The Science of Strength: As easy as 1 – 2 – 3

The Science of Strength

As easy as 1 – 2 – 3

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1. Progression: Making the workout or exercise more challenging over time. This could be adding weight to strength exercises, or running faster or longer with cardiovascular training. Either way if you are not challenging your body no improvement will happen.

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2. Overload: Is when the body is challenged through intense exercise and the muscles are worked passed their current capacities. This training “environment” is what sets the scene for improvement.

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3. Recovery: After the muscles have been overloaded they need time to adapt and get stronger. This process takes between 48* – 96 hours +.

So the science of getting stronger is as follows:

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1. Train as hard as you can on each exercise to make sure overload takes place.

2. Allow the body to rest and recover. You can’t rush improvement.

3. When you return to the weight room try to add weight or repetitions to each exercise.

The science of getting stronger is really easy to understand. It is the application that is challenging. There are no secret routines or special exercises, just simple things that need to be done a certain way, for an extended period of time.

Train Hard!



(*minimum recovery period for athletes with optimal recovery ability).


I have mentioned all of the books on this list at one time or another, but decided they were so good that they deserved a single post where you can find them all. Just as my previous post about coaches I admire and appreciate, these books are presented in no particular order. Although this list is not a top ten, for aspiring strength coaches I would highly recommend the work of my friend Tom Kelso as an excellent starting off point.

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This Three-Volume set contains Nautilus Training Principles: Bulletins No. 1, 2 and 3. These high intensity training classics by Nautilus inventor Arthur Jones cover every aspect of training from the specifics of exercise performance to the general principles of program design.

Drew Baye combined and edited these with Arthur Jones’ permission (October 11, 2006) to improve readability and created one table of contents and index for each of the three Bulletins.

Whether you’re a bodybuilder, athlete, or just want to lose fat or improve your general health and fitness, the information you need is covered here.

e-book: FREE

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4th edition by Matt Brzycki

About “A Practical Approach” 4th edition

From the Inside Flap:


1 Basic Anatomy and Muscular Function
2 The Physiological Basis of Physical Training
3 Genetics and Strength Potential
4 Strength Training
5 Strength Training for Females
6 Strength Training for Youths
7 Strength Training for Older Adults
8 Free-Weight Exercises
9 Machine Exercises
10 Manual-Resistance Exercises
11 Designing and Varying the Strength Program
12 Rehabilitative Training
13 Flexibility Training
14 Aerobic Training
15 Anaerobic Training
16 Metabolic Training
17 Power Training
18 Skill Training
19 Nutritional Training
20 Nutritional Supplements
21 Nutritional Quackery
22 Weight Management
23 A Primer on Steroids
24 Strength and Fitness Q&A

Appendix A: Summary of Free-Weight Exercises
Appendix B: Summary of Machine Exercises
Appendix C: Summary of Manual-Resistance Exercises


 TAKU’s NOTE: I have several copies of Matt’s (3rd edition), and it is one of my favorites. I am a big fan of Matt’s work and have read everything of his I can get my hands on. He is a masterful writer with an excellent grasp on the intricate workings of Evidence based strength and conditioning protocols. The new fourth edition is not merely a slightly revised update, but a totally new book which is even more comprehensive then the last edition. Matt, you did what you set out to do. Well done. Thanks!

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is a collective effort of more than thirty leading experts in the strength and fitness field. These respected professionals share their insights on a variety of topics and issues related to training and exercise, including:

  • The history of strength training
  • Program design
  • High intensity training (HIT)
  • Motivation
  • Strength training for specific populations (including women, older adults, and prepubescents)
  • Bodybuilding
  • Powerlifting
  • Flexibility
  • Nutrition
  • Steroids

Maximize Your Training is for fitness enthusiasts who want to gain the knowledge, understanding, and insight necessary to achieve a competitive edge. This book is an important tool for anyone who takes bodybuilding, sports performance, and athletic training seriously.

TAKU’s NOTE: As mentioned above, I own several books by Matt Brzycki, and they are excellent. Maximize your training should be on every Strength and Conditioning coach’s top-10 book list. It is loaded with valuable information on evidence based exercise programs, and will assist those interested in how to design, implement, and update comprehensive strength programs for any goal. Although this book has been around for some time, I highly recommend that you get yourself a copy today.

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“The Path Of Most Resistance” by John Turner. Although this book is only 126 pages, like many great books it makes up in valuable information what it lacks in length. As the sub-heading says, this book is loaded with everything one might need to achieve physical superiority. There is nothing which is of no use.  Mr Turner shares his unique perspectives garnered from years of personal exploration. Those who take the time to read, absorb, and most importantly apply the lessons contained within its pages, will be rewarded (perhaps for the first time) with real results for their efforts.

In The Path of Most Resistance, Turner has the answers you’ve been looking for – – blunt, hard-hitting, honest advice including:

Full-Range Exercise

The Human Powertrain

Winning The Exercise Lottery

How To Achieve Physical Superiority

TAKU’s NOTE: I highly recommend that anyone with an interest in exercise history, Arthur Jones, Nautilus equipment, and real training information, pick up a copy of this book A.S.A.P. Read, pay attention, apply what you learn, and most importantly work hard. The results will most likely surprise you.

