Yep, you can have your baseball players, your football stars, and OF COURSE your golf wizards, and hell, while we’re at it, you can even pretend that bowling is an athletic challenge. Then, when you finally come to a complete stop from your brain-dead bus ride, you can witness and appreciate what real fitness can and should be. Molded out of necessity, cultivated for multidimensional uses, and developed for a better and more efficient you...
That is to say, PUSHING the envelope and taking a risk of the physical nature that requires a no-bullshit-zone of truth about what you need and should do, as opposed to simply adjusting your treadmill to “Amazonian Treachery Level 7” and hoping that poor excuse of a trainer is impressed and will later brag to other trainers about the veracity of your badassness (after all, they are “certified” of course). This scene plays itself out while you never leave the comfort of your 75 degree, well-lit, yawn-fest of a gym. What a “thrill seeker” you are!
Mr. de Grasse has once again slammed his fist down and demanded: no limit, truthful,and original (if not edgy) workout programs that adhere to an outcome that has a meaning instead of a score. I can almost make out the impatience in his plea: DO THIS! The rage, emanating from his jugular veins. The redness of impatience with the athletic status quo. Damn right, brother man! Let’s kick some comfy ass...
Not to worry! As, once again, I dip into the Hanzo sake of pain and punishment from my vast and extensive history of training real and diverse athletes. To unearth these tasty morsels that were designed for the uber-athletes of athletes. A man who spent 9 months on the God Damn polar cap trying to find the center (what, no map Will?). Apparently, 100 mile an hour winds, blinding storms, and eating one or two of your dogs because the food drop got cancelled, then lost, and then just plain gave up is a real hindrance in this kind of endeavor. Nonetheless, the arctic explorer is a rarified badass pushing beyond; way beyond what you would think of as their limits of endurance and fortitude (let alone their mechanical abilities).
So, when my friend and student, Mr. Will Steger (the first man to trek the south pole with dog sleds) got a hold of me, he had a couple of issues:
1) Time frame. I had 90 days (the summer basically) to meet his demands.
2) Fix his frozen shoulders. There was more flexibility in my Bourget Hard Tail Chopper than there was in Willy’s shoulders. I shit you NOT!
3) Create a flexibility that would be accessible at the drop of a hat. This last one would prove to be the most challenging for Will; basically, when you tense up your body for nine months straight, shit’s not gonna want to go back, if you catch my drift (Get it? Catch my drift? Never mind). Plus, Will was literally layered in clothing during these long periods of time and not moving much. All of these things added up to permanent body stress. Motor response is also at a loss at extreme temperatures. Also, there’s these nasty little things on the polar cap called crevasses (deep cracks in the ice that open without a warning or an option to avoid them and eat everything in the vicinity - your sled, team mates, etc). Will had to rescue a dog that fell down one, then froze up and refused to let go of the sides of the ice, which leads to...
4) Strength that is pliable and complete. Bench pressing your bodyweight ain’t gonna do any good at this point. You had best be able to understand how your body works when cold, stressed, and fatigued (not to mention dealing with a dog that weighs as much as you all while you’re wearing ridiculously bulky clothing).
Pilates anyone? Not so much. Hanzo, always!
The next fucked-up-obstacle that was really going to be a factor was frozen waves called Strgugeis. These things pound on your thighs, mile after mile. Think of it as hanging 10 at 100 below with no visibility. Ride ‘em, moondoggy.
Did I mention that at age 64, he was going to parasail the ice flows in Greenland? You know, a chute hook on your ass and a pair of skis, accompanied by ten college kids. The kit itself, plus the demand of controlling it, would be my easiest problem to resolve. A kettlebell and a jump rope would be my Rx. Ok, why not brother? Bring in, and I’ll design a program. This is the kind of assignment I do better that anyone. I create only what’s needed and nothing extraneous. No B.S. When it comes to a friend and his safety, forget about it (thank you Al Pacino in Donnie Brasco)!
With this project well defined (albeit with a bit of skepticism on Will’s part), I got him dialed in in the following manner. I had to see first hand what I was working with. Next, the Hanzo vault of super secret common sense is accessed to begin to undo what time and the elements had done (the elements beat the shit out of this man’s body and he was still setting records and the leading force in his field).
Anyone with a traditional background of training would have rested on their accomplishments decades earlier, but not Will. The mental toughness of this man is beyond comprehension. This would prove to be a huge asset in this rehabilitation. Will does it and moves on. This is the one lesson that matters more than any other. Just do it good, bad, or indifferent; move forward, and at the end of the day, it’s just that, the end of the day.
