Monday, June 3, 2019

Sled Dragging Benefits for Athletes.

Sled dragging is one of the best means of training an athlete can do.
There are many benefits some of which are:
1. Training economy: with an upper body sled strap athletes can do virtually any strength exercise-upper body, torso, and lower body-while doing conditioning work.
2. Developing mass specific force and fast recovery: due to the lack of eccentric muscle action athletes don't get sore after training or build unnecessary muscle mass.
3. Restoration: due to the lack of eccentric muscle action, sled dragging can be used to promote recovery and restoration after extreme workouts.
4. Low impact conditioning: power walking with a sled is a great way to develop both anaerobic and aerobic energy systems with much less impact on the load bearing joints than running.
5. Economics: sleds and weight plates are very inexpensive which will give a coach / training center a massive ROI.
6. Massively increasing training volume: walking while pulling a heavy sled will allow an athlete to accumulate much more training volume than doing traditional sets and reps with a barbell or dumbbells.
One of my volleyball athletes, Sarah, is seen here performing sled dragging to finish her strength training session today as she begins her peak and taper into her National tournament in 3 weeks.
She performed 8 trips of 60 yards with a 120 lbs. sled. She averaged 66 steps per 60 yards, 33 steps per leg.
Her total training volume for the sled dragging portion of today's session alone-not even counting the weighted box jumps, deadlifts, GHRs, full contact twists, shoulder presses and lat pulls-was 63,360lbs (or 31,680lbs per leg).
There are many ways to implement sled dragging into your, or your athlete's, training program, hopefully you are taking advantage of this incredibly versatile tool.

Stay Strong AND Healthy!

Friday, April 12, 2019

General Physical Preparation for the Combat Athlete

General Physical Preparation, or GPP, is one of the most important-and most overlooked-aspects of physical training for the combat athlete. Louie Simmons loves to use the example that taller pyramids must have larger bases. The parallel for the athlete is their physical development (strength, speed, power, endurance, etc.) In order to reach the highest levels of physical development, the athlete must have a huge GPP base.

Unfortunately, particularly here in the US, our exposure to general physical development sucks. Due to a lack of proper physical education in our school system and the fact that our kids are usually pushed into specializing in particular sports at a very young age, proper physical fitness training is nearly non-existent. As a result athletes usually experience shorter competitive careers and increased injury rates unlike athletes who are more highly qualified.

I have spent a good portion of my 20+ years as a trainer working with combat sports athletes, including wrestlers, BJJ players, and MMA fighters. The wrestlers I've trained, as well as the grapplers and fighters with wrestling backgrounds, are some of the best conditioned, most resilient athletes I've ever worked with. It's no surprise that a significant portion of a wrestler's training is dedicated to the development of physical fitness.

I am currently working with some BJJ players who are getting ready for competition and need some serious work on their general conditioning and muscular endurance. Two in particular are quite strong in regard to maximal strength and it's benefits for BJJ, but are seriously lacking in aerobic capacity and muscular endurance. One of the best forms of training for this is good old fashioned circuit training. My favorite forms are resistance for circuit training are bodyweight and kettlebells. Circuit training with bodyweight and light kettlebells is a great way to build muscular endurance and increase cardiovascular fitness and overall conditioning.

The Shingitai "Six-Pack"

"Strength and Conditioning Secrets of the World's Greatest Fighters" is hands down the best book on physical training for combat athletes I've ever read. The author is John Saylor, a multiple time national Judo champion, coach and owner of Shingitai Jiu Jitsu Association. You can learn more about John and pick up his books by clicking here!

A great workout that John presents in his book is something he refers to as the Shingitai Six-Pack. Basically six exercises you perform in a circuit. On this surface it may look very basic and it is! This is an excellent example of how the ultra basics deliver the best results. By working a series like the Six-Pack hard and building up to very high reps and athlete will experience superior gains in muscular endurance, conditioning, and joint integrity through the development of the connective tissues. This will make the athlete extremely well conditioned and more resilient to injury. If an athlete spends a great deal of time working on their general physical preparedness and builds a tremendous base, they will be able to tolerate higher training volumes and intensities as they progress allowing for the highest levels of physical development to be attained in their sport career.

The Shingitai Six-Pack is simple and requires little equipment. The core exercises are:
  1. Neck Bridging
  2. Hindu Squats
  3. Hindu Push-Ups
  4. Pull-Ups
  5. Glute/Hamstring Raise (GHR)
  6. Sit-Ups
John does note that you may regress or progress the exercises based on the athlete's level of physical preparedness. For instance move to single leg squats, jumping squats, etc.