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UE-1 (Ultimate Exercise Bulletin #1)

UE-1 is Dr. Doug McGuff’s first published work on high intensity strength training. Read the groundbreaking book that introduced the concepts of the dose-response relationship of exercise, time under load, stoicism in training and other insights that forever changed the field of exercise.


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Body By Science, written by Doug Mc Guff and John Little, is one of best books I have encountered for explaining the theory and reasoning behind Brief, Intense, and Infrequent training. This book is well written, informative, and goes into detail about the science behind the author’s recommendations, as well as detailing exactly what to do and how to do it.

To order your copy of Body By Science please click here: Body by Science


By using a proper science-based approach to exercise you can be on your way to achieving the following in as little as 12 minutes a week:

  • Build muscle size and strength
  • Optimize cardiovascular health
  • Ramp up your metabolism
  • Lower cholesterol
  • Increase insulin sensitivity
  • Improve flexibility
  • Manage arthritis and chronic back pain
  • Build bone density
  • Reduce your risk for diabetes, cancer, heart attack, and more.

TAKU’s NOTE: Over the last year or two I have personally experimented with this style of training with myself, and my clients. I find it to be both extremely efficient, and highly effective. Many of my clients are experiencing excellent results in both strength and fitness, while participating in only one or two very brief workouts per week. For more information about this type of training visit the BODY BY SCIENCE home page.

Three of the best books I have come across all come from the same guy. His name is Tom Kelso and he is at the top of a very short list of coaches and trainers who I have found to be the best in the business.

The three books are:



The Interval Training Manual is a book I wish I had when I was just getting started. it is loaded and contains:

*132 different interval running workouts
*4 levels of difficulty each
*14 different running venues
*All target and recovery times included
*Design your own intervals using enclosed percent speed and recovery time charts.



The Strength Training Workout Encyclopedia was inspired by the question every good coach hears thousands of times during his/her career “Can you design a workout for me?” Tom went above and beyond and created a tool for both athletes and coaches alike.  There are literally thousands of workouts in almost every style you could ever need or want.

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Finally there is Tom’s e-book “TRUTH MYTH & REALITY: What Can and Cannot be Done in a Strength & Conditioning Program”. This book is based on Tom’s own research and 30+ years of “down in the trenches” experience.  If you are someone who not only welcomes the truth but DEMANDS it, then this e-book is definitely for you.

TAKU’s NOTE: After twenty-five plus years of working actively in the fitness industry I have gained some insight into what works and what doesn’t.  If you are a strength coach or an athlete, do yourself a favor and pick up a copy of these three books. You can find links to all of them by visiting:

Well, there you have it. As far as I am concerned after literally reading hundreds and hundreds of books, and articles over the years these books should be on the shelf of every strength coach.



S.P.I.C.E. things up

A common question that comes up with coaches and athletes is how do I make sure my strength and conditioning program is “sports specific”? There are only three things you need to think about improving.

  • Force enhancement via strength training
  • Energy system improvement via sport-related conditioning runs or drills
  • Skill improvement via sport-specific skill training

The development of muscular strength is the general progression of increasing the muscle’s ability to produce force. Sports skill development, on the other hand, is the specific learning of how to best coordinate and apply these forces.

In other words, strength is a non-specific adaptation developed in the weight room whereas sports skills are a specific adaptation developed through guided practice on “the field”.* As a result, a powerful athlete is developed physically in the weight room, which by a separate process is developed mechanically on “the field”.*

Unless you are competing as a power-lifter, Olympic style weight lifter etc, anything you do in the weight room will have zero direct transfer to what you are doing on “the field” of play.*

With the above in mind, here is a simple formula to keep your training on the right track.

Key points to remember too S.P.I.C.E. things up

1. Strength train in order to reduce injury, and resist fatigue in the safest method possible.

2. Practice your skills

3. Improve flexibility- perform a proper stretching routine to increase range of motion around a joint

4. Condition the energy systems used to play your sport (running intervals, cardiovascular exercises and speed training)

5. Eat nutritious foods and drink plenty of water to ensure the body has the proper amount of nutrients in order to grow stronger.


These five basic concepts will go a long way in keeping your training simple, safe, and focused on success.



TAKU’s NOTE: *(“The field” implies any athletic playing space the wrestling mat, tennis court, Fighting cage, boxing ring etc.)


Hey there…thanks for stopping by. Due to some family obligations I am temporarily not adding any new content. There are literally hundreds of articles to choose from in my archives, going all the way back to 2008. Please take a moment to look around, I am sure you will find stuff worth exploring.  I’ll be back soon with new content for you to enjoy.



Workout Frequency Revised

By Jim Bryan

Early in my weight training career I was training an average of six days a week. Sometimes twice a day. I was involved in competition in Olympic Lifting, Power Lifting, and Body Building . Sometimes there were non-sanctioned Strongman type competitions. At this time I was chemically assisted but I never felt that it helped. Others did and saw areas of big improvements. But like I said I never felt it helped and don’t recommend it.

