Category Archives: conditioning

Conditioning or Sparring?

“I find my sparring sessions far more tiring than my circuit training and cardio sessions, should I drop them altogether and concentrate on my sparring?”

A good question, and one that has been asked many times before, and will be asked many time again.

The reason it will always be asked is because the answer will always change dependant on several variables. In other words there is no one correct answer.
There is however a sliding scale that answer will sit on. On one end of the scale is “Do a stack of conditioning work” and the other is “Do a stack of Sparring work”. Your answer will lie in between the two and over the course of your career it will move towards one end or the other as a response to varying factors.Factors such as experience, time before or time since a fight, injury, specifics highlighted from last competition.

For a competitive fighter the specifics highlighted from either sparring or competition should form the foundation of their training.
In other words in the last fight, did the fighter gas after the first round? Did he notice a significant strength difference between himself and the opponent? Was his footwork up to speed, were his strikes still sharp an accurate at the end of the match, were there certain techniques that need improvement, such as escapes or submissions?

Each of these questions are important in planning the next stage in the fighters training program.

If the fighter found himself gassed halfway through the fight, then he needs to spend more time on conditioning drills.
If the fighter found a strength deficit between the opponent and himself, he needs to spend time on building strength.
If the fighter found his technical ability was lacking, he needs to significantly increase his technical work, preferably while fresh ie prior to any other work.

The training program should always focus on the weakest aspects of the fighters game.

The next thing to look at is the stage in the fighters competitive program. Is he just coming out of a fight, is he fast approaching a fight, how long have you got to prepare for the next fight. And how do you compare to the guy your matched up against, if you have the luxury of finding out this knowledge.

The Irish Amateur MMA league is run quarterly. That means the training year can easily be broken down into 3 month blocks. Each block culminates in an MMA meet.In the first month the fighter can look at his technical ability and strength. Heavy low rep strength training is an overlooked factor in most fighters arsenal. Strength can make the difference, especially as fatigue sets in later in the fight, if you’ve greater reserve of brute force, you may still be able over power your opponent even if you’re tired.Low rep strength work should leave you buzzing, ready to take on the world, not an exhausted heap. This is why I feel it is a good time to concentrate on technical ability. At this time cardio is not the focus of training, and while yes it should be trained, it is supplemental only.
A Training week may look as follows:
Mon/Wed/Fri – StrengthTues/Thurs/Sat – Technical Training.
Of course they can be trained on the same day, do the technical work first in a session and finish with the weights. You want to be as fresh as possible when training good technique. I also like to perform light shadow boxing in between sets, it serves as a kind of active recovery and in my mind, lets the muscles know what they’re being trained for. A session may finish with some cardio, for example a quick 100 reps of whatever (see this post at simple strength).

During the second month you may move towards a more cardio style of conditioning. Begin to perform the technical work in a fatigued state, reduce rest periods and add heavy circuits to your strength program. Build athleticism and explosive power as well as the ability to repeat this explosive power over and over. For this I personally find Kettlebell training fits the bill although there a re many ways of developing explosive power and power endurance.
High intensity circuits during this period will seriously increase a fighters ability to produce force while fatigued. Heavy but sub maximal loads and challenging full body drills should be used no isolation moves at all. Rest periods between exercises should be kept deliberately short and each round of the circuit, or work period should match up with the duration of a competition round. Rest in between rounds should also match a competition round. So if a fighter is competing in 3 five minute rounds with 1 minute breaks, his conditioning should be in 3 five minute rounds with a minute break.I believe this type of cardio is far more beneficial that hours of roadwork and skipping, although the do have their place. Skipping serves as a good warm up and can even be super-setted with weight training for a greater conditioning effect, simply insert 2 mins of skipping in place of a 2 minute rest period on heavy lifting days. Roadwork and running is better for recovery than it is for a fighters fitness.
Skills training during this period should also increase in intensity. Some training days do it before the conditioning work, others do it afterwards. Learn to be efficient and accurate while tired.

As the fight comes closer the conditioning work will start to take a back seat being replaced with more intense skills sessions and sparring. Strength should be maintained, two full body workouts sticking to the basic compound lifts should take care of this while not excessively tiring the athlete for the sparring sessions. All training should taper down during the final week before a fight. In the last few days all the fighter needs to do is keep the body loose and mobile. The hard work is done and any hard physical training will only produce nothing more than fatigue.
Skills training should be kept light and to the point. There is no point now in risking injury, instead work on the specific combinations that will be used in the arena, drill them until they become second nature.