Since my athletes have been using this method for their conditioning, I decided to add it in as part of my personal program as well and found this to be a great means of training. Some of the guidelines we use are to perform the six exercises in a circuit format with no rest between exercises and a short rest between circuits in which we strive to reduce the rest interval to 30 seconds or less. We begin most exercises in the 10-15 rep range and increase reps over time and perform a total of 3-5 circuits. This makes the workout only 10-20 minutes in length. If you don't have a GHR bench at your gym you can easily substitute back extensions or kettlebell swings. If you don't have those options find a new gym!

My experience with the Six-Pack.

For my first session I decided on the following for five total circuits, rest periods were basically taking a drink of water after each circuit and since beginning with the neck work that allowed for a bit of recovery since the exercise is not very dynamic:

1. 4-Way Neck with a neck harness and band x 10 reps each front/side/side/rear.

2. Hindu Squats x 10 reps, these were full range of motion butt to heels.

3. Chin-Ups x 10 reps.

4. Glute/Ham Raise (GHR) x 10 reps.

5. Push-Ups x 10 reps. I prefer to do these on a barbell placed on the sumo base of my power rack as it feels better on my wrists than traditional push-ups.

6. Ab curls x 25 reps.
The total training session, 50 reps each of the neck drills, squats, chins, GHRs, and push-ups and 125 reps of the ab curls took only 20:00 and as you can see from the training data from my Morpheus app each circuit pushed me deeper into my conditioning zone with a max HR of 163 BPM and average HR of 137 BPM. I had a high HRV/recovery score the day of this session so my conditioning zone threshold was fairly high.

Hopefully you enjoyed this article and it inspires you to consider going back to the basics to push up your general physical preparation!

If you have any questions or suggestions for future blog topics please feel free to email me at Be sure to follow my on social media and YouTube and subscribe to my Strength and Health podcast all of which can be found on my website at

Thanks to my BJJ teacher and long time athlete from EPTS Gym Chris Jones of Nucleus Brazilian Jiu Jitsu for providing the photos for this article.

Stay Strong AND Healthy!

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Kettlebell Training for Combat Athletes: the Seated Mil Press

In this video Scott Shetler, strength coach and owner of Extreme Performance Training Systems and Chris Jones, BJJ athlete, multiple time Masters Worlds and Pans champion, and owner of Nucleus Brazilian Jiu Jitsu go over one of their favorite press variations, the seated kettlebell mil press. Our goal when training grapplers and fighters is training economy, how to get the most benefit from the fewest number of exercises. While we don't have our combat athletes perform a lot of maximal effort press exercises, we do quite a bit with the repeated effort and dynamic effort method. In addition we look for ways to challenge the torso musculature and grip in a way that is beneficial to their sport as well.
If you have any specific strength and conditioning exercises you would like us to discuss or cover leave them in the comments section below and be sure to subscribe to my YouTube channel for updates on future videos. For the best in kettlebells and BJJ gis and apparel be sure to visit our friends Kettlebell Kings at and Day by Day Jiu Jitsu at For more information on our strength and conditioning and martial arts training programs visit us at and Thanks! Scott & Chris

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Grip Strength Training for Grapplers.

Grip strength is one of the most essential aspects of a grappler's physical preparation program. While some of the athletes that I train like to add direct grip exercises to their strength training program, I do like to emphasize my athlete's training economy and get the most out of the least number of exercises whenever possible.

An excellent way for a grappler to develop grip strength indirectly is by using a gi for many of their pulling exercises. My athletes do the majority of their pull-up and row exercises by attaching a gi to our pull-up bars, barbells and lat machine.

BJJ brown belt and 2x Masters World Champion Chris Jones demonstrating the gi pull-up.
One thing we've been experimenting with lately is incorporating gi work with some kettlebell pulling exercises. Most BJJ athletes have access to some kettlebells and an old gi top. Here are three exercise variations that we've used at my training center that require nothing more than a gi and kettlebells.

Bent Over Row

The bent over row is one of the best exercises you can do for the back. In addition to hitting the muscles of the upper back and lats, it works the rear delts, biceps and forearms. By looping a gi top through the handle of a heavy kettlebell, you can now hold onto the lapel or sleeves and build your grip strength as well. We usually perform 4-6 sets of 8-12 reps.

