Bending Horseshoes by Hand & Horseshoe Bending Technique

A great demonstration of strength of the hands, grip and the ability to brace against your leg – bending horseshoes is a great party trick (if you party in a barn) and also a good goal to aim for if you are a strongman or someone who is looking to increase grip strength.

Know Your Horseshoes Before You Attempt to Bend it

A horseshoe is only as strong as it’s weakest point – a bit like a chain.

Some horseshoes have ‘fullers’. Fullers are the grooves that allow for the insertion of nails. Some horseshoes have deeper & wider fullers than others – from a strongman perspective, this can weaken the horseshoe significantly – making it easier to bend.

Horseshoe Bending strength

Technical Tips for Horseshoe Bending

Lockout Strength

The Strength comes from the triceps at the end of their range-of-motion.
Known as “lockout strength”, the more extended and near full extension your arms are, the stronger force you will generate against the horseshoe.

Padding or Not to Pad?

Padding the horseshoe may help with limiting damage and pressure on your hands but it will also dissipate some of the pressure on the horseshoe – certainly it will spread the pressure that would otherwise be isolated to a specific section of the horseshoe.

An abrasive material such as a (very) thick and wide bandaid/sticking plaster, or even a thick tissue, appears to be the best way to bend horseshoes without cutting your hands.

Twist and Shout

Referred to some as “the crushdown” – the rotational force of bodyweight, bracing from the shoulders and pushing from the triceps and arms is a universal movement in pretty much everyone on youtube seen bending a horseshoe.

A Word of Caution about HorseShoe Bending

This movement will put a lot of stress on your shoulders, elbows and wrists. The movement is partially (kind of) isometric – i.e. static, in that the horshoe moves very little or doesn’t move at all.

When a movement is isometric, the forces will ‘push back’ more on the body, causing more stress on the joints and ligaments.

Arms Almost Locked Out. Bracing by the Hip

You can see below, how by bracing and pushing down with his bodyweight and lowering his head, the abdominals come into play quite significantly:

Bending a horse shoe
Using the Abdominals, bodyweight and Tricep Lockout Strength to bend the bar

Image Reference DennisRogers.Net

Not everyone appears to incorporate the abs when bending however. This guy has more of a lateral movement:

Training to Bend Horseshoes

Firstly, if you want to bend horseshoes – you will need a horseshoe!

You will need a horse shoe to practice on, to build the specific type of strength required to bend it. Unless you use something very similar to bend, like a bar or rod etc and build up to a horseshoe

The SAID principle dictates it – Specific Adaptation to Imposed Demands.

Purchase one of the weaker horseshoes – with a fuller groove in it.

Here’s a website that sells horseshoes – ones that a great for starting off and achieving your first horseshoe bend!

St. Croix Ultra Lite are good for beginners. But still very difficult!

St Croix Polo are amongst the ‘second easiest’ level of horseshoe to bed.

Following on, go for a St. Croix Forge Lite Rim 10.

Training Grip Strength to Bend Horseshoes

A great way to build grip strength is to, well, grip things.

Chin ups are a good start for beginners, even just hanging from a bar as long as possible is a very effective way to build your general hand strength.

Bottom up kettlebell presses are also great for building grip strength – as you have to balance the weight as well as push it upwards.

golfers elbow

Training with a sledgehammer, or even a broom can be effective too. Doing curls and extensions with the bar:

A word of caution about grip training – you should work you wrist extensors (muscle for gripping) as well as your wrist extensors – otherwise you are likely to get some nasty over-use and imbalance injuries such as golfer’s elbow.

Holding 1 or 2 weights plates for as long as possible is another great way to train grip.

Training Lockout Strength

Probably the best way to build lockout strength for horseshoe bending, is heavy dips on parallel bars.

Heavy bench press, using bench press blocks and/or bands or chains that make the resistance greater at the top of the movement, are also great tools & exercises for building lockout strength.

Training Abdominals

Abs are used in some way, pretty much regardless of your horseshoe bending technique. Hanging leg raises and weighted crunches will help develop specific core strength.

Using cables can make the exercise more specific to horseshoe bending. Kneel down and hold the cables overhead, as you crunch downward.

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Vegan Warrior Wellness Podcast

Got an 80’s intro for the podcast!

Stress ‘hacks’ – lots of magnesium glycinate, vitamin D, kava kava (not legal in the UK but available on ebay) adaptogens like rhodiola rosea

Eating well(ish) when well busy with work and children

  • intermittent fasting – eat between 12pm and 8pm only
  • meal planning – plan before you shop
  • slow cooker
  • cook in batches and stick in the freezer

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Boxing Chest Workout (.pdf included)

Boxing 🥊 is a very demanding sport. There are lots of aspects of fitness that go into conditioning for boxing – one crucial thing I want everyone to know however – is that chest-strength, does not equate to punching power!

Very little power if generated specifically from the chest. The whole body (or kinetic chain) needs to be worked.

In fact, the difference between ‘low level’ & ‘high level’ boxers in one study – was the generation of force from the legs when punching:

Training the chest in isolation from the rest of the body, will hinder, not help your boxing.

Some tips for training your chest whilst not interfering with boxing fitness include

  • Replicate punches with a small amount of resistance so that it doesn’t interfere with technique and proper punching mechanics. e.g. punches with cables or bands with a low amount of resistance
  • Train muscles for power & speed, not strength
  • Heavy bench press has been shown in studies to reduce shoulder mobility – this is bad for boxing
  • Do lots of shoulder and chest mobility work before & after doing weights
  • Train movements not muscles!
  • Modify some (not all) squat exercises so that you are in a boxing stance, rather than a standard square-on stance

Example Boxing Chest Workout

ExerciseSets Reps
Dumbbell Bench Press28-12
Plyo Press Ups – Side to Side210
Medicine Ball Throw into Press Up210
Band Punches210
Thrusters – (Squat into Press)212
Pads or punch bag33 minutes

Warm up with 2 rounds of shadow boxing, 5 minutes of skipping and some shoulder mobility exercises.

