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The Truth about Protein!

protein02If you want your body to repair muscles, transport oxygen and develop immunity-boosting antibodies then more than likely you’ve found yourself drinking a protein shake or consuming a healthy serving of chicken breast after each workout! It’s no surprise getting those amino acids into your system is an important aspect of the sporting world, but are you fully aware of what you’re doing to your system? Here are 5 facts you probably overlooked on way to becoming a nutrition warrior!

You Will Burn More Calories

It’s a win win situation! Each time you gain nutrients, you’re breaking down the food consumed and simultaneously burning calories in the process! However, it takes a hell of a lot more calories to break protein down! Why? Because protein is made of amino acids that are held together by strong little buggers called peptide bonds!

You’re Already Getting Enough!

According to PhD, professor of nutrition, Marion Nestle of NYU (and this might come as a shock… if not, try to be surprised) “There’s way too much hype about protein, or rather, a perceived lack of it in people’s diets. The reality is, if you consume enough calories, you’re probably eating plenty of protein. You’ll need approximately 60g a day; even if you’re a vegetarian, you’ll be consuming close to 69g of protein”.

Too Much Can Kill You!

Okay, that’s not true at all! And it would be a quite an achievement to overdose on protein, BUT chugging too much protein into your system has consequences! And the reason is nitrogen! As you consume protein, nitrogen is released into your system as a “left-over” by-product. In order to get rid of it, your kidneys are strained and need to work harder to shove it out of your body as urine!

Plant Vs Meat, Which is Better? Neither.

Protein is made of 20 amino acids (11 from the body, 9 from food). Dairy, meat, fish and eggs contain all nine… they’re known as complete proteins. Of course casein and whey protein (commonly found in protein shakes) contain all nine too! Plant based protein, on the other hand, will lack one or more of those amino acids. So if you’re vegetarian just eat a variety of plant based foods, such as brown rice, beans, soy, nuts, seeds and grains and you will get the those nine you need, no problem!

Make Sure You Take Protein at the Right Time!

Remember your muscles are like sponges directly after a workout, and consuming protein within 30 minutes after building up a sweat will allow the amino acids to target and repair “microtears” in the muscle tissue! The result means lean muscle mass and a body that will efficiently burn calories throughout the day!

The next time you finish a workout in the Dojo grab a snack with at least 14g of protein after your kickboxing class! It doesn’t have to be a whey protein shake (which is an excessive 30g by the way)… try an Eat Natural bar or flapjack from the vending machine with a pot of Greek yogurt! Or a bagel with peanut butter. The carbohydrates will help to replace your glycogens stores which are important for bouts or intensive rounds when sparring!

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Train For Kickboxing Fitness!

junkiefit02Kickboxing demands an extreme level of fitness and as martial arts begins to rise in popularity you’ll notice more and more gyms looking to try and incorporate that same level of intensity in their workout “environment”. For example, go to any gym and you’ll probably find a class called “kick fitness”. In other words, kickboxing is clearly doing something right! The discipline offers an excellent level of fitness through an array of different drills that keep the interest and build ability!

It’s no surprise cardiovascular (or aerobic: running, swimming, cycling) exercise is fundamental to any athlete in kickboxing. It’s vital to maintain a strong level of fitness and a powerful advantage to be able to assert your physical dexterity when your opponent begins to flag.

But when breaking kickboxing down, it’s clear it’s not all about aerobic exercise; and this is where martial arts truly stands out. Break the discipline down and it’s immediately clear fighters need to train their explosive ability; that anaerobic start-stop action as well as their endurance based aerobic skills.

Interesting fact: according to MyProtein writer Kelly McFie, (2nd Dan black belt in Ashihara fighting kickboxing) “The term anaerobic basically means that the body’s demand for oxygen is greater than the oxygen available. Therefore, anaerobic exercise burns glycogen to meet the body’s energy requirements. Kick boxers should be able to demonstrate the ability to work at a high intensity for frequent, short spurts with little rest between activities”.