Somewhere in 1970 I met Arthur Jones and was exposed to shorter and harder workouts. I was already training hard but the workouts took a long time to complete. I hadn’t learned to “focus” my training yet. Arthur convinced me to stop depending on chemical assistance and showed me how to train harder in a shorter time frame. He also told me about “infrequent training.” After, I was training only three days a week for about 30 to 60 minutes. At first it was mostly on free weights and some machines at Christensen’s Health Club, and on mostly free weights and early prototypes of Nautilus Machines in Deland. When I first met Arthur, Nautilus didn’t exist in reality. It was only in Arthur’s mind. Thus, we didn’t have anything special in the beginning to train on. Free weights, Universal machine, Nautilus Pullover Prototype that’s pretty much it. I was happy to be only training 3 days a week and to me this was “Infrequent Training.” Today you have trainers bragging about only working out now and then, or once a month. It has been accepted that this is “Infrequent Training.” I believe things have gotten out of hand with this thinking.

My thoughts on “Optimal Training”

Three days a week training: I feel that this is the best way to go for most people. It works for body composition, lean muscle improvements, strength, and conditioning. Most people don’t train hard enough to run the risk of over training and three days is not that hard to get in. This can be all weights or a mix of weights and body weight training. Throw in some implements to make things interesting and on your off days get outside and enjoy being active. Don’t be afraid to be active. Practice sensible eating and you should do well.

Two Days a week training: This also works and for very busy people it may be ideal. Also, for the rare few (and I mean few) that train the way we used to in Deland, this is or can be a good frequency of training. Again, you can do all weights or mix with body weight training. It becomes more important to stay active on your non – training days if you are after a “lean look.” You can accomplish your goals of adding strength and maintaining muscle on two days a week training. Some will even add muscle but you need to make these workouts count. Focus your training and try to do as much as you can in the space of your workout. Training should take anywhere from 30 to 60 minutes. Some really hard workouts can be completed in 15 minutes and change.

When you are training only twice a week, “conditioning” starts to suffer in my opinion. I recommend participating in some kind of out door activity. Something like jogging, water skiing, swimming, soccer, surfing, boogie boarding, walking, or biking. Get outside, burn some calories, stay fit and stay active. Twice a week can work but you have to practice sensible eating if you want to shed some fat.

Once a week training: I don’t find this to be optimal. Sometimes you can’t help it. Life gets busy and you can only get one a week in. I feel that you can continue to add strength on one training session a week as long as you REALLY focus on weight progression in your exercises. I feel that body composition suffers for most people. You will tend to get fat and your conditioning will suffer, as well as your “work capacity.” You’ll really have to cut your calories if you want a lean look. So much so, that you may find you don’t have enough energy for a HEAVY workout. Your strength can suffer also. It’s around this area that “Infrequent Training” starts to become too infrequent. You better be active as heck if you only workout once a week or you will become…………………………………fat.

Less than once a week training: Look! I’m going to be honest here. I don’t care how many books or articles you have that say you can succeed on this. What you will end up with is ………Books and Articles.

You’ll have very little muscle, and your conditioning will be zero. You just can not do it in five minutes a day whenever you feel like it as some would have you believe, and you can not do it with workouts that never happen. Having the best Fitness Library means zilch if all you ever do is read and talk your workout. You have to work out! You have to raise your heart rate. You have to spend some sweat and effort. You have to be consistent. You have to pay attention to what and how much you eat. All the best intentions in the world will not make up for lack of effort in the gym.

AND neither will the latest “Fitness Craze.” The experts on the Internet will go on and on about “I use this and I use that” but the bottom line is weight training works. Combine weight training with body weight training and conditioning and just do it. It has worked for over 50 years as I know it and continues to work. Gimmicks come and go but Sensible Strength Training will go on and on. BUT you have to show up, work out, and be consistent! Argue less on the Body Building sites and you will probably find the extra few minutes needed to “Just go lift.” I don’t care how you do it or who’s method you use, “Just go Lift.”

All said and done if you have been training consistently and regularly, don’t be afraid to take some time off to recharge now and then. Best effort equals best results. Not everyone will end up developing “Huge Muscles.” Some will and some won’t. It depends on your potential and effort. AND!!! Women don’t end up looking like a man because they lift weights. So just throw that excuse out the window. Women look good with some lean muscle on them.

TAKU’s NOTE: Thanks to my friend Jim Bryan for once again sharing his insights with us.

Ten Commandments of Training

1. Have a Plan

It is important to have a list of goals and the steps to reach the goals. Doing this is the key to self confidence and motivation. Keeping a log of how you do in following your plan helps to see what does and does not work for you. This will help you to create better plans in the future. The best logs include not only information about strength and cardio training but nutrition, sleep and motivation as well.


2. Train in cycles

Plan a 6 – 12 month training cycle. It is difficult to maintain top shape or train at maximum levels all year around. We all need periods of physical and psychological recovery. Build an adequate base of endurance and strength before adding work. Peaking for sports performance means increasing workout intensity as well as sharpening technique. This type of training is only used for short periods of time, (4 to 12 weeks), to prepare for competition. After a period of competing there should be a period of reduced training, rest and recovery leading into another cycle of base and strength building which should see you improving on your previous personal bests.

