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What came first, the chicken or the egg?
You might think that confident people stand up tall… but what if I told you that, “people who stand up tall are more confident”? It’s true. In fact, posture can affect the way you feel and perform in several ways. I’m going to tell you why that’s true, and what you can do about it.
A 2009 article in Science Daily (1) cites several studies, concluding that posture gives people more confidence in their own thoughts. Other research (2) supports that Idea, by proving that cognitive performance is reduced when using bad posture. This might be because Oxygen delivery to your brain is compromised up to 30% by poor posture.
In terms of your physical body, you already know the consequences of poor posture: back pain, increased risk of injury, reduced efficiency/strength/endurance, chronic aches and pains, etc.
So, posture affects how you feel inside and out. It also affects how other people perceive you. Upright posture projects confidence and assertiveness. Rivals respect those with good posture more readily. Women are more attracted to men with strong posture (3).
So what should you do about it?
Posture is an outward manifestation of your internal beliefs and your daily actions. If you’re consistently taking action, you WILL stand up taller.
Prioritize training for posture and core strength FIRST in your workouts. Everything else will follow. Stretch what’s tight, strengthen what’s relatively weak, and aim for a structurally balanced body.
Strengthening the muscles that support upright posture, first, will cause standing/sitting up tall to be your default position. You’ll feel more confident, alert, and assertive. Other people will perceive you as more powerful. Your body will hurt less and be able to achieve higher performance in training over time.
- Check your posture when you wash your face or brush your teeth. Stand up tall and look your reflection in the eyes, proudly.
- Try sitting tall for your whole car ride. Exaggerate it, and remind yourself by holding 10 and 2 on the steering wheel. Challenge yourself to hold posture for longer and longer drives.
- Try a standing desk, or sitting on an exercise ball at your work station. Don’t settle for slouching in crappy chairs, if you don.t have to.
Just stand up tall, FIRST.
- Ohio State University. “Body Posture Affects Confidence In Your Own Thoughts, Study Finds.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 5 October 2009. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/10/091005111627.htm.
- Tom Jacobs. 2016. https://psmag.com/social-justice/posture-inspires-passion
Nutrition is the building block of all success. If your body is your vehicle for life, food is your fuel. If you want your body to perform like a rocket ship, you have to feed it rocket fuel. A healthy diet will help you have
A) Healthier body composition, with less fat and more muscle.
B) More energy throughout your day.
C) Fewer illnesses and health problems.
The video below is a sample taken from my Executive Athletes 90 Day Program. This is how I teach nutrition to each new client:
It’s summer time, and with the warm weather comes all kinds of outdoor activities. You might like hiking, biking, swimming, or rock climbing. Maybe you’re still playing summer sports. Whatever activity you choose, here’s how to choose the right workouts to get in shape for THAT; because each of those hobbies puts different demands on your body. One workout does not fit all!!!!
Your body makes the power to move with “energy systems”, where chemical reactions create the energy needed for locomotion. Different energy systems use different chemical reactions. Some of those reactions are fast and powerful, while others are more slow burning. In training, we generally deal with three main energy systems.
My anaerobic-alactic system creates powerful bursts of energy for less than 10-15 seconds at a time. After about 15 seconds, your body runs out of the chemicals for this process, and your movements become less explosive. This is why you can’t dunk a basketball 100 times in a row; but you might be able to do it 3 to 5 times. After 20 to 30 seconds of rest and breathing, you’ll be recharged and ready to explode again.
When your alactic system is out of gas, your body taps into your anaerobic-lactic system for energy. This chemical reaction is still pretty powerful, and it runs out of energy in about 60-90 seconds. Have you ever tried to hang from a pull-up bar, and experienced your arms turning to concrete after about a minute? When it feels like you can barely move, you have exhausted your body’s anaerobic-lactic system. After 1 to 4 minutes of rest, you should be able to repeat another big effort here.
Your aerobic system is #3. This is the most efficient of these three energy systems. It kicks on when other energy systems have been exhausted, and can create power almost perpetually. A strong aerobic system will also help your body restore the chemicals needed to repeat explosive efforts with your more powerful anaerobic energy systems.
SO this is how you choose your workouts:
Think about your sport or hobby.
- How powerful are your bouts of effort? #1, #2, or #3? The more intense your efforts, the more anaerobic-alactic (#1) training you need. If your efforts are always easy or moderate, you need to focus on aerobic training (#3).
- How long do you get to rest between efforts? #1, #2, or #3? Mimic those rest periods in your workouts. This will keep you training the appropriate energy system.
- How long is your total event? If it’s longer than a couple of minutes, you’ll need to train your aerobic system, for sure. You might need to train the other energy systems for explosive efforts within that time… but you also need to train to last!