Dumbbell Bench Press 2 sets of 8 Reps

Plyometric Press Ups ‘side to side’ medicine ball or BOSU – 2 sets of 10 Reps

BOSU Plyometric Press ups
BOSU Plyometric Press ups

Medicine Ball Throw into Press Up – 2 sets of 8 Reps

plyometric MMA exercise
A Bouncier Medicine Ball Works Better

Band Punches 2 sets of 10 reps on each arm (total of 4 sets)

Thrusters – Squat & Press – 2 sets of 10 reps

Thrusters are a good ‘finisher’ that incorporate the entire body. These types of movements are important to include so that the chest doesn’t get ‘used to’ working in isolation from the legs and core.

Remember to work your back muscles equally with pulling exercises like one-arm-row, otherwise you will get a shoulder imbalance.

Download the boxing chest workout .pdf here

Also – remember to do lots of mobility work.

The World’s Greatest Stretch is an excellent all-round stretch that you can do everyday:

worlds greatest stretch
World’s Greatest Stretch. Right Foot in front, Left Knee on the floor. Left Hand Down, Right hand reaches back

Finally – remember the SAID principle – Specific Adaptations to Imposed Demands.

If you want to get fit for boxing – you must box! 

Remember the importance of a powerful core and legs for punching power


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How do you prevent Muscle & Fitness Loss During Injury?

  • You can use TENs machines to prevent muscle loss whilst injured
  • Nutrition is important – Under-eating will lead to more muscle loss
  • Clenbuteral is an illegal performance enhancing drug that prevents muscle loss
  • Alpha Lipoic Acid supplementation may help prevent muscle loss and help to alleviate some of the effects of the loss of insulin sensitivity
  • No significant de-training effects occur if you can get back to training within 2 weeks

For information purposes only. Exercise at your own risk

Professional sport in the twenty first century has evolved into a competitive business. Immense financial investments into sports clubs, sports governing bodies and development centres, has seen athletes converted into commodities that are expected to deliver success. As sports clubs float on the stock market, athletes follow rigorous training regimes that push them to their physical and mental limit. MMA shares the pressures and expectations of any other top-level sport. As it verges on the brink of mainstream acceptance, it survives primarily as a form of entertainment, rather than participatory sport.

Pay per view and DVD sales underpin its survival, and as a result the combatants are expected to display feats of awesome athletic ability and technique, each time they enter the cage. Fuelled by massive economic investment, MMA training has developed into a scientific discipline that addresses and attends to every aspect of physical and mental fitness.

However, as boundaries in performance are continually broken and re-established, athletes increase their risk of ‘burnout’ or physical injury. Although the recruitment of sports psychologists and physiotherapists may reduce the likelihood of such an event, it is doubtful that a competitor will end his/her career without having to endure a serious injury or slump in performance at some point. Successful fighters find a balance between hard training and rest.

Rest is required so that adaptation to training may occur. Progression and consistency is key in any training schedule and injuries can set back athletes by months, even years. It is therefore crucial that athletes limit their risk of injury by avoiding over-training, and by acquiring knowledge concerning how best to limit the ‘detraining’ effect, so that an injury or rest period is managed correctly. The following report will examine the consequences of rest and injury upon different aspects of athletic performance, and will also discuss the best ways of inhibiting the detraining effect. A number of reports and research documents shall be examined and critiqued, so that by the end of the report the question ‘detraining: threat or therapy’ will be successfully discussed and answered. 

Injury & Deconditioning 

According to Quinn (2004), one of the five principles of conditioning is the ‘Principle of Use/Disuse’. Simplified, this would imply that your muscles hypertrophy with use and atrophy with disuse. However, this ‘rule’ should not be taken completely literally, as it is important to find a balance between training and rest. There must be periods of low intensity between periods of high intensity to allow for recovery and training adaptation to occur.

Deconditioning will occur with long periods of rest. How quickly an individual loses fitness depends on how fit he/she is, how long you he/she has been training and how long he/she has stopped training (; Willmore & Costill, 1999; Davis, Bull, Roscoe & Roscoe, 1999).

Thanks to recent research, deconditioning theories have become more clear and specific. Mujika et al (2000) studied well-conditioned athletes who had trained for year and then stopped exercise all together. After a three month rest from cycling training, researchers found that the athletes lost 57% of their aerobic conditioning.

However, Rietjens et al (2001) investigated the effects of reduced training on physical condition and performance in well-trained cyclists and whether an intermittent exercise programme would maintain physiological training adaptations.

Neither group showed changes in maximal workload for the Continuous Training and Intermittent Training group respectively, and it was concluded that well trained cyclists who reduce training intensity and volume for 21 days can maintain physiological adaptations, as measured during submaximal and maximal exercise. In addition the study seem to suggest that an intermittent training regimen has no advantage over a continuous training regimen during a detraining period. 
It would appear that a certain level of exercise is required to maintain sport specific fitness.

However, the intensity and duration of this ‘level of activity’ remains controversial and is specific to each sport. The level of activity necessary will depend upon an athlete’s baseline fitness level and sport (Winters & Snow, 2000). However, it would appear that if an athlete can maintain some exercise on a weekly basis, he/she could retain a greater percentage of his/her baseline fitness levels. Although it is not always possible, athletes should attempt to adapt their training in accordance to an injury.

Cross training through an injury is always an option, for example ‘aqua-jogging’ is an effective activity that enables runners to maintain fitness levels whilst recovering from repetitive strain injuries to the knees, shins and/or back ( Repetitive strain injuries are increasingly common among top athletes (Smith, 2003). Many top athletes train 3-5 hours per day in an attempt to improve their level of conditioning and skill.

