The current rage in conditioning training, especially when talking about combat conditioning, is to completely change up the workout for each and every session. This has the advantage of keeping the training fresh and throwing the body into chaos each time so it never knows what hit it.
The hardcore advocates of this type of conditioning stress that this environment will create a very broad and general fitness that prepares the trainee for almost every physical contingency, both known and unknowable.
This enables one to prepare for the chaos and uncertainty of combat by training in an uncertain and chaotic environment.
Seems to make a lot of sense on the surface, right?
However, one of the glaring problems with this type of training is that random training yields random results. It’s difficult to measure progress when the parameters are constantly shifting.
In order for the body to produce an adaptation for improved performance in life, sport, or martial art, we must apply specific stimulus as per the SAID Principle (Specific Adaptation to Imposed Demand). This basically means that the body adapts with a specific type of fitness to any demand which is imposed on it. When the same exercise is performed for too long, the body adapts to the stresses of each set and the adaptations or returns get smaller and smaller. Once it has adapted to the stress, then it’s time to change or increase the stress or else we fall into that trap of diminishing returns.
Usually though it takes the body a period of 4-to-6 weeks to adapt and then it is advisable to begin changing exercises. This does not mean that we need to completely throw away everything we have been doing; far from it. An exercise or drill can be changed by increasing intensity, increasing volume, decreasing rest periods, or increasing complexity or sophistication.
What this suggests is that a properly organized training program with incremental progression of increasing complexity and sophistication may actually prepare the body better than a set of random skills strewn together with a nebulous outcome in mind.
Yet we still crave the chaos, right?
So why not have it both ways?
Let’s program chaos into our training to instill the element of surprise and shock to the body. But, and this is key, we will ONLY do it once a week. This is enough to add the benefits of chaos training without suffering the negative aspects. The rest of the time you must follow a properly programmed training regimen to ensure all the multifaceted fitness qualities required to keep you strong, agile, mobile, and hostile are being met.
How do we program the chaos?
One of my favorite ways to do this is by picking 5-6 different exercises and setting an interval timer for 5 rounds of 3 minutes or 5 rounds of 5 minutes (depending on your fitness level). Instead of setting a rep scheme, move from one exercise to the next in any order you like performing as many or as little reps of each exercise.
If you need active recovery during the round or simply can’t figure out what to do for a few seconds – do Jumping Jacks. The only caveat is that you must not stop for the duration of the round. Take a 1 minute break between rounds to recover your breathing, then go again.
Here’s an example Chaos Training Workout:
1. Kettlebell Swings or Snatches
2. Jab/Cross Combo on Wave Bag
3. Sit Thrus
4. Med Ball Slams
5. Sandbag Burpees
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