3 Simple workouts for Example
1- Run 10 sprints of 100 meters each. Rest for 30 seconds between each. This is training your anaerobic-alactic system (#1).
2- Do 5 sets of 50 air squats. Rest 2 minutes between each set. This is building anaerobic-lactic endurance (#2).
3- Run 3 miles. Don’t rest during your run. This is building aerobic endurance (#3). To do this, you have to train “below your anaerobic threshold”. That just means– if you work too hard, energy systems #1 or #2 will kick in, and your muscles will burn out before your aerobic system really gets to work hard. You should be running at about 60%. Make sure that you can always say 2-3 words to the person next to you, without being too out of breath.
Dopamine is a “feel good” chemical released in our brains under certain stimuli. In an evolutionary sense, it was meant to reward early humans for behaviors that would aid in their survival. It’s released by all kinds of pleasant activities; from shopping to sex.
When regulated normally, Dopamine is associated with rewards, motivation, and productivity. Today’s world, though, can overstimulate the human brain in myriad ways. That over-stimulation becomes problematic as “hits” of Dopamine become more and more addicting. The resulting addiction cycle leads to all forms of anxiety, sleeplessness, and lack of motivation.
In more extreme cases, that same addiction cycle can also lead us into risky or unhealthy behaviors, as we chase those hits of “feel good”. Promiscuous sex/porn, drugs, and outrageous spending are common vices of Dopamine fiends.
One of the biggest contributors to Dopamine overload is one that you wouldn’t think of, too. Your cell phone (that you’re probably reading this on) is bombarding your brain with potentially addictive Dopamine triggers all day long. Every beep, vibration, and notification is like a little hit of “Dope”. You subconsciously start to look forward to those hits, and miss them when they don’t come.
If you start your day by looking at your phone, please stop. Doing that was one of the most profound changes I made on the road to self improvement. I started a morning routine that involved paper pages in books, rather than the glow of my phone. That allowed me to start my days with more calm and confidence, almost immediately. I made the same adjustment at night; and as a bonus, less exposure to blue light before bedtime is also very beneficial for restful sleep.
With reducing my screen time as step #1, here’s what I did for the rest of my Dopamine detox:
- I did some serious self reflection to identify my top 3 temptations. What were the 3 things that I was most guilty of indulging in too often? I now only allow myself to do or have these things as a reward for set amounts of productivity. Four hours of work = 15 minutes of a reward. 8 = 30. etc.
- I cut more sugars and processed foods out of my diet. No one is perfect, but trying harder makes a big difference. Less sugar highs and lows will drastically affect your mood. Try 30 days of strict fasting from sugar, and then ease into healthy moderation.
- Dopamine is actually a neurohormone, so its proper regulation requires a healthy schedule for sleep and rest.
Jiu Jitsu is a grappling sport that has boomed in popularity over the past 20 years. Almost everyone has that friend who won’t shut up about his BJJ classes; and for good reason! Anyone can practice this martial art for self defense, self confidence, and real fitness benefits.
As a fitness exercise, jiu jitsu in an intense anaerobic conditioning activity. You’ll gain muscle endurance, strength, and the ability to push through hard moments.
To train FOR BJJ, I start at the core; just like I do when training for anything else. Core strength in jiu jitsu is king because:
- Job # 1 of your core in any sport is to protect your spine. When grappling and contorting your body in BJJ’s many position, this should be your top priority.
- The stiffer and stronger your core, the harder it will be for an opponent to move you against your will. You’ll be able to move them, instead.
- Building a strong trunk first provides the foundation for the rest of my training. Only THEN can I squat heavy weight for strong legs, press overhead for upper body strength, etc.
- Posture. Correct spinal alignment will 100% make you faster, stronger, and less prone to injury. You’ll experience less chronic back pain. Plus, you’ll stand up straight and look way cooler.
Crawling is one of my favorite ways to develop functional core strength. “Baby Crawls” are basically how humans get strong enough to stand up. Working our upper and lower body together through an activated core– in exercises like crawling– builds coordination. It builds power and increases neural drive. For Jiu Jitsu, crawls are even more important, because they mimic so much of the movement we do in grappling.
Here are my 5 favorite crawls for BJJ:
I’m lucky enough to have a world class BJJ gym in my backyard. Egley Train Boise is where I filmed all of the videos for this article. Professor Mike Egley is a Keenan Cornelius Black Belt, and has placed at the most prestigious tournaments in the world. You can check out his first guest post on my blog here: https://joetoproathlete.com/guest-post-michael-egley-bjj-training or go to https://egleytrainboise.com/blog/ for more.
Mike Egley is a world class BJJ black belt, who has placed at the most prestigious tournaments in the world. His Boise based jiu jitsu academy is amazing. He wrote this article on S&C for grappling. Check out more from Mike, and some of my guest posts on his site: www.egleytrainboise.com.