Physical activity is a way of life for these people, and can dominate their thoughts and actions for a number of years. When an individual stops participating in high levels of physical activity, the physiological changes that occur are usual referred to as ‘detraining’. This often occurs when an athlete becomes injured. Swain et al (1994) and Cooper (1982) suggest that a few days of rest or inactivity may enhance performance and physiological adaptations to training. However there is a critical, individual specific, period of rest, where performance capability begins to decrease. It would also appear that different aspects of fitness deteriorate at different rates, and all levels of detraining depend of training history. For example, within a few days, a person’s insulin sensitivity is decreased, whereas muscular strength can take weeks to deteriorate (Taafe & Marcus, 1997).

Skeletal Muscle Size, Strength & Power 

Sports such as powerlifting and rugby predominantly involve short, explosive movements. However most sports, such as wrestling require high levels of endurance and several other specific types of fitness and skill. Strength training may therefore, not always remain as a top priority, and may have to be maintained whilst other aspects of performance are targeted for improvement. Haggmark et al (1986) suggest that continuing to train once every 10 to 14 days, athletes can maintain strength and power for up to 4 months.

This may be important for the injured athlete, who cannot train at maximal intensity. The real losses in muscle mass and strength occur, not when training per se is stopped, but when a joint is completely immobilized. Daily activities are enough to reduce any sudden loss in performance capacity, and inhibit the drastic losses that occur through complete immobilisation.

Skeletal muscle undergoes a substantial decrease in size once a certain limb or area of the body becomes inactive. This is known as atrophy, and is accompanied by a considerable loss in power and strength. Total inactivity results in rapid losses, whilst prolonged periods of reduced activity can result in more gradual losses that become quite significant.

Taaffe and Marcus (1997) investigated the effects of cessation (8 weeks) and subsequent resumption (12 weeks) of training on muscle strength in elderly men, after completing 24 weeks of resistance training. The results indicate that elderly men lose some muscle strength following short-term detraining, but that only a brief period of retraining suffices to regain maximal strength. Reduction of fibre cross-sectional area with detraining, suggests that much of the retention in strength with detraining and reacquisition of lost strength with retraining reflects neural adaptation.

The strength that was maintained could be accounted for by neuro-muscular adaptation that occurs in the first weeks of adoption of a weight training programme; this relates to the acquisition of technical correctness and the ability to recruit the maximal number of muscle fibres with correct timing. One of the very first studies to investigate detraining (McMorris et al, 1954) showed that 45% of strength gains from a 12 weeks resistance training programme, were maintained following a 1 year absence from training. It has been suggested that this may also reflect retention of neuromuscular functioning (Housh et al, 1995). A study conducted by Costill et al (1998) upon university swimmers showed that a 4 week rest from activity did not affect shoulder or arm strength, however, swimming power was reduced by approximately 10% whether the swimmers underwent complete rest or trained at a reduced frequency of one session per week.

This suggests that functional strength and/or power may be reduced at an accelerated rate compared with strength per se. This study points to a possible area of inaccuracy in other studies – measurement techniques. The strength was measured ‘on land’ with a biokinetic swim bench, whilst power was measured in the water, using tethered swimming that allows the swimmers to use natural actions. It would appear therefore that the less specific land measurements may not reflect any effect upon performance.

When muscles are not used in the specific way that accurately replicates performance, neurological control appears to be reduced (GSSI, 2001 Conference) and normal fibre recruitment is hindered. Rest is an essential component of strength training which allows for muscular adaptation to a training load. Strength can be maintained a lot easier than it is acquired (Haggmark et al, 1986). Coaches and trainers should take this into account when designing periodised macro cycles which are tailored to the specific needs of a sport. Fitness tests such as the standing jump test and varies one repetition max tests should be used at intervals during the season in order to monitor fitness levels to ensure that each aspect of conditioning is either being maintained or improved. 

Muscular Endurance 

Muscular endurance decreases after just 2 weeks of inactivity (Winters & Snow, 2000). Skeletal muscle is characterized by its ability to dynamically adapt to variable levels of functional demands. During periods of insufficient training stimulus, muscular endurance decreases rapidly. Initial deterioration of endurance may be due to a decreased capillary density, which could take place within 2–3 wk of inactivity. Arterial-venous oxygen difference declines if training stoppage continues beyond 3–8 wk. Rapid and progressive reductions in oxidative enzyme activities bring about a reduced mitochondrial ATP production (Winters & Snow, 2000). The above changes are related to the reduction in VO2max observed during long-term training cessation.

These muscular characteristics remain above sedentary values in the detrained athlete but usually return to baseline values in recently trained individuals. Glycolytic enzyme activities show non-systematic changes during periods of training cessation. Fibre distribution remains unchanged during the initial weeks of inactivity, but oxidative fibres may decrease in endurance athletes and increase in strength-trained athletes within 8 wk of training stoppage. At this time, not enough evidence is available to determine, whether this performance decrement results from changes in the muscle or from changes in cardiovascular capacity (Coyle, 1984). Studies have shown that after a week of cast immobilisation, the activities of oxidative enzymes such as succinate dehydrogenase and cytochrome oxidase decrease by 40 to 60%. In contrast, when athletes stop training, the activities of the muscles’ glycolytic enzymes, such as phosphofructokinase, change little, if at all, for at least 4 weeks.

Coyle et al (1984) observed no change in glycolytic enzyme activity with up to 84 days of inactivity, but an average fall of over 50% in the activity of oxidative enzymes. Despite the apparent resilience of glycolytic enzymes to detrimental effects of detraining, muscle glycogen content decreases. This may be due to a sharp decrease in muscle glycogen content. Costill et al (1985) observed a 40% reduction in muscle glycogen content following 4 weeks ‘detraining’. These values were virtually identical to a totally untrained individual. This may be due to a decrease in insulin sensitivity and GLUT 4 receptor activity (Costill, 1985). 

