The exercises and content expressed in this column are for illustrative purposes only. Consult a medical professional before trying any physical activity or nutritional plan.
When it hits the fan and all hell breaks loose, your breadth of preparedness — not so much the depth — will save you. People who are experts at one thing, but beginners at everything else, might last a couple of days, but eventually their lack of range in skillsets will catch up to them. Picture a hunter deep in the woods who can't navigate without a GPS unit, or an expert but lost hiker who can't start a fire without a lighter.
Survivalists say that specialists perish while generalists persevere. The same understanding should be applied to fitness.
You can't afford to be a specialist. In a situation where you can't always foresee the challenges you might face, it's advisable to hope for the best and plan for the worst. A lot of us get jazzed up about a certain type of training, whether it's running, strength training, or something entirely different. But while it's great to be active, you have to train intelligently and plan ahead.
When training for a specific event, you can identify specific types of training tailored for your needs. For example, when preparing for a powerlifting meet, you'll want your strength to be high, with less emphasis on your aerobic training or endurance, relatively speaking. Training for a marathon would require the opposite approach. Because this results in physiological adaptations in your body, training for one area often comes at a cost to another, which is why your training needs to be specific to the demands of the event.
But in everyday life, there could be any number of hazards in your future. So when there isn't a specific event for which you're training, you want to make sure all of your bases are covered — hence training to build multiple attributes at once. This is where being a fitness generalist pays off.
Maximizing many physical attributes at the same time can be a tall order, but it can be done. It just takes some intelligent training and accepting the reality that maximizing many at once will limit their improvement more than if you were to focus on just one. We'll focus on improving the four critical areas to your fitness level: power, strength, conditioning, and mobility. Let's take a closer look at each one.
Strength and power are often used synonymously, but there's a difference. This misconception tends to be perpetuated by the sport of powerlifting, which in reality should be called strength lifting, since it's judged only by how much weight you can lift. The word power implies the existence of a time component as well. In our case, we're looking to move a weight (or our bodies) as quickly as possible.
While strength is very important, you also want to train for power, especially as you age. The aging population tends to lose power at an accelerated rate. It may seem silly to talk about power training for the older population, but preventing yourself from falling requires — you guessed it — power. We can trace the benefits all the way to children. In any intelligent sports performance program for kids, there will be some sort of power training even if it's disguised as a game. If you happen to fall between these two extremes, power training will still be a game-changer for you. Improved power results in faster pushing speed, higher jumping, and quicker sprints just to name a few. Simply put, if you're going to prepare for the worst, you need to train for power.
Medicine Ball Chest Pass
Strength is the foundation for other physical qualities. When we build strength, we also improve other areas of fitness — whether it be fat loss, endurance training, or power. It's not uncommon to see runners embark on a strength training program and improve their race times, or people struggling with weight loss to drop 5 pounds by adding more strength work. Strength should come first.
Strength is typically trained with heavier weights and less repetitions. There are many methods to do this, but we'll keep it simple with a pretty straightforward approach by using straight sets. What we'll do a little differently, though, is put a special emphasis on three areas when training: the grip, the glutes, and the core (or abs). We'll highlight these techniques further in the exercise descriptions, but rest assured, just focusing on these three areas can dramatically improve your strength instantly.
3-Point Kettlebell Row
Conditioning will go a long way in your preparation for what may lie ahead. It's common for people to neglect this area in favor of strength training, but that's a huge mistake. The uncertainty of transportation or any number of escape situations should put endurance high on your priority list. If you have to hoof it for several miles (especially with equipment), you'll thank your conditioning training. Aside from that, work in this area can help you with stress relief and improve your recovery from training.
Because of its obvious practicality and lack of required equipment, we can't overlook running as being a primary method of conditioning work. There's no reason to overcomplicate things here, so we'll keep it simple.
In this case, tailor your low-intensity running to a level where you can still have a conversation with someone. For this, start at 30 minutes of continuous, low-intensity running. If 30 minutes is too much, end when you feel you aren't able to continue. Slowly build up in five-minute increments each week. The end goal is about 60 minutes of continuous running twice per week.
The kettlebell clean is a bit off the beaten path in terms of your typical kettlebell-based exercises. While those in the fitness industry are familiar with it, to the general population, it's not the most common of exercises. We use a kettlebell due to the need of just a single object, in addition to the fantastic benefit this exercise provides. When you're confined to a small space, or limited on equipment, a kettlebell is a clear choice for conditioning training.
Mobility training is important to include because it will allow you to move more easily through a greater range of motion at various joints. This is vital on many levels, most notably an increased resistance to injury. Because the body is structured as an interconnected series of joints, when one is immobile, it'll affect other areas, which is commonly when injuries occur. And no one, not even the most prepared survivalist, is as effective if injured when SHTF. Maintain the key areas of ankles, hips, and shoulders, which will go a long way to keeping you up and moving.
To safeguard you from injury and make you more resilient, include three to five days per week of mobility work. It'll fit right into the strength and conditioning work, so do stretches before and/or after your workouts. This will slowly improve mobility in its own right, as well as help prepare you for your training.
Rather than going an inch wide and a mile deep with our preparation, let's do the opposite. Your ability to react to new challenges and respond accordingly will be the biggest determinant of your survival. We've given you the information here to cover the bases and have some peace of mind that you've done what you can to take some risk off the table.