Kettlebell Swing

The kettlebell swing is probably the most used kettlebell exercise and for good reason. This exercise strengthens the muscles of the back, glutes, hamstrings and torso which translates to powerful and explosive hips. By adding a gi top to this exercise in the same manner as the row, it will place a greater emphasis on your grip as well. We like high rep sets here usually doing 2-4 sets of 25-50 reps.

Hammer Curl

Curls often get a bad wrap in the strength training industry and are usually looked at as a joke. There is nothing funny about rupturing a biceps tendon. We do a wide variety of curls, often working in isometric and static hold repetitions as well to build muscular endurance. A great variation of the curl is to attach a gi top to a kettlebell handle and hold the lapels or sleeves of the gi in a hammer grip (palms facing each other) position. In addition to doing regular full range of motion repetitions, I recommend working static holds at 3 or 4 different positions of the exercise's range of motion. We usually do 3-4 sets of 10-15 reps or 20-30 seconds (or longer) of the static holds.

Check out this video to see these exercises in action!

Hopefully you enjoyed this article and have some new exercises to add to your training program. Don't be afraid to think outside of the box and try new things, that is often where the key to new progress is waiting. A wise man said, "If you're afraid to fail you'll never succeed."

Stay Strong AND Healthy!


Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Interview with Vegan Athlete Zackery Bickford.

In this episode my good friend Zack (aka The Vegan Legend) joins the show to talk about his wrestling career and being a vegan athlete.

Part 1 of my interview with Zack.

Part 2 of my interview with Zack.

Show notes:
  • Zack's introduction to the sport of wrestling
  • The mental toughness required to train and compete at a high level
  • How training in judo enhanced his wrestling performance
  • The role strength and conditioning has played in both physical and mental preparation
  • How Zack adopted a vegan diet
  • The athletic improvements he's experienced since going vegan
  • Zack's secret to cutting weight
  • Zack's best lifts and current goal to deadlift 600 lbs for reps
  • Zack's wrestling goals
Check out this video to see some of Zack's training at the EPTS Gym - this is a good representation of how our grapplers and combat athletes train!

Follow Zack on Instagram @the_vegan_legend

I hope you enjoyed this episode with Zack and if you have any questions, feedback or suggestions for future episodes email me at and visit to follow me online.

Stay Strong AND Healthy!


Tuesday, October 23, 2018

How to Choose the Right Kettlebell

How to Choose the Right Kettlebell
"Regardless of the style you choose, Kettlebell Kings are the super-cars of kettlebells!"
The popularity of kettlebells has exploded, and so has the number of retailers offering kettlebells. Once you’ve decided to incorporate kettlebells into your workout routines, it can be daunting to select the right kettlebells. The guidelines included here are meant to outline the basics of what makes a great kettlebell, as well as the details that are specific to your fitness needs. If you’re a beginner, consider purchasing a single bell to start your fitness journey. Kettlebells are renowned for their versatility, and a solo kettlebell can be used to perform almost any exercise. The quality, durability, and cross-functionality of kettlebells greatly reduces the amount of equipment you need to purchase for a great at-home workout routine.

Basic Kettlebell Needs to Consider

You should purchase kettlebells that have been constructed in a single cast. This means that the piece of iron used to make the kettlebell is continuous, and the base and handle are not two separate pieces that have been attached. A single-cast kettlebell is more stable, and there is no risk of the handle becoming detached in a dynamic movement. If possible, you should inspect the underside seam of the handle of any kettlebell before purchasing it. The seam should be filed down to create a smooth surface, otherwise you may find yourself developing blisters.

Keep a few details in mind when inspecting the bottom of the kettlebell. For one, the base of the kettlebell should be flattened; the bell should be stable as you set it down and pick it up between reps. This is especially important if you choose to perform movements where you’re balanced above the bell, i.e. push ups, planks, renegade rows, etc.

Your ideal kettlebell depends on the type of exercises you intend to use it for. If you plan on performing most of your kettlebell exercises with one hand, consider buying a competition kettlebell. These kettlebells have smaller handles and are the preferred kettlebell for perfecting technique, as all the competition kettlebells are the same size regardless of their weight. If versatility of movement and two-handed kettlebell exercises are more important to you, consider purchasing a cast-iron kettlebell. Regardless of kettlebell type, make sure the thickness of the kettlebell handle is comfortable for you.