What’s one of the strongest ways to hone your kickboxing aerobic and anaerobic ability? Circuit Training.

workoutCircuit training and high intensity interval training (HIIT) is a successful drill utilized by many martial arts disciplines, ranging from Krav Maga, Muay Thai, boxing and of course, kickboxing. It’s so fundamental because it mimics that start/stop activity in any kickboxing fight or boxing bout. Here you have the opportunity to improve your overall physical and mental ability through the use of calisthenics and resistance based exercises. The idea is to reduce your recovery time between each exercise, giving you that explosive burst of energy where it’s needed the most! (A healthy athlete will need about 30 seconds to recover) It’s crucial to be able to accelerate straight to your “maximum” and simultaneously push limits and build endurance.

If you find yourself feeling lethargic, either mentally or physically, be sure to try our new circuit classes at Stoke Newington (you’ll find them running every Monday and Wednesday at 10am, or on the Sunday at 12.15pm), or alternatively try the workout class at Swiss Cottage which will not only push your limits, but will allow you to put your aerobic and anaerobic ability to the test when sparring towards the end of the class.

Remember, what you put in is what you get out! If you’re looking for that fitter, faster and stronger version of yourself to aid your technique, balance and flexibility, circuit training is an excellent place to start! Be sure to give it a go!

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4 Super Kickboxing Tips to Improve your Fitness

aaron equipmentKickboxing offers amazing potential for a variety-filled workout, certainly not the usual linear treadmill experience. Not to mention the fact that once you get the basics down and begin padding, you’ll work up a sweat and could burn off close to 500 calories in an hour! Although calorie counting is often discouraged, (focus on nutritional intake, is the way forward!) it’ll help spark interest, build stamina and improve your coordination in no time. Try some of these useful tips to help get you in the fitness-junkie frame of mind this New Year.

Intensify Shuttle Runs
Often neglected but will make a significant difference to your stamina and, depending on your form, the explosive qualities in your training.

junkiefit04“Adding wall sits to the end of every run will strengthen your quads, hamstrings and glutes, improving your speed and endurance. Lean against a wall with your feet shoulder-width apart, then squat until your knees are bent at 45 degrees. Hold for 30 to 60 seconds; work up to doing 10 sets. Add a challenge by including heel raises: Lift your left heel, then the right, then lift both together twice.”
Mindy Solkin, owner and head coach of the Running Center, New York City

An All-In-One Mind and Body Toner
Don’t be discouraged, in fact get in the habit of “seeing opportunity and improvement” whenever you note that irritating lethargic feeling getting in the way of your workout. If you can train at your worst, you can train anytime! Imagine what you’ll be like at your best! The mind’s the instigator and the limit; a good workout trains your mind as well as your body!

DSC_0618“A side-step squat with wood chop works your mental coordination: arms, torso, abs, back, legs, inner thigh and butt. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart holding a three- to four-pound medicine ball in your hands. Bend your arms up so that the ball is at eye level over your right shoulder. As you raise the ball above your head step out with your left leg and bend it no further than 90 degrees, keeping your right leg straight. Return to the starting position. Do 10 to 15 reps and repeat on the other leg.”
David Kirsch, trainer and author of The Ultimate New York Body Plan (McGraw-Hill, 2004)

Get in the Habit of Working Out during Work Days!
This is very important. Studies show working out after work will help to push your willpower, build stamina and improve resilience; a great way to naturally push your limits in a healthy and easy manner. Give it a go, be sure to try and get a kickboxing workout/routine going after a long day at work, you’ll be able to directly see the results. Remember, willpower acts as a muscle! The more you exercise it, the bigger it will get.
“Sit on a stability ball to strengthen your core, and keep dumbbells your desk. Squeeze in 12 to 15 reps of exercises like dumbbell curls, overhead presses and ab crunches; aim for two or three sets of each.”
Gregory Florez, personal trainer and CEO of Salt Lake City

Get The Skipping-Rope Involved
If you want a high intensity interval training routine, just add a skipping rope! Burning approximately 1300 calories per hour, it’s one of the ultimate fat melting exercises.

“The best cardio workout is the jump-rope double-turn maneuver. It’s intense: You’ll burn about 26 calories per minute! Do a basic jump for five minutes, then jump twice as high and turn the rope twice as fast so it passes under your feet twice before you land. This takes timing, patience and power. But you’ll get in great shape just by working at it.”
Michael Olajide Jr., former number one world middleweight contender and cofounder/trainer at Aerospace High Performance Center in New York City

Don’t be afraid to try different exercises and change the “routine” as this will often lead to the mentality you need to achieve your goals! Taking that little jump to make your exercises more dynamic and engaging can help give the impetus to step out the door and back in the dojo!

