There’s an old saying when it comes to working hard in the gym and the dojo: “The more you sweat in training, the less you bleed in battle.” And never is it truer than when you train for combat.
For a fighting chance to survive—whether it be in competition, in the practice ring, or even in the street—it all starts in the gym.
With that in mind, here are the three essential scrapping skills you need to be the ultimate fighter on your block, with tips for honing them in the weight room to become a lethal weapon.
When you’re on your feet, punches, kicks, elbows, and knees are your primary defense. The power to throw them comes from your shoulders and hips.
The exercise: The medicine-ball wood chop.
How you do it: Hold a medicine ball with both hands and stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Keeping your lower back arched, bend at the waist and knees and turn your body so that your arms hang and the ball is outside your right knee. Now explosively rotate your torso upward, bringing the ball diagonally over your left shoulder. (Allow your feet to pivot naturally as you turn). Finish with your arms still fully extended. That’s one rep. Do three sets of 10 reps on each side, resting 30 seconds between sets.
It kicks ass because: It trains your shoulders and hips to unleash elastic energy; the resulting speed is the key to scoring bone-crunching knockouts.
Wrestling your opponent off his feet and to the ground usually means the beginning of the end in a fight. That’s because most guys find themselves helpless when fighting from the floor. Takedown power comes mostly from the hips.
The exercise: The deadlift.
How you do it: Grip the bar overhand on one side and underhand on the other, but use the same form as the classic deadlift. Your goal is to move the weight with lightning speed to develop power, and you can’t do that with an extra-heavy load-so you’ll need to drop the weight to 65%-70% of what you would use to complete a one-rep max. Do seven sets of three reps, resting only 30 seconds between sets.
It kicks ass because: The power you’ll develop will allow you to drive through opponents like a Mack truck through police tape. The short rest periods will build speed endurance-your ability to sustain a high speed for longer periods of time.
Not every fight ends with one punch. It’s not enough to be built tough-you have to be built to last. You need a specific kind of cardio to develop the stamina it takes to scrap.
The exercise: Intervals.
How to do it: Warm up with some light jogging on a treadmill (use a 5% incline) for five minutes. Then, for 30 seconds, sprint at the fastest speed you can maintain. Afterward, slow down to a light jog for another 30 seconds. That’s one interval. Repeat for up to 10 intervals (or 10 minutes).
It kicks ass because: Fights contain brief periods of explosive action followed by brief periods of steady action. If you have the conditioning to weather them both, you’re on the path to victory.
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