Strength Basics

Getting stronger, fitter, and healthier by sticking to the basics. It's not rocket science, it's doing the simple stuff the right way. Strength-Basics updates every Monday, plus extra posts during the week.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Jonathan Chaimberg DVD

Adrenaline Performance Center (APC)
Extreme Strength, Conditioning, and Explosive Power
Approximately 2 hours viewing time

by Jonathan Chaimberg

According to the DVD case tag line, this is "Training Progressions for the Weekend Warrior to World Class Athlete." If you don't know him already, Jonathan Chaimberg trains several big-name UFC fighters and operates his own successful training center full-time. This DVD consists of his "secret techniques" according to the back cover.

The DVD is divided up into five sections: Warmup, Power, Strength, Conditioning, and Metabolic Circuit.

Warmup - the warmup section is great. He starts with foam rolling, and discusses both the how and why of foam rolling. Each movement is discussed while it is demonstrated by a client, so it's very easy to see how the movement is meant to be done. However, no additional cues or details are provided, such as how it should feel, common errors to avoid, and so on. So while it is good, it's lacking an essential element.

Power - Probably the second-best section in terms of new things. Jonathan Chaimberg knows a lot about generating power. Most of what is featured are lower-body exercises, but they're all good. Hurdle jumps, hurdle jumps into a box jump, concentric-only box jumps, lateral bounding, weighted box jumps (with the weights on the shoulders to take the upper body out of it), etc. You do also get a good look at a specialized piece of equipment for training the legs, but it's nothing you'll see in your gym or even your S&C center. That limits the usefulness of that demonstration, because you just can't adapt something else.

Strength - Jonathan Chaimberg is a big believer in circuits. So much so that his strength work will, according to his introduction, be set up in triple or quad sets. So, for example, a vertical push, a vertical pull, an ab/core exercise, and a lower body exercise will be done for one set each, and then you'll start the sequence back over. He states outright he's trying to cut down on rest and to get away from the "bodybuilder" approach of resting between identical sets of an exercise.

Everything is done with an explosive concentric phase (think "lifting the bar"), which makes sense in the context of fighting. You want to do nothing slowly in fighting, and training your muscles explosively has a myriad of benefits in terms of strength and reaction time. Conversely, just about all the exercises he shows feature a 5-second negative. He doesn't explain why, although he does point out this is an eccentric (think "lowering the bar") emphasis phase. I know why I might use a 5-second negative, but I still don't know why Jonathan Chaimberg does. Is it for increased hypertrophy? Increased time-under-tension? Control of the weight? More endurance? It's not clear what the goal is.

The strength exercises aren't very spectacular, and it's nothing you haven't seen elsewhere. They are good - step-ups, inverted rows, pushups, deadlifts, etc. - but it's nothing you can't get somewhere else. Exact coaching cues are missing, too, so it's not always clear how to get someone to perform the exercise correctly.

Conditioning - Jonathan Chaimburg is a big believer that slow cardio = slow death. All of the conditioning work here is HIIT. He explains and demonstrates the Tabata interval on a treadmill (where the speed/incline is pre-determined) and an airdyne bicycle (where speed is client-dependent, and therefore you need to set a goal minimum). He does a good job of explaining how you'd program it based on multiple round fights and for non-fighters as well. Again, some of the why is missing here, other than slow cardio = bad.

Circuit - the circuit section consists solely of a video recorded session of some MMA fighters and athletic but non-professional clients doing a metabolic circuit. A metabolic circuit is basically a circuit aimed at getting a high heart rate rather than achieving maximal strength. While it is instructive (people skip stations, make mistakes, need cueing and coaching), there isn't any meat to it besides this video. Want to make your own circuit? There is no discussion of how or why the specific exercises were chosen, or why they were placed in that order. You will know exactly what it's like to coach a large group through a circuit, but not much beyond that.

Generally, the big downside of this DVD is that the HOW and WHY are lacking. HOW exactly you do the exercise is somewhat vague, and WHY you'd use these exercises is missing entirely. Okay, so you can do hurdles, box jumps, or hurdles into a box jump. Why? Is there a special benefit to doing this? How do you program them in terms of sets and reps? What's a good progression - is there a minimum hurdle height were it becomes useful, or a maximum number of hops before you're training endurance and not power? It's just missing, and that makes it tough. It's like you got access to Jonathan Chaimberg's list of exercises but don't know how to use them. Again, as a trainer, I know why I might use these and I can make an educated guess as to how. But unless you have worked with this kind of approach before, you are lost at sea here. The DVD is clearly aimed at strength coaches and not at individual trainees, which is fine. But even coaches need to know how you use a new exercise.

Miscellaneous upsides: you get to see GSP do box jumps and hurdles - and is that man explosive! He also features several other professional fighters, including Nate Marquart. It is always cool watching someone you know demonstrating the exercises - you know it's hard if a UFC fighter is panting at the end, or how strong they are when they jump over your best height with ease. It puts the training in a bit of perspective if you've trained. But you don't just get UFC fighters. He also mixes in figure athletes and just fit clients, so it's not all "here is my stable of fighters."
The sound on the video is excellent, and you don't get any echo or difficult to understand speech. There isn't any glare that obliterates exercises either.

Content: 3 out of 5. What is there is good, but it's undermined by insufficient detail and a lack of explanation of why and how to use it.
Presentation: 4 out of 5. The video is crisp, the audio is clear, and the DVD easy to navigate. The occasional messiness in the gym behind the athletes and apparently one-take filming detracts from it a little. A per-exercise menu would have been very useful for repeated viewing.

Overall: This DVD could have been so much better. I enjoyed it, and I watched it several times. But I felt like I mostly got a good look at certain exercises, but not any sense of how to really use them. If I feel that way despite being in the field and being a fighter myself, I wonder how non-coaches would benefit from this DVD.

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