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4 Pillars of Fitness Every Fighter Should Know!

If you don’t already include these in your training, you’re in for a world of change! Here are four aspects of fitness that make up the schedule of any champion fighter, whether it’s Muhammad Ali, Georges St. Pierre or Sugar Ray Leonard!

junkiefit02Calisthenics means body resistance exercise (push ups, pull ups, sit ups, squats, lunges and so on) and is crucial to any martial artist! Don’t forget calisthenics is convenient and easy to apply any time of the day, so there’s no excuse! Try to get in the habit of incorporating some of these exercises into your daily routine!

Fact: If you’re wondering how strong the human body can become when breaking limits here’s little insight… the record for the most consecutive push-ups goes to Minoro Yoshida for completing an impressive 10,507 reps in 1965! The mind really is the limit!

Calisthenics shouldn’t be strenuous to begin with although the exertion level depends on the individual; and you certainly don’t need to beat 10,507 push ups. Just keep it simple with the focus being on turning calisthenics into habit.

Running benefits both anaerobic and aerobic exercise, it’s all about the intensity and pace you set. Although debatable, long continuous running has always played a part in the routine of a boxing champion, and is easily a benchmark to develop an adequate level of stamina for sparring!

If you’re new, or haven’t run since highschool, be sure to give this routine a go:
1) 3-5 minutes brisk walk
2) 3-5 minutes jogging
3) Stop to stretch the quads, calves, hamstrings and Achilles from a standing position! (You’re not warm enough yet to lay down and stretch)
4) 7-8 minutes run while progressing to a tapering off period. Gradually slow the pace to a walk (cool down period) over 3 minutes

The longest distance appropriate for professional martial artists would be about 10-12 miles, once a week. However a good distance to maintain stamina would be 2-3 miles at a time, 3 times a week.

Tip: this a great way to learn how to breath under pressure! Sounds strange, but it’s important to exhale through the mouth and inhale through the nose. This improves blood circulation and therefore focus!

Interval Training
junkiefit04Interval training, often used by professional boxers is an excellent way to build stamina and explosive movement for sparring. It’s important to be able to work to a high level of exertion and interval training delivers!

Tip: use lamp posts or street lights to accelerate and decelerate between a high pace and a casual pace.

If you have access to a skipping rope, it’ll drastically improve your workout routine! Essential for building coordination between the upper and lower body, footwork, toning muscle and (depending on your exertion level) gives you both an aerobic and anaerobic workout. If the target is to spar for 3 minute rounds, then it makes sense to skip in 3 minutes bursts with short rest times! Just beware of “whiplash” when skipping with a speed rope!

Give these a go. The hardest part is starting, however once the initiative is taken to make the first step such habits will make a big impact on your life! They may seem like complex problems in nature, but in terms of practicality they’re simple! It’s no surprise Nike chose “Just do it” as their slogan!

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Christmas Timetable Commencing Monday 14th, December!

christmas timetable

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The Art of Opponent Control!

I’ve been here a number of times in the past; while practicing with a kru in muay thai, a coach in boxing or a sensei in kickboxing! I’m about to spar. I gear up, avidly strapping up my gloves along with the rest of my equipment before hearing a very common command! “Fight your fight, not his” or “control your opponent”. I quietly nod, seem to accept what I need to do, (makes sense after all) just assert your dominance and beat the other guy to the punch basically… right? (OH BOY WAS I WRONG) It wasn’t long before I was moving back so much that I may as well demonstrate my other skill of running 1500 meters! Perhaps it would have been beneficial to find out exactly what was meant by “controlling the fight”.

What opponent control boils down to are two factors according to veteran competitor and instructor Bob Breen: deception (faked attacks) and timing. Here’s a little insight into how to control your fight, and help give you the edge when sparring!

Feigned Attacks

“Avoid where they are full, attack where they are empty.”
Sun Tsu, The Art of War.

opponent01As Bob Breen explains: “your opponent can’t cover all the angles all of the time. Use variations of attacks, attacking low, high and to the side. It doesn’t matter how strong your technique is, if you’re linear or direct in your approach, you’ll eventually get beaten!” If you’re intending to attack high, then make sure you actually fake going low by dropping your body, don’t just drop the arm. The greater the deviation between high and low, the more unpredictable the attack!

