#4 Best Bodyweight Exercise for Fighters
Many professionals I train suffer some sort of injury from years of being subjected to short-sighted and unhealthy conditioning methods. I believe - and this is just a theory - that this is the result of adopting a scholastic/collegiate training approach to a sport that only has periodic events. If you’re competing frequently, then peaking becomes problematic. Most scholastic wrestlers never peak because they must continually compete sub-prime conditioning and consistently under-recovered.
Fighters however typically have 2-3 months minimum between fights, if they’re coaching team is concerned about their longevity. As a result, if I’m given my full 12 weeks to peak a fighter for an event, they will notice a dramatic improvement in conditioning, sparring performance, technical accuracy, confidence and attentional stamina. This isn’t just because of the magic of the formula, and the excellence of the content, but also because my fighters are able to actually compete fully-restored in their conditioning prime.
This sport has the potential to devolve because MMA remains an “entertainment” sport. The reality is that if you’re out of sight, you’re out of mind, and you don’t get the public excitement necessary to be offered a title shot. This is why some fighters feel the pressure to behave like “bad boys” on camera with the drama of entertainment wrestling. Unfortunately, to stay in the minds of the public, fighters feel forced to accept bouts with only a few weeks notice. That’s too fluid to peak.
Although it doesn’t make many of the fighters happy who come to me saying that they absolutely must have a two-week program to get ready for their fight, I have to tell them that little to nothing can be accomplished in only two weeks, and the best thing that they could do is wait for another fight. They feel too much pressure from so many directions that advising them to hold back seems too overwhelming. But it’s not just a matter of how much better their performance would be, but also a matter of career longevity. Since my primary concern for my athletes is career longevity, increased mobility for technical refinement and then enhanced performance of actual skills, my exercise selection is unorthodox.
One recurring chronic pain and injury in many fighters is rotator cuff tears and impingements. The primary culprit of this ache and pain is the conventional push-up. This isn’t because the exercise itself has poor mechanics. It’s due to the fact that any exercise performed without compensation and recovery will result in diminishing returns, performance decrease and eventual injury. This is especially true in the excess which most fighters are forced to perform push-ups.
The Swinging Plank and its remedial version the Piston Press solve the dilemma of a fighter’s need for forward pressure in full range of motion without injury from excess volume. The full range of motion of the shoulder needed for forward pressure for fighting can be seen in the illustration below.
And for the Piston Press and Swinging Plank address from 70 degrees to 170 degrees out of the full range of motion of the shoulder (approximately -50 degrees to 180). See second illustration.
The Piston Press is the beginning move for developing the full Swinging Plank. It involves the following steps:
Begin with a deep quad squat arms extended overhead, butt to heels.
Keeping elbows in, drive forward off the forefoot to place forearms on the floor.
Continue driving until lower-arms are perpendicular to the floor pinching the floating ribs, glutes clenched and squeezing the corset of muscle around the core.
Drive elbows backward until forwarms touch the floor.
Continue backward into deep quad squat to complete the repetition.
The Swinging Plank takes this broad range of motion and then “slings” it across from one shoulder to the next to involve the core in an alternating ispilateral (same side) upper torso contraction with a contralateral (opposite side) lower-body contraction. This wringing-out-the-washcloth motion allows you to generate full bodily forward pressure without isolating strain to the shoulders, in a manner superior for transfering to the sport of MMA.
Begin in the deep quad squat but turn your head to one side (i.e. to the left) burying your nose in your armpit, with the knees together and twisted to the same side as the head is turned (i.e. to the left) with the outside of the bottom thigh parallel with the ground.
Driving with the forefoot, twist forward and out to the forward position of the piston press, forearms parallel to the ground tight to the ribs, glutes clenched, tailbone slightly tucked and core contracted as if taking a shot in the gut.
Continue the direction of your twist as you drive backward off the palm heels to bury your nose in the opposite shoulder and twist your knees to the opposite direction top of the bottom thigh parallel to the ground.
Perform the opposite swinging plank to the original position to complete one repetition.
The Swinging Plank and it’s remedial version - the Piston Press - will allow you to generation actual functional strength in the range and motion necessary for fighting, not just in stand-up grappling but also in ground-fighting. Once you have a smooth performance of the exercise, you can insert it into a metabolic conditioning circuit, such as the program that has created such successes for Alberto Crane: METCON Tango v5.0.
Please keep me updated on your progress with the Piston Press and Swinging Plank!
Shoulder Range of Motion
Piston Press / Swinging Plank Range
Back Position of the Swinging Plank
Forward Position of Swinging Plank