V02Max and Endurance Performance 

Following complete cessation of training, VO2max decreases in previously highly trained individuals after as little as 4 weeks, with the decrease in VO2max varying between 4 and 14% (Coyle, 1984). The decrease in VO2max during the first 3 weeks of detraining is due to a decrease in maximal cardiac output. Subsequent decreases in VO2max are due to decreased oxygen extraction, likely from a decrease in mitochondrial density (Houmard et al, 1989) Petibois and Déléris (2003), investigated changes in the metabolic response to an endurance exercise (18 rowing km at 75 % of maximal aerobic velocity) during detraining in ten rowers previously highly-trained. Maximal aerobic velocity (VO2 max) and the metabolic response to exercise were determined in the 1st, 24th, and 47th week (training), and in the 52nd, 76th, and 99th week (detraining). Short-term detraining (5 weeks) resulted in a lower adipose tissue triglyceride (TG) delivery during exercise (p = 0.029), but this one did not represent a direct metabolic limit to exercise since the liver TG delivery increased (p = 0.039), total fatty acid concentration remained unchanged. Long-term detraining (52 weeks) altered even more the metabolic response to exercise with a decreased total fatty acid concentration during exercise (week 99: 10.6 +/- 2.0 mmol/l; p = 0.022), which induced a higher glycolysis utilization.

A haemolytic response to endurance exercise was observed through haptoglobin and transferrin concentration changes (weeks 47 vs. 99; p = 0.029 and 0.027, respectively), which resulted probably from higher red blood cell destruction. Endurance-trained athletes should avoid detraining periods over a few weeks since alterations of the metabolic adaptations to training may become rapidly chronic after such delays. (Petibois C & Deleris G, 2003). 

Saltin et al (1968), examined the effect of 20 days of bed rest upon cardio respiratory endurance. On average the subjects experienced a 25% decrease in submaximal stroke volume, a 25% decrease in maximal cardiac output, and 27% decrease in maximal oxygen consumption. The reductions in cardiac output and V02Max appear to be related to the decrease in stroke volume, which in turn is probably due to a decrease in heart volume, total blood volume and ventricular contractibility.

The trained subjects experienced decreases in endurance compared to the untrained subjects; furthermore the untrained subjects regained their baseline fitness in 10 days, compared to 40 days for the trained subjects. This drop in conditioning may have implications for the ‘off season’ in many sports. Athletes should either maintain physical activity during the breaks from competition, or the pre season should begin over 40 days prior to the beginning of the competitive season. Giada et al (1998) studied 12 young and 12 older healthy sedentary males to examine the effects of training, and detraining on men of different age groups. Each subject underwent a maximal exercise test using a cycle-ergometer in order to measure maximum oxygen consumption and a echocardiography in order to assess left ventricle morphology and systolic function.

During the training period both groups of athletes showed higher values of maximum oxygen consumption, left ventricular wall thickness, end-diastolic diameter and volume, as well as left ventricular mass, than their control subjects. After the detraining period the wall thickness decreased only in young athletes, while left ventricular mass and end-diastolic diameter and volume reduced only in older athletes. It would appear from this study that the detraining effect may have many variables, one of which is age. However, further research using a greater number of subjects and control groups is warranted to provide a conclusive answer. Impairment of cardiovascular function following a few weeks of detraining is largely caused b a reduction in plasma volume, which in turn diminishes the plasma volume of the heart. Coyle et al (1986) observed a 9% decrease in blood volume and a 12% decrease in both stroke volume and plasma volume after two to four weeks of detraining following sustained periods of training, either running or cycling.

After the subjects were detrained, they were infused with dextrin solution to expand their blood volume until it exceeded their trained level. This improved cardiovascular function and V02max, but had little positive effect upon endurance performance. Reductions in cardio respiratory endurance appear to be much greater than reductions in strength and power over identical periods of detraining. Drinkwater and Horvarth (1972) studied seven female track athletes and again 3 months after training had ended. During the 3 month period, the athletes participated in typical physical activities for their age group, including physical education. At the end of the 3 months their V02Max had decreased by an average of 15.5%. Their new V02Max levels were similar to that of non-athletic girls the same age. Despite the rapid losses outlined in these studies, it would appear that a detraining effect only occurs if a person decreases their training volume by one thirds or more (Houmard et al, 1989), and/or their intensity falls below 70% Vo2Max.

Training for endurance or endurance sports differs from power and strength training in that it can be, and often is trained almost everyday ( Endurance can decrease in a matter of days after training has stopped. For example it has been shown that insulin sensitivity decreases to sedentary levels after just 10 days of rest (Gautier, 2004), leading to lower levels of muscle and liver glycogen. Athletes should include a period of reduced training intensity and frequency, but it is recommended that rest does not exceed 10 days and intensity does not fall below 70% V02Max.


Other Physiological Changes 

Herd et al (1998) examined the effect of detraining upon postprandial lipeamia. Fourteen normolipidaemic, recreationally active young adults aged 18-31 years participated, in two self-selected groups: three men and five women (BMI 21·7-27·6 kg/m2) completed 13 weeks of running training, after which they refrained from exercise for 9 d; three men and three women (BMI 21·5-25·6 kg/m2) maintained their usual lifestyle. Oral fat tolerance tests were conducted at baseline and again 15 h, 60 h and 9 d after the runners’ last training session. In the absence of the acute effect of exercise, i.e. 60 h after the last training session, there was no effect of training on either postprandial lipaemia or on post-heparin lipo protein lipase activity. However, changes during 9 d of detraining in both these variables differed significantly between groups; after 2 d without exercise (60 h test), the runners’ lipaemic response was 37% higher than it was the morning after their last training session (15 h test; runners v. controls P , 0·05), with a reciprocal decrease in post-heparin LPL activity (P < 0:01). These findings suggest that improved fitness does not necessarily confer an effect on postprandial lipaemia above that attributable to a single session of exercise. Postprandial lipaemia is not elevated with training status and is therefore not influenced by detraining. It is however an acute response, and training must be regular and consistent in order to experience any benefits. 