It’s also possible to pre-program the attack with what’s known as the Pavlov Three; deliberately televising a pattern of three strikes to create holes and openings! For example, two jabs to the solar plexus will manipulate your opponent to try and parry the third strike. Two repeated attacks under stress, and your sparring partner can become gullible with anticipation. Drop the third, feigned, strike short to a coax the parry out further and, in this instance, a left hook straight to the jaw can be very effective. Manipulating imagination can be a powerful tool! Just like viewing an abstract painting, once the mind locks onto an art form, the brain begins filling in the gaps.

Timing and Independent Motion

opponent04Keep in mind devastating strikes will need to be supported by the weight of the body, and a complete ark of motion; this means large movements! We’re naturally hardwired to recognize these large motions while tiny motions from the limbs are a different story and something we’re not the best at reacting to. After all, you don’t instinctively roundhouse kick a gentlemen waving for a taxi, or a friend scratching his head.

Ideally it’s important to make sure the body follows directly after the hand and arm. Why? Because the power comes from the back foot! This is known as independent motion, and has been applied in fencing for many a year. Although it’s not a hard attack, with good form it can be the foundation of a complex combination.

Timing is important because it allows you to synchronize to your opponent, creating a kind of “duet” which will feed valuable pieces of information about the where the fight may lead. Remember your brain needs to deal with a whole range of speeds! It’s crucial to “clock” your opponent, and react with the right form!

As Bob Breen points out, try to fake attacks and work your timing; this will stretch your opponent, create openings and develop your perception in ways you would never expect. Not to mention it’ll have your opponent chasing demons, which is always amusing!

If you’re struggling to develop a creative spark during sparring, give these a go! Be sure to ask myself, or the other instructors, about feigned attacks if you’re lacking on ideas. With a bit of strategy, sparring can be a very rewarding experience, relax and don’t be afraid to experiment!

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5 Sparring Tips to Kick Start your Sparring!

sparring01Sparring is perhaps one of the most challenging experiences in the sporting world. Like in all sports, there are many factors that contribute to the difference between an expert and a novice, however with kickboxing there are so many applications to consider it can quickly become a very overwhelming experience. Here are 5 pointers from an array of top coaches that help to shed some insight on sparring, and give the mental fortitude to push your goals even further!

Focus on leading the attack, not indirectly countering!
In other words, the hesitant nature of a beginner (whether they know it or not) will often coerce them to have to counter! This is a BAD idea! Countering is tough, and a lot of beginners don’t realize they’re attempting such an advanced art! According to trainer Joe Lewis, countering is about knowing the “attack” of the opponent, understanding the distance/timing of the attack, and the type of counter required. If you don’t know all three, it’s important to just work on executing attack combinations!

Don’t let your opponent beat you to the draw!
Often you’ll hear an instructor pushing you to form fight as fast as possible! Why? Because with the incentive to push yourself physically you’ll open possibilities in sparring you wouldn’t notice at a slower pace! It doesn’t matter who you are even your area of discipline in martial arts. A lot of coaches encourage you to take the initiative and set the pace!

Make sure you’re not standing square!
This means shoulders will be left open giving your opponent ample opportunity to strike you and infringe your balance. Which leads to the next point: your technique will be limited as you wont be able to rotate your hips and generate power in your strikes! If in doubt, just keep it simple and remember the basics. Keep the back heel up and make sure your stance allows you to twist your hips.

Keep your feet under your punches!
This is all to do with not overreaching with the reverse punch, which will only impede your flow and hurt your balance. Not to mention the “hang time” of leaving your right arm out stretched, rendering you incapable of following up with a roundhouse kick or attack combination.

Keep moving!
As Georges St-Pierre said, “standing still is never a good option. Not in the ring, and not in life outside the octagon either. When you stop moving, you’re done.”
Make the most of your space and build your footwork. This will develop the mind-set to try new techniques and change rhythm, which will disrupt an aggressive opponent!

Sparring week is just round the corner, so try to keep these simple pointers in mind while training and give them a go! It won’t just improve your work ethic but will allow you develop a greater level of self-confidence and belief!