3. Use the Hard/Easy system

For training effect to take place, a period of overload needs to be followed by a period of rest, during which the actual adaptation to the stress takes place. Exercise physiology research has shown that the hard/easy cycle for training needs to be 48 hours or more. It has also demonstrated that alternating hard and easy workouts is more effective training than doing the same workout each day. Thus alternating hard and easy days is appropriate training for all fitness participants and can maximize results while minimizing burnout. The most common beginner mistake is to do the same intensity and the same duration every day.

4. Train specifically

Ask yourself, does this training make sense for the activity I’m planning to do? If not, do something that makes sense. Adaptation needs to be specific to attain your goals. You must train duration specific energy transport systems and you must train volume and intensity specific neuro-muscular responses. This means if you are a boxer, don’t train like a marathon runner. And if you are a marathon runner, don’t train like a power lifter.

5. Don’t train any more than you have to

Efficient trainers are healthy trainers. There are no bonus points for doing a longer workout than you’d planned. Most injuries seem to occur when people feel good and over do it. Remember that how you feel is a poor physiological measure of how you are. Err on the side of conservatism. If you feel bad, do less. If you feel good, stick to your plan. Don’t do more. Always emphasize quality over quantity.

6. When doing cardio, Focus more on speed and intensity over distance and time

The risk of injury from over-training must always be factored against the gains made. By focusing your “aerobic” training on speed and intensity over distance you will receive the maximum physiological improvements possible in the minimum time. You train all the energy transport systems you need for aerobic endurance by alternating bouts of more intense speed-work with active recovery periods, during any cardio activity. By combining intervals alternating slow periods and short fast periods you avoid the risks (not to mention the boredom) associated with the high stresses of long drawn out cardio training sessions.

7. Add variety

Varying a number of aspects of your training avoids injury and keeps you mentally interested. For strength training try experimenting with different modalities such as resistance bands, sand bags, medicine balls etc. For cardio training as well as trying different equipment you can vary pace, distance, courses, terrain etc. For an intense and challenging twist try cross training by combining alternative cardio and strength activities into brief, intense and challenging circuits. This type of training can directly increase your overall fitness and resistance to injury and burnout allowing you to train consistently for long periods.

8. Make your training enjoyable

If you are not enjoying the training, you will not be able to maintain your commitment. Variety, mentioned above, will help. Also consider things like a once a week fitness “adventure” where you try something you have never tried before. Take a class you have been curious about or explore a martial art. Join a sports team an outdoors training group or a run for fun group.

9. Hire a Coach or Personal Trainer

At least educate yourself on training techniques and your body’s responses so that you can coach yourself. If you cannot follow the rules and need more help, hire a Trainer or Coach. A Trainer / Coach should help you set up and follow a program based on your ability and your goals. A Couch / Trainer’s primary goal should be to keep you healthy and motivated.

10. When in doubt, rest

This is the golden rule of training. Do unto your body as you would have it do unto you. Listen to your body. If it is saying, “I’ve got a problem, what now?” The usual answer should be to take a day off, either your head or your anatomy need it.




Product SPOTLIGHT: Solo Strength



This week I want to shine my spotlight on a very cool product I recently discovered, SOLO STRENGTHSoloStrength is an innovative device designed to allow the user to do a wide array of body-weight exercises. The SoloStrength is built to last and easily adjustable for a wide variety of exercises as well as to allow for all fitness levels from beginner to elite.

With the addition of a few simple tools such as resistance bands or a suspension training device, one could have nearly limitless exercise options. Add to this the ability to do maximum static contractions across various ranges of motion and one can see how this device can easily build maximum strength in minimum time.

Check out the videos on YouTube and give them a call to find out more.






No matter what sport you engage in from Golf to Ice Hockey, American Football to international Futbol (that’s soccer to all you Americans)…all athletes will benefit from a simple solid conditioning program. In fact, even if you are not currently practicing any sport in particular, a simple conditioning plan will benefit everyone when it comes to total fitness.

Most folks who have been reading my work for a while know that I am a proponent of interval style training programs. I know that interval training has become cool of late, but I have actually been recommending brief intense conditioning plans since the late 1980’s.

Interval training plans for sports are often designed with specific distances such as sprint for 60 meters, recover for a specified time, and repeat. Rather than use distance as a goal, I prefer to use time. Using time instead of distance will help people of varied fitness levels and body types stay within the desired range. If you are a 300 lb. Offensive lineman playing american Football, running 100 meters may take you a little longer than it would a 160 lb. striker playing World Futbol. By using specific times (instead of distance) we can insure similar energy systems being activated and keep the work consistent. for everyone. Finally using time instead of distance allows us to choose from a broad array of training tools or modes both indoors and out.

Most athletes will utilize a wide variety of energy systems along the intensity continuum. Remember this is a general conditioning program. It will help build a base of conditioning for almost any activity. Participants playing such sports as American Football, Basketball, Field Hockey, Rugby, Lacrosse etc. may all benefit from this type of program, especially in the off-season.