Strength training for Jiu Jitsu
This article will cover key concepts people should consider when putting together a strength and conditioning program for Brazilian Jiu Jitsu / Grappling.
The 5 concepts covered in this article are…
BJJ specific movements – specific movement patterns and target areas any BJJ / grappling athlete should have in their program
Metabolic demands of the Jiu Jitsu athlete – the importance and difference in strength, power, muscular endurance, hypertrophy and speed training for BJJ
Periodization – the importance of forward planning and having specific training goals
Choosing the right exercises – how do you go about deciding what exercises to use
Working with a coach – Coaches are experienced mentors who have already achieved what we want to achieve. Working with an experienced coach like Joe Pascale at Joe to Pro Athlete can help you reach your goals faster and with less distractions.
1. BJJ specific movements
The cornerstone of any good strength and conditioning program is training movement patterns and supplemental exercises that are specific to that particular sport.
First, notice I’m talking about movement patterns and not muscles. For example, we don’t train our biceps and back, we train the pulling motion. Remember you’re training to be a better BJJ fighter, be it a competitor or hobbyist who just wants to be more effective on the mat and protect themselves from injury, NOT to get ‘bigger guns’……although that will likely be a nice side effect.
Second, when I say ‘supplemental exercises’ this relates to areas you should focus on that are not necessarily specific to key movements, although are vital for overall physical health for the Jiu Jitsu / grappling athlete. The neck is a good example. You don’t lead major movement patterns with your neck, though it can take a stress in BJJ, so strengthen it to protect it.
Key movement patterns you want to train:
Rotation of the torso – I don’t think there is a single sport where rotation of the torso is not important. In BJJ it is critical, BJJ is not a sport with linear movement patterns and you twist your body all the time. Also, people talk about moving your hips, which is actually a movement driven by the rotation of your torso on most occasions.
Midsection stability – while closely related to rotation of the torso, torso stability is different. This is the ability to maintain tension and position in your torso as you move, or someone tries to move you. This is CRITICAL in the body’s ability to transfer power, for example, from a planted foot through the torso into the arm as you pull on something, i.e. when you arm drag someone.
Horizontal pushing (upper body) – while we should always focus on shifting our hips etc to move in BJJ, very often you need to push on your opponent with your arms. This is typically done in a horizontal motion (straight out from the chest), as opposed to pushing overhead.
Upper body pulling (with horizontal being preferred) – Similar to upper body pushing, most pulling motions are done from straight in front of your chest, directly towards you, as opposed to pulling from above the head, like you would do in a pull-up. That being said, being able to progressively load the horizontal pulling motion can be difficult, which is why exercises like ‘pull-ups’ are also key in BJJ strength and conditioning.
Leg extension – I am not talking here about leg extension machines you see in gyms. What this means is the ability to extend your leg from a bent position to a straight position, any form of squats being a great example. All the level and direction changes you do while on your feet means this movement is key.
Hip drive – Think of lying on your back and bridging your hips up in the air to escape side control/mount/half guard etc or driving your hips forward when passing, or past the guard to put pressure on your opponent.
Grips – the #1 supplemental exercise for BJJ. Every action in jiu jitsu begins and ends with a grip. Grips are how we connect ourselves and apply leverage to our training partners. Grip strength cannot be understated!
Neck – your neck strength is fundamental to your jiu jitsu. So many positions and techniques require good posture ending at the neck. Many of your partners will attempt to control your neck as it’s one of the best forms of control in jiu jitsu. Train it, strengthen it, protect it.
Straight arm strength – by this I mean the ability to hold your arm straight out in a locked position while bearing weight. Think of all the posting you do with your arms in a straight or near straight position, this can cause real problems in your wrists, elbows and shoulders if the weight suddenly shifts. Strengthen your arms in this position to help protect against these injuries.
Back bridges – this is a combination of a mobility and a strength exercise (see the photo below) and I’ve personally found it to be a great compliment for BJJ training to make your back strong through a full range of motion and balance all of the forward bending movements your body does on and off the mat.
Balance – any variety of balancing exercises, whether on your hands, feet or torso (i.e. movements on a gym ball) will give you much better balance when passing someone’s guard and better special awareness when moving around an opponent and defending sweeps etc.
Feet & ankles – whenever you’re not on your back, all movement is driven to some extent by the feet and given we spend so much time on our backs, this part of the body can be neglected. You don’t need extensive work on the feet, just skipping as part of your warm up or one leg balancing can tackle this area.
2. Metabolic demands of the BJJ athlete
The metabolic demands of your sport means the energy requirements and physiological demands of your sport and then training the appropriate energy systems to meet those demands.
