Currently, I am on leave and travelling throughout British Columbia without my kettlebells. What is a fighting man supposed to do without his precious kettlebells while on the road? Bodyweight drills for tactical strength that is! I’ve always been interested in strength for tactical applications and which drills were key. Reading an old ad from Pavel’s Martial Power course, I was intrigued by such exercises as:
“If the Handstand Push Up is your class-act strength feat for the upper body, then the One-Legged Squat (aka “Pistol”) is your # 1 discriminator for super-male leg strength… There’s a reason the Pistol is a hands-down favorite with so many elite units…in Spec Ops…The Pistol delivers this big time: steel cable strength; explosive kicking power; hardcore endurance; full-range lower body flexibility…The One-Arm Push Up is an awesome, special drill for tactical supremacy—because it trains you to maneuver in an unstable environment. The One-Arm Push Up forces you to use your core—big time”
These drills were later distilled into The Naked Warrior program, which consists of only one-arm pushups and pistols that were made available to the public. Please note that beyond the drills themselves, the techniques of power generation are more important and they can be applied to any strength exercise with a barbell, dumbbell or kettlebell.
These techniques serve to generate strength and makes any weight seem lighter! What is strength? Muscle tension. Tension spreads to other muscles through a process called irradiation, which makes you stronger overall. Remember to do the below exercises for low reps for maximal strength, injury-prevention and to tense your muscles to protect yourself, as well, as to lock out your joints to strengthen them. Always begin with a joint mobility warm-up.
Power Generation Tips for Handstand Push-Ups
- Shoulder corkscrew (while gripping the ground, statically twist your hands outwards to create a spiral of tension in your arms and shoulders)
- Thighs squeezed together
- Pull your knee caps up
- Flat feet – pushing away
- Flex muscles in elbow
- Tighten up armpits
- When kicking up, go away straight up
- Head aligned straight
- Tighten abs, shallow breathing
- Elbows locked at top
- ‘Pull’ yourself into the ground when lowering
I used to be a big believer in doing multiple drills at all kinds of angles. It’s best in my experience to just focus on a few, select power drills that’ll give you the most bang for your body buck and to master them accordingly. Like I mentioned before, all you need is a press, a pull and a squat.
The Bodyweight Equivalents of the Barbell Powerlifts
One-Arm Push-Ups/Handstand Push-Ups: one-arm push-ups and their progressions that will build up to the one-arm/one-leg pushup and the wall-supported handstand push-up. Here are the handstand push-up variations:
- Headstand Tripod (starting on two hands and on top of your head, push upwards)
- Handstand Push-Up
- Handstand Push-Up on Fists (helps with shooting for you gun-carrying professionals)
- Handstand Push-Up from a Relaxed Position (lower, relax muscles on bottom then tense up, push)
- Handstand Pushup Emphasizing One Arm
- Divebomber/Handstand Combo on Chair
- Handstand Shuffle (shuffle left to right)
- Handstand Hands Splayed Out
- The Wall Push-Up (static push your legs against a wall at an angle)
- Tactical Pull-Up [Standard pull-up with a thumbless grip]
- Hanging Leg Raise [Make an L-Seat with your legs]
- Front Lever [Your body is parallel to the floor]
One-Legged Squats: one-legged squats and the progressions that build up to the full pistol squat
These are all excellent drills and I suggest you work up to the end goal exercises (one-arm/one-leg pushup, front lever, pistol). You can read about the one-arm push-up and one-legged squats progressions in the Naked Warrior.
However, since I’m only gone for three weeks, I intend to maintain my kettlebell strength and cardio from the Simple & Sinister program that I was doing and return to the program once I’m back home. Here’s a gooder from Pavel on drills to maintain your kettlebell strength and cardio anytime, anywhere.
How Not to Get Out of Kettlebell Shape on the Road
“Handstand: To align your shoulders close to the kettlebell lockout position behind the neck, push with your hands towards the wall to push your body away from it. Look at the horizon or the crack between the floor and the wall rather than down between your hands. Keep your abs and glutes tight, your elbows locked, squeeze your thighs together, and let the shoulders sink into the sockets. Hold for time and don’t forget to breathe.
Jump Squat: Clasp your hands behind your head. Drop to parallel while keeping your heels down and your back flat and jump straight up. Land on your toes, quickly roll back on your heels while keeping your back flat, drop into a parallel squat, and instantly spring back up. It is a popular drill among Russian GS athletes and Kyokushin karate black belts must be able to knock off 100 reps. Ease into this one.
Jump Good Morning: This one is a travel favorite of Suren Bogdasarov, the coach of weightlifting legend Yuri Vlasov. Rapidly hinge at the hip until your straight back is parallel to the deck and jump. Bend your knees just a little and keep your hands clasped behind your neck.
Wring Out a Wet Towel: The idea is to strengthen your grip and forearms.
Divebomber Push-Up: This drill looks like a cat climbing under a fence. Keep your elbows in at all times to protect your shoulders.”
Analysis and My Routine
The Jump Squat and Jump Good Mornings are done at higher repetitions for a cardiovascular effect and work the leg, back muscles. I, simply like to duplicate the Simple & Sinister parameters of 10 explosive reps at a time. As for the handstand, I like to do 5 isometric sets of 30 seconds or perform regular handstand push-ups instead, again a la Simple & Sinister format. The wringing out of a wet towel is a good idea — just remember to brace your abs, glutes and practice your power generation, breathing “Tsssssaaaaa!”. However, I prefer tactical pull-ups for my grip and forearms. As for the divebomber push-up, I am unsure how this drill benefits me exactly and I have eschewed it because I already have a pressing movement.
For the next three weeks, I’ll stick with handstand push-ups for my press, tactical pull-ups if I can find a bar at a nearby park and the jump squats/good mornings + some running for my cardio. As for exercise programming, set & rep scheme, I like to use the Greasing the Groove for the Fighting Man program for cardio and the (1, 2, 3) ladder method for maximal strength. If you’re a traveller who wears a heavy pack or bag, read this article for activity-specific strength drills or if I’m in a hotel with lighter dumbbells, I like to use the swing workout.
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Update 17 Aug 2016: I find it’s better to do my 5x 30-second isometric handstands firstly since it’s a pure strength exercise and it’s better not to pre-exahust yourself beforehand. I knocked down a picture in my hotel room while flipping my feet over onto the wall; thankfully the glass frame didn’t break. For the explosive cardio, I am alternating my jump squats, jump good mornings along with divebomber pushups in sets of 10 to total 100 reps, a la Simple & Sinister programming. I do the same cool-down as well.