Level I Introduction
Welcome to the 12 week Beginner Level I basic fitness program!
Before you jump in, we'd like to take a few minutes just to go over some of the key points to ensure that you are training safely, effectively and getting the biggest bang for your buck.
There are 12 workouts in this program, ideally you will perform 2 per week.
All you will need in order to complete each workout is a Kettlebell, a Pull Up bar and/or suspension trainer and a bit of floor space.
We’d also highly recommend you download an interval timer app to your smart phone or tablet.
Back when Kettlebells first gained popularity, many of the early adopters were from the martial arts community, including many of the early MMA heroes.
In terms of home training equipment, it is peerless in its versatility.
And if you are a training minimalist, a single kettlebell will offer you umpteen opportunities to elevate your fitness.
There are many types of kettlebell to choose from, all of which resemble a bowling ball or cannon ball with a handle on top.
Buy yourself either a cast iron bell or a competition style bell. The competition styles tend to be slightly more expensive, especially at the higher weights, but they will last you a lifetime.
Smaller individuals may prefer the cast iron bells as they tend to be smaller, whereas the competition bells are all of a standard size.
Whatever style you choose, be conservative with the weight.
I’d suggest buying a bell you are able to press overhead for approximately 5 good reps.
Pull Up Bar / Suspension Trainer
There are pull ups featuring frequently in this program.
I understand that many people struggle with this exercise, so there are a huge range of potential regressions for you all laid out in this article: http://wg-fit.com/wp/blog/everything-you-ever-need-to-know-about-pull-ups-ever/
A suspension trainer is an ideal addition to your home gym and is a perfect start point for newer athletes to begin their pull up journey.
It also offers stronger lifters the opportunity to focus in on muscles the pull up doesn’t adequately train.
There are many styles of suspension trainer, the best known being the TRX.
TRX tend to be very expensive, as does the superior Jungle Gym XT.
There are many cheaper options available from Amazon, but I can’t vouch for their quality.
Personally I would recommend you purchase a set of gymnastic rings.
Or you fashion your own by tying loops into the eds of a couple of old BJJ belts, just test them before you use them!
All we need is enough floor to lie down on, very little more.
I’ve personally used these workouts in very tight bedrooms, little bigger than the bed itself (there’s stories there I may tell one day)
If you are on a hard floor, cheap yoga mat is worth getting.
Download an interval timer to your phone/tablet.
My app of choice is called Impetus but it’s only available on Android.
If you’re an iPhone user, many of our guys use the Gymboss app, but feel free to test out a few and see what you prefer.
Have this propped up somewhere you can see it and hear the beeps as you train.
You’re now equipped and ready to begin!
Training time and frequency
If you are a gym goer, or have been in the past, I’m sure you’re used to training for an hour or more each session.
And it’s very likely that you spent most of that hour on a single body part, maybe ding some cardio at the end?
If that is the case, be prepared for a very different experience.
These workouts work the whole body, and they should all take less than 40 minutes to complete, and that includes the warm up!
The reason for this is that we are training to support our BJJ, we’re not specifically mass building, although you can expect some muscle growth in the early stages.
We are looking to train Strength, Mobility and Endurance in each workout. Some workouts will be more strength focused, some more conditioning focused, but over the 12 sessions we will work all aspects of fitness.
Short, full body workouts will offer enough of a challenge to stimulate adaptation but not so much as to leave you exhausted for your primary training, your BJJ practice.
That said, expect some soreness and tiredness in the first few weeks, but this should pass soon after as you become used to the extra workload.
To get the most out of both this training and your BJJ, we recommend separating the two as much as possible.
There are 3 options.
Lift on non-BJJ training days.
This is the optimal method, so if you train BJJ on Mon, Weds, and Friday, you can Lift on Tues and Thurs, or Sat and Thurs.
Seperate the two by at least 4 hours.
This basically means if we train BJJ in the evening, we will do our lifting early in the morning, or at lunchtime.
This will give enough recovery so that both training methods work to our advantage.
Lift directly after BJJ
This is the least optimal, but if you’re busy and this all the time you have, then this what we will do.
Why after and not before?
