My first discussion with the Warrior Scholar Community is on functional fitness. First, how does fitness fit into the life of a Warrior Scholar? “Physical fitness is a general state of health and well-being or specifically the ability to perform aspects of sports or occupations. Physical fitness is generally achieved through correct nutrition, exercise, hygiene and rest.” Wikipedia
A Warrior Scholar uses fitness to keep his body honed for combat and in turn keeps his mind sharp for battle. This does not mean that you are training for the military or law enforcement occupation, but more importantly training for life. Training for life. When was the last time I had to run, shoot, and fight? Hopefully, you will never have to, but sometimes you don’t have a choice, and one must be ready. Here’s a non-violent example. Just this past winter I was at a winery with some friends, and as we were leaving we noticed that another patron had slid their car over a large wooden beam in the parking lot. The front tires were not touching the ground so they could not get the car back over the beam. Instead of just leaving the person to get a tow truck my buddy and I decided to give them a lift. A big deadlift. On either end of the front of the car we gripped tightly engaging our posterior chain, hamstrings, shoulders, core, and hands. We strained and heaved, and with a few grunts and a little luck we got the car moving. Good Samaritan deed done for the day, right? Right. Let’s change the scenario up a little bit. What if we were in the middle of nowhere, and we could only depend on ourselves? What if my buddy and I were only obsessed with ‘beach muscles’ instead completing lifts that had some real world application. We would still be stuck today. That is life. Being able to take care of things around you as needed.
What are the principles of a functional fitness?
1. Core Strength Functional Lifts: Deadlifts, Squats, Snatches, Bench Press, and Shoulder Press
2. Supersets/Trisets/Circuits: A set that combines two or more exercises that you complete back to back. This allows you to complete more lifts faster, keeps your heart rate up, and embodies a type of interval training.
3. HIIT: High Intensity Interval Training, helps the warrior burn fat, build muscle and endurance through periods of extreme stress.
4. Appropriate Rest Phases: rest days help you rebuild.
5. Diversity of Training: A broad spectrum of body weight, dumbbells, barbells, heavy, light and complex lifts. We try to stay away from machines.
Why functional fitness is warrior fitness?
Functional fitness is a person’s ability to do real world activities. Jump, run, pull, push, throw, climb and lift things off the ground, to name a few. These types of movements are important to us whether we are trying to be healthy or whether we are preparing for an end of the world scenario and we need to escape a horde of zombies. When we train for functional fitness we are training complex movements that involve more than one muscle group. We do this because in the real world we do not just use our biceps to do an activity, but we may use our biceps, back, core and even our legs to pull ourselves over a wall. The more functionally you train the more your muscles are trained for everyday activities. In extreme cases like a firefighter carrying a person from a burning building, or on the less extreme end bending over at the waist and picking up a box and putting it on a shelf. Combining the principles of functional fitness together we can create a body that has a muscle memory for real world scenarios.
Now you ask, what exercises can I do to improve my functional fitness?
At the most basic level of functional fitness we will train with exercises that move your own body weight.
Body Weight Exercise
The pull-up, the push-up, free squat, sit-up, running, walking up hills, planks, burpees (a sprawl into a pushup, moving to a crouched squat position followed by a standing jump.) Check out this link for an example. (http://youtu.be/21dvQyNiTjM) There are other variations of these exercises, but at its most rudimentary core these are major real world functional exercises. Just yourself moving yourself. When it comes down to it, if you can’t move yourself then you won’t be able to do much anything. It is of no coincidence that all of the major United States Military Branches have Physical Fitness Tests(PFTs) that encompass basic body weight moves. These are all movements that require no weights and no gym. For example, the United States Marine Corps PFT looks like this:
1. Pull-ups 2. Crunches 3. 3-mile run
There are set standards that a person must reach to fail, pass or score excellent. These warriors aren’t being asked to bench press a thousand pounds or clean and jerk 500 pounds. They are being asked to move their own body weight with extreme proficiency. High muscular endurance is one goal of functional fitness. We can help achieve this by incorporating body weight exercises into our training schedule.
Here is a Beginner’s Bare Bones Functional workout:
Jog a 1/4 mile
20 free squats
Repeat 5 times
Very simple, you don’t need a gym, just yourself.
Here’s another Beginner’s functional workout:
15 sit ups
20 air squats
Repeat 5 times
(These workouts can be scaled down or up)
Intermediate Level Full Body Functional Circuit:
Run 1/4 mile
10 Kettlebell swings
10 T pushups
10 Sumo Deadlifts
10 High Rows with Kettlebell
1 minute of Planks
1 minute of burpees
Rest 2 minutes between rounds
After we master some of the basics of body weight exercises we look for ways we can increase it through more advanced strength training, and advanced programs and routines.
In the next blog, I will go over other fundamentals of training, and review some more workouts, some beginner and some advanced. As we become more advanced, I would start breaking down some of my training into more specific areas, variants and patterns.
Thanks for reading! I look forward to sharing more next time.
Here are some links that talk about functional fitness.
Photo credit: marines do pushups.jpg, wikimedia commons