By Tom Furman
In a world of too many choices, we can’t decide. Decide, means, “to cut”.
Growing up in the 60’s meant 3 TV stations and, oh yes, educational TV. Decisions were easy with one television. Now with 200 channels, there is nothing on TV, or it’s hard to decide. Similarly, with the growth of the internet, we went from exercise books to fitness magazines to streaming and zoom workouts. Endless choices and yet little improvement in fitness. If deciding between 3 or 4 things was difficult, deciding or cutting away the unessential is nearly impossible with hundreds of choices.
Minimalist programs are often seen as a panacea for the ills of the earth. A press and a deadlift or swing and Turkish get up can cure third world debt, Covid virus and bad frozen yogurt. Well, no it can’t. It has a place and that place is not what this article is about. Let’s just say there are three primary colors and 3–5 macronutrients. With those combos we can produce the art at the Sistine Chapel or pornography. With 3–5 macronutrients we can cook a feast or chow down on Chicken McNuggets out of a dumpster. It depends on creativity and desired outcome. If you minimize too much, you don’t cover the real estate. If you have too many variables you never know what is going wrong or going right.
Brief programs need to have flexibility built into them. That means each component has variables, but there are not endless components. Think of power lifting. Three lifts, but there are many variations of each to deal with weaknesses. Kettlebell Sport has the Biathlon and Long Cycle, yet they can be broken down and trained to enhance outcomes.
“You know a thousand moves and you suck at every one of them.” — Carlson Gracie
Many of the workouts are conceived from my own youth. Training to fight better, wrestle better, box better. I had little equipment, but so did a lot of people. So I had to be creative, with primitive tools. Without daily coaching I needed to get a lot of bang for the buck. The following program uses two tools. I will mention the substitutions, but the essence is two tools. A step up bench and a barbell.
The Two methods are step ups and a barbell complex. Period. Let us address the Barbell Complex first.
Enter, the Natural, Randy Couture. Former member of 101st Airborne, NCAA Div 1 and Olympic alternate wrestler, multiple UFC Champion and Expendable. He has used and uses a variety of conditioning methods. However one stood out for me. The use of a barbell complex.
Complexes have been used since, or perhaps before, Istvan “Steve” Javorek. Then Dan John expounded on the idea greatly. I’d strongly suggest you dig deep into this article on them and take notes. With the seeds of DJ’s writing, you have unlimited variations using only a Craig’s List used barbell.
The first variation, for simplicity, is the, “Couture Complex”. It is what Randy showed when starring in the Expendables. He’s not knocking other methods, but mentions that it served his needs in terms of conditioning and appearance, rather than training pure, “Beach Muscles”.
It is this sequence -
Do the following without stopping, that’s 1 set. Rest one minute, do 3–5 sets.
Bent rows x 8
Upright rows x 8
Military press x 8
Good morning x 8
Lunges x 8 (each leg)
Squat push press x 8
Deadlift x 8
Now here are the variables for the complex -
- Vary the type of complex
- Vary the weight
- Vary the reps
- Vary the sets
- Vary the equipment, kettlebells, sandbags, clubbells, dumbbells
My advice is to EASE into this. I’ve had clients have various reactions from swearing a lot, to puking a lot. Be forewarned. Start with 2 sequences and build from there. The level of metabolic distress from the continuous time under tension and multiple joint movements is unreal. However the results are great. It’s a trade off.
“If you are going to pray for rain, you have to deal with the mud.” — Robert McCall, The Equalizer
The second part of, “The Two”, is the Step Up. I have used the step up since the 70’s as a conditioning tool for wrestling, boxing and other martial arts. I would never question the mythical and near religious superiority of squatting, but the benefits of step ups are numerous. It’s highly, highly, variable. As well, as you age, your one legged balance starts to fade. Your conditioning methodology might want to adapt to that failing carcass you call a body. One legged movements can shore up differences in leg strength, range of motion and stability. One legged movements can expose weaknesses in your feet, hips and core too. The following variables can be applied.
- Height of the box
- Pace of stepping using a metronome
- Adding resistance
- How you add resistance. pack, vest, dumbbells, barbell, sandbag
- How you hold resistance. At your sides, Zercher, racked or overhead
- How long you step up.
With these variables as future tools, your first goal should be the Chad 1000X. Rather than get into detail, read the article and use it to finish the hardest level.
The Workout- 1000 Step Ups
1. Slick // No rucksack. You pick the height of the step-ups.
2. Standard // 30#/20# rucksack. You pick the height of the step-ups.
3. Expert // 45# rucksack. Use 20" box for step-ups.
Of course one does not start out with ridiculous goals. Do 100 step ups, which is 50/50, with no weight to get your bearings and see what’s weak and what hurts. Then build.
How do we put this together? Well, again, there are some simple variables.
- Day One, Complex, Day Two, Steps, Day Three, Easy Aerobics, Core and Stretch. Repeat.
- Day One, REST Day, Day Two, etc.
- Day One, Day Three, Day Two, Day Three, Rest.
The extra day is for easy aerobics, core and stretching. Aerobics can and should be walking, running, biking, swimming, elliptical or rowing. Just make it easy. Stretching can be any yoga, p.n.f, static or other type of routine you like.
For the core routine, I’d highly suggest this. It’s from a male ballet dancer. It’s very balanced. I’d do 3–5 circuits of 8–15 repetitions.
Lastly, get started. It is healthy and very smart to back off volume by 50% every fourth week. However, get started. Seize the day.
By the way, do the workout as it is written.
“Rule #1. Never change the deal.” — The Transporter
I am available for more detailed and personal online fitness coaching. Contact me at email@example.com
Tom Furman has been involved in martial arts and conditioning since 1972. With an early background in wrestling and a student of the methods of the York Barbell Club, Tom immediately separated fact from fiction growing up outside Pittsburgh. Eleven members of his family were combat veterans, the most famous one being “Uncle Charlie” (Charles Bronson) His down to earth training methods are derived from his decades long practice of martial arts and his study of exercise science. The application of force, improvement of movement and durability rank high on his list of priorities when training. He gives credit to hundreds of hours of seminars, training sessions, and ‘backyard’ workouts, including training time with many martial arts legends. He also credits his incredibly gifted training partners who came from varied backgrounds such as Exercise Physiologists, Airborne Rangers, Bounty Hunters, Boxing Trainers and Coast Guard Rescue Divers. His best selling ebook, “Armor of War’’, is available at tomfurman.com. His guide to mobility, “Bamboo Gods, Iron Men and Rubber Bands’’, is available on Amazon.