Becoming Durable: Most Ain’t.

by Tom Furman

“But you got to be durable, too. Real durable. Most ain’t.” — Jack Wilson, Any Which Way You Can.

William Smith and Clint Eastwood testing durability.




The ability to withstand wear, pressure, or damage.

In humans, durability is more in line with the capacity to last despite setbacks, pain or injury. This does not even need to be in forms of mortal combat or warfare. To quote Rocky -

You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life. But it ain’t how hard you hit; it’s about how hard you can get hit, and keep moving forward. How much you can take, and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done.

Building durability in a human requires exposure to stress in a gradual method. Too much, too soon, is as bad as doing nothing. As well if the methodology is inherently flawed or reckless, it is only a matter of time before the system breaks. One cannot do every exercise or mode. They have to be picked for the biggest bang per buck. Simply choosing some arcane drills because they look unique or are popular is barking up the wrong tree.

The method will include 4 areas to focus on. Some will involves several drills, others will be singular movements. Let us begin.

Number one is, Climbing Board and Pull Ups. A climbing board is a tool used by climbers to develop grip. There is NO need to do pull ups on the board, it is about grip. However by building your pull up strength, you develop upper body power and remove weak links. This training promotes body leanness that enhances power to weight ratio. Hanging by one arm or by your fingers ensures that there is no spare tire around your waist. This program will be two parts. A pull up program and a hang board routine.

The Pull Up Program is the Armstrong Method. It uses a variety of workouts and grips. This prevents overuse injuries. You can cycle this with any other program you like.

Hang Board Program. Take a break for 5–10 minutes and move into the hang board program. Remember to start with larger/easier holds. This method has very good illustrations regarding form and safety. Treat them as law.

The combination of pull ups and holds with a variety of grips and methods leads to development of the upper body that is unique.

Area Two Is Spiral Squats. This movement is called, Dragon Twists in Chinese martial arts and Gelek in Indonesian martial arts. The down side, other than the practice needed to perfect it, is that huge loads are out. The up side is that is develops squatting, internal and external rotation, foot strength, hip strength, core strength and pronation/supination of the lower leg. It also is diagnostic, in that it immediately shows you what is weak or inflexible.

The following article by Steve Cotter is highly detailed and lends itself to slow progression to rather incredible levels of strength. Proceed with the patience of a monk and speed of a glacier.

The Third Area Is Crawling. It is a very, simple movement, that gets great results. While it can be done with a load, it’s strength is the movement itself. As well, getting up and down from the floor is a quality that promotes longevity. Moving around on the floor returns us to youth and reconnects our brain to basic movement. It’s demanding to the cardiovascular system, but spreads the stress over four limbs and with little impact. I will say that some instructors in crawling methods like to relate near magical neurological improvement to crawling. This has it’s genesis in the book, “Smart Moves” by Carla Hanford. However much of that book has been debunked. That doesn’t remove ANY of the fitness benefits of crawling however. (1*)

I’d suggest setting the timer for ten minutes of constant crawling of various styles. Add one minute per session until you reach 20–30 minutes. This will take some time. As well, stretch your hands and wrists, before-during-after the session. They will initially be the weak link. Below are three resources.

a. Da Rulk. His methodology is very organized and it has been applied to the average fitness enthusiast, MMA fighters, First Responders and others.



b. Original Strength. There is a WEALTH of information here. It’s a great starting point for crawling training and easily accessible to the out of shape individual.

You Tube Channel

c. Gold Medal Bodies. This resource has much to offer beyond crawling, but their crawling material is well filmed and laid out. I highly recommend it.

The Fourth and Last Area is Repetition Hinging. The primary method is the kettlebell swing. There are TWO techniques. One is like a sprint and one is like a long distance run.

Royal Marine Commando Ollie Quinn swings a 202 lb kettlebell, because he can.

The fitness or, “Hardstyle”, swing is performed, primarily, for shorter duration and speed. It can be done with two hands or one hand. Usually total repetitions are the metric.

The second type of swing is the GS (Girevoy Sport) or Sport Swing. It is done for duration and as a building block for cleans and snatches. It’s also a brutal grip builder.

An example of a two arm, hardstyle swing is here —

An example of the Sport Swing is here —

Whatever type swing you choose, this is a repetition based hinging workout. Not to be confused with heavy power lifting deadlifts or Olympic cleans, snatches and pulls, which are done for low reps.

The benefit of this type of training is building work capacity into the strongest mechanical action in the human body. You develop the ability to pick things up, over and over. That is something we typically avoid, especially as we age.

Putting together a workout requires measurement, duration, frequency and intelligence. There will be NO, “Workout Of The Day”, “Circuit Training”, “Chipper” or “As Many Reps As Possible”. There will be two variations of the 4 Day Workout.

a. The Jocko Method. This follows the pattern of US Navy SEAL, Jocko Willink. He splits his movements over 4 days and focuses on one area each day. So it looks like this —

  1. Climbing Board and Pull Ups
  2. Spiral Squats.
  3. Crawling
  4. Repetition Hinging (shoot for 200–500 total swings)

Each day, some stretching and non impact aerobics should be done as well. That can be rucking, rowing or biking. Take a day off when life tells you to. There is adequate recovery built into this.

b. The Bodybuilder Split. This is not a traditional bodybuilder/body part split, but involves dividing up the movements.

  1. Climbing Board/ Pull Ups — Spiral Squat
  2. Crawl — Repetition Hinge.
  3. Aerobics and Stretching
  4. Climbing Board/Pull Ups — Spiral Squat
  5. Crawl — Repetition Hinge
  6. Aerobics and Stretching
  7. Rest.

About every 4 to 6 weeks, reduce training intensity and volume by 50%. You feel like you are coasting, but this is a back off week and allows for long term progress.

Enjoy the workout and get durable.

If you need more personalized training, please contact me at for Online Fitness Coaching.

(1)Many of the claims made in ‘Smart Moves’ refer to ideas that are now widely identified as ‘neuromyths’ (Dekker et al., 2012). Neuromyths are plausible-sounding assertions that often have a basis in a misunderstanding of neuroscientific ideas, or extrapolation of ideas beyond the context in which they are might legitimately be applied. In addition, ‘Brain Gym’ has been suggested to have no evidence-basis (Hyatt, 2007) and Hannaford’s assertion that it is legitimate based on anecdotal evidence alone may confuse the situation for teachers and parents. (Source, Wikipedia)