The very first thing to do was fix the shoulders. They were, as I said, frozen solid. The range of motion was 50 percent (maybe). Will had his doubts that I could do this, but hey,they don’t call me Hanzo for nothing (or is that bonehead, I can’t remember).
My first thing was to break out the bosu and very light kettlebell. From there, we would do sets getting a reverse arch in his spine, letting him aclimate to the reverse angling of the body/torso. The kettlebell was 16kg; just enough to slowly open the range of motion on his locked down rotators and neck from there. I would put him on the flat floor and stretch his arms over his head, pulling gently on the and the right back to the bosu. As the progress manifested itself, I used benches and the floor, as well as the bosu, to do pull overs.
First set: bosu pullovers. 2-5 sets. 30 lbs. Stretch: 1-2 minutes.
Second set: floor pullovers. 2-3 sets. 16kg kettlebells. Repeat stretch.
Third set: Bench allowing the shoulders to come to full rotation and stretching the pectoral muscles to their limits. Light weights until the strength component is apparent. 2-4 sets. Repeat until his body loosened up and I could bend him without causing more damage, as opposed to fucking him up more. Duhh.
In between sets, I would have him hang from the pull up bar and then do push ups. Cobra type. Knees of the floor, again, working the arch in his spine and naturally opening his shoulders and adding a new strength component he never had.
Next up: hanging pull ups. Changing grips while suspended. This increases dexterity under duress, not to mention hand, back, and forearm strength. The other side effect of free hanging was that it mimicked the conditions of Will’s environment. A lat pull down offers no value to Will (or pretty much anyone else for that matter). At first, I could only get 4-6 sets of max reps. These involved rest and me calling out the changes: “Overhand, Underhand, Alternate hands, Close overhand, Wide Neutral, Wide Reverse.” The continual hanging did wonders for his shoulders and overall confidence in his ability to resist the limitations of his body’s adaptability. Plus, he could do a shit load of pull ups (the right way) by the end of the summer. In between the hanging, we did swings; heavy low reps, high output. This acted as a pallet cleanser. The swing acting as a stabilizer. Plus, the power that would be needed on his skis blasting across the ice being pulled by a parasail and freezing wind.
Next in line: swings to push ups. This is cardio strength 101. Look no further than this combo Hanzo original. A heavy kettlebell (40k) for 5 deep swings, kettlebell down and place your body in a prone position over the kettlebell and (you guessed it) push ups! Five painfully slow push ups. This whole set is done at a nasty and slow pace. Feel the love, Will? Do a total of 25 each, non-stop. Beat a dead horse here. Remember, this is done daily. It adds up real quick.
Lastly, but not leastly, jump rope and reverse kettlebell toss. A super set of these will test any and all friendships. Don’t be in the direction of the toss after an hour of rehab. Rope 1 minute, toss 1 minute. Heavy to light, or vice versa, depending on time constraints. For Will, 1 set totally done with commitment was more beneficial. A finisher from hell or the ice flows. Potato - Paatato.
Will went from 0 to 1000 in a summer (sixty days really). That’s a lifetime to an Eskimo! Our scope of smart and functional mechanics was the driving force for Will’s recovery and his expedition, where he took college kids and made them feel like they were old, beat up walrus meat. That can’t be good. But, he helped them achieve something incredibly adventurous. The message of my article is very important to me: to achieve and accomplish greatness, you only need to deal in truth, not fiction. Trends speak for themselves. When you get asked to create something for a man whose results depend on how good you are at your shit - that is humbling. Will was so pleased with his work, he was kind enough to endorse my book. He also tried to run me over with his car! I guess you could call that a mixed message.
People like Will Steger are my templates for my life. When people say you can’t, your brain says you can. So, with that, I have to go and thaw Will out of my freezer in the garage. It’s work out time.
This article was featured in the Feb/Mar 2012 Issue of the My Mad Methods Magazine. “The Uber-Athlete: Training for Going Above & Beyond" was written by Ron Morris. Learn more about the My Mad Methods Magazine by Clicking Here
Ron “Hanzo” Morris is an educator and consultant for many agencies, correctional facilities, and college teams. He hold a tactical certification and national recognition for his books and videos, as well as a deep education in martial arts and fitness. Find out more.
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