The top two kettlebell finishes we recommend purchasing are cerakote and powder. Avoid vinyl, paint, and cheaper coatings that will chip away over time. Kettlebells are built to last for years without needing to be replaced, and the finish of your kettlebell should align with that durability. Both cerakote and powder bells protect cast iron kettlebells from rust, chemical interactions, and abrasions. They are also designed to be resilient and preserve hardness. If cost is a deciding factor, powder is more affordable and will maintain the integrity of your kettlebell. Cerakote kettlebells have a higher price tag and magnify the benefits of both coatings. They have a smoother finish that may be ideal for delicate palms.

Fitness-Specific Needs to Consider

Now that we’ve discussed a few basic concepts you should be aware of when purchasing kettlebells, we will discuss specific weights. A key component of what makes kettlebells so effective and challenging is that they create a longer lever arm when you’re using them. This means you must use more force to move a kettlebell than you would a dumbbell of the same weight.

As a general recommendation, purchase kettlebells that are anywhere from 5 to 15 lbs. lighter than the dumbbell weight you’d normally use for your workouts. Depending on your strength and fitness level, you may need to size up or down. The best indicator of the right kettlebell weight will be your form. You should maintain correct form throughout your exercise routine; if you can’t, adjust weight accordingly to avoid injury and developing poor form.

Purchasing one kettlebell may be the best idea if you’re a novice kettlebell user. Choose a weight that is compatible with the majority of your movements. If you’d like to purchase a range of kettlebells, consider buying one moderately heavy kettlebell and one heavy kettlebell. A moderately heavy kettlebell for most men would weigh 12-16 kg (26-35 lbs.) kettlebell, and for women, this would be a 8-10 kg (18-22 lbs.) kettlebell. A heavy kettlebell for men would weigh 20 kg (44 lbs.), while for women this would be closer to 16 kg (35 lbs.).

Now that we’ve covered the basic components of a high-quality kettlebell, we encourage you to shop around and compare specialty kettlebell retailers. Most chain stores like Academy, Walmart, and traditional sporting goods stores will stock kettlebells that aren’t cast in a single piece of metal or are covered in vinyl or paint. To ensure you’re making the best investment, purchase from a reputable kettlebell-specific site or store with a great reputation.

About Kettlebell Kings

Kettlebell Kings is a premium-quality kettlebell and kettlebell content provider, based in Austin, Texas. You can view our equipment, kettlebell how-to’s, and get expert advice at and For more information, call us at 855-7KETTLE to learn more.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Strength and Conditioning Considerations for Volleyball Players

Sarah is an exceptional young high school /club volleyball player who I worked with over the summer. Seen here performing a kneeling medicine ball chest pass-a great movement for developing explosive power in the hips. 

Some of my favorite athletes I've worked with over the last 20 years are volleyball players. Volleyball requires the development of many physical qualities including strength, power, speed, and aerobic capacity. In addition appropriate levels of mobility and flexibility are required as well. Out of all of the physical requirements required of these athletes, the biggest issue I see is lack of strength and implementing too much aerobic work. Regarding energy systems, in the book "Supertraining", Mel Siff states that volleyball has 90% short term system requirements and 10% intermediate system requirements. Aerobic capacity is required for recovery but this is not marathon running.
I worked with Jennifer throughout her high school and club career where she played for A5, the top club in Georgia. Due to the huge progress she made working with me at my training center, I ended up working with her high school team to help them develop a program they could implement for their school season. She went on to play at Harvard.
Unfortunately it has been my experience that most middle school and high school volleyball programs are just an afterthought when it comes to strength and conditioning, usually taking a backseat to the school's football team. This is a shame because I've seen some of these young girls deal with unnecessary injuries.
Kennedy was a club teammate of Jennifer's at A5 who I worked with her senior year. She had experienced many non-contact injuries that could have easily been avoided through proper strength and conditioning at a young age. She went on to a great career at Virginia Tech and has been playing professionally since 2016.
Strength and power training is crucial as it will allow the athlete to produce greater force, to hit harder, to jump higher, to move more explosively, to become more resilient and reduce the likelihood of injuries.