Simply because of the technical nature of the sport. It is difficult to learn and going into class fatigued from lifting will do nothing to aid skill development.
The payoff is that you will be tired when lifting, so you may not be able to put as much into the lifting as we’d like. While this is less than optimal, it’s still better than nothing at all.
It is what we would refer to as the “least worst option”
Senior BJJ players should have the technical knowhow to cope with some pre fatigue, in this case, a good workout prior to BJJ practice may stand to them in allowing them to improve their game in the face of fatigue.
I strongly suggest you take option 1.
If that’s simply a non-runner, then set your alarm a little earlier in the morning and get it done.
Initially, I will ask you to train twice per week, this is on the assumption that you are already working hard at your BJJ.
As time progresses and your fitness improves we can move to 3, even 4 sessions per week.
But we must manage fatigue well enough that the training does not negatively affect your BJJ practice.
Lets go over the terminology we will be using during these workouts.
The number of times an exercise is to be REPeated in a set. Ie Push Up x 10 reps means do 10 push ups
A complete set of repetitions. For example, do 3 sets of 10 push ups, means we do ten push ups, that’s 1 set. After a break we do another set of ten and finally our third set of ten push ups.
This can be used interchangeably with the word Set, but usually we use this when several exercises are to be completed, such as in a super set or circuit. A complete circuit would be one round.
Set and Rep ranges:
You will see most exercises have a rep range attached to them, for example Goblet Squat x 8-12
This means that we attempt to get at least 8 reps, and if we manage 12, we should consider moving up to the next level of difficulty (more weight in the case of a weighted lift, a harder variation in the case of a callisthenics exercise)
If it’s a circuit or superset, you’ll see “ x 4-6 rounds “
This simply means that as you get fitter, you try to do more rounds. Start with four, next time try 5 and when you get 6, it’s time to increase the loading or intensity.
A superset is a pair of exercises that you alternate between untill all sets/rounds are complete.
These are written 1A, 1B or 2A, 2B
The number signifies that these exercises are in a group, the letter tells you the order within the group.
1A: Push Up x 8-12
1B: Pull Up x 4-6
So we do our push ups using a variation that we can do at least 8 reps, but not more than 12. Then we move to our Pull Ups, which we do 4, 5 or 6 reps of.
We then go back to push ups and continue in this manner until we have done both exercises for 3, 4 or 5 rounds.
If we cannot complete the rep count within a round, there’s no need to try another round, save that for next time and move on.
A series of exercises performed in sequence. Just like a superset but a circuit can have any number of exercises.
Supersets are usually strength focused, circuits are usually conditioning focused.
These often come with a time recommendation such as 30:10 x12, 45:15 x 9 or similar.
This requires you to set your interval timer, set the work period for the first number (eg 30 seconds), the rest interval for the second number (eg 10 seconds) and number of rounds for the last number (eg 12)
Get as many reps done as possible with good form in each work interval, and use active rest during the rest interval to get ready for the next exercise.
Occasionally a circuit will be written out giving each exercise a rep range and at the bottom you will see “AMRAP x 20 minutes”
AMRAP means As Many Rounds As Possible
So simply keep pushing through that circuit over and over until the 20 minute timer runs out.
On Supersets and strength work we rest as long as we need to to be able to repeat the exact same effort again.
If we go too quick between strength exercises the muscles will not have regained their energy stores enough to repeat the same effort again, so we lose effect.
Rest periods here will be somewhere from 1-3 minutes, depending on just how heavy you are working (heavy is a relative term)
When it comes to the conditioning set though the rules change and we come across:
“Minimal Rest” and “No Rest”:
Often the second or third set of exercises (2A, 2B… or 3A, 3B…..) will come with the instruction of either “No Rest” or “minimal Rest”
Minimal rest means just that, take a quick breather and then push onto the next exercise.
No Rest, well, try not to even take a breather, instead push on deeper into fatigue and the “hurt locker”
While in application both phrases mean the same thing, work hard and fast while maintaining good form.
We’re looking for a mindset shift in each.
Minimal rest is a pacing mindset, work hard on the exercise, and get yourself as ready as possible, as fast as possible before taking on the next exercise. This means that effort and intensity can stay high.