So the original question was should my sparring be used as my conditioning and quit the circuits?
It’s a tough one to answer, it does depend on where you fall on the sliding scale. If your sparring leaves you so fatigued, are you learning anything? If you included separate conditioning work would it allow you to train your skills during sparring rather than just tire yourself out?
If your conditioning training leaves you too tired to spar or work your technique, then maybe you’re just not at the stage here your ready to start adding it in yet.

The best athletes start from a skills basis, then focus on speed, power and strength.
But all athletes need to work on speed, power and strength, these are skills too, much the same as you must learn and practice a roundhouse kick, you must learn and practice strength.

Why in this text have I barely mentioned cardio when it was in the main question?
Simply because it carries all the wrong connotations. “Cardio” to most is running for 30 minutes or an hour. While this does give you a basis it is not ideal for an explosive athlete, such as a fighter.Instead I prefer to train my fighters using conditioning circuits. These mix weighted strength exercises with bodyweight drills and more cardio oriented drills. The whole point of the cardio-vascular system is to carry fuel and oxygen to the muscles and remove waste products from the body.
Therefore, the harder I work the muscles and reduce the rest, the more my Cardio-Vascular System has to work.

If you take a circuit, for example:2 hand Kettlebell Swings (heavy)
Sledge hammer slams
Bodyweight Row
30 seconds on each station with around 10 seconds rest gives you 2min work in a 2min 30sec period. This approximates to a round. Take a one minute break and repeat. Each drill should be challenging enough that the athlete can only get a handful of reps done, yet he will not repeat the same drill for nearly 3 minutes. This means he should be “rested” by the time he comes around to doing it again and he can go balls out on every drill, this is no time to be pacing oneself.

Of course that circuit is merely an example. You can adjust the work times and rest times as well as the exercise selection to best suit your individual style. It is important though to balance the circuit and train the entire body.

I hope this short article helps any fighter wondering at how to put their training together.

Combat Core coming to DVD

I have talked about Jim Smith’s recent masterpiece, Combat Core, Advanced Torso Training for Explosive Strength and Power

It’s now about to be released on DVD. I haven’t seen it yet but here is the trailer for it:

I have however read the book cover to cover and back again, I’ve added some of to my own training and made some of my studnts/clients do some of the drills. They are fun, effective and uncomfortable, but by god do they work. I’m hitting harder than ever and I’m almost completely pain free from my lumbar disk injuries.

The book comes recommended, I expect no less from the DVD, I’ll be getting it, expect a review on here when I do.

Wild Geese
any cause but our own

Wild Geese @ The Martial Arts Academy

Wild Geese Martial Arts and our newer Personal Training and fitness wing will now be operating full time out of Dublin’s Martial Arts Academy.

At the academy we run regular Filipino Martial Arts, Anti Stab knife defence and Control & Restraint classes and courses.

We also have a selection of basic strength equipment, Barbells, plate loaded dumbells, a selection of kettlebells as well as some of the best conditioning tools ever invented, skipping ropes and punchbags.

So if you fancy training in a non conventional gym under the watchful eye of a qualified and experienced trainer using the types of methods used by fighters and old time strong men to forge physiques like stone and near legendary conditioning levels.

We offer Personal Training, Semi Private training and Supervised training.
Personal Training – You, Me and your personalised program, be it Martial Arts, Self defence, strength, weight loss and fitness. This runs at €50/hr
Semi Private – Bring a friend, up to a maximum of 6. You will then help and hinder each other to accelerate the results in the field you choose, strength, fitness or fighting. We charge €70/hr for the first 2 people with an extra €10 per person up to a max of 6.
Supervised Training – Come in and do your own training under our watchful eye for a nominal fee. Simply €10/hr or €50 per month.

You may combine packages to suit, and if you block pay for classes you can use them as you wish.
For example pay €100 and get 1 hr personal training and 1 month supervised training
Pay €100 and get 1 month supervised training and jump into 5 scheduled Wild Geese Martial Arts classes

For a map to our location click here:

We are number 19. Alternatively visit our websites listed below.


Wild Geese
any cause but our own

Sweep the leg. Do you have a problem with that?

It’s on TV now, I’m sat here mucking around online while the missus is sat flicking through TV channels, guess what she found, hang on it’s the final……..

……………Go on Danny Laruso!! That’s right, The Karate Kid!

Anyway back to the point, 21 years ago I was sat on the sofa, aged 10 watching this same film. Within the month I was training. I had joined the local karate school (St Martins Jnr Karate Club, under Sensei Jack Parker) and finally started something.

