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Ask Me Anything: Strength, Endurance, Weightloss

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    Ask Me Anything: Strength, Endurance, Weightloss

    Last month's Ask Me Anything session was really good. I'd like to throw open another one for a week until the end of this month. To narrow down some of the topics, as a suggestion, ask me any questions on strength, endurance and weightloss. Hopefully we will be able to explore some myths and get to some truths. Stay awesome guys.

    Do you have any experience with battle/combat ropes? If yes, how best to incorporate into a Darebee based exercise routine?


      Hey Damer,

      I'll ask a very broad question I'm afraid: my understanding is that exercise plays a relatively minor role in weight loss and that diet is much more important? Is that a fair summation?

      I've also done some reading lately that has touched on the Health at Any Size movement and I'm interested in your take on that. I know the "movement" is very broad and I've often seen it misrepresented and strawmanned. (if this is new to you then no problem and I wouldn't expect you to answer off the top of your head - it might be something that is of interest to Darebee in any case.)

      All the best. Thanks as ever for everything you all do. And stay safe. Also awesome, of course.


        Damer thank you for opening a new thread as I missed the first one.

        There are many calisthenics programs, videos, communities, etc, but there is only one Darebee. I would really love to see some programs covering calisthenics made by Darebee team.

        Thank you!


          CaptainCanuck Brilliant question! If we were in much different times, we'd be training with a heavy piece of iron in one hand and a heavy shield in the other as we learnt to use our body for man-to-man combat. Battle ropes are essentially resistance tools that target each each individually much the same way that swinging a sword and bracing a shield around, would; but much safer. The sword/shield routine is a strength training workout but 10-15 minutes into it, it becomes a cardiovascular one with a heavy component of aerobic endurance. Battle ropes are designed to replicate that which is why Special Forces also use them for conditioning. We don't have any Darebee workout designed specifically around them as they are expensive to buy, require a lot of space and even on the Darebee team none of us have the spare couple of hundred bucks we'd need or the space required to use them properly.

          Having said that, if you are one of the lucky few the best way to incorporate them in a Darebee workout is to pick a strength training one and use the EC downtime to Battle Rope for a minute or two. This is guaranteed to be a burn. I know because we've actually done it in a gym setting. If you choose an upper body workout or a mainly upper body one and then use the battle ropes in the EC two sets in you begin to discover your own version of a very personal hell. If you use a predominantly lower body strength workout and then use the battle ropes the aerobics component kicks in and you realize just how much demand your lower body workout (that utilizes big, heavy muscle groups) makes on your cardiovascular and aerobic systems. Depending on how long you can put up with the discomfort you can play with the battle rope time. The first time we did it we went for two minutes battle rope between sets of strength workouts and it reduced us to tears almost by set three. Then we adjusted it going for one minute with a minute's break and that was manageable. And once fatigue really kicked in we reduced the time to 30 seconds of battle rope work with 90 seconds recovery time.

          Either way that would definitely help you level up. I really hope this helps and if you do go for it, please keep us updated on how it went and how you felt.


            Colin a lot to unpack in your question. So, let's start with the obvious: when it comes to losing weight, exercise does one primary thing in the body, it helps us regulate our energy requirements. If we are smart about it we keep exercising long enough for muscle mass to increase, our metabolic rate to even out and our body's biochemistry to change and then, and only then, we gradually lose weight in a way that is sustainable. There are several provisos here: First, the first twelve weeks of exercise show almost nothing from a visual point of view. We need to be patient enough to continue so that the changes kick in. Second, our eating habits are reasonable. We eat at relatively set times, do not over-indulge in sugars and fats, have a diverse diet, there is no snacking and have reasonable portions.

            When I put it like this you can begin to see why most exercise/diet regimes fail. There are too many variables to keep track of and most people fail to take them into account.

            Now, to get back to the point you raise on the importance of diet. It is always crucial, not just because it helps us regulate our weight but also because it helps us regulate our mood and it helps us repair and build muscle. The popular saying is that "you can't outtrain a bad diet". If someone is serious about losing weight so they get to what should be reasonable for their height, age and sex then the best way to do it is with small, gradual changes that are sustainable and help supplement the benefits of exercise.

            Unfortunately, in most cases, our relationship with food is highly emotional. We then use food restriction to punish our self and things tend to get derailed. So really a clearly thought-through strategy is required with solid logic and incremental tactics that can be sustained.

            Now, when it comes to weight, because we are all emotional in our relationship with food and almost all of us have some sort of dissatisfaction with our body we tend to project all that onto others. We get fat-shaming, body-shaming and a whole lot of negative, judgmental behavior associated with it. The popular media with its "One size fits all" message on fitness has never helped here.

            It is key to accept some specifics here that the "Health At Any Size" movement is behind and which Darebee has always supported.

            - The key is to feel comfortable in your own body.
            - When you change yourself do it for yourself, not others.
            - The central tenet of health is empowerment. Feel in control of your body and of your mind.
            - Eat and exercise for health and well being not for specific visual attributes.
            - Body shape and body type are not a good indication of health.

