If premium cables are a hint of things to come, it is only a matter of time before a rapidly mutating virus turns us all into zombies, a wave of fire blazes across the land, or an alien species invades the planet and forces us to do theirs to lick spaceships clean. Whether or not the end of the world is near, we seem to spend a lot of time thinking about why functional fitness is likely so popular. Functional fitness connects us to our primitive ancestors who climbed obstacles and overtook predators because they had to – not because it gave them firm butts and chiseled delts. And while the apocalypse is only hypothetical, knowing you are fit enough to give these space invaders a run for their money can help you sleep better at night.
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To get you fit for the end of the day (or maybe just your next steeplechase) you need to develop these five essential survival skills and Pete McCall, MS, CSCS, master trainer, author and host of the All About Fitness Podcast, weighs in with his tips to maximize every movement.
Once the global fuel shortage reaches a tipping point, you will have to flee on foot, which means you have to carry everything you have with you – food, supplies, weapons, a less in shape loved one. … In addition to having super firm legs, you need a strong core and shoulders. This medicine ball complex works all over your body, but you will feel it most in your glutes, hamstrings, quads, and calves.
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Other equipment great for carrying: sandbags, sandbells, kettlebells, and small people.
Medicine Ball Complex
Clean / Lateral Squat / Alternating Step-Up
- Do six to eight repetitions of each part, finishing all repetitions of one before moving on to the next. Do three to five rounds.
PART 1: Cleaning
Stand behind a medicine ball with your feet hip-width apart. Push your hips back, then bend your knees and grasp the medicine ball with your fingers down and straight back on either side. In one explosive motion, straighten your legs, straighten your hips, and shrug your shoulders. Fold your elbows forward and under the ball so that it rotates in your hands to rest on your chest and immediately drop into a low squat. Straighten your legs and stand up.
PART 2: Squat on the side
Hold the medicine ball against your chest and kick your feet about shoulder width apart. Drop your hips and bend your knees until your thighs are parallel to or just below the floor. Then straighten your legs and kick your feet together. Next, alternating sides.
PART 3: Alternating step-up
Hold the medicine ball on one shoulder and stand on a knee-high box (or bench). Step on the box with your right foot and extend your leg to stand on top. Touch the top of your left toe, then kick it back down, followed by your right. Next, alternating legs. Then, drop the medicine ball on the floor and start over.
PRO TYPE: As you get stronger and more competent in this complex, decrease the amount of rest between sets. For example, start with a 60 second break and gradually work your way down to 15 or 20. “If you are running from zombies, you have to recover quickly,” says McCall. “You won’t have much time to stop and catch your breath.”
Speed and endurance
Your survival depends on your ability to escape predators and make it through the long walk to safety. This means that you need to increase your speed and improve your endurance at the same time. This interval running plan works out both by mixing in high knees and side mixes to improve your range of motion and agility. Do it on the street or on a treadmill for a killer cardio workout that strengthens your core as well as every muscle from your hip flexors to your toes.
30-minute interval run
Jog for 30 minutes at speed, side-to-side shuffles, and high-knee intervals as follows:
PRO TYPE: Every 30 second interval, run hard until you are out of breath, then slow enough to allow you to have a conversation. “That lets you know that you ran really hard and worked anaerobically – without oxygen,” says McCall.
Surviving the apocalypse won’t be without a fight, and you will likely have to hit a few zombies along the way. The steel mace is an effective weapon and a versatile training tool. This uppercut move allows you to kick your core, shoulders, biceps, and triceps in the ass and take on names.
Steel mace top section
- Do three sets of 12 repetitions per side.
Stand with your feet hip-width apart and bend your knees to lower yourself into a quarter-squat. Grasp the handle end of the mace with your left hand and place your right hand under the heavy end. Hold the mace in front of your waist with your elbows bent and core firmly attached. Pivot on your toes and twist to the left as you pull your left hand toward your body and slap your right hand up in an upward motion. Turn back to start. Do all the repetitions before switching sides.
No steel mace? A baseball bat or sledgehammer works just as well for battling your way through a hoard of these hungry, brain-hungry undead.
PRO TYPE: Your strength should come from your back foot and hips, and each rep should be as explosive as possible. “You’re training the body to make that quick change in direction, so focus on snapping your hips,” says McCall.
Upper body strength and coordination
The path to food, shelter, and water will likely be littered with obstacles, and you’ll need a strong upper body and some coordination to drag yourself over crumbling buildings, brick walls, and chain link fences. This modified rope climbing challenges your grip while strengthening your shoulders, back, biceps and triceps.
Modified rope climbing
- Do three sets of five reps.
Lie under a rope on the floor with your knees bent open. Grab the rope with both hands and grasp it as high as you can. Use your arms and torso to pull yourself up from hand to hand to come to a stand – don’t push with your legs – then reverse the action to return to the floor.
PRO TYPE: Rope climbing of any kind can be a little intimidating (we blame the middle school gym class) so do what you can. “Just be consistent and work on one part of the movement at a time,” says McCall. So if you are only halfway up the rope, do your best to climb this section. Over time, you will see improvements.
Balance and mobility
Don’t wait to navigate one of these wobbly rope bridges to improve your balance and agility. The Single Leg Point Drill will work out all of the muscles in your standing leg while developing your balance and improving your ability to move and change direction quickly and precisely.
One-legged point drill
- Do three sets of three to five repetitions.
Find an open patch of floor space and mark an area approximately 2 feet wide and 3 feet long with chalk or tape. Place a point in the middle and a point in each of the four corners. Stand in the lower left corner and find your balance on your right leg. Then jump to each point in the following order: bottom right, center, top right, top left. Return to your jumps and return to the lower left corner. This is a repetition. Do all of the repetitions on one leg before switching.
PRO TYPE: “Try to land on the ball of your foot and roll to your heel on landing,” says McCall. “This will train you to properly absorb ground force.”
The skipping rope is another great way to train lower body reactivity and agility – and the rope can later be used as a zombie restraint.