Monday, December 27, 2010

Throwing a Fit

The term “fit” when referring to exercise is thrown around quite a bit in our community. It is usually in relation to a person’s capacity to exert more. That is run faster, longer, jump higher or lift more weight.  In last week’s Blog I mentioned fitness as an important part of preparation and some of its benefits to our awareness and responses while manifesting the Alert Attitude.  As promised, today’s blog will touch on my personal take on fitness and how it applies to Self Protection in general.


To be fit is to be adapted to the environment as to be capable of surviving. Because as humans we live and thrive in many different environments, there are also many different ways to be fit.
Hopefully by now the readers understand that washboard abs and big biceps alone don’t make someone automatically fit. I remember years ago a famous coach made a comment to me about a Diego Sanchez fight. At that time Diego was fighting at 170 lbs and this coach complained, in a slightly derogatory manner, about him looking a bit soft in the middle. That is to say Diego didn’t show up to the fight  shredded with a six pack. I found the comment a bit silly because Diego decimated his opponent rather quickly and won by TKO. What I found truly weird about the comment was that it was made AFTER the fight. This comment surely showed a strong bias toward what I call Appearance Based fitness.  Fighters like Fedor Emalianenko and Roy Nelson have proved that the bodybuilder physique is not necessary to stay on top of the competition and repeatedly defeat very imposing looking, “shredded” fighters.

Fit to Break Down

An interesting definition of fitness comes from CrossFit founder Greg Glassman. He states that it is “Increased work capacity across modal domains.” Sometimes too much succinctness leads to lack of clarity. So here is a breakdown of some of the conventional actions that most people connect to fitness.

Walking and Running-
 Throughout our daily lives we need the ability to take ourselves from point  A to point B. Sometimes we need to do this in a hurry so we run. In conventional fitness speak, being able to run faster and / or for extended periods is considered more fit.

Sometimes while we are moving we encounter obstacles that must be overcome by jumping, or we must jump to reach an object. Being able to jump higher and further is another version of fitness.

Carrying Objects-
Again this is another normal daily occurrence. If we have the ability to pick up from the ground, bring to shoulder level, and press overhead a heavier load with more frequency we may be fitter.

Pulling and Pushing your Body-
Pushing and picking up our body weight from the ground, and pulling our body onto higher surfaces (fighting gravity) is also a necessary activity or skill. Being fit means we can perform this more frequently and faster.

To simplify this, conventional fitness can be broken down into two categories.  Move our bodies faster for longer, and being able to pick up a heavier external object, faster for longer.

For decades how we increase the intensity or level of difficulty in fitness training has been to increase the weight of the external load, volume (time and reps), and increase the speed.

There is nothing wrong with using conventional fitness guidelines so long as you achieve your goals. What those goals are depends on personal choice and your personal and professional environment.

Environmentally Fit

Your level of fitness is relative to your environment.  What’s required for an executive is different from what a firefighter or police officer needs and that is different from a soldier.
To figure out the type of program you need you have to take a realistic view of your normal day. You determine what the energy output is to perform your job and enjoy your personal life without losing your breath or getting overly fatigued.  You have to break down your day and analyze how much lifting and movement is needed, how frequently etc. and use that to guide your fitness choices. You also want to tailor your fitness program to account for an extra portion of energy to perform duties in an emergency like saving yourself from harm or rendering assistance during an accident.

One danger here is underestimating the amount of energy required. If you have a sedentary lifestyle and job, it may not require a lot of energy to perform but you may be developing some health risks by not being otherwise active.

Another danger is to focus so much on one single mode of exercise to the detriment of others. Doing so much distance running that you lose muscle mass or so much weight lifting that you lose flexibility and range of motion are examples. That is not to say all weightlifters are tight or all marathon runners are 90 pound weaklings but the danger of overtraining one area is always there.

The Fourth Dimension of Intensity

Although increasing the amount of weight you can move for more volume at a higher rate of speed is necessary for better fitness, during my years as a self-protection and combat sports coach I have found another way to increase the intensity of a given activity; Coordination.
Coordination is the harmonious functioning of parts for effective results. The nature of physical combat requires that we coordinate our movement to express force and also to recuperate from sudden losses of structure and balance so that we may continue fighting.
Exercises that challenge our coordination help tremendously with power execution and balance recovery. A simple example of how to increase coordination intensity is the difference between a push-up, a hindu push-up, a dive-bomber push and scorpion push-ups. In each case you are using your body weight but increasing the difficulty of the skill needed to perform the tasks. This results in higher intensity.

Taking it Personal

My personal fitness program is based on this system of challenging my coordination first, then speed and explosiveness, then endurance, and lastly quantity of weight moved.
This is why I make the bulk of my training Circular Strength Training or CST developed by Scott Sonnon. It includes training with Clubbells, very challenging bodyweight routines, (Tacfit Warrior is a great example of these) and even Kettlebell exercises. Another reason is that Scott Sonnon developed mobility and recovery routines and the program also shows you how to properly implement rest.

In addition to CST I program in conventional methods and exercises like running sprints and conventional, pull-ups, push-ups and squats as well as standard Kettlebell lifts.

Make it Personal

Whether your fitness program focuses on weights, running, or bodyweight exercise or whether you choose to increase intensity by more weight, more volume or faster speed, the most important part when choosing what routine to implement is to choose the one you are going to stick to. The rest is, well…hard!  That’s right it’s gonna suck but do it anyway.

Tony Torres


  1. Good stuff, appreciate the perspective...keep it up please TT :-)


  2. Great stuff - got any recommendations about where to start with CST? Sonnon seems to have tons of material out there...

  3. Tom, Ger, and Marc, Thanks for the support!

    Ger, I shot you an email with some ideas where to start!

    Thanks guys, another post coming soon!

  4. Great post. Fitness is something that most Americans don't put enough thought and not nearly enough work into. Quality of life goes way up when you are fit as well as your confidence and mental toughness.