Stronger for Longer

iPhone Pics and vids 099Density blocks are the bedrock of strength endurance training for fighters and time crunched fighters. The issue that most combat sports athletes face is that they have multiple disciplines to train – for example, MMA fighters need to hit all the ranges of their sport, boxing, Thai, BJJ, wrestling, and cage craft. This is without the odd weight loss run and regular S&C sessions at Grapplefit (obviously)!! The principle of density blocks comes in very handy for the fighters who feel the need to develop their physical attributes alongside their technical ability, after all “Skills pay the bills”… so the mantra goes.

Putting these together is very subjective – I like to use a conditioning/strength movement such as tyre flips, farmers walks etc, followed by a push, pull and core movement, all finished off with a more severe conditioning movement such as sled pushes, bear crawls and plate pushes.


The principle of Escalating Density Training (EDT), has been popularised by Charles Staley, Staley recommends two work block intervals of 15 minutes each called PR zones, the idea is you pick two antagonistic exercises such as bench press and chins and perform set repetitions for the 15 min block or zone. The next zone you may go for front squats and RDLs. Either way, progress is measured by you trying to better your PR or personal record. Fairly simple really..! Below is an example of a density block at Grapplefit Towers –

Farmers Walks – 50m Grab a trap bar, DBs or KBs and walk briskly with them

Ring push ups – 6-10 reps Adding instability into the mix, try Hindu pushups or divebombers to make these even harder

Rope Climb – 3-5 trips up the rope Try to climb the rope without your feet if you can, if not use your legs too – it’s still unpleasant!!

Plank rows – 10 each hand Keep a stable plank position and use a resistance band to perform one arm rows – an excellent drill which mimics the demands of combat in that your core has to remain stiff when your upper body is often dynamically engaged in pushing, pulling and pummelling.

Sledgehammer – 10 reps Ideally, switch between a lighter hammer and a big ass heavy one to mix this up. If it’s light, got fast; if it’s heavy swing it hard!!

Bear Crawl – 30m You know the drill here – hands and feet on the floor – crawl as fast as you can for the required distance!!

No one likes bear crawls!!! So dry your eyes and do them as they’re great for you!! There are several ways to do this really, depending on where you are in your programme. The first way involves performing the required reps for 5-6 rounds. This is very straightforward and easy to keep a check on. The second method is a favourite of mine but weirdly enough NOT so popular with the Grapplefitters. You set a timer for 10, 15 or 20 minutes, then go all out for as many rounds as you can in the designated time!! This is all kinds of fun, and provides a level of strength endurance that is second to none. Below are two links to videos from my Grapplefit Quick Tips series on YouTube, the first one details the benefits of density blocks, and the second one shows two of my pro fighters going through this actual workout…

Info on density blocks:

Live demo:



Another method you can employ is to pick one movement, such as clean and press, the kit doesn’t matter. It could be kettlebells, barbells, dumbbells, sand bags, kegs anything you can get your hands on. Perform as many reps as you can in the timeframe you choose. The Girevoy Sport events in kettlebell land are an example of this type of training. Now you can tweak the variables on this too, let’s say you perform 135 snatches in ten mins with a kettlebell, on your second workout a week later you need to be improving, so 137 or 138 even. That’s possibly the easiest way to do it. Perform more work in the given time frame and smash your PR!! Another way to do it would be to use less time so drop off by 30 seconds or 60 seconds if you’re feeling adventurous!! In this way you’re still aiming to perform up to 140 snatches, using our above example, but you do so in less time. So you’re taking less time to do more work. Lots of time efficient workouts can be had here and don’t be afraid to experiment and break the rules a little. The only stipulation on this type of workout would be to pick movements that are compound and therefore multi-joint in nature. Things like curls and crunches would be a waste of time and possibly bring on ridiculous DOMS!! So what do you get? Well we all know now (or at least we should do), that combat sports are predominantly anaerobic in nature in terms of the energy systems in use. So anaerobic interval type training is best for this intermittent style of combat. It is also noted that interval or anaerobic training can improve not only the anaerobic system, but also the aerobic system. I’ve championed the cause for long enough that real fighters don’t run (long slow distance I’m referring to here, sprints are cool and strongly recommended). It’s like a BOGOF offer – Buy One Get One Free!! Hit anaerobic training and your aerobic system will be thanking you too. The other reason I like density training so much is that it’s totally time efficient. I’m a busy father of three, it can be hard work juggling training and coaching with family life, I’m sure you’re all aware. I’m not trying to get sympathy here. There are plenty folks who wish for more hours in the day I’m sure. My point is I believe it’s possible to still get workouts done in 20 mins, I’m often training in between clients or alongside my more advanced ones so that it’s possible to hit a little density training throughout the day. For the combat athlete this is even more important!! As I alluded to earlier, time is a precious commodity for fighters who need to juggle a lot of skills training with other things like family, work, diet, conditioning and more importantly rest!! Density blocks offer a sweet trade off between training hard and getting results and not over training and spending too much time in the gym and not enough honing your craft. Start looking to add some density behind your training and you’ll see some cracking results… Enjoy!!