Once you are nearing the pre-season or are in-season, the playing and practicing of your specific sport should take precedence. Practicing specific sports will always be the best way to prepare for those specific activities. For instance someone training for pure speed such as a 100 meter sprint specialist, will first and foremost want to polish technique and running mechanics. The actual practice of sprinting is designed to be an all-out 100% maximum effort. To prepare for running at full speed, one must practice running at full speed. To allow this to occur maximum recovery between bouts will be required.

Below I have outlined an 8-WEEK Conditioning Program. It is set up with specific work to rest ratios. Each week we will increase the volume of sprints while reducing the actual exertion times. Your goal is to go at the most brisk pace you can tolerate, and still maintain work for the desired time. As you progress through the program (and your conditioning improves) you should be striving to go as fast and as hard as possible during the work phase of each bout of intervals. During the recovery period just walk (or pedal etc.) very slowly while you catch your breath and prepare for the next work phase.

If you are an open field athlete I highly recommend that you do your best to perform this workout on a running track or sports field.

For general fitness enthusiasts, any tool of choice may be used. Recommended tools include but are not limited to:

Rowing Ergo-meter
Elliptical Cross-Trainer


In this program I recommend that you perform the conditioning program on two, non-consecutive days in your training week such as Monday and Thursday. You may do strength and conditioning on the same day, or you may separate them. Here are two examples of ways one might combine these types of training in an overall S&C plan:


Monday: Conditioning
Tuesday: Strength Training
Wednesday: REST
Thursday: Conditioning
Friday: Strength Training
Saturday / Sunday: REST

Wash – Rinse – Repeat


Week One

Monday: Conditioning
Tuesday: REST
Wednesday: Strength Training
Thursday: REST
Friday: Conditioning

Saturday / Sunday: REST

Week Two 

Monday: Strength Training
Tuesday: REST
Wednesday: Conditioning
Thursday: REST
Friday: Strength Training

Wash – Rinse – Repeat

Note: The prescription is written so that the work period is first, followed by the rest period. For example in week one, day one you will work for two minutes, followed by a rest period of 4:00 minutes.  After completing the first week of the program, when successive bouts are called for you will complete the specified number of bouts at a given work to rest ratio, then rest three to five minutes before moving on to the next series.

Week 1

Day 1 – 1 x 2:00 / 4:00 & 2 x 1:00 / 2:00

Day 2 – 2 x 2:00 / 4:00 & 3 x 1:00 / 2:00

Week 2

Day 1 – & 2

6 x 00:20 / 01:00

Week 3

Day – 1 & 2

4 x 00:36 / 01:48

3-5 minutes rest

8 x 00:18 / 00:54

Week 4

Day – 1 & 2

4 x 00:36 / 01:48

3-5 minutes rest

8 x 00:18 / 00:54

Week 5

Day – 1 & 2

4 x 00:34 / 01:42

3-5 minutes rest

8 x 00:16 / 00:48

Week 6

Day – 1 & 2

4 x 00:32 / 01:36

3-5 minutes rest

8 x 00:15 / 00:42

3-5 minutes rest

6 x 00:07 / 00:21

Week 7

Day – 1 & 2

4 x 00:30 / 01:30

3-5 minutes rest

8 x 00:14 / 00:42

3-5 minutes rest

6 x 00:07 / 00:21

Week 8

Day – 1 & 2

4 x 00:30 / 01:30

3-5 minutes rest

8 x 00:14 / 00:42

3-5 minutes rest

6 x 00:07 / 00:21

*Rest 3-5 minutes between each series.



P.S. My personal S&C program is very similar to that shown in example # 2. above


By Mike Suyematsu

Hello hybrid fitness folks. My name is Mike Suyematsu, from now on I’ll just be Coach Mike. I’m not going to bore you with my bio. You can read that on the website if you feel like it.

Thank you for giving me the chance to share with you some of the lessons I’ve learned in over 45 years of training and applying self protection principles.

Like many people who practice and study self-defense I was bullied as a child. It was very important to me to learn not how to fight but how to survive as I was having problems with bullies on almost a daily basis as a young boy. I looked at martial arts as a way to learn to fight better, something to give me an edge in the ongoing war against the constant stream of idiots who tried to make my life hell.

Rather than regale you with dry lectures I will tell you stories from my past and events that actually happened to me. At the end I will include lessons on either how I screwed up or how I succeeded or what I learned from what happened to me in the hope that you’ll benefit from my experience.

I will also include stories and lessons from trusted friends I have met through the years. These are all guys who have, ” been there and done that ” and we should all pay careful attention to what they have to say.

Let’s begin with some simple stories about awareness…

I was around 9 years old walking to the store to buy some candy. It was during the summer and I was alone probably in the later part of the morning say around 11:00 AM. Because it was a nice day and I was thinking more about how to spend my money than what was going on around me, I didn’t here the approaching steps from behind. In fact, the only time I realized there was something wrong was when I was shoved to the sidewalk, face first. I managed to get my hands down in time to keep my head from crashing into the sidewalk but they were scraped and bleeding when I finally came to a stop.