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Willpower! The Secret Weapon of Martial Arts!

Rule number one: Chew your food 30 times, before consuming.

Rule number two: Put your chopsticks down when eating.

Rule number three: Eat everything on your plate with chopsticks, including every grain of rice.

aaron pose02Sounds obsessive… and obsessively impractical… but it’s actually one of many stereotypical routines of a Shaolin Monk. The purpose: building a way of life and medium where developing focus, patience and willpower becomes second nature! It’s a “small win” geared towards creating a mentality constantly in harmony with martial arts.

For centuries Shaolin Monks have been perfecting skills in martial arts while leaving many in consternation with their level of dexterity. But what really stands out is not necessarily the intensity of training but the lifestyle that Shaolin Monks uphold! Because at the core of martial arts there’s an important muscle that helps make all the difference when training! That muscle is willpower!

Understanding Willpower

During an interesting psychological experiment conducted in the mid-nineties by Psychologist Mark Muraven, it was discovered willpower acts just like a muscle. Meaning: willpower can become strained and exhausted after a long day, but will also increase with the right amount of exercise. As Muraven explains, “If you want to go for a run after work, you have to conserve your willpower muscle. If you use it up too early on tedious tasks all strength will be gone by the time you get home.”

The more you exercise this muscle, the more patient and tolerant you’ll become particularly in sport. When it comes to martial arts; willpower has played a substantial part of the discipline for centuries! It’s naturally ingrained in psyche an spirit of the experience and is key to improving many aspects of a lifestyle!

Australian researchers Megan Oaten and Ken Cheng further demonstrated the impact of willpower in an experiment in 2005 by observing “struggling” participants. Those taking part of the experiment were asked to keep a detailed diet diary while being pushed to their limits during exercise! Surprisingly not only did their tolerance increase, but it lead to other good habits: decreased smoking and drinking, low caffienated diets, and overall a less depressed and more proactive life!

The research by Muraven was so ground breaking and effective, big corporations and institutions make it a top priority to increase the willpower of their employees.

etiquette01It’s easy to think of willpower as a self-regulatory skill, but surprisingly it’s more appropriate to think of it as a muscle. It’s a factor that can be increased and the intense training in martial arts strengthens that muscle by providing the opportunity to spark focus, face fears and overcome anxieties on a regulated basis; whether it be through focused pair-work, training basics or even heavy sparring.

Don’t worry, I’m not about to recommend holding horse stance while brushing your teeth, or planking while reading a book. But the application of martial arts in lifestyle will help you achieve goals in ways you wouldn’t expect! Expanding your willpower is one of them! Hit the Dojo and watch your life evolve around you for the better!

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The Power of Habit!

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” Aristotle.

habit01Elite athletes have a number of exceptional habits; they obsessively work hard, they’re practical and well organized, they visualize structured routines, and have strong willpower to stick to well planned diets and disciplines. Easier said than done, but if you dissect the structure of habits you’ll learn it’s all about the cue, routine and reward that motivates you.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are one of the WORST teams in the History of American football! It’s November 17, 1996 and the Buccaneers are up against the Chargers on a late Sunday afternoon, the Buccs are losing 17-16. They’ve been losing all game… and all season… and for the past decade… as a matter of fact, they haven’t won a game on the West coast for 16 years. So how on earth did the Buccaneers go from being “America’s orange doormat”, to one of the most successful teams in American football, eventually winning the Superbowl?

The answer is they had Tony Dungy as their head coach. Tony Dungys will be the only coach in NFL history to make the play-offs 10 consecutive times, become the first African American Coach to win the Superbowl and one of the most respected figures in athletics. All because of a unique and courageous attention to remaking habits, an approach that not only significantly altered sports science but helped re-shape the lives of many; ranging from addicts to huge companies such as Fabreze or Starbucks!

aaron attila04Dungy knew habits are a three step loop consisting of a cue, routine, and reward. All Dungy did was attack the second step, the routine, turning a complicated training program into accessible actions! Ring a bell? It’s a routine that parallels your pair techniques, breaking down a highly complicated art (sparring) and altering it into an accessible routine/habit for anyone to learn!