This had a major effect me. Karate was one of the few things I really stuck at as a kid. As I grew up, all the other lads grew out, I was a beanpole. While I cycled everywhere, I wasn’t strong. Around the time I was 16/17, Jack turned to me and said that if I wanted to continue improving to black belt standard and to stand a chance in the tournaments.

As a result I asked my mates on the school rowing squad if I could join their gym sessions, they asked their coach and a new era started.

We had two gym sessions per week, the lads obviously had other sessions out on the water, I ran and practiced karate. Plus we’d meet once or twice a week for a session on the ergo’s (what we called the concept 2 rowers, still my machine of choice)
One session was “light day” consisting of Pyramids, the other session was “Heavy day” using 3×10. The exercises were always:
Leg Press, Bench Pull, Power Cleans and bench press. I think that was all, there were certainly no isolation’s!

It’s the warm ups i really liked though. A 20 minute circuit that would make Steve Maxwell blanch, then onto the weights.

Now, I realise it wasn’t the most scientific training we could have done, but we got results!
I put on a little weight, but got much much stronger with conditioning to match, got my black belt and fought for my country. The rowing squad were in the top 15 in the country.

When I need to train up for something these days, I always look back to those days, my first gym experience. Although I know much more now, it was the heart and soul we put into the training, it was the basic exercise selection, it was the high intensity circuits.

I look around the Gym I work in and see the girlie boys spending over an hour trying to get from a b cup to a c cup while I’m in and out in less than an hour, full body done, heavy weights moved and heart in the mouth intense cardio ( I like to finish with a 4 minute tabata after a strength workout). I could never get my head around bodybuilding.

I got into training to improve my martial arts, I continue training to improve not only my martial arts but everything else I do. If strength isn’t functional can it truly be called strength?

Fuck it, the sun’s shining, the Karate Kid won his fight and I’m in the mood to get out into the garden and do some training of my own. Bodyweight only, cos I took my Kettlebells to the gym.

Lets go


Wild Geese
any cause but our own

More Effective Muscle Building Workouts

By Jason Ferrugia

Why is it that almost all of the muscle building workouts you read about advocate body-part splits? Monday is chest day, Tuesday is back, Thursday is legs and Friday is arms…or something like that, I guess.

Why does everyone just do what everyone else is doing and follow the herd like a bunch of sheep without stopping to ever consider why?

You need to understand that most forms of muscle building workouts have just been passed down for decades from one generation to the next, without the inclusion of rational thought. Sometime in the 60’s, sensible muscle building workouts started becoming less and less prevalent with the rapidly growing usage of anabolic steroids.

In the days of old, men like Steve Reeves and Paul Anderson trained with far more reasonable, lower volume programs. Unfortunately these smarter muscle building workouts started to disappear during the 60’s. By the time Arnold got to Gold’s Gym in Venice for the first time, high volume, body-part splits were the widely accepted way for everyone to train for size and strength.

These types of muscle building workouts are not based on deductive reasoning but just on the fact that “it’s what everyone else is doing.” The proponents of these training methods will always blindly tell you that “higher volume training is needed for hypertrophy gains.” Says who? I can tell you for a fact that the University of Chicago isn’t wasting time examining the effects of Jay Cutler’s marathon workouts. There are no studies saying that you need 8-12 sets per body-part to grow. In fact there are studies that show the opposite; that one set is just as effective as three.

The proponents of this type of training will also tell you that higher volume training is associated with higher levels of growth hormone secretion. What they don’t tell you is that the level of GH increase is not enough to make any difference at all. In fact, almost anything you do elevates GH. Extreme temperatures elevate GH but my biceps don’t get bigger every time I take a shower. The increased GH secretion from training is so minimal that it is not enough to make the slightest difference whatsoever.

For the drug free lifter who does not possess muscle building genetics quite up to par with the current Mr. Olypia, training this way is a huge mistake. Not only does it drain your amino acid pool and glycogen stores but it dramatically enhances your recovery time between workouts. If you do 8-12 sets for chest on Monday you can not recover from that workout and be able to train again for seven days. So you are only getting one growth stimulus per week or fifty two per year. Now if you reduce your volume to the point where you can recover faster and more efficiently without draining your amino acid pool and glycogen stores so greatly, you can train bodyparts twice per week instead of once. Now instead of 52 muscle building workouts per year for each bodypart, you can now do 104. In fact, if your volume is kept low you can even get away with training bodyparts three times a week in certain situations. Now, which do you think will be more effective; 156 muscle building workouts per year or 52?