            Would you call Sammo Hung overweight? By the media-defined standards of the west he definitely is but even I can't do half the stuff he can do.

            So, weight inclusivity and acceptance are key here. Confidence in our physical abilities is what we should all be aiming for irrespective of size, sex and age.

            I am not sure if I have covered everything you asked so please let me know or ask away if there is a follow-up.


              Musical gym the primary difference between calisthenics and bodyweight exercises is the way muscles are engaged and the load that is placed on them. Calisthenics usually targets large muscle groups with large-load exercise and when it engages several muscle groups together the load, again, is significant. We have discussed the option of doing some workouts that do the same thing in Darebee, internally. The problem with it is that just like with a workout using battle ropes we limit the workout to very few, while in Darebee we are trying to engage as many people as possible with our workouts and programs.

              Having said that we have reached a point now where we can begin to bring out a few specialized workouts and programs. Already we have some workouts that use almost exclusively jump squats, burpees and pull ups and they do qualify as Calisthenics workouts. We have not yet produced any that are difficulty level IV or V like we have done with equipment or aerobics one but some will be coming out by the end of this year.


                Originally posted by Damer View Post
                ColinWould you call Sammo Hung overweight? By the media-defined standards of the west he definitely is but even I can't do half the stuff he can do.
                Whatever I call Mr Hung I think I'll do it very politely!

                Thank you for the answer, Damer, and I can't think of anything you've missed. I encountered HAES in Radical Belonging, by Lindo Bacon, which was recommended to me here in the Hive. I feel that the message in the book is one that is quite in-tune with the Darebee Way, which is personified in your long, thoughtful, and compassionate answer!

                Stay awesome.


                  Damer Thanks for the answer. My main experience with battle ropes is from the gym that I used to go to. They had 100 foot ropes. I know that I have a bigger space than most people in my house, but the best that I can fit here is 50 foot ropes. With less overall weight they are a lot easier to manage, but still can be an effective challenge. They aren't that expensive though (I think around $75 for the 50 foot version), and even a bunch of DYI options are even pretty cheap.

                  As a followup question, I have been doing a lot of upper body training recently, specifically focusing on the dumbbell workouts in the database. As you recommend that battle ropes are a good option to use as active rest between sets, are there any other exercises that would be good for this time? I already actively incorporate in pullups during "rest time".


                    CaptainCanuck aaaargh, the space of houses across the pond! Everything is much more compact in Europe. At 50ft I might end up training in the neighbor's living room. Ok, basically the weights-to-battle-ropes shift is a mechanical load-to-metabolic-load one. You could get the same effect by throwing punches with a 1kg or 2kg dumbbell and it would have largely the same effect provided you take care to use the best form possible so you're pushing off the floor with your feet as appropriate, transferring power to your torso and twisting it as necessary. I hope this helps.


                      I usually end up doing my own routines, taking from here and there, but now I'm having lots of doubts and this thread could make my life a little bit easier.

                      I re-started the gym last year the very same day the lockdown was canceled, and never missed a day since, but next month I will leave the gym probably for good, for some unrelated reasons, and I´m having issues trying to think on what to do now at home in the morning.

                      I want to use this oportunity to leave the heavy weights on the side and start some martial arts conditioning. I have enough power, but lack lots of speed and flexibility. Since I know you are a martial artist yourself, what would you recommend to me so I can improve on my explosive speed? I have very strong and thick legs, but I feel pretty slow nowadays.

                      For material, I have some light dumbbells (7, 10 and 20), a ketter (12), some hard-for-arms-but-not-for-legs plastic bands, and a TRX, if that gives you some ideas.

                      Obviously, the first step will be practising at the karate dojo itself, but I would like to totally focus on that at home too.

                      I was thinking, for the very first month, doing Ironborn, The Gauntlet and Spartan Trials together, finish with some TRX work, and see how that evolves, but your perspective will be very much appreciated.


                        JMed that's a compound question with many parts. Let's unpack it a little.

                        First, let me start off by pointing to a thread I had on strength vs size that shows just how tricky it is to talk about strength in a body vs strength in a muscle group. Now, power, is something no one understands. We know it's physics and we understand how it develops in terms of physics: Power = Mass x Acceleration but we don't know how individual bodies synthesize it because we just can't cut up and study people.

                        To illustrate the problem we face when we go from the lab and the physics equations to the real world consider the case of Deontay Wilder, one of the heaviest punchers in the Boxing, Heavyweight Division.

                        He is tall, over 100kg in weight and has incredibly skinny legs that just shouldn't generate the punching power he generates. How does he do that? In truth we don't know, though there are some theories which I will explore, that should help you better understand what you need to do.

                        The theory of explosive power in sports and combat sports in particular hinges on three specific things: tendon strength (to anchor the muscles and help them fire fully), the central nervous system (to activate all muscle cells as quickly as possible) and the body's kinetic chain (that combines different muscle groups in a way that transfers power with as little loss as possible).