Retraining After Injury

Recovery of conditioning after a period of inactivity is affected by a person’s fitness level, length of training before the period of inactivity, and length of inactivity. Those who were fittest before inactivity suffer the greatest losses in fitness and also take longest to recover from inactivity. Two or three weeks of detraining have shown to cause the following decrements in highly trained subjects (Ross & Leveritt, 2001): Muscle oxidative enzymes decreased by 13 to 24% Performance time decreased by about 2 to 5% Vo2 max decreased by about 4% In a study conducted by Saltin et al (1968), 3 weeks of detraining resulted in significant losses in performance capacity. Following 15 days of retraining, only Vo2max had returned to its original trained level. Oxidative enzymes did not improve and although performance time showed some improvement, it still remained 2 to 5% below the trained time. This suggests that in elite athletes, the duration of retraining must exceed that of detraining in order to re-establish performance capacity to its original values. 

Nutrition is an important consideration during times of inactivity. For example, a rugby player should decide whether or not to remain in positive energy balance in order to prevent further catabolism of muscle tissue, or should he try and remain as close as possible to a neutral energy balance in order to offset accumulation of fat tissue.

Van Baak (2004) showed that underfeeding by 250kcal per day over 6 weeks, resulted in the catabolism of 75% body fat and 25% fat free mass; underfeeding in addition to inactivity may result in massive in strength and power for the rugby player. Alpha Lipoic Acid mimics (to a certain extent) the anabolic effects of insulin (Eason et al, 2002). Loss of insulin resistance is on of the major causes of deconditioning during detraining, and therefore this supplement may be useful to injured athletes by preventing the unwanted accumulation of body fat, whilst keeping muscle lipid and glycogen levels high. 

PEDs & Injury Recovery

Many athletes resort to illegal substance use in an attempt to offset the effects of inactivity or to accelerate the recovery process. Clenbuterol, a bronchodilator that used to be prescribed to asthmatics, is believed to poses anticatabolic properties, and is often used in the post cycle stages by steroid taking athletes, in order to avoid the catabolic effects of inhibited testosterone levels. Clinical research conducted by Montovani et al, 2001 has supported the theory that clenbuterol does possess some anti catabolic properties.

Anabolic steroids themselves have also been used by injured athletes in the past. Anabolic-androgenic steroids increase protein synthesis and therefore may mimic the effects of training, and repair tissue damage at an accelerated rate. Primabolin and stanozol are reputed as possessing the greatest anti catabolic properties, but stanozol, as a non-aromitising steroid (does not convert to oestrogen), is said to have a possible damaging effect upon joints by decreasing their fluid content. Conversely, aromatising steroids such as deca durabolin or deca nandrolone, are said to accelerate recovery from joint injuries by increasing the levels of synovial fluid within the joint capsule (MIMS, 2003).

TENS / NMES Electrical Stimulation for Injuries

Electrical Stimulation In one of the earliest published studies on the effects of high-intensity neuro-muscular electrical stimulation (NMES) on the maintenance of size and strength in immobilised muscles, researchers electrically stimulated the quadriceps and hamstrings on a daily basis for three weeks in the immobilised leg of an athlete wearing a lower-extremity cast as a result of Grade-II medial-collateral and anterior-cruciate ligament sprains in his knee (Pocari et al, 2003; Caggiano et al, 1994). On the day the cast was removed, the girth of the athlete’s thigh was increased, suggesting that muscle hypertrophy had occurred, instead of the usual cast-associated atrophy. In addition, single-leg, vertical-leap height was 92% as great in the immobilised leg following cast removal, compared with the uninjured leg, and the athlete was able to immediately return to competition.

The use of electrical stimulation to prevent muscle atrophy as a result of prolonged knee immobilisation following either injury or knee-ligament reconstructive surgery has been very intensely studied. Research (e.g. Pocari et al, 2003) has shown that electrical stimulation is effective in preventing decreases in muscle strength, muscle size, and even the oxygen-consumption capabilities of thigh muscles after knee immobilisation. In all but one of the studies in this area which have been published in scientific journals, electrical stimulation has been shown to be better in preventing negative changes in leg and knee-joint function, compared with no exercise, isometric exercise of the quadriceps-femoris muscles, and even isometric co-contractions of the quadriceps and hamstrings.

Studies suggested that these physiological and metabolic changes started after the 4-7th days of NMES application (Hudlicka et al, 1984) Type 2 fibrils prominently change to type 1 fibrils which are more rich for mitochondrial content, capillary density and oxidative enzyme capacity after electrical stimulation application, while the hypertrophy and hyperplasia in type 2 fibrils are more prominent after Isometric Exercise sessions (Cabric et al, 1998). This would suggest that isometric exercise may be of greater value to power athletes during injury, and electrical stimulation may be more important to endurance athletes. 

This report has illustrated the way in which different aspects of fitness tend to deteriorate with inactivity or reduced training. It can be inferred from this that performance level in different sports will diminish at a rate determine by its specific demands.

However, over-training remains a problem with elite athletes, and it is generally agreed that an of-season period is required within which training intensity should be significantly reduced in order to maintain a high level of fitness without excessive strain upon the body (Smith, 2003, Roden, 2004).

Over-training can result in high levels of cortisol, free radicals and musculo-skeletal injuries. This will lead to a slow recovery from training sessions, susceptibility to illnesses and disease and ultimately, a decreased performance. Over-training symptoms include decreased appetite and body weight loss, muscle tenderness, head colds, nausea, sleep disturbances and elevated blood pressure (Willmore & Costill, 1999). This report concludes that injured athletes should attempt to train around injuries where possible, and take into consideration the possible influence that nutrition may have over their recovery.

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Benefits of Working Out / Exercising in the Heat

Metabolic Responses to Exercise in the Heat – Scientific Analysis

For information purposes only. Exercise at your own risk

Any team or athlete that competes on an international stage will no doubt have to deal with the physiological challenges that extreme environments can present them with. Competing in extreme heat, is beyond a challenge, it can be life threatening. 

