (like skiing or hunting in the mountains) you will have to adjust for the extra activity this brings to your total workload. So, this would be a time when minimal strength routines and even minimal conditioning routines are done just to maintain what you have built.
Thus, you can and should follow something like PTTP by Pavel or the Southwood Program by Dan John or some even more minimalist strength routine. Follow specific training rules that apply to getting stronger. It shouldn’t take too much out of you.
Then, depending on how you structure it (among many other things) you train other qualities you are after.
For the newb to this style of training I say focus on building a good base of strength first.
Then start experimenting with mixing things up a little more. Get some exposure and time under your belt with other things.
Then, eventually, you will be able to still get strong even as you build greater mobility, enduring strength, flexibility, agility, toughness, etc.
You are looking to accumulate an amount of exposure to varying conditions of training. The more experience you get with this, the better you can express your strength and enduring strength under changing conditions.
You won’t be able to compete with and beat someone who focuses on one specific sport and trains for it, though you many times can put in a good showing and surprise them.
But you will no doubt be able to beat them at many other things that they can’t compete with you in, because they are too sport specific in their training.
A person can get to a pretty high level of strength and enduring strength by training different things and implements and mixing things up. They can be way above average. Just because they don’t compete on a professional level does not mean they aren’t capable of expressing strength or endurance or work-capacity to a degree that would surprise many people.
Here’s an example:
Some of my friends only played tennis. Some were always playing basketball. Me, I played around with a lot of different sports and work and training exercises. When they wanted to play against me in tennis or basketball, for example, I couldn’t beat them. It was their game.
You usually can’t beat someone at their own game unless it’s your only game too.
But, I certainly made them sweat and work way harder than they thought they would have to in order to beat me!
They would usually say something like:
“You did way better than I thought! I figured I’d crush you out there!”
But, if I take them into a game they don’t play, like soccer or football or hiking with a back-pack or splitting firewood, I can beat them or outwork them. They are not used to performing under such wide and varying conditions. They don’t have the accumulated training experience of exposure to many things to leverage their strength into something foreign to them. They flounder.
Another example. Years back I wrestled with a college wrestler at work, out in the grass. He couldn’t pin me in the 5 minutes we wrestled around in. I didn’t have the amount of wrestling skills he had, just wrestling around with friends and a little in school. I did not know he had wrestled in college. My co-workers were trying to set me up to get pinned.
But I had played all kinds of sports by that time, hiked, split wood, worked on a farm slinging hay bales, etc, for a number of years. Every day, at that job he wrestled me at, I would hang metal on a movable paint line. Often lifting metal pieces from the floor that weighed 60-100 pounds up to the line to hang them with heavy metal hooks. I’d grab cement mixers big enough to lay in and up-end them by the tongue hitch and push them up a ramp on the back two wheels.
So, although he was better skilled at wrestling, I was able to express speed and strength and agility at a high enough level that his skill did not enable him to pin me in the time frame we wrestled around in. If we kept wrestling, he probably would have pinned me.
Many expressed surprise that he didn’t pin me pretty fast. I was tall and he was pretty stocky. He mentioned it took him by surprise that I could move so fast and was able to break several of his holds. This enabled me to survive the match. On points, he certainly would have won by a wide margin, ha ha! Though I did give him one good throw that knocked the wind out of him. It was sort of a do whatever you can type of wrestling match, but no punches or kicks.
So, this is what I am talking about. You can get rugged and tough enough to surprise a lot of people and survive many things, and you can get this by mixed training.
In sports competition, specificity rules.
But life and the many things you face in life are outside the rules of sport. Life doesn’t come in a box. And life can get pretty rough, pretty tough physically and mentally..
I train for life, not sport.
So, this might help some in determining where I am coming from when I give out my thoughts on training. I don’t train for weight room numbers and PR’s.
I don’t train for any specific sport.
This doesn’t mean I don’t know how to do these things.
It just means I prefer to train to express myself in whatever activity I find myself doing. I train so I can leverage my strength and endurance into any activity, even new ones.
I train to have a better ability to improvise, adapt and overcome whatever task is at hand. I train to build a higher quality of physical and mental toughness so I can keep going.
This means doing what others will not do. It’s fun, but it can be tough training at times.
I know how to train elite. But I don’t want it. I don’t want elite in one activity. I want a good level of competency in many areas.
This doesn’t mean you can or should train everything all at once. That just does not work.
You do blocks of strength work and blocks of conditioning work. You cycle them.
Various training implements lend themselves to various forms of training. You rotate these in and out of your routines.
Sometimes, you do a cycle where you mix strength training with conditioning training in the same workout.
It’s an art form to train this way. It takes experience earned by doing it gathered over years of training and experimenting.
It’s accumulated exposure to many things, but not all at once.
To the untrained eye, however, it will look like you are doing everything at once.
MMA changed how many view training for martial arts. The thought of just practicing your art and being able to win against anybody was quickly shown to be wrong.
It was proven that a variety of skills and strengths needed to be developed to survive in the MMA world.
I believe the same about training to be rugged, tough and prepared for anything.
Simply having a skill is not enough. Simply having knowledge is not enough. Simply having strength is not enough. Simply having endurance is not enough. Simply being flexible or being agile is not enough.
You need them all.
Train them all.