Even if we take a look at the most decorated Olympian of all time Michael Phelps.
Michael has been swimming since he was 7 years old, but what would set him apart from other competitors is a core habit and routine that would target his mind, calming his mentality to give him exceptional vision!

The routine: ever since being a teenager Michael constantly visualized victory to great detail, morning and night, to a point where his insight was so strong he was able to train body and mind to instinctively overcome obstacles. It just so happened on the morning of August 13, 2008 Phelps broke the 200m butterfly world record by swimming blind! (On his final length, Phelps actually had water logged goggles!) Despite the impediment, his mind had already won from the moment he shot off the block!

The TMAP structure is there to help you hone your skills as a martial artist. If you’ve sparred, you’ll know you have milliseconds to react which is a very challenging experience! Core habits, therefore, become essential to your training! There’s great deal to learn in martial arts: vision and insight through form fighting, improving footwork, technique, balance or understanding distance. However pair-techniques and basics become a powerful ally in remaking habits and routines!

It’s fundamental to consistently practice your pair-techniques, basics and form fight as often as you can. Turn it into your habit, your routine!

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What Every Martial Artist Should Know About Explosive Exercise!

Interesting Fact: What do Jamaicans, Europeans, Kenyans, well… just about everyone, have in common?

The ACTN3 Gene, you guessed it!

Whether fast twitch muscles are genetic in origin is a prominent debate, and the focus of much racial discrimination in strength and speed based competitions. However, in 2003 genetic research blasted that “stereotype threat” out the water! According to Matthew Syed (Author of Bounce), interestingly 82% of Europeans have the relevant gene ACTN3 responsible for fast twitch muscle fibres, so too do 98% of Jamaicans and 98.5% of Kenyans (Renown for ENDURANCE, not sprinting). So why are there many black sprinters? Well not to go off at a tangent, but it’s now believed to be due to the environment where the athlete was raised!

explosive03This may come as a shock to you (or if not, try to act surprised), but you’ve already been incorporating explosive proclivities in your workout! In your basics and pair techniques you’ve already made sure to increase hand speed at the right interval of training. When practicing pair techniques you’ll find your understanding of when to accelerate to control distance between you and your opponent. When increasing fitness you’ll occasionally push yourself instantaneously.

Explosive energy is a big part of martial arts and prominently makes the difference in sparring! So here’s what every modern martial artist should know about sparking explosive energy!

Slow and Fast Twitch Muscles

Muscles are actually broken down into two classes which induce power: Smooth and Striated. Where as smooth muscles are responsible for digestion or circulation, striated muscles are voluntarily contracted with the legs, arms and so on…

There are three types of power, explosive, static and dynamic; dynamic and explosive being the main focus in regard to martial arts.

explosive02The basic breakdown: your muscles are made up of two basic fibres, slow twitch and fast twitch. Slow twitch are associated with mitigated lactic acid build up, and therefore endurance based sports. Fast twitch, are associated with explosive exercise and anaerobic energy production, in turn producing power and speed of contraction.

The way of the Isotonic Warrior!

The two creations of stress you should be aware off are: isotonic and isometric exercise. Getting to the point: isotonic muscles show when one muscle contracts the complimentary muscle lengthens (normal exercise, e.g. push ups, weight lifting, etc), isometric exercise is all about exerting your muscles against an immoveable object.

Increasing strength and the Correct Way to Exercise

explosive01So what’s the point of all this information? By now you should noticed that the physical or explosive nature in martial arts is highly dependent on “positioning”. Applying yourself in the wrong manner will infringe your form, stability and becomes a completely different exercise. A slight deviation in form will make it harder to accelerate and develop those fast twitch fibres to catch your opponent off guard!

In other words, don’t cut corners and cheat when exercising, it’ll do more harm than good. When you train make sure you complete all repetitions properly. Not completely flexing your arms on a push-up may lead to an extra ten reps but will stop you from gaining more strength and power in the long run. Stick to the correct form, even if you can only do five push-ups! 5 will lead to 10, 10 to 20… and so on until eventually you’ll be doing reps in the 100s!

For the best results try to make it to the Dojo and train three times a week! However just remember, after every explosive training session minor tears in the muscles need at least forty eight hours to recover, allowing muscles to grow and build strength. It’s important not to interrupt the recovery period!

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