No rest is a different mindset, this is that last ditch scramble before the bell goes of. You’re pushing and pushing to develop a willingness to push through fatigue, but not at the expense of safety. Never at the expense of safety.
Breathing For Performance
Under fatigue you are likely to “pant”
By that we mean taking in shallow frequent breaths using the high chest muscles.
This is not optimal, nor is it complementary to building your strength, stability, mobility or endurance.
We need to become familiar with 2 styles of breathing, one for strength & stability and another for faster work and recovery.
Both styles revolve around our exhale, or out breath.
When lifting heavy or looking to generate high levels of tension, we need to brace our midsection hard. Imagine you’re about to receive a body shot from Bas Rutten at his peak!
To do this, we take a breath in, fill the belly, it should expand, and then we tighten our whole midsection, not just the abs, around that breath.
Imagine a corset of muscle surrounding your entire abdomen.
Now as you lift, you can let this air out in small hisses, only fully breathing out at the top of the lift (keep tension though)
You can then inhale again and tighten that corset for the descent into the next rep.
Be aware that if you keep the air in through the rep, you run the risk of spiking your blood pressure, which when released can cause a sudden drop in BP and potential for dizziness, even passing out.
So we allow small amounts of air out in a hissing sound.
For our high speed effort though, the air should come out like a sneeze. If you’ve been in a room full of boxers you’ll have heard the “ah, ah, ahaha, ah” sounds as they hit, this is the sneeze like exhale we will also use on any power or power endurance exercise.
Think Kettlebell Swings, Cleans and Snatches. Think jumping and jump squats, or plyometric push ups.
And finally, our recovery breathing.
When doing your intervals and circuits, you will be blowing.
You will be sucking air!
This is where panting can take over, which will lead to a faster build up of fatigue.
So I want you to deliberately and strongly blow out as much air as possible, as fast as possible.
Keep blowing out in strong puffs.
I want you to disregard the in-breath entirely, ignore it, pretend it doesn’t exist.
If you combine this with shaking the whole body, or if you’re really gassed, resting the hands on your knees, you’ll notice a marked increase in your ability to recover quickly.
I invite you to strap on a Heart Rate monitor and test this for yourself.
Readiness & Overtraining
There is a saying that “you can only train as hard as you can recover”
And this is as true as it gets.
While pushing on through fatigue and being the old soldier may be good for the ego, it’s a short cut to burn out, overtraining and potentially injuring yourself or your training partners.
So must monitor ourselves to ensure we are able to train well and make long term gains in our ability.
Here are some questions to ask yourself each day before training, give each one a score between 1-5, one being poor, 5 being excellent:
Add up the scores and divide it by 5, this is your “readiness score”
A score of 5 means go all out, a score of 1 means leave it till tomorrow
Sleep Quality 3 (might only have had 6 hours)
Mood 3 (neither excited/happy nor dour)
Energy Levels 4 (Feeling pretty good)
Stress Levels 4 (no real stress)
Soreness 2 (kind of sore from yesterdays training)
Score 3.2 (3+3+4+4+2 = 16, 16/5= 3.2)
3.2 out of 5 is ok, but not great, so today I’ll work hard but not my hardest.
This is a very simple way to gauge your level of recovery and therefore your readiness to train again.
A more accurate check is to keep track of your Heart Rate Variability (not to be confused with heart rate)
Heart Rate Variability (HRV) requires you to put on a heart rate monitor each morning (or at the same time each day) and take a 3 minute reading using one of the HRV apps available.
This measures the variance between the “R-Intervals” of your heart beat and gives you a fairly accurate look at how your central nervous system is acting.
Most apps give you a traffic light colour and a score out of ten for the day.
These work best if you take at least 3 readings per week, ideally first thing in the morning before you do anything.
[Link to articles on recovery practices, hrv and related]
KB = Kettlebell
2KB = Double Kettlebells
RDL = Romanian Deadlift
OH = Overhead
HR = Heart Rate
HRV = Heart Rate Variability
AMRAP = As Many Rounds/Reps as Possible