Heat is transferred from the core, via the blood to the skin, and then to the environment via: 

Conduction: heat transfer from one material to another through direct molecular contact e.g. skin surface to clothing 

Convection: Transferring heat by the motion of a gas or liquid e.g. skin to moving air 

Radiation: heat transfer in the ford of infrared rays, e.g. heat gain by sun exposure 

Evaporation: as fluid evaporates, usually sweat, heat is lost (approx 80% of total heat loss when active). 

exercise in the heat

Heat exchange is controlled in the brain. 

Thermoreceptors in the hypothalamus monitor blood temperature as it flows through the brain. Peripheral receptors in the skin monitor environmental temperature providing information to the hypothalamus and cerebral cortex allowing behavioural changes to be made. 

For example, hypothalamus signals sweat glands to secret sweat when it has determeined that the blood temperature is high. 
Smooth muscle around arterioles ma also become dilated, increasing blood flow to the skin, and in turn, heat lost to the environment from the body. 

Exercise in the heat results in a reduction in endurance and in intermittent exercise performance. According to Maughan (1992), loses as small as 2% of boy mass impairs performance. A study conducted by Suzuki et al, showed that cycling time to exhaustion at 66% of max aerobic capacity, was 91 minutes at 0 degress Celsius and 19 minutes at 40 degrees Celsius, whilst Adams et al showed that a well train runner was exhausted after 165 minutes at 10 celsius, compared to 102 minutes at 35 celsius. 

There are a number of ‘problems’ that the body faces when exercising in the heat. There is competition between active muscles and skin for a limited blood supply. Heart rate increases to compensate for the decreased stroke volume. Redistribution of blood reduces the amount of blood that returns to the heart. Inability of the body to meet all the demands for blood flow results in hyperthermia. In addition, reduced blood supply to the muscle may result in greater reliance on muscle glycogen and anaerobic energy production, resulting in a greater and more immediate accumulation of blood lactate. 

In addition to this, an individual’s body temperature may also be influenced by hormone fluctuations. For example, there can be a sharp elevation in core temperature (0.5-0.75 celsius) on day 14 of a menstrual cycle. 

Stay Hydrated Whilst Exercising in the Heat

For every litre of sweat lost, rectal temperature increases by 0.3 C, cardiac output decreases by 1Litre/min, heart rate increases by 8 beats/minu and perceived rate of exertion increases rapidly (Coyle and Montain (1992)). The best way to attempt to stay rehydrated is to drink small amounts frequently. Drinking frequently keeps gastric emptying more rapid, which helps increase rehydration. Drinking about 5ml/kg initially, followed by 2ml/kg every 15 to 20 minutes of exercise helps to keep gastric emptying high. 

sun - source of vitamin D

In addition to drinking small and frequent amounts of fluid, adding sodium and glucose can enhance rehydration. Water crosses the small intestine passively, whereas, sodium and glucose move across via active transport, and ‘pull’ water with them. Consuming a 5% glucose drink, has also been clinically proven to help reduce the reduction in a person’s immune function, as seen after intense exercise. 

Dehydration and heat exhaustion can certainly be limiting factors in human performance. In addition, severe cases of either can be fatal. Drink small amounts of a 5% glucose drink often. It is also wise to weigh oneself before an event or training session, and then again after. Replace 150% of the weight lost; so if you lose 2kg, drink 1.5L of water. Again, a glucose solution is preferable, as this will also help to replace muscle glycogen. 

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Knee Injuries & Rehab in MMA

This article will look at the most common knee injuries that can arise from both MMA training and competition. 

Anatomy of the Knee

The knee joint works like a hinge to bend and straighten the lower leg and is made up of the femur (thigh bone), the tibia (shin bone) and the patella (knee cap). Between the tibia and femur is the meniscus that acts as a shock absorber distributing weight and improves joint stability. The meniscus is what most people consider to be the “cartilage” of the knee. The majority of strength and stability of the knee is provided by ligaments which are strong, elastic bands of tissue that connect bone to bone. 

Knee Injuries Due to its structure and its role in weight bearing the knee is a common site for injury in contact sports and activities that rely on rapid rotation during weight bearing such as MMA.

As with all other joints, knee injuries may be divided into 3 categories: 
· Single-event (acute) trauma 
· Acute-on-chronic injury 
· Multiple-repetition (or chronic) injuries. 

The principles for management of each type of injury have been covered in a previous article so here we’ll concentrate of specific injuries. The most common injuries for a MMA fighter will usually involve the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), the medical collateral ligament (MCL) and also the medial meniscus (MM) (cartilage on the inner aspect of the knee). 

Ligament and Meniscus Injuries 

Ligament injuries can be sustained either from external or internal forces. External forces will be your opponent (or an over zealous sparring partner!) and may come from a strike (to or below the joint) or a submission hold such as knee bar. Internal forces will be physiological stress from incorrect biomechanics such as not allowing the supporting leg to rotate during a round kick or during a clinch or a takedown. Any of these events may rupture not only the ACL, but may also damage the MCL and MM, totally disrupting the stability of the knee.

Probably a Dive

The ACL is injured during excessive knee rotation (hooking punches and round kicks) on the weight bearing knee if poor biomechanics come into play or during hyperextension (knee bar or locking out the knee on a badly executed kick). The MCL is injured by excessive force bending the knee inward (heavy kick or stamp to the outside of the knee or poor technique/biomechanics in sweeps and throws). The ACL, MCL and MM may all be injured together causing what is known as an “Unhappy triad”. Damage to the MM usually causes pain, swelling, joint locking, or the inability to completely straighten the joint due to a piece of meniscus physically blocking movement in the knee. 

So how do you know if you’ve torn your ACL? Well if you feel a sharp pain in the knee, giving way and hear a sudden “pop” followed by immediate swelling with difficulty in full weight bearing then chances are you’ve torn your ACL! If however you only feel a tearing sensation chances are you’ve torn your MCL, not as bad as an ACL rupture….but still bad! 

