Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Fitness for Survival


I heard about your blog last week on Coast To Coast AM here in the United States. I'm always interested in survival techniques so when I heard about your blog, I started reading it for a few hours each day.

I just wanted to give you one suggestion pertaining to your physical fitness blog that you posted back in 2008 (I think it was in December). While I agree 100% that cardio-training and weight training is essential to prepare for worst-case scenarios, one thing I hope you could mention is the *type* of weight training that should be done.

In a survival situation where a person might have to work/walk/run for hours a day, normal body building is actually a bad idea. In "normal" body building, a person generally performs two exercises comprised of three or four sets of 10 repetitions per muscle group. Obviously, if done correctly and religiously, this increases strength and muscle mass. And that's fine for normal circumstances.

However, in a survival situation, bulky muscle mass can be more of a hindrance rather than a benefit. Large muscles consume more precious calories--calories that would be better used hiking, running, hunting, etc. If a person is weight training for a survival situation, he should concentrate on building *lean* muscle. Lean muscle uses less calories, and are also more useful for situations where endurance is critical.

To train for building lean muscle, do three or four exercises per muscle group, and instead of doing three sets of 10, do four sets of 16-20 at a lesser weight; focusing most of the training in the legs and shoulders rather than the chest and biceps. By doing this, you train your muscles for endurance rather than strength.

Keep up the great work on your blog, and good luck.


Hi Jeremy, thanks for your email.
I agree partially with what you say.
You are right regarding cardio for work/walk/run, and that more repetitions with less weight is better to build up lean muscle for this kind of activity.

Having said that, you're pulling a Rawles: you're mistakenly assuming survival will be what you want it to be: hiking, running, farming like Charles Ingalls and hunting.
And while you read about all that cool stuff that for some reason never happens your in your little apartment or house,you are dealing with other problems much less charming: Finding a job, fighting inflation,trying to make ends meet, and dealing with increasingly worse crime on the streets.

Running away from danger of any type, walking away from disaster areas, that could happen.
Most often running away from shootings and thugs, that will be a typical use of good cardio during high crime, post economic crisis scenarios.
Also remember that for manual labor such as construction jobs you also need good muscles, strong back, neck, arms and upper body strength in general.

Now, for when you CANT run, you need strong muscles. Not to mention the training as well of course.
I'm preparing for the class I mentioned in the previous post. These types of classes get pretty physical and if you don't have good upper body strength you get your butt kicked.
If you're all lean and thin you may win the marathon at the next Olympics but you'll get your head torn off by these guys in force on force.

For hand to hand fighting you need good upper body strength, strong big muscles.
For combative sports cardio also is important since the fights last longer than they would in a real street fight, but to win a street fight good strength is paramount and even more important than good cardio.

Its not that hard to go for both.You can be wickedly strong and fast.
Don't be fooled. Those guys that look like frogs, its not just that they are building up muscle doing fewer repetitions with more weight, those guys are taking all kinds of drugs, steroids and supplements. You dont end up looking that way just by lifting weights so don't worry.
I know people that lift a lot of weight, have tried very hard to get buffer naturally and its just not happening for them. It defends a lot on your particular body as well. I build up muscle fast so I try to not overdo it. Last year I was doing too much weight and it showed, the t-shirts feel tighter and the arms get ticker, so I took it a bit easier and starting doing more cardio and more repetitions with less weight as you say.

Summarizing, I agree with most of what you say but you do need good upper body muscles for self defense and bad guys notice it too. They'll go after the jogger instead... not the guy with the thick neck and broad back. :-)



Bryan said...

I would go the opposite way and say strength training, not hypertrophy (bodybuilding)and endurance, is the way to go. The first reason is the fact that endurance is limited by strength. A stronger person has a higher capacity for endurance. Speed is also limited by strength. Strength specific training will do far more to get you fit than bodybuilding or endurance training. Strength training is typically 3-5reps for 3 sets of relatively heavy weight. The exercises should be full body compound free weight exercises such as the full squat, deadlift, standing overhead press, bench press, pullups, and the olympic lifts. FerFAL is right. No one is scared of a skinny twig chain smokin lookin person.
"Strong people are harder to kill than weak people and more useful in general" - Mark Rippetoe

Shambhala said...

Once again, you hit it out of the park. If large muscles were useless there wouldnt be weight divisions in boxing, UFC or other combat sports. Obviously they also have cardiovascular fitness as a goal.

Lean muscle is all good and well, but personally I only have one choice : stand and fight. I cant run very far due to flat feet. Yeah, it sucks.

Anonymous said...

