Think it’s too cold, too hot, you can’t afford it, you don’t have the right equipment to train? We call bullshit! In our line of work you need to learn how to Adapt or Die. Coach Smith shares how he is currently doing just that.
Right now in the pursuit of my family’s life goals and visions I find myself temporarily located in the Cheshire countryside, UK. I will be here in the middle of winter for another several months and the closest training facility is a small Crossfit box 3 miles away that doesn’t allow open gym sessions and only caters to the weekend warrior or soccer mom goals (not gonna cut it for my physical needs and wants).
I could stick with some running, pushups, pull-ups and some air squats – maybe throwing something, skipping and calling myself creative and truly capable; or I can stop being a whiney bitch and accept that there are so many options available to me physically (and you) that its stupid to stop there.
My current goals and the tools I have to achieve them
I need to move heavy shit, to work speed and endurance. I need to be coordinated, highly balanced and have a huge complex upper and lower body strength base. I need to be mobile as fuck (flexibility is for yogis that want to kiss their shins but cant hold a ladle doing it for fear of snapping an over stretched joint range), coordination and reaction speeds that will serve me well in sport, fighting or taking Forest Gump for a run on the table tennis circuit.
Before you start designing me (or your client) this uber long list of exercise equipment from speed ladders, shake weights, fascia sticks and earthquake bars remember that I’m stuck in the wet, cold English country side and I currently only have 120£ ($200) and my creativity to work with.
Most of my background is competitive power sports, but I’ve got a fair bit of athletics, swimming and a lot of gymnastics, circus and acrobatic training. As well as being a movement coach for years, finding the best tools and methods around the world for building all of these qualities in ANY athlete at ANY age using gymnastics, circus, martial arts, qigong, tai chi, yoga, dance, rock climbing, weightlifting, powerlifting, free diving, parkour and more.
So right there I have the tools, progressions, program design and methodology taken care of, I’m just lacking a facility and equipment.
That’s where a bit of thought and selection comes into it.
What I’m going give you here is an idea on how you can twist your mind into solving your problem like I did. Within budget and in line with your goals.
Equipment and Movements
First I needed tools that achieve my above goals of physicality and mentality.
Overall I would need something very heavy to lift, something moderately heavy, something lightish but dynamically capable, something for accessory and ‘prehab’ training and a way to work my strength complexity.
So let’s cover the tools:
- Gymnastic ring – cost; 20£ ($34) – incredible tool and the most useful in developing upper body strength. In fact it is the single best tool for upper body ability – if you know how to use them and constantly progress elements. Look at a gymnastic rings specialist and aim for 10% of what they can do and you will still be a physical monster. As operators we need to move our bodies like liquid steel. You wont need to bench press 160kg but you might need to pull yourself plus an additional 20 kg up and over a wall fucking fast. If you get rings but only do chin ups, dips and pushups on them then yes, not such a great tool. But if you build to more complex elements then you are on your way to an elite capability using a tool that can fit in your pack and hang from anything, anywhere.
- Adjustable dumbbells – cost; 20-30£ ($34 – $50) – an adjustable pair up to 20 kg should be adequate for working on rotator cuffs, tricep health and mid low trap strength. As well as providing adequate resistance for upper and lower body weight exercises in the absence of barbells etc. Load and volume is not the only way to increase training stimulus. Leverage, TUT and complexity are other great ways for a tactical athlete to increase their abilities and physicality with little to no equipment.
- Doorway pull up bar – cost; 10£ ($17) – for small strength elements at home, the doorway pull up bar allows me to hang and brachiate to look after my shoulder health. To perform upper body strength like pull-ups, one arm pull-ups and their progressions, front levers, back levers, skin the cat variations and hanging leg lift variations. So much possibility when you understand the principles and tools available out there (which is another thing that makes our programs so unique – there are no programs out there designed by operators for operators that have these types of tools and physical educational back grounds available).
- Sand bag – cost; 15£ ($25) – I used an old military canvas duffel bag I bought on amazon for 9£ and delivered to me in a few days. Then bought a sandbag shell and heavy zip tie for 5£ and dug up some dirt in the fields and filled my shell, tied it up, put it in the duffel bag and duct tapped it up. 80 kg odd object – check!!
- Small sandbags – cost; 20£ ($34) – I found some Thai fight training sandbags online for 9£ total and ordered 2. They came in a week, I filled them with pebbles found outside and zipped them up. One is 40 kg the other is 20kg. Sorted
- Speed rope – cost; 20£ ($34) – A quality speed rope has allowed me to maintain a different form of mono structural training and to work on differing qualities like reaction, timing, tissue elastics and health plus more. Invest in a decent one it will last you a long time.
- Weight vest – cost; 20£ ($34) – Online a cheap-ish one @10 kg is plenty of weight for what I need. I make up the difference with exercise selection and carrying an odd object with me for challenge.
That’s all the tools I need and for an affordable price, you can get away without the weight vest or speed rope and cut your cost by 40£ ($68).
- Forms of deadlifts and presses with bags.
- Sandbag swings, throws and sandbag get ups.
- Single leg squat variations (pistols, shrimp, dragon, cossack, hook, Hawaiian, etc.)
- Body weight and minimal hamstring contraction tools (Jefferson curls, RDL, Stiff legged good morning, standing straddle good mornings, harrop curls, single leg arch ups, etc.)