                        Tendon strength is not just strong tendons at the point the muscle joins the bone. It is also strong tendons at the different joint angles that muscles and tendons form during a movement. As I mentioned to CaptainCanuck above, light dumbbells used to perform form-perfect punches help develop explosive power. Many times this works better than battle ropes which is why boxers use dumbbells in this fashion more than they use battle ropes, battle ropes are used more by MMA practitioners but that is more because of their conditioning element, which is another story.

                        Training the central nervous system requires repetition. Martial artists are familiar with the "practice this 10,000 times" mantra. It really is no exaggeration. Repetition strengthens the ties between the neurons that send a signal from the brain to the muscles to the point that it becomes automatic and, additionally, appears to hardly use up any energy. This effortless signalling, in turn, helps create fresh neural connections in the brain that deliver more optimized movements in the body. This is why, for example, a beginner may understand perfectly how to perform something basic like a front kick but it requires a lot more effort from them than it does from a veteran martial artists who has done this thousands of times.

                        Finally, kinetic chain movement, teaches the body to move in harmony. For a left jab for instance (to use a boxing technique) we need the left front foot to push off the ground, the hip must move in unison, lateral abs and core must be activated, the central abs tense as we exhale, the left shoulder and tricep then kick in and the left wrist must stiffen. All this needs to happen in an exact sequence. Imagine, for example, that the shoulder fires off the punch before the left foot pushes off the ground. There will be no power. Or that the everything goes exactly right with the exception of the wrist that is a fraction too slow to tense up. It will break at impact.

                        Kinetic chain training is an art at the moment which means we understand the science behind it but not how to apply it correctly every time. Repetition is one component of it. So is perfect form. So is strength training that helps muscles and tendons combat fatigue.

                        To take all this now (which I hope helps you see some things) and apply them to you. What you need to do, at home, is practice repetition of kicks and punches. Many drills, hundreds of times. This will make you "light" on your feet by helping you take the strength you already have on your legs and turn it into power you can use when you execute strikes (i.e. kicks and punches). By the sounds of it you are already strong so you need to work on kinetic chain activation and, maybe, tendon strength. Use light dumbbells in your punching and aim for many repetitions, perfect form and slow or moderate speed. Use any of our tendon strength workouts for lower body tendon strength: front and side hip flexors.

                        Do a lot of on the spot bouncing to help you strengthen calves and ankle joints.

                        Now, when it comes to programs we generally advise against combining any of them. Each program focuses on something specific and it uses solid sports science principles to help you develop specific physical attributes. When you combine them you do use a lot more energy than usual so you do get maybe stronger or develop more endurance just as you would if you were asked to carry barrels of water uphill each day, but you miss out on the specific benefits the program would bring because you possibly undermine or countermand its specific focus.

                        I would suggest using specific strength workouts if you are worried about losing strength.

                        I really hope I helped you a little here but please get back to me with more questions if you think I need to add more clarity to my reply.


                          Well, yeah, kind of what I was expecting to hear to be fair. I was going to change from weights to TRX and bodyweight exercises in hope of some of that tendon improvement, but that won´t replace the hundreds of kicks I have to do on a daily basis to improve the actual kicking, haha. You know, my main problem is going from 0 to 100, jumping forward with the punch/kick without giving away for free more than 5 different body hints that will make anyone predict that happening.

                          I will try to find some 1kg dumbbells to incorporate the shadow boxing, and maybe some very light ankle weights too. Thanks for the advices, man. I will dedicate my next Olympics award to you.


                            An alternate question to the above, do you have any recommendations for how to incorporate resistance bands into Darebee workouts?

                            Also what are your thoughts on training with chain? Is it just a cool looking way to add extra weight? I have to admit I bought some when I saw Brie Larson and Dwayne Johnson using it, but not really sure how to incorporate it.


                              Hi Damer ... I hope I am not too late..
                              I do a lot of Muay Thai at home (with the live guidance of an expert of course). I have recently started adding strength sessions in the weekly routine, because I couldn't generate as power... But I have two serious questions:
                              1) what is the best strength strategy for my goal (build quality muscle, endurance and explosiveness)
                              2) even when I do my "martial arts days" I always feel the need to do at least 15-20' intense jump rope (which I do 7 days a week, no matter the situation). I have read various articles on the subject and all fighting schools in Thailand do 30' jogging, then 100 push ups, 100 squats, 100 sit ups all before actual fighting training... Is it true that jumping rope for one third the time of jogging/running burns similar calories? Because, epecially now in summer, I have found myself struggling completing the workout sometimes but have this STUPID idea that it won't be enough and probably exhaust myself... Why is that? Do our bodies function differently during with heat (I don't exercise out in the sun, but the place gets hot).

                              Calorie and tone wise, are jumping rope and martial arts close? I am interested in Muay Thai, but I think I will start incorporating some leg focused workouts from the database...
                              If you can answer all these, so different questions, I will be more than grateful!!!