Think 100m versus 400m versus 5,000m distance run.
Now, already I bet you might be thinking “well BJJ can be a combination of all three” and you’d be right, so your training needs to reflect that if you want to be in optimal condition.
Fatigue Makes cowards of us all.
Cardio Fitness – of course, if you get tired because you’re not fit enough, then you’ll be too tired to execute your technique.
Muscular endurance – You may not ‘run out of breath’ per se, although if your arms get too tired because you’re performing constant pulling motions, again you’ll have a reduced ability to contract your muscles and execute technique.
Strength – To be most effective at powerful movements you first need to be able to have sufficient strength to move the required weight. Strength, power and speed go hand in hand. Plus, the stronger you are, the less effort it takes to perform smaller movements.
Power – Sometimes, you need to move your own body or your opponent’s body quickly, this requires power. As a good BJJ fighter, not something you should rely on, although great to have in your arsenal when you need it.
Speed – very closely related to power, although more about how quick your movements are, than how quickly you’re moving a particular weight.
First, let me define periodisation. Periodisation is a planned approach of working towards a training goal, where you divide the allotted time you have to train towards that goal, to focus on various aspects of your training required to reach that goal. The idea being that you reach your peak physical performance at the end of the program, which is then followed by a period of rest or active rest before (where appropriate) starting on a new cycle.
There are two main forms of periodisation:
Linear – where each block, or time period is dedicated predominantly to one focus area, e.g. strength
Non-linear (also called conjugate) – is where the focus of the training is rotated evenly across the time period, changing focus each session. E.g. strength session one, muscular endurance session two, power session three…….then repeat
A very, very simple example to explain both could be someone with 12 weeks to train for a BJJ competition and they want to focus their strength and conditioning on strength, muscular endurance and power.
Linear example – first 4 weeks focus on muscular endurance, second 4 weeks focus on strength, the last 4 weeks focus on power
Non-linear example – Monday focuses on strength, Wednesday muscular endurance and Friday on Power. This pattern is then repeated for 12 weeks
Why is periodisation so important and why should you care about it?
If you remember earlier I talked about not being able to go ‘all out, all of the time’ when it comes to strength and conditioning, for example lifting as heavy as you can, as many reps as you can, every session, every week. Well, maybe some exceptionally gifted people can, although the vast majority of people will just burn out, get injured, become ill or feel exhausted, meaning you can no longer train, or at least not to the quality you would like. You will have reached a state of OVERTRAINING…..something you want to avoid. Periodisation allows you to continually progress while avoiding overtraining.
Through a combination of varied:
Intensity – which is how hard you’re working in each session, typically determined by the load/weight you’re lifting.
Volume – which is how much you’re doing each session and/or week, determined by the number of repetitions, sets and sessions you’re doing.
The key idea (again this is simplified) is; as you progress through your training cycle you increase intensity and decrease volume, so you gradually reach your peak physical performance (or highest intensity) at the end of the cycle, before then tapering off before a competition in the case of a BJJ competitor.
4. Choosing the right exercises
What I’m interested in here is giving the concepts you can use as building blocks to design and re-design your own program time and time again.
What this section will cover is how to choose the right exercises depending on your training goal, e.g. strength, power, etc…….although before we get into the more science based discussion, three things in exercise selection that are often overlooked in developing a program are:
Resource – often the best routine, is the routine you are able to do most consistently. For example, if you live 60 minutes from your nearest gym and all you have at home is a pull-up bar, are you better off with a program that is purely based on bodyweight exercises or a routine with squats, deadlifts etc etc. Take into account how much time you have to work out, how many sessions per week, what equipment you have easily to hand (and know how to use) and other such factors and try to focus on developing a routine that will work with what resource you have available. If you only have 30 minutes twice per week, pick a routine with exercises that give you the biggest bang for your buck in terms of movements targeted.
Current training status – this covers two things; 1) your training experience and 2) what your training looks like today, i.e. are you already very active or injured or have just not trained in some time. If you have very little training experience, have been injured or off for a long time, keep it simple and take it slowly, gradual progression is key. Keep the overall work volumes low (less sets) and increase over time.
What do you enjoy – sometimes we all need to do things we don’t enjoy to progress. However, if motivation is a factor for you, then designing a program of exercises you enjoy could mean the difference between you sticking to a program or not. For example, if you absolutely hate bodyweight exercises, then this could be really off putting every time it comes to training. On the flip side, I really enjoy gymnastic based exercises and actively look forward to my strength & conditioning when they are included.
5. Working with a coachCoaches are experienced mentors who have already achieved what we want to achieve. Working with an experienced coach like Joe Pascale at Joe to Pro Athlete can help you reach your goals faster and with less distractions.