Sunday, November 29, 2009

Introduction to Fight4Life

Thank God, Fight4Life is a workout program I was inspired to create by fusing kickboxing, intervals, muscle confusion, circuit training and a total fitness routine that targets every part of the body with every form of fitness: agility, balance, flexibility, power, speed, skill, coordination, as well as the strength, stamina and endurance that most “fit” people typically pursue.

Having done all of those types of training while combating diabetes and Carpal tunnel syndrome over the past year, I began to enjoy mixing them together in three-minute intervals (or rounds as I like to call them) with a minute of rest or recovery (punching while stepping in place) between each. After working out with the aforementioned programs for about six months, I began to train three times a week, one hour a day in three-minute intervals with a minute of rest or recovery between each round for 15 rounds. Two days a week, I would do intervals by mountain biking or running. And one day a week – usually Saturday – I would hike.

I felt like a champ being able to go 15 rounds, but after a couple of months, I began to over train. I realized that more recovery was required to get an effective workout. So now I train in 13-week cycles: three days a week for two weeks, four days a week for two weeks, five days a week for one week, six days a week for two weeks, five days a week for one week, four days a week for two weeks, three days a week for two weeks and one week completely off from formal exercise (although enjoying the outdoors, especially with family and friends, is highly recommended during this full recovery week).

After that full week of recovery, my body itches to start exercising again rather than feeling overtrained. I find myself constantly wanting to hit the heavy bag and go through the day trying to keep myself from kicking and punching the air. Then, when it’s finally time to do it again, I unload on the bag like a caged animal.

In the midst of my first 13-week season, I came up with the name Fight4Life for the program. I hope that Fight4Life catches on around the country and people begin to use martial arts training not so much for self-defense or to pursue a black belt or to compete but just to be healthy because it is the most effective and efficient form of exercise and total fitness.

Again, Fight4Life is a combination of intervals, muscle confusion, total fitness training and kickboxing. The hour-long routine is broken up into 15 three-minute intervals (or rounds) that target the entire body, especially the core, and all aspects of fitness: agility, balance, flexibility, power, speed, as well as the strength, stamina and endurance that most “fit” people typically pursue. Between each round, there is a minute of either complete rest or partial recovery (punching while stepping in place).

Here’s a breakdown of the 15 rounds of Fight4Life:
Round 1 to 3: Warm Up (shadow box, jump rope, jumping jacks, ellipitical, agility drills around cones and/or tires, step routine with punches on core, stability or Bosu board)
Round 4 to 8: Strength, Power, Balance, Agility (use kettlebells, dumbbells, powerlifting, medicine balls, a stability ball, resistance bands, Bosu Board, core board, stability board, tires, rings, ropes and calisthenics to workout as much of the body at once as possible – neck, traps, shoulders, chest, back, core, hips, glutes, biceps, triceps, forearms, hands, fingers, thighs, calves, feet, toes — while incorporating as many aspects of fitness as possible, as well as the core of the body: upper abs, lower abs, obliques, traverse abdominus and lower back)
Round 9: Speed, Agility, Coordination (Cones, tires, suicides, sprints, stairs – sometimes mixed with power with explosion squats and walking lunges or work on speed bag or top-and-bottom bag)
Round 10-12: Skill with bag work (punches in round 7, kicks in round 8, both in round 9 with knees and elbows on heavy bag, also can work in tabatas, speed bag and top-and-bottom bag)
Round 13: Cool down (Tai Chi, shadow boxing, more balance work)
Round 14-15: Flexibility (self myo-fascial release, stretching, floor pilates).
As you can see, this a great mix of exercise and forms of fitness. Total fitness is the key, especially as one gets older.

The motto of Fight4Life is: Keep Punchin'. This based on the core movement of Fight4Life: the Step 'N Punch, which is to grind each heel into the floor as you twist at the waist, punch at the end of each twist and squeeze each hand at the end of each punch. This total-body movement can be done as a warm up or and as active rest between rounds. By continually punching in this way, you'll build the muscular core of a fighter, while burning debilitating belly fat.

Don’t want to slip and fall? Do Fight4Life to improve your balance. Don’t want to break a hip or get arthritis? Do Fight4Life to improve the strength and flexibility of your joints. Don’t want to get osteoperosis? Strength training builds not only strong muscles, it also builds strong bones. Want to burn fat? There is no better way to burn fat than a mix of interval and strength training. Fight4Life is a great mix of both, plus nearly the entire program emphasizes the core, which will burn belly fat. Don’t want diabetes to affect your limbs? Then strengthen and increase the circulation in your toes, feet, fingers and hands by exercising and stretching them with Fight4Life.

Like kickboxing, Fight4Life involves a lot of punching and kicking. The punching will strengthen your core. The kicking will improve your balance, flexibility and agility. Even if you don’t want to be a fighter, Fight4Life is great to do because it will give you a shape like a fighter without necessarily having to be one. Women might say, “Why would I want to look like a fighter?” Well, take a look at Gina Carano, one of the best MMA women fighters in the world, at

Fight4Life uses interval training to target the entire body and every aspect of fitness. Intervals are bursts of intense exercise interspersed with less intense periods. With Fight4Life, these intervals are called rounds and mimic the time periods of a 15-round boxing match. But those time periods can be adjusted to meet your fitness level by increasing or decreasing the intensity and doing the same with the rest or recovery between rounds.