- Lower back strength (reverse hypers, gatherings, press handstands, cranks, RDL, kettlebell swings etc.)
- Calf strength (2 leg and single leg calf raises, donkey calf raises, weighted and unweighted, single leg skips, stiff legged hops, depth drops, etc.)
- Upper body pulling (chin ups, pull ups, wide grip pull ups, false grip pull ups, archer pull-ups mechanical advantage archer pull ups, rope assisted pull-ups, one arm assisted pull-ups, rope climbs, one arm chin ups, one arm pull-ups, chameleon rope climbs, no space rope climbs, reverse grip rope climbs, behind the neck rope climbs, front levers tuck to full, front lever pulls, cranks, front lever pull ups tuck to full, yewkis and more and more)
- Upper body pushing (pushups, close grip pushups, ring pushups, dips, ring dips, upper arm dips, handstand pushups, headstand pushups, free standing full range handstand pushups, ring handstand pushups, planche tuck to full, planche pushups tuck to full, ring planche tuck to full, ring planche pushup tuck to full, pelican pushups, pelican dips, press handstand straddle- pike – stahlder and more and more)
- Balance (also known as equilibrium) – (handstands, elbows balances and low balances, rail balancing on feet, precision jumps, object manipulation like juggling). An often-misunderstood art of equilibrium allows for a greater sense of awareness, object control around you and of yourself around objects. One balance is not equal to another which is why you have to train many types of balance to allow true control of yourself and the world around you. It’s a type of meditation and you cannot truly meditate without concentration and you cannot develop mental toughness without the ability to concentrate and clear the mind. Find me a high-level fighter or athlete without balance and ill show you the balance that you cant see because you don’t understand. You need it. Even as a warrior. So work it.
- Coordination – I use juggling, object timing drills from boxing and fighting, skipping protocols, even things like dance can help you if you’re man or woman enough to try. I did 2 years of ballet, lyrical dance and contemporary dance in conjunction with my other training. It was the most powerful and athletic my lower body has ever been even with a 200kg back squats, pro-level rugby etc. etc. I was coordinated, strong and fast (got free conditioning) and could still choke you out from any position (due to mobility, speed, endurance, self awareness and coordination). BJJ, Krav, MMA? They will all improve with work on these elements. Box, dance, skip, juggle etc. Do it and watch.
- Mobility – I use dynamic movement work (I call it small chain movement) from dance, martial arts like Muay Thai, Wushu and rock climbing to name a few as well as a form of loaded progressive stretching that develops long term physical adaptations to ranges and builds connective tissue strength and resilience. We teach it customisable to each person as each person requires different things. Not everything needs to be stretched and not everything needs more stability – it’s case by case.
- Energy systems – Speed, endurance etc. need to be harnessed as an operator and human. Can I run 5 miles at the end of a workout or sprint up a muddy hill for 200 m on and off for 20 min? Yes. Why? Because I work it into my training sensibly and with principles behind it.
- Reaction speed, coordination, mobility and awareness – my favourite ways: using soft acrobatics and tricking and Capoeira style Florieo. Not for everyone and can take years to develop the advanced stuff, but the basics are accessible to all, and the benefits are way beyond your resistance band wood chops and star diagram lunge series. Want to be a warrior and capable in ANY scenario – best have the capacity to move like one.
In short this is a glimpse into my own training approaches and my current access to equipment. I train mainly outdoors in sub 10 degree wet weather in the mud, parks and fields as I get mental toughness and realistic environments for my work.
I weigh over 105 kg, I am lean, without training heavy lifts at all I can still deadlift 1.8 x BW, squat 1.5 x BW, strict press 0.9 x BW and sprint a sub 12 sec 100 m and run a 8:30 – 2.4 km. I can also hold a 5 sec one arm handstand, perform multiple reps of freestanding handstand pushups, Archer pull-ups and legless rope climbs, front levers and muscle ups, high reps of pull ups and pushups (only ever trained as accessory tools, never a focus – I get them for free due to my training approaches) and squats etc. I can get into splits cold and climb, run, jump over obstacles easily, roll and wrestle and strike with people much more experienced than I (though lacking the same physical prep) and even more importantly – I can calm my mind and body in physical and emotional stress and learn new skills and tasks quickly because I have exposed myself to complex learning environments constantly.
My training is not special and not brag worthy – there are plenty of people stronger than me, more capable than me and fitter than me – but I have a VERY capable athleticism that requires no specific or boring training and is something that improves my mind and learning ability not just my physicality. It is also a method I can maintain into old age as its built around looking after my body and having things work well.
If someone says you are wasting time training this acrobatic complex shit, odds are they cant do it and have no way of teaching it to you in a methodical programmed approach. If you don’t have one either then yes it is a waste of time. However if you have the means (us) and the will (you) then these tools and approaches will give you more than traditional forms of training alone.
If you have the fancy gyms and enjoy that training then do it! But if you are limited in equipment, don’t be put off and don’t limit yourself to pull-ups, pushups and running. Explore and adapt. (Sidenote: We created a 12 week program for warriors with limited equipment, Raider Lite)
Elite physicality doesn’t have to be boring, complex or expensive.
Finally, my favourite thing about the stuff I do and the minimal nature of it? I can take it anywhere with a pair of rings….or without. Either or.
Want to know more about Raider Lite?