I turned to my back but before I could react I was grabbed by the legs and arms and lifted into the air. I was able to wriggle one leg free but it was too late as I was thrown into a sewer ditch that was being excavated for a new building about a block away from the store I was headed to.

My bad luck continued when my my head hit a pipe at the bottom of the ditch. I was not knocked out however, and was able see who had assaulted me.

Gary and Ron were fifth graders in the elementary school I attended. I was in the third grade, but these guys were famous for being bullies at our school and they did not mind picking on smaller, younger kids.

I sustained some minor scrapes and bruises and the right side of my head was cut open and bled like crazy as I walked back home, tears of anger and pain streaming out of my eyes and worst of all, no candy to show for all the hassle I had just been through.

As it turns out I was targeted by the bullies because they had heard that my Japanese father, (my mother was Irish which confused all the rednecks in the little town I grew up in) was teaching me Judo. I already had some what of a reputation at my school and fought a lot, primarily with kids my age, who just didn’t appreciate the whole mixed race thing.

Gary and Ron wanted to make sure this Judo crap wouldn’t interfere with their bullying activities and my lack of resistance proved to them that they had nothing to fear from what they thought I was learning.

As it turns out, my dad did some boxing but never studied Judo or Karate. My fighting success had come mostly from trial and error with the exception of my patented punch to the stomach which carried me through all my fights in elementary school except for one, but that’s another story.

Now, it took me several months to get partial revenge on these idiots. Ron actually got into so much trouble with the law he ended up going to what we called ” reform school ” at the time.

That left Gary alone.

I waited until winter time before I could catch Gary just like he caught me. I followed him home one snowy day. The wind was blowing hard so we all had our hoods on and it was freezing so the goal was to get home as fast as possible.

Gary never saw or heard me as I ran up on him when he started up the front steps to his house. I shoved him from behind, just like he and Ron had done to me. The steps were icy and Gary’s feet just flew out from under him and he came down on the steps hard, hurting his knee.

He just laid there crying, holding his knee and I got scared and ran home.

I never had any trouble with Gary again. I don’t know if Ron is even still alive, but I still owe him one…

Now what does that little story tell us about self protection/ self defense?

It is really not possible for me to overemphasize how important awareness really is.

When I was attacked I had no chance to react to anything Ron and Gary did. It would not have mattered if I really had known Judo or anything else. Without awareness I was just a target and an easy victim.

Look at what happened to Gary. Because he was cold and wanted to get home, he ignored the fact I was following him if he even noticed. Again, he lacked awareness. Even though I was smaller and weaker, it was easy to to get Gary because he just didn’t see it coming.

Some of you may find it odd that I am starting my posts on self protection with the experiences of a 9 year old Coach Mike. The point is that the principles of self protection / self defense are universal. They apply equally to children and adults. They apply to men and women. They transcend time.

You see you can train your take downs, your right cross, your kicks and fancy moves. You can go to the range and learn to shoot your gun. You can carry a gun and three knives.

Without awareness all your preparation is worthless.


Even though they were just kids, Gary and Ron displayed perfect Predatory Behavior.

How much difference is there between me being taken unaware and thrown in a hole and a rich businessman in a foreign country being taken by surprise and thrown in a panel van?

Or how about the coed jogging with the iPod with the music blaring who gets doesn’t see the two guys coming up behind her so they can throw her in the bushes?

Let’s look at some of the elements common in ambush style attacks. First has to be motivation. When I was attacked it was a combination of bullying and curiosity. For kidnappers it’s probably money. A rapist is motivated by his own sick desires. When I attacked Gary it was purely revenge.

You have to pay attention to what is going on in your life. If you have been targeted like I was you have to stay alert because sometimes the haters in the world act out, sometimes with violence. Don’t think it can’t ever happen to you.

If you are known to carry large sums of cash or wear expensive jewelry you need to stay aware. Bad guys generally hate work and need money.

Females of all ages have to be made aware that they attract attention. Sometimes it is the wrong kind of attention. Sometimes it’s a stalker. Keep in mind that even though you may feel that you have the right to jog wherever you want, dress however you want, leave your drink out if you want, you may be exposing yourself to danger by making yourself a target.

The point is that for self defense / personal protection you must deal with the reality of what is, not the idea of what should be. Deny reality and you just might pay the price. Being apathetic will also help to diminish or cancel awareness altogether.


The OODA LOOP was created by Colonel John Boyd who was a fighter pilot and an expert on military strategy. OODA is an acronym standing for Observe-Orient-Decide-Act. Simply stated, you Observe a situation, then Orient or begin to analyze which leads you to Decide what to do, and then Act.

This is a gross simplification of a brilliant process that I will write more about another time. For our purposes today you can see that if you don’t Observe the problem  or situation you have no chance to Act.

This is the reason why Awareness trumps all other self protection skills. You simply can not take action of any kind if you don’t see it coming. Of course just being aware of the problem is just the first step in the process. But it is the most critical.