To train more often you absolutely have to lower your training volume. The total sets per workout should be kept low and the total sets per exercise should be even lower. There is no need to hit four sets of incline presses, flat bench presses and decline presses for your chest workout. Doing that is a form of neuroses; you think that you need to hit every angle and do and endless amount of sets to stimulate every last muscle fiber, but this is simply not the case.

The reason these types of muscle building workouts remain popular is because nobody wants to be told that they are wrong. Admitting your mistakes is something many people can’t do. It is why when something radically different is proposed, the high volume proponents get upset and offended. Nobody likes to have their ego bruised so they keep on doing and promoting the same old high volume workouts that they always have.

That’s fine, let them continue to do what they choose; personally I have way more important things to do than spend all of my waking hours in the gym. If I can get better results in a fraction of the time with short, highly effective muscle building workouts, I will choose that option every time.

Cut your volume down, up your weights and intensity and get ready for the “what are you on” questions to start rolling in.

Jason Ferruggia is a world famous fitness expert who is renowned for his ability to help people build muscle as fast as humanly possible. He is the head training adviser for Men’s Fitness Magazine where he also has his own monthly column dedicated to muscle building. For More Effecive Muscle Building Workout tips, check out

Wild Geese
any cause but our own

Body Building Transformation Challenge

Here’s a fantastic challenge for those of you looking to get bigger and stronger, especially if you’re the hardgainer type who struggles to put meat on you bones.

We all get better results when we have a deadline to work to, a clearly defined goal to aim for. Jason Ferrugia has just given you the deadline and offered $1000 (€640) as motivation.

Jason Ferrugia is a trainer and muscle building expert who won’t tell you to spend all day every day in the gym, he won’t fill you full of supplements. Instead what you get is his 20 years of research and experience on what to lift, how to lift it and how often to train.

He’s just launched a Transformation competition, read on to see how you can earn back your gym membership:

I am very excited to announce that we are holding the first ever Muscle Gaining Secrets
12 Week Transformation Contest.

The rules of the contest are the following:

–You must be a Muscle Gaining Secrets
customer and use one of the workouts from the package.

–You must register in our private forum and post your before pictures.

–You must begin on or before April 4th.

–The contest ends on July 4th, 2008.

The prizes awarded to the top finishers will

1st place- $1,000.00
2nd place- $500.00
3rd place- $250.00

We will also be adding some bonuses prizes as time goes on.

This is the perfect time to start
getting in shape for summer and have a shot at a thousand bucks while you’re at it.

So what are you waiting for?

Get on over to, now and start getting jacked today.

Train hard,
Jason Ferruggia
Relentless Athletics
37 Musket Drive
Basking Ridge, New Jersey 07920,

Best of luck.

Wild Geese
any cause but our own

Mental Toughness

There is a quote in Enter the kettlebell by Federal counter-terrorist operator saying “Kettlebell Training…the closest thing you can get to a fight without throwing a punch”.

I was just out in by back garden, barefoot in a singlet starting my training today. This consisted of military press ladders followed by EDT swings with the 32kg bell.

Then came the wind, rain and hail.

As if heavy swings for 15 minutes aren’t tough enough, the weather comes in making it cold, miserable, the handle gets slippery making it even harder on the grip. All this while trying to beat the previous personal best.

I was about two thirds through when the quote came into my head. I’ve been in fights, as a martial artist and as a security operative, you need to have the mind set to carry on even when the conditions are against you, when your muscles are failing you and your lungs are on fire.
That’s just how I felt today, Legs and back screaming, forearms barely holding on, heart in my mouth and being pelted with hail.

But you carry on.

And I tell you this when your finished, you feel indestructible, but sore.

Just like a fight.

I’d recommend The Kettlebell Solution for Fat Loss and Mental Toughness DVD from Mike Mahler but it’s shot in sunny California I ought to invite Mike to my back garden in Dublin, then we’d really get tough!

For more on Kettlebells, give us a shout, we’ve just launched our new site, it’ll take a while to be finished but you’ll get the idea of what we’re about. Or visit Mike Mahler’s Site and the Dragon Door Site for some of the best info out there.

Keep training.

Wild Geese
any cause but our own

3 Best Bodyweight Exercises

By: Craig Ballantyne, CSCS, MS

Here are 3 kick-butt bodyweight exercises you can do anytime, anywhere to burn fat, stay energized, and avoid overeating.

Bodyweight exercises help you burn fat shockingly fast, without any fancy equipment.

