September 17, 2007
Some people have asked (shout out to Mark @ IGx for the question) why I suggest the one-arm 24kg kettlebell Long Cycle Clean and Jerk (LCCJ) - which is a clean followed by a jerk back to a clean again - as the primary if not exclusive exercise for competitive fighters, so I put together the reasons and the program we followed successfully.
Top 10 Reasons that LCCJ are better than any other exercise for fighters:
- All KB skills are in the LCCJ. If we perfect it, everything else is just elementary. Too many acrobatic kettlebell juggling suggestion. Stick to this basic.
- As a fighter, you live on the edge of over-training since your practice is inherently athletic so economy and efficiency are king and queen. The bigger the bang for the buck the better. Many fighters stink in performance because of over-training more than inappropriately training.
- Snatches are the last skill in the progression to be learned and bitch up the hands and forearms if they’re not perfect first - as a fighter you need your hands un-ripped, forearms un-bruised and grip unhampered.
- LCCJs have the most amount of dips than any other exercise’s single rep. LCCJ kill the legs, great for your standup grappling and striking work on grounding your leg drive.
- The “rack” (where you hold the kettlebells after the clean before the jerk and catch after the jerk before you dump them into the next clean) does your guard good: great development of your Thai plumb, Greco over hooks and western boxing guard “dip to hip” - good for developing both static endurance for keeping the hands at home protecting the melon and keeping the elbows in protecting the ribs. Done for time, they help you where you need it, as the last seconds tick down, when under-conditioned fighters lower their guard and expose themselves.
- Most fighters I’ve trained have been incapable of burying both elbows to their iliac crests with double LCCJ. Because of that when their LCCJs use too much outward delt raise to hold the bells in rack. Overtime this was translating into exposing their ribs - with an elbow out striking guard, rather than elbows tight in. Most fighters can dip-to-hip one elbow, so this is helpful for not interupting on the skill, while building necessary attributes for fighting.
- The cycling of tension and relaxation: as a fighter, high tension is something you only need to develop as a beginning athlete, but then you need to develop agility - the ability to absorb incredible loads of force and like loading a rubber band retranslate it fast in another direction. The four transitions in the LCCJ (upswing catch in rack, rack dip to OH lockout, lockout catch in rack, dump into the spiral-loading swing) are great agility development for fighters really who can’t rationalize several hours per week of lower body ladders, hurdles and chutes.
- The breathing pattern in the LCCJ is like the Explosive Sports Performance Breathing techniques I was taught in
Russia by their national and Olympic coaches in Sambo, wrestling and boxing.
- The 24kg kettlebells generate enough total time under tension to create sufficient anaerobic training stress without the dangers of the big boy 32kgs which really are a sport of their own - fighters should just keep those aside for off-season general conditioning (and if you don’t periodize, then don’t touch the 32s because they don’t give submission fighting and high volume striking the chance to fully heal connective tissue fraying.)
- If you can kick your own ass in 20 minutes, adapt and be more powerful
AND recover in time for hard sparring/rolling, then what the hell is the purpose of all the other training other than iron masturbation?
If you “juice,” the above doesn’t apply. Many fighters juice, and recovery then is exogenous. But in lieu of having no balls, liver or adrenal gland in 10 years, then less is more.
My only whole point with the above bullets of benefits is that strength-and-conditioning is only supplemental for fighters, and yet there are new overly-extensive programs for “martial arts” popping up everyday. I can write a program in five minute which my fighters won’t be able to finish and won’t be able to recover from, but… why? Those programs are more for people who don’t fight but like to train hard-core. Fighters can’t sustain that kind of over-the-top work load. The purpose of programming isn’t pain; it’s progress… and recovery. Recovery rate is almost more important than work.
Look at Monson’s fight after JC Santana’s preparing him for UFC65. Monson gassed against a seemingly out-of-shape Silvia.
Conditioning should be brief, highly intense and focus on fast recovery. Skill work shouldn’t be mixed in with conditioning because form deteriorates. Energy should be fully recovered for intense sparring, so performance leaks can be evaluated by the technical coaches. It’s a shame that with Monson’s technical and competitive experience that he would lose on conditioning – supposedly the easiest aspect of preparation, but too many coaches completely hose it up for their athletes that they do well in spite of their conditioning, not because of it. An athlete of Monson’s caliber certainly didn’t deserve to lose due to a conditioning deficit!
The Kettlebell Protocol Progression: One-arm 24kg Long Cycle Clean and Jerk
If you don’t have any other conditioning, then you can try out this approach because of its efficiency, economy and built-in recovery time. This was designed by myself and my two kettlebell coaches: Eric Liford, publisher of the American Kettlebell Club and Valery Fedorenko, the “Michael Jordan” of kettlebell lifting – world champion, record holder and national coach. The progression is sequential: meaning that as soon as you lock down one score, you can move to the next one on your next training day, and keep progressing until you can’t complete the step. Stay with the incomplete step until you can complete it (takes about 2-3X to make a progression when you hit one, it seemed like to me and my guys, but I didn’t isolate out any of our recovery methods.)
Eric suggested that it was possible to train every day, but I think that suggestion came from the orientation of being a professional kettlebell lifter, rather than from being a fighter for which he suggested that we need to tailor it to meet our ability to recovery for rolling. S&C being supplemental only for fighters. So, here’s the progression:
- Start at one arm LCCJ non-stop for 3 minutes with hand switches every 5 reps. Find your base
RPM (usually around 8 reps when just beginning this sort of training.) Pace is important for progression so once you find your RPM stick with it.
- When you can keep the same
RPM for 3 minutes. Add one minute.
- Here’s where things pick up for awhile and you adapt to the technique. It looks like you develop fast, but I believe it’s just your technique catching up to your conditioning as a fighter.
- Keep adding one minute each session as long as you can keep the same
RPM until you can get to 10 minutes.
- At 10 minutes, drop down to 6 minutes, and add one
RPM. Repeat the above: add one minute per session until you get to 10 minutes.
- At 10 minutes, drop down to 6 minutes and add another
RPM. Repeat the above until you’re at 12RPMs for 10 minutes.
- Then, drop down to 6 minutes and 8RPMs (or whatever your base pace was), then perform one hand switch every 10 reps rather than one switch every 5 reps. Work back up to 12RPMs for 10 minutes.
- Here’s where Eric suggested we move up in total duration, so we kept adding one minute per session as long as we could complete 12RPMs. And we worked up to 20 minutes.
- Then, we dropped back down to 6 minutes and only performed one hand switch for 5 minutes, and then 5 minutes on the other hand - finding our base
- We kept adding one
RPM per session until we were up to 10RPMs for 20 minutes.
- Now, that wasn’t constant. We did a lot of jumping around. And that was back when we were adding the 32kgs into the mix for over-compensation/over-loading. But it worked me up to 100 reps in 10 minutes of 1-arm LCCJ with the 32kgs and one hand switch. However, the 32kgs beat us up too much and we were getting slow and hurt, so we dropped down to the 24kgs again, and within two weeks we were back on velocity with no aches and pains.
Maybe it sounds complicated, but it’s really pretty simple, and there’s a lot of flexibility to it. Coach Fedorenko told me that there’s no rule to this, only tinkering with how we’re feeling that day… but to train as much as possible for only 10-20 minutes. Freaks like Marty Farrell did that several times a day, most days of the week. That would kill us because of how much we grapple, but I respect it, for sho.
Hope it helps. It did wonders for our guys.
COPYRIGHT© 2007, Scott Sonnon All Rights Reserved, Fair-Use Applies