If you think you have suffered an injury to ligament or meniscus go to A&E; straight away and get an assessment of the damage. If you have torn your ACL surgical repair will probably be required followed by between 6 to 9 months of rehab before return to competition. Rehab is detailed and lengthy so a Chartered Physiotherapist will take you through your recovery from day 1 to return to full competition. MCL tears however, are often braced and left to heal without surgery whilst a tear of the meniscus may require arthroscopy (key-hole surgery). 

Conservative (Non-surgical) Treatment of Knee Injuries

As always for acute knee injuries PRICE(MM) is standard practice. Protection, Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation should be applied by the individual, then Medications and Modalities (physical treatments) should be sought from your GP or Chartered Physiotherapist. Bracing may also be used in the early stages. Rehabilitation (Surgical and conservative) 

Some points that are important to consider during your rehab are: 

Stretching: To maintaining joint range of motion as following injury or surgery as scar tissue forms and soft-tissues contract. 

Strengthening: Exercises performed to rehabilitate the injured area back to competitive performance levels. 

Proprioception: The ability to know where a body part is in space without looking at it. When proprioception is impaired following a ligament injury the joint may feel unstable which may increase the risk of re-injury. Proprioception training re-educates your body to control the position of an injured joint. It is best performed standing on the injured leg with the eyes closed and measure the amount of time you can remain stable. As you improve make it more difficult by standing on an unstable surface (eg. wobble board or trampette).

Better proprioception will improve your kicks, throws, takedowns and counters and overall balance. 

Tip: Even if you are not injured train this aspect of your game; I’ve never worked with an athlete whose proprioception was too good! 

Alternative training -Train Around the Injury

One of the major goals of rehabilitation is to maintain a your cardiovascular fitness levels, so for instance when you suffer a lower limb injury instead of roadwork, try aqua jogging with a flotation belt (running upright in a swimming pool without your feet touching the bottom of the pool). You, your coach/trainer and your physio should work together at devising alternative training programmes as soon as possible particularly if you are a competitive fighter. In addition to cardiovascular fitness, you may use the injury period as an opportunity to strengthen weaker areas whether they be physical, mental, technical or tactical. 

Return to Training/Competition after Injury

Depending on the nature and severity of the injury, it may take many months of physical therapy for you return to full training or competition. The wide variety of knee injuries creates a wide range of recovery and rehab times with most ligament and meniscus injuries often taking months to rehabilitate whether surgery has taken place or not.

An ACL injury will keep you out of competition for 6 to 9 months. As with any injury, for return to full training/competition you must consider the risk of re-injury and the ability to fight/perform at a satisfactory level. To return to competition there must be a restoration of full strength, endurance, flexibility and proprioception. With repetitive injuries it is important to identify the specific activity that caused the initial injury so that activity can be avoided or training modified. 

This is just a brief outline of the knee injuries you may incur during MMA training and competition and a rough guide to treatment and rehabilitation principles. If you have any specific knee problems you will need to seek first hand advice and treatment from an experienced sports injuries Chartered Physiotherapist. 

This article is for the purpose of information only and it is not intended to diagnose or treat medical conditions and is not considered to be a substitute for individual medical assessment and advice.

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Vegan Pizza Recipe

Vegan Pizza with Vegetables & Houmous



1 Red Onion

1 Courgette

1 Red Pepper

2 x Flat Bread

1 tbsp Olive Oil

2 x tomatoes

1 clove garlic – crushed

1 fresh basil leaf, chopped

50g vegan style cheese

Sweet Chilli Sauce



  1. Chop all vegetables & coat them in olive oil and basil
  2.  Add to baking tray and heat for 10 minutes in an oven preheated at 180 degrees Celcius
  3. Coat the flatbread in a decent amount of humous
  4. Add the roasted vegetables & chilli sauce to taste
  5. Place in the oven for 20 minutes at 200 degrees Celcius
  6. Leave pizza to cool and grate vegan cheese to taste


Serves 2 adults

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Vegan Chili Recipe

Preparation Time – 20 mins


  • 1x Red Onion
  • 1x Red Pepper
  • 2x Garlic
  • 2x tinned tomatoes
  • 1x Kidney beans
  • Handful Sweetcorn
  • 1x tsp Cumin
  • 1x tsp Chilli powder (or more if you’re hard)
  • 1x tsp soy sauce
  • 1x teaspoon balsamic vinegar
  • Nutritional yeast (optional)
  • 400g chestnut mushrooms


  1. Heat oil in a pan. Add finely chopped onion and minced/very finely chopped mushrooms and cook for 5 mins or until shrooms have cooked and reduced in size.
  2. Add garlic, cumin, chilli powder and red pepper and cook for a further 5 mins.
  3. Bung in the tomatoes, give it a good stir and bring the heat down to a simmer. Then drop the kidney beans in there.
  4. Soy sauce, balsamic vinegar and sweetcorn in. Leave to simmer until it thickens a little bit, probably around 20 mins.
  5. Take off the heat and add in some dark chocolate and nutritional yeast. Stir. Serve with your choice of rice.
  6. Put dark choc on ingredients (optional)

Vegan chili recipe

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Tofu & Chickpea Curry


  • 1 large bloke tofu
  • 1 Yellow Pepper
  • 1 Red Onion (cut into half moons
  • 1 clove of Garlic
  • 1 Small carton Passata
  • 1 veg stock cube
  • 1 Can of Chickpeas (drained)
  • 1 Tablespoon curry powder
  • 1 Teaspoon Mustard Seeds
  • 2 Hand-full Spinach
  • 1 Hand-full fresh coriander
  • Salt & Pepper (to taste)


1. Heat a little oil over a medium heat. Break up tofu block into small pieces (use hands) and fry until slightly brown

2. Add chopped onions, pepper, mustard seeds and garlic and cook for 5 mins. (Until onions have softened)

3. Add curry powder . Stir and cook for 1 min then add chickpeas and passata and cook for a further minute.

4. Add 250 ml of hot water with veg stock pot and reduce heat. Cook for 15-20 mins

5. Add your spinach until wilted, take off the heat. Roughly chop coriander. Season with salt and pepper then lastly add the coriander. Stir and serve

Serve with brown/basmati rice

Vegan Curry
Tofu recipe
Get the onions chopped
tofu, chickpeas & rice
A Dish Suitable for a Vegan-King

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Swimming for MMA

For information purposes only. Exercise at your own risk

Written by Kevin O’Hagan

Always consult a doctor before undertaking a new exercise routine. If perform incorrectly these exercises could result in injury or death. 

