WARNING!
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.

Why Be A Fitness Generalist?

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.

Power

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.

Squat Jump

squat-jumps

  1. Begin by standing with your feet shoulder width apart. Hold a kettlebell at arm’s length between your legs.
  2. Drive your hips back with your weight in your mid-foot.
  3. Aggressively push your feet into the floor as fast as you can.
  4. Landsoftly. Complete three sets of eight repetitions.

Medicine Ball Chest Pass

medicine-ball-chest-press

  1. Begin by standing about 8 feet in front of a wall, with the ball at your chest.
  2. Step forward and aggressively chest pass the ball forward. Complete three sets of 10 repetitions.

Strength

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.

Kettlebell Deadlift

kettlebell-deadlift

  1. Place the kettlebell between your ankles, hip-width distance apart.
  2. Sit your hips back and crush the handle of the kettlebell with both hands. You should only be moving through your hips. Your back should remain completely flat.
  3. Push your heels into the floor, squeeze your butt hard, brace your abs, and drive your hips forward.
  4. Complete three sets of five to six repetitions.

3-Point Kettlebell Row

3-point-kettlebell-row

  1. Position yourself with one hand on a sturdy object about knee to mid-thigh height. Move your feet about 2 feet back in a symmetrical stance. Grab the kettlebell in the free hand and brace your abs.
  2. Squeeze the handle hard as you drive your elbow and shoulder blade back. Don’t let your elbow travel past your torso.
  3. Return to the starting position. Complete three sets of six repetitions.

Conditioning

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.

Running

running

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.

Kettlebell Clean

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.

kettlebell-clean

  1. Begin with a kettlebell in the rack position, held on one side at your chest.
  2. Next, keep the kettlebell close to your body as you bring it down and swing it between your legs. As it moves down, drive your hips backward and bear your weight in your heels.
  3. Explosively drive your hips forward, squeeze your butt, and brace your abs. At about waist height, pull the kettlebell toward you, rotate your hand outward, and punch your hand through the bell. It should fall gently into the rack position; it shouldn’t slam into your forearm. This will take a little bit of practice.
  4. Complete one to two times per week, 10 to 15 rounds of five repetitions per side, with 30 seconds of rest between rounds.

The Brettzel

the-brettzel

  1. Begin by lying on your right side with your right hand holding your left knee.
  2. Next, grab your right ankle with your left hand.
  3. Turn your head to look to the left, and slowly bring your left shoulder to the ground. This will be difficult at first, but focus on using your breathing to deepen the stretch. Inhale through your nose, and as you exhale through your mouth, move deeper into the stretch.
  4. Complete one repetition of five breaths on each side.

Mobility

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.

Conclusion

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.

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