Perhaps the most overlooked aspect of Awareness as I am breaking it down here is “sellf awareness”.  Being aware of what is going on inside you is just as important as what is going on in the outside you. You need to Listen to your internal warning system, your instincts.

Gavin DeBecker’s excellent book entitled “The Gift of Fear” offers the best information out there with regards to listening to your inner voice and trusting your instincts. Mr DeBecker goes in to great detail about how fear signals are there to alert and protect us. It is a must read for anyone interested in self defense and personal protection. It may be out of print currently, but I know it is available on Amazon in the Kindle Books section. I lost my old print copy and got the digital version a few months ago. Please do yourself and your loved ones a favor and give it a read.

Next try  this mental exercise I learned from Tony Blauer years ago in his Personal Defense Readiness program. There are three phases. They are:

1. Evaluate your routine. Here you are going to start thinking like a bad guy who is attempting to rob, rape or murder you. You need to examine your routine to find the obvious places where you might be vulnerable to an attack. Your lifestyle will determine where and how often you will be a potential target. Flip the scenario and figure out when and where you would attack you. Then take steps to change your routine to make it harder for the bad guy to get to you.

2. Evaluate your mind. If you have already read “Gift of Fear” you will have a head start on this phase. Here is where you carefully examine your ability to deal with confrontations. Are you overly aggressive or extremely passive? If you are short tempered and blow up easily it may cause problems. On the other hand if you appear weak and project a lack of confidence you will actually attract trouble.

I will address the issue of body language and not looking like an easy target in great detail in another article. I will also break down the mind/ body connection and offer suggestions on how to build authentic confidence through proper training.  For now just take a good look at yourself and how you deal with confrontation.

3. Finally, evaluate your arsenal. In this phase you will need to look at what you bring to the table physically, emotionally and mentally in a real street confrontation. If you have correctly done your homework in the Evaluate your routine phase, then it will simplify the process of figuring out what skills you have and what you need to survive. You can prioritize your personal protection training by analyzing the threats you will most likely come into contact with.

What is going on in your current environment? Armed robbery? Home invasion? Car jacking? Maybe it is simple purse snatching.  In my area, there has been a rash of robberies by predators looking for gold chains. Just a short time ago a 60 year old man was murdered in broad daylight as he did his morning walk, just for the gold chain he wore around his neck. If he had been aware of the crime spree and left his chain at home he might still be alive today.

Your training must include a plan for dealing with single unarmed attacks, single armed attacks, multiple attackers armed and unarmed and all the different environments you may come into contact with. Again, I will break environmental training and scenario and replication training in future articles. For now start your evaluation process and begin to activate your awareness skills.

As you can see, the concept of awareness is multi layered and multi faceted. I have attempted to give a quick overview of what the general concept of awareness entails.

It will cost you nothing but time and analysis to get started on a safer path through life. Awareness, both internal and external is without a doubt your first and most important line of self defense.

Get started today and stay safe,

Coach Mike

TAKU’s NOTE: Thanks to my good friend Mike S. for sharing more of his experience with us here. Looking forward to more in the future.

High Intensity Strength Training For Better Body Composition

Submitted with permission by: Wayne L. Westcott, Ph.D.

During the past several years we have learned a lot about the effects of strength training and body composition. For example, a carefully controlled study at Tufts University showed significant changes in body composition from a basic program of strength exercise (Campbell et al. 1994).

The subjects added three pounds of lean weight, lost four pounds of fat weight, increased their resting metabolic rate by seven percent and increased their daily energy requirements by 15 percent after 12 weeks of strength training.

Research with over 1100 previously sedentary adults revealed similar body composition improvements from eight weeks of standard strength training (Westcott and Guy 1996). The program participants increased their lean weight by 2.4 pounds and decreased their fat weight by 4.6 pounds.

Of course, unfit individuals tend to improve their body composition at faster rates than people who are presently doing strength exercise. Many people want to know if strength training can further enhance body composition in well-conditioned exercisers.

Previous studies have demonstrated that various high-intensity training techniques are more effective than standard training protocols for increasing muscle strength in both beginning and advanced participants (Westcott 1996, 1997a, 1997b; Westcott and La Rosa Loud 1997). As shown in Figures 1 and 2, slow training produced greater strength gains than standard training for both beginning and advanced trainees. As illustrated in Figures 3 and 4, breakdown training resulted in greater strength gains than standard training for both beginning and advanced exercisers. Likewise, assisted training generated greater strength gains than standard training for both beginning and advanced subjects (see Figures 5 and 6).

We have recently examined the effects of combined high-intensity training techniques on body composition changes in well-conditioned participants. The six-week advanced exercise program included slow training, breakdown training, assisted training, and pre-exhaustion training. The 48 subjects added 2.5 pounds of lean weight and lost 3.3 pounds of fat weight as a result of their training efforts, which represented more improvement than we expected from regular strength exercisers.

We have been pleased with our participants’ positive response to the combined approach of high-intensity strength training techniques. Our standard exercise protocol is outlined in Table I.