Another important aspect of Fight4Life is building strong, functional muscles, much like those of a fighter. Bruce Lee was a pioneer in bringing functional muscle training to the masses and much of his exercise philosophy still is used by fighters today.

Targeting the entire body with total fitness creates strong, functional muscles rather than the big, showy ones that come from overemphasizing strength and power training (or the small but enduring ones that come with focusing on the cardio training of endurance sports, such as running and cycling). Total fitness also strengthens the ligaments, joints and bones beyond what just strength and cardio training can do, making for a healthy way to live, especially as we age.
Besides using interval training to build total fitness, functional muscles and a strong core, another key to Fight4Life is muscle confusion. Having been a huge Grateful Dead fan most of my life (admittedly, not the healthiest lifestyle choice I could have made), it was easy for me to appreciate muscle confusion, which, in a sense, is never approaching the same workout the same way twice in much the same way the Dead approached their music.

When you do the same routine over and over, the brain tells the muscle, “OK, this is what’s coming. You can take it easy because you know it’s coming.” Muscle confusion forces the muscle to grow because the brain can’t tell the muscle what’s coming next. The muscle is forced to immediately adapt, which forces the body to pump more blood into the muscle in order to adapt. The more blood that is pumped into the muscle, the more it grows. The more it grows, the more fat is burned and bettered metabolized.

Muscle is the body’s great metabolizer. If you have a naturally slow metabolism, building strong, functional muscles with Fight4Life will speed up your metabolism, helping you to burn fat more effectively and efficiently and keep it off.
The variety that comes with the muscle confusion, total fitness and interval training of Fight4Life also makes workouts more fun. The more fun working out is, the more likely you are to stick with it for the rest of your life and the better you will be able to keep the fat off and maintain a healthy lifestyle forever.

If you want to do Fight4Life at home, you don’t need a large space in which to do it. And the equipment required is far less expensive than machines that only concentrate on strength and cardio, a quarter of total fitness. One nice days, you can do Fight4Life outside, which makes it more fun and uplifting. And if you join a gym, most of the equipment needed should be available. If not, you always can request it, along with the training to help map and master the exercises.

Again, Fight4Life encompasses four 13-week seasons of intensity and recovery: three days a week for two weeks, four days a week for two weeks, five days a week for one week, six days a week for two weeks, five days a week for one week, four days a week for two weeks, three days a week for two weeks and one week of full recovery without any formal exercise (although enjoy the outdoors with family and friends and/or a favorite participatory sport is highly recommended during that recovery week).

I would suggest doing Fight4Life throughout three-day and four-day weeks. During the four-day weeks, you can split your routines so that you’re doing upper body on Mondays and Thursdays and limbs on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Hips and glutes you can do any of the four days, such as with your core on Mondays and Thursdays and/or your legs on Tuesdays and Fridays.

During the five-day weeks do intervals one day a week by walking for 10 minutes, then jogging (or walking briskly) every two minutes for one-minute intervals for between 12 to 24 minutes (or four to eight intervals), then cool down for five minutes. As your fitness level increases, you can increase the intensity of the intervals and mix the jogging with sprints, explosion squats and walking lunges or trade in walking and/or jogging for mountain biking.

On six-day weeks, add a hike, walk or swim to the program or whatever your favorite participatory sport or outdoor activity is. But keep it light as a form of active recovery. Then a full day off before doing Fight4Life again.

And make sure you always warm up for 10 minutes before and stretch for at least 10 minutes after exercise.

If you don’t feel like punching and kicking a heavy bag, mountain biking and swimming are excellent total-fitness, total-body alternatives. Just bring a resistance band to a park equipped with a bike trail and a playground, and you’ll be all set. You can do exercises before hitting the trail (or the water, if you’re swimming).

And if you feel you aren’t fit enough yet to kick box, bike or swim, then punch with a resistance band around a pole for Round 10. For Round 11, get on your knees with the band on the top of a door or chinning bar and punch a medicine ball while holding onto the handles of the resistance band. This exercise is like the ground-and-pound of mixed martial arts and it pounds your core, shoulders, hands, fingers and forearms. For round 12, kick a medicine ball between your feet at a weight that you can do for three minutes. If you need to, start with a soccer ball.
So impressed with my losing more than 40 pounds in less than year, my father and one of my best friends have asked me to supervise their Fight4Life training, so I train with them as often as I can. I then received my personal training certification from the National Academy of Sports Medicine and now have three additional clients. None of them have any desire to be a martial artist, but all are seeing the same results that I am seeing.

And you will too, regardless of your fitness level. You can tailor the program to match your fitness level and grow swiftly by using it. You’ll improve all aspects of fitness in the first 13-week season.

However, if you are extremely overweight, have a critical health condition and/or are over the age of 50, I would suggest modifying the first season to only three days a week for six weeks and four days a week for six weeks. And then one full week off. Then try to add five- and six-day weeks if you can in the second or third seasons.

But make sure you don’t start any kind of exercise program without a green light from your doctor. Even if you think you’re in great shape, get a physical just to rule anything out and then get ready to Fight4Life!

I feel called by God to help people get in shape through Fight4Life. I’m thankful that the Lord healed me of diabetes and Carpul tunnel by inspiring me to get back to shape by using many of the same methods I used as a young fighter, plus many new ones He’s put in my path. I pray He can use them to heal people who are chronically ill and overweight so that they can know and serve Him better.

In coming weeks, I will be sharing more details about Fight4Life, including videos. Until then, Keep Punchin'!

Bob Makin: 732-977-8902,

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