In this blog post we are going to look at the benefits of swimming as a training aid for the Mixed Martial Artist. Firstly, swimming can be a complete opposite to many other types of combat related exercise (i.e. running, skipping, padwork.).

It can make a nice diverse change in your training regime and also get you out of the gym and training hall environment. As they say, ‘A change is as good as a rest.’ The benefits of swimming are many. It is another great cardiovascular workout and a superb conditioner. If you study an Olympic swimmer none of them are six stone weaklings. Pushing your body against the force of the water is a sure way of building endurance and muscular power. 

For the MMA fighter swimming can be a good way to ease muscle stiffness and soreness after a heavy workout. The buoyancy of the water supports the joints and takes away any strain, plus there is no impact involved in the exercise, which is good news for a tired body. Days before a fight when all the hard training is done, swimming is a great way to keep the cardio system ticking over and also helps stretch out the muscles. Using swimming as pre fight day exercise also means you lessen the chances of any muscle pulls or strains. 

When I was in Japan for Pride, with James ‘The Colossus’ Thompson we regularly swam in the hotel pool last thing at night. It is a good method of unwinding. We also looked really fetching in the blue bathing hats the pool attendant insisted we wore! Many of the fighters found their way to the pool and enjoyed the benefits.

Swimming can also be an excellent form of exercise for re-habilitation from an injury. The water will support the injured body part and allow you to get some cardio training done. The limbs, back and neck can all profit from water. Also in between heavy training days in your normal weekly schedules, swimming will make a welcome change to running. It can also help you relax and give you time to think and ‘chill.’ Lets not forget though that swimming can also be an explosive cardio workout as well.

Most people when they go to the pool do not swim long or hard. The general public’s view of the swimming baths is they are a place of recreation or fun not for serious exercise unless of course you are a swimmer. Most pools will have time set aside for the serious swimmer, where you can do lane swimming free of thrashing limbs, plastic inflatables and polystyrene floats. This will give you the space you need for some serious work. I am not the world’s best swimmer, infact I can only swim breaststroke but I always treat swimming as another physical and mental challenge.

I once swam in the national ‘Swimathon’ for charity and swam the whole 200 length course breaststroke. I was in the water, 2 hours and 20 minutes. That is a long time especially without the toilet. That was a tough challenge! If you are a strong swimmer, get in the pool and do 30 minutes continuous swimming. This will be a good workout. Also add some underwater swimming, as this will help you develop strong lungpower when holding your breath. 

If you can swim a length of the pool underwater then you won’t have too much difficulty when you are ‘stacked up’ in the guard with your diaphragm constricted or when you are working to defend that chokehold. Other great exercises in the pool are ‘treading water’ and ‘water punching.’ 

Treading water 
Working your arms and legs continuously against the force of the water and staying afloat is a surefire muscle endurance workout. Aim to do a 4 or 5 minute round and feel what its like. It is not easy. 

Water punching 

I read in the autobiography of the great heavyweight boxing champion, Rocky Marciano that he used to practice fast, constant punching in the water. With his arms and shoulders submerged he punched against the waters pull. He developed tremendous power in punching. He was an awesome punching machine with a profolic KO record. His fight record was 49-0 with 43 KO’s. He knocked out 88 per cent of his opponents! I think there is something in this ‘water punching’, try it! 

  • Benefits of swimming for a MMA fighter: 
  • Good cardio/muscle endurance workout 
  • Total change of environment for fighter 
  • Good way to ease down pre fight training 
  • Good method of unwinding 
  • Helps ease muscle stiffness and soreness 
  • Aids rehabilitation and promotes recovery 

Safety points for training: 

Remember swimming is no different to any other fitness activity. Stretch out before hard swimming. Paying particular attention to the neck, shoulders and back. Warm up slowly with some steady paced swimming. Don’t just dive in and start blasting. This is a common mistake.

Doing this is no different to getting on a treadmill cold, cranking up the speed and doing a full out sprint. You will injure yourself. Don’t treat swimming any differently. Remember you sweat in water.

People do not always register this fact because the water cools you down constantly. After training drink plenty of fluid or you will become dehydrated. So in closing try and think of swimming as a major fitness exercise.

Do not underestimate its benefits. View swimming as a positive activity not just a bit of fun you may have with your kids or friends or something you only do once a year when you go on your holidays. Swimming should be part of the MMA fighters overall fitness regime. If you are not already incorporating it into your schedule, now is a good time to give it a go. Good luck. 

Kevin O’Hagan is a former MMA fighter and self defence expert.

For Martial Arts & Self Defense in Bristol, UK, please visit his website:

Editor’s Note

When I worked in a gym, back in the days when I was actually competing, I’d do a swim most nights.

MMA Workout for Swimming

  • 4 lengths (25m) of pool x 4 breast stroke
  • 4 lengths of pool freestyle
  • 4 lengths of the pool – doing ‘walking knees’ (walk the shallow-end 8 times if pool is deep)
  • 10 Low kicks with each leg*
  • Underwater shadow boxing – 3 x 3 min rounds

*Roundhouse Kicks are very difficult. Try side kicks to begin with

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