We observed that many program participants selected the pre-exhaustion technique for their sixth week of high intensity training. Although we do not have data that show this training method to be better than the others, there may be some benefit in performing more pre-exhaustion sessions. Psychologically, changing exercises at the point of muscle fatigue may be more appealing than performing more repetitions of the same movement pattern with less weight or with manual resistance. Physiologically, performing two different exercises for the target muscle group recruits more muscle fibers which may enhance the training stimulus. In addition to more exercises, pre-exhaustion programs require more training time and may therefore be the best high-intensity technique for burning calories.

Table I: Standard Exercise Protocol

Week Days

Training Technique

Total Exercises

Total Time

1. M & F Breakdown (10 reps to fatigue plus 3 reps with 10-20% less weight)


20 Minutes

2. M & F Assisted  (10 reps to fatigue plus 3 reps with  manual assistance)


20 Minutes

3. M & F Slow Positive  (5 reps to fatigue with 10 seconds lifting and 4 seconds lowering)


20 Minutes

4. M & F Slow Negative  (5 reps to fatigue  with 4 seconds lifting and 10 seconds lowering)


20 Minutes

5. M & F Pre-Exhaustion (10 reps to fatigue with first exercise plus 5 reps with second exercise)


25 Minutes

6. M & F Personal Preference  (Trainee chooses the technique that seemed most productive)


20-25 Minutes

As many of our intermediate level strength trainees want to improve their body composition, we presently provide high-intensity training programs with more emphasis on pre-exhaustion techniques (Table II). The results are encouraging, but we try to be cautious about overtraining. Our members seem to respond well to six weeks of high-intensity training followed by six weeks of standard training to maintain their new level of strength and fitness.

Although we have not previously provided nutritional counseling to our high-intensity training participants, this would undoubtedly be beneficial for clients who want to lose fat as well as build muscle. A combination of individualized high-intensity strength exercise and sound dietary guidelines should produce significant improvements in body composition.

Table II: High Intensity Training Techniques






Breakdown Training Perform about 10 reps to fatigue with standard weightload. Immediately  reduce resistance 10-20%  and perform about 3 more reps to second level of fatigue. Complete 10 leg extensions with 150 lbs., then 3 more reps with 120 lbs. Change resistance as quickly as possible  to maximize the training effect.
Assisted Training Perform about 10 reps to fatigue with standard weightload. Trainer assists with 3 post fatigue reps on lifting  phase only. Complete 10 leg extensions with 150 lbs., then 3 more reps – with manual assistance from trainer. Assistance is given only on the positive muscle action where it is necessary, but not on the stronger nega- tive muscle action when it’s unnecessary.
Slow Positive Training Perform about 5 reps to fatigue with 10% less than standard weight-load, taking 10 seconds for each positive muscle action and 4 seconds for each negative muscle action. Complete 5 leg extensions with 135 lbs., counting 10 secs up and 4 secs down for each rep. Be sure to breathe continuously throughout every repetition.
Slow Negative Training Perform about 5 reps to fatigue with 5% less than standard weightload, taking 4 seconds for each positive muscle action 10 seconds for each negative muscle action. Complete 5 leg extensions with 142.5 lbs., counting 4 secs up and 10 secs and down for each rep. Use smooth and continuous move- ments, rather than choppy stop and go movements.
Pre-Exhaustion Training Perform two successive exercises for target muscle groups, typically a rotary exercise followed immed- iately by a linear exercise. Use 10 reps to fatigue in the first exercise and 5 reps to fatigue in the second. Complete 10 leg extensions with 150 lbs., then 5 leg presses with 300 lbs. Take as little time as possible between the two successive exercises to maximize the

Table III: Examples of Pre-Exhaustion Exercise Combinations

1. Leg extension followed by leg press. 2. Leg curl followed by leg press. 3. Dumbbell lunge followed by barbell squat. 4. Dumbbell fly followed by barbell bench press. 5. Dumbbell pullover followed by lat pulldown. 6. Dumbbell lateral raise followed by dumbbell press. 7. Dumbbell curl followed by chin up. 8. Dumbbell overhead extension followed by bar dip.

Wayne L. Westcott, Ph.D., is fitness research director at the South Shore YMCA in Quincy, MA. Dr. Westcott has written the Muscular Strength And Endurance chapter for the ACE Personal Trainer Manual and has authored several textbooks on strength training.


Campbell, W., M. Crim, V. Young & W. Evans. (1994). Increased energy requirements and changes in body composition with resistance training in older adults. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 60: 167-175.

Westcott, W. (1996). Strength training for life: Make your method count. Nautilus Magazine, Spring 5: 2, 3-5.

Westcott, W. and Guy, J. (1996) A physical evolution: Sedentary adults see marked improvements in as little as two days a week. IDEA Today 14: 9, 58-65.

Westcott, W. (1997a). Research: Research on advanced strength training. American Fitness Quarterly, 15: 4, 15-18.

Westcott, W. (1997b). Strength training 201. Fitness Management, 13:7, 33-35.

Westcott, W. and La Rosa Loud, R. (1997). A better way to beef up strength workouts. Perspective, 23: 5, 32-34.

TAKU’s NOTE: This week I offer yet another excellent article from my friend and mentor Dr Wayne Westcott.