1) Any Single-Leg ExerciseThe pistol (single-leg squat to the floor) is the most advanced1-leg exercise. But you can also do assisted single-leg squats with a band, or onto a bench, or even with a Stability Ball between your back and the wall.
If you aren’t ready for single-leg squats, you can use BulgarianSplit Squats, Reverse Lunges, regular split squats, or lying 1-leg hip bridges if you are a beginner.

2) Decline Push-ups These are harder than normal pushups, thanks to your elevated feet. And in this position, you can still use a close-grip to fatigueyour triceps, a “piked-hip position” to build your shoulders, oreven the Spiderman leg motion to work on your abs.

3) Bodyweight Inverted RowsI choose these over chinups and pullups because bodyweight rows let your chest rest, while your back is strengthened. It’s the perfect compliment to a pushup.
Do 8-12 repetitions per exercise. Don’t rest between exercises. Go through the circuit up to 3 times, resting 1 minute after each circuit.

For a once-per-month challenge, do each exercise to failure in your final round through the circuit.

Get in shape fast with Turbulence Training,
Craig Ballantyne, CSCS, MS
Author, Turbulence Training

About the Author
Craig Ballantyne is a Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist and writes for Men’s Health, Men’s Fitness, Maximum Fitness, Muscle and Fitness Hers, and Oxygen magazines.
His trademarked Turbulence Training fat loss workouts have been featured multiple times in Men’s Fitness and Maximum Fitness magazines, and have helped thousands of men and women around the world lose fat, gain muscle, and get lean in less than 45 minutes three times per week.
For more information on the Turbulence Training workouts that will help you burn fat without long, slow cardio sessions or fancy equipment, visit

Wild Geese
any cause but our own

Kettlebells, probably the most effecient workout you can do

Many of you know I’m a big fan of the kettlbell for strength and conditioning training. I’ve spoken about them in previous posts and will doubtless post about them again.

If you’ve never tried them you have three options:

Option 1 – Keep your head in the sand and keep doing what you’ve always done and enjoy the never ending plateaus you’ll endure.

Option 2 – Call/email us and come in for some personal training with the Kettlebell and associated exercises


Option 3 – Learn it yourself. And quite simply the best way to do that is to order Enter the kettlebell!—and follow the three-stage plan to kettlebell mastery:

Stage 1. The New RKC Program Minimum
With just two kettlebell exercises, takes you from raw newbie to solid contender—well-conditioned, flexible, resilient and muscular in all the right places.

Stage 2. The RKC Rite of Passage
Jumps you to the next level of physical excellence with Pavel’s proven RKC formula for exceptional strength and conditioning.

Stage 3. Become a Man Among Men
Propels you to a Special Forces level of conditioning and earns you the right to call yourself a

When you rise to the challenge—and Enter the Kettlebell!—there will be no more confusion, no more uncertainty and no more excuses—only raw power, never-quit conditioning and earned respect.

So, are you ready to take your strength and conditioning to undreamt-of new heights with Pavel’s 100% guaranteed, foolproof, proven Masterplan for fast-track kettlebell training success. I want to order Pavel’s Enter The Kettlebell! book NOW—and not waste one more day, being weaker than I need to be.

I’ll leave it up to you.

Wild Geese Martial Arts
any cause but our own

Grease the Groove Protocol

Here’s a simple method of improving a skill set that I got from Pavels “The Naked Warrior”, he calls it Grease the Groove.

What it is, in a nutshell, is a method of High Frequency Training. It calls for a single set of an exercise at intervals throughout the day.

Each set should stop short of failure, in other words if you can’t perform another perfect rep, don’t even try. You will aim to get as many sets done during the day as comfortable, starting maybe with 2, building to maybe 5 or more.

While Pavel talks about One Arm Push ups and Pistols (1 leg squats), you can apply the protocol to any situation. If you are struggling with a particular technique, say a roundhouse kick for example, do a few on each leg, stop before fatigue. A couple of hours later, repeat. Continue all day.

Continue greasing the groove, gradually increasing the number of sets and then the number of reps per set, but never to failure. Do this untill you reach your desired result.

For the busy exec or stressed Mother, this is a training method that fits into the busiest of schedules. Who couldn’t do a single set of an exercise while waiting for the kettle to boil, or during the ad break after Desperate Housewives?

Try it with other things, learning Spanish, Speed Work, Technical work, Strength work, writing your memoirs, or even grease the groove of calling your Mum.

Give it a go, see what happens.

Wild Geese Martial Arts
any cause but our own

PS Don’t forget to come along to the Fighters For Life Event