Also - in fight or flight situations - you need speed - not stamina - so doing 30 minutes on the treadmill every day is counter productive. You should be doing sprints as well - or a sport that requires you to sprint - like basketball, singles tennis, etc.

You need the cardio to improve your sprint/strength. Cardio by itself will only help you win the 5K/1-K or marathon.

Anonymous said...

"Most often running away from shootings and thugs, that will be a typical use of good cardio during high crime, post economic crisis scenarios."

LOL. You should try doing comedy if an opening comes up!

Good point reminding us again about not getting to choose what survival scenario you will have to deal with. Despite reading your book, I'm guilty of wildlife survival thinking occasionally.


Anonymous said...

It would seem that strength is the most important.

And by that I mean explosive strength. Very low repetitions with really heavy weights.

In addition its useful, for dragging or picking up people to safety, lifting up heavy stuff without injuring yourself (to make a barricade for example) and so on, it very useful. That is why women as so helpless, their strength is much less than a mans.

Also this creates lean muscles that don't take as much energy to maintain as building muscles for endurance. But it won't make you look 'tough' you'll look like a weightlifter at best, who aren't that big. If your looking for intimidation work on your wardrobe, manner of walking and even manner of speaking in certain places. Looking or sounding 'weak' may be a misunderstanding but it's a dangerous one that invites trouble.

Although I think cardio training is good. It is the most difficult and arduous exercise type to do. It needs to be maintained regularly, burns alot of calories and also is sweaty and dirty. (need to take a shower and change clothes, otherwise you stink, both things that may not be easy to accomplish in survival conditions)

Not being obese or overweight and having good shoes (no flip flops, sandals, inflexible workboots or flimsy shoes with no cushioning that offer no support against rocks or uneven terrain, when sprinting injuring your feet with these types of shoes is high, not to mention tripping over).

Losing weight is the best advice, 10-20 kilos makes you that much faster and gives you that much more endurance. Cardio training is the icing on the cake, but it's not like your Jason Bourne, if your work or where you live is dangerous, then cardio may give you that extra edge that saves your life.

Also you can actually learn to run faster by perfecting your running technique. Read some sprinting books, get a partner to watch your form and you'll be able to run that much faster. You'd be surprised how inept some peoples running form is.

My only concern is the effect of adrenalin on your muscles and heightened tension and fear hormones. Both things I fear take huge amounts of energy to maintain, thus making you feel exhausted without having done much. Cardio training would seem to reduce the toll of this but I wonder if 'keeping' calm and learning to control your breathing (in fights people who aren't used to it hold their breath) and heartbeat in times of intense stress is just as good if not better. Once again realistic force on force training and sparring would appear to help in this regard.

Maldek said...


Learn running on your fore-foot.
"fore-foot running" google that.

The most effective combat style i had to pleasure to train is

Wing Tsun Kung Fu

Even with 1-2 years in training you will beat the average boxer or kickboxer with 10+ years experience and 20 kg more muscle weight easy. And within 1-2 minutes.

The pure strength may be good for construction work and a 120 kg NFL monster sure looks like most people worst nightmare....but there are things to consider.

a) Not everybody has the physical potential to become such human tank

b) It takes countless hours of strength training to get there.
With time beeing a limited resource this same time invested into combat training will get you more return.

c) That said...the average 60 kg/180 cm guy is not going to become a good street fighter. Thats the other extreme.

Try to be somewhere in between like around well trained 75kg/180cm guy and you will do fine if you know how to put your body to good use.

"The close combat comes when everything else has already failed"

P. Xtreme said...

I feel like it's been forever since I've posted, though it was just Wednesday. I've had so much stuff going on between work and friends that it feels like I've got 2 weeks worth of life to report on! Where to begin?? I got a wonderful award from a great blogger, but I'm saving that for further along this post's path.First, I've started another challenge of sorts - NOT EATING RELATED thank goodness! It seems all I need to do is join a food challenge and every cell in my body starts shrieking for high sugar high carb items in mass quantities. This challenge was created by Karen at Fitness: A Journey Not A Destination. It's called Boredom Busters and you can read about it here. Karen's blog is great, if you haven't read it; and in the process of joining this challenge, I discovered she also has a design blog called Strictly Simple Style that's about decorating without breaking the bank. It's also good. But I digress.

Anonymous said...

If you haven't checked out CrossFit you really should. It's in use by MMA fighters, SEALS, Marines, LEO's, and firefighters the world over. As with all new and popular ideas there is considerable push back out there. Don't be a sheep. Do your own research, try it for yourself, THEN judge. Personally I'm a fan of the "Max Effort" versions and highly recommend Mark Rippetoe's excellent book Starting Strength if you don't have a good strength background.