While every athlete is different in their individual strengths and weaknesses, a good training program should include maximal effort exercises to develop absolute strength; dynamic effort exercises to develop power, explosive strength and a fast rate of force production; repeated effort exercises to build muscle mass and strengthen weak points; light weight high repetition exercises to strengthen the connective tissues and build joint integrity; aerobic and anaerobic energy systems development to build specific conditioning and help with restoration and recovery; and flexibility and mobility exercises to allow the attainment of the proper positions required of the sport, to help with recovery and restoration as well as injury prevention.

Maximal effort training should be done with compound, multi-joint lifts that allow for the greatest possible loads to be used. Exercises like squats, deadlifts, presses and variations of these exercises should be used with loads at 90% or greater of a 1 rep max.

Dynamic effort training can be done by performing a wide variety of jumps and throws with medicine balls or other weighted implements. In addition, barbell exercises with submaximal loads performed explosively can be used as well. It is recommended the athletes use accommodating resistance methods (attaching chains and/or high tension bands to the barbells) as well. Accommodating resistance allows for a contrast in the load being lifted (generally speaking the load is lighter in the weaker position and greater in the stronger position of the lift due to the unloading / reloading of the chain and the bands shrinking and stretching) and eliminates bar deceleration when the lifter achieves a more mechanically advantageous position in the lift. Louie Simmons of the world-famous Westside Barbell Club in Columbus, Ohio deserves the recognition as being the person who popularized the use of accommodating resistance methods in strength training as we know it today, as well as coming up with the idea on how to combine the various training methods into an organized weekly, monthly, annual and multi-year training plan.

Audrey, an NCAA volleyball player I've been working with since her high school and club career, performing box jumps as part of her strength and conditioning program. In addition to a 43" box jump, she squats over 2x her body-weight and bench presses over 1x her body-weight. Both strength and power training methods are essential for optimal physical development.

Repeated effort training should be done with smaller, single joint exercises. This allows you to isolate weak muscles to strengthen weak points and build muscle mass where needed. Most young athletes I train need to build muscle everywhere due to the lack of focus in strength training through their school and club programs. Particular attention should be paid on the muscles of the torso, shoulders, lower back, glutes, hamstrings and calves.

In addition to repeated effort exercises we use for building muscle, exercises done for very high reps with very light weights or bands that focus on promoting blood flow to the joints should be used for joint health and strengthening connective tissues. These exercises should be done with a quick, controlled pace with little emphasis on the eccentric, or lowering phase, of the movement. Pay particular attention to the knees, ankles, shoulders and elbows with these movements.

Both anaerobic and aerobic conditioning methods need to be implemented. While volleyball is a sport requiring short, powerful bursts, the aerobic energy system should not be neglected. An aerobic base allows the athlete to recover between training sessions and during matches and tournaments. Most aerobic training for volleyball could be accomplished in a more beneficial manner. A heart rate monitor is essential to ensure the athlete stays in the appropriate heart rate zone during exercise, which for most will be around 130-150 beats per minute. Any activity that allows the athlete to achieve, and maintain, the proper zone for the correct duration will provide benefit. This is where the athlete could get the benefit of practicing sport drills or pulling / pushing weighted sleds to strengthen muscles while developing the aerobic energy system. Just going out and running is a good option, but is usually the only method I see being used. Anaerobic conditioning can be accomplished through the sport practice itself, along with implementing various sprinting drills and other exercises done for short bursts.

Adopting a series of mobility exercises to develop active range of motion and contribute to joint health is important as well. Shoulders, knees and ankles can take a beating in this sport and joint health should not be overlooked. In addition a solid flexibility program is great to help with recovery, to keep muscle tissue healthy, and to help prevent injuries. Stretching should be implemented to ensure the athlete can attain the correct positions required of the sport as well.

Unfortunately there is no cookie cutter training program that is beneficial for every volleyball player out there. A good coach or trainer needs to be able to assess their athletes individually to determine what to prioritize and how to implement the various physical development methods into the athlete's physical training.

I have worked with many volleyball players in the 20 years I've been in the industry and many of played at the highest levels of club volleyball and gone on to great NCAA and professional careers. These athletes are some of my favorite to work with as they are usually highly motivated and want to learn and get better. With proper programming and a little bit of time in the gym I usually see fast progress and the newfound strength, power and conditioning translates on the court immediately.

If you are a volleyball player, coach or parent of a player, please don't hesitate to contact me if you, your team or your athlete is ready to take things to the next level. I offer both private and semi-private training options at my facility, consulting services, and will be starting a hands on series of clinics to bridge the gap between school and club seasons.

Stay Strong!

(770) 403-1363