The X-Factor; Designer Superhero Workout Training Tips and Advice

Greetings true believers

With the new series of articles on Designer Superhero Workouts just beginning; I thought it only wise to give you some handy tips and advice to help you get the most from your workouts.

That’s right, beloved reader, today we learn from that diverse gang of Super Heroes, the X-Men. Thus, Your friendly neighbourhood Rogue Advisor will be sciencing you upside the head mutant style.

So what can we learn from these genetically mutated folk?

We can learn a lot of handy training tips and tactics from these diverse and over-the-top politically correct chaps.

Periodization

What’s this periodization business? 

Periodization can be defined as a system for program design that plans appropriate cycles and training phases. The system used in the Designer Superhero Workouts.

The human machine, being what it, is an incredibly adaptive organism; quickly responding to its input. You lift heavy you get strong. You stretch you’ll get flexible. You run for hours upon hours per day, you will have improved cardiovascular endurance.

But because it adapts to the input, it will become complacent, thus reducing the results. When this happens things need to be switched around a bit, to ‘shock’ the body into having to adapt again, producing new results. Do you think the X-Men do the same training day in day out in the danger room? Nope.

It has been time and time again proven for success in achieving training goals and has a track record of over 50 years of development. Research has confirmed that periodization has the ability to produce significantly better results than straight set training or normal progression type training. Michael JordanMuhammad AliUsain Bolt, Babe Ruth, Tiger woods, and Bruce Lee have all used this wonderful training tactic. It also provides the ultimate training log. Looking back on a year’s periodized training will really give clarity on how much you have accomplished over that time.

Program Design

This represents a periodized table of progression, working up to a competition.

Any good training programme should be considered as ongoing and therefore broken down into calendar based blocks of time based periods that usually termed as ‘cycles’.

During each cycle prioritize working on the attributes which will benefit the athlete. Within these cycles we have Macrocycles, planning the overall outline of the program and commonly lasting for three-month periods, give or take, depending on the individual athlete’s goals.

Macrocycles are then, in turn, broken down again into smaller more manageable segments called Mesocycles.

Training Phases

These are the Mesocycles, which enable the athlete to efficiently track their progress, maybe reassess their goals if necessary and tailor the routine to suit and desired changes; such as training tactics, nutrition, intensity etc. The cycles run from 3 to 12 weeks, but great yields can result from longer or shorter periods, dependant upon genetics, muscle fibre composition and already established attribute levels. A 3 to 8 week Mesocycle suits most people.

Hypertrophy phase: During this is the phase for the athlete will be most effective hitting a rep range between strength training and endurance training; that will stimulate all the different fibre types, thus, the greatest overall hypertrophy.

Hugh Jackman preparing to do some heavy squats for a hypertrophy phase.

Strength / power phases: Characterised by extremely high levels of intensity, all-out short distance sprints, lifting extremely heavy but for very low reps or a three-minute round in the boxing ring.

The easiest transition between phases is from strength to power; gradually decrease the reps from the usual 8 down to a range of 1 to 6, whilst also removing some exercises to really focus on the core movements for power: such as barbell squats, deadlifts,  bench press, bent-over barbell rows, military press etc.

Endurance phase: This phases consists of lower intensity but higher-volume workouts. Muscular and cardiovascular endurance will be the primary focus. It also functions as an experimental phase of sorts.

If there are new exercise techniques that need to be introduced, this is the phase for it. Given the low intensity, (weight usually), gives the athlete the opportunity to master them, the added repetitions required for the high-volume element.

Transitional phase: This is the transitional phase, to morph one phase into another. For example:gradually bringing the reps up when moving from a strength phase to an endurance phase, and visa versa.

Swimming is a fine example of ‘active rest’. I’m sure there are rules about adamantium claws in the swimming pool though.

Active rest: On ‘rest’ days it can sometimes be a good idea to get  what is known as ‘active rest’, keeping you geared up athletically but recreationally.

Body-weight Exercises

Hank McCoy demonstrates the value of bodyweight exercises.

If you wish to attain Beast-like agility, then add body-weight exercises as often as possible, like chin ups, pull-ups and bodyweight dips. When you can add extra resistance to those, you’ll be able to perform great feats of agility.

It’s common sense; let’s say you perform jumping squats whilst holding 2 dumbbells; when you get rid of the extra weight of the dumbbells, your jump height will be significantly higher.

You can also add a flexibility routine. A greater range of movement will facilitate greater dexterity.  

Break it down and rebuild it

BAMF!

When Nightcrawler teleports, all of the atoms in his body disassemble, pass through another plane of existence, then reassemble at another point in space and time.

A similar process is occurring in your skeletal muscle when you are working out, the exertion of the training breaks the muscle down, actually damaging the tissue. The body then reacts to this by re-growth geared toward the new input.

This anabolic process occurs when you are resting and eating, that’s when the cells get reassembled. Once the skeletal muscle has been nicely broken down, even they haven’t travelled through another plane of existence, we still need to put them back together.

Thus we need . . .

SNIKT!

“Recovery bub”

The sooner one can recover from a training session, the sooner one can train again, speeding up the results. That’s simple for Wolverine; he regenerates. It doesn’t matter how much he gets cut, smashed, pummelled, drinks or smokes; he never takes any lasting or permanent damage or even gains a scar.

So, bereft of mutant powers how can we get recovering at such a rate?

Protein: Already covered this in ‘The Asgardian Power-House‘, but a little more detail couldn’t hurt. Get plenty of it, from high quality sources. The reason for this is that the building blocks of protein are called amino acids, and they all have a different and vital function.

Human protein is formed from 20 amino acids that are found within proteins.  Alanine, Arginine, Asparagine, Aspartic acid, Cysteine,  Glutamic acid, Glutamine, Glycine, Histidine, Isoleucine, Leucine, Lysine, Methionine, Phenylalanine, Proline, Serine Threonine,  Tryptophan, Tyrosine and Valine.

Humans can produce 10 of the 20 amino acids. The others must be supplied in the food. Failure to obtain enough of even 1 of the 10 essential amino acids, those that we cannot make, results in degradation of the body’s proteins—muscle and so forth—to obtain the one amino acid that is needed. Unlike fat and starch, the human body does not store excess amino acids for later use—the amino acids must be in the food every day.

Non-Essential amino acids: The 10 amino acids that are essential, those that can be converted by the liver from other nutrients are; alanine, asparagine, aspartic acid, cysteine, glutamic acid, glutamine, glycine, proline, serine and tyrosine. Tyrosine is produced from phenylalanine, so if the diet is deficient in phenylalanine, tyrosine will be required as well.

Essential amino acids: Are arginine, histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan, and valine. This means we must consume them and / or supplement them in our diets. Supplementation may be the only option for some of these if you’re vegetarian and the only option if you happen to be vegan.

Glutamine

This is the stuff I’m talking about, the very brand that yours truly uses. It’ll have you recovering like Wolverine.

We’re going to focus on one really important one for regeneration. Glutamine plays a role in a variety of biochemical functions, including: Protein bio-synthesis, as any other of the proteinogenic amino acids, regulation of acid-base balance in the kidney by producing ammonium, nitrogen donation for many anabolic processes including the synthesis of purines, carbon donation, as a source, refilling the citric acid cycle, nontoxic transporter of ammonia in the blood circulation.

Basically, whenever your body needs to make a repair, glutamine is the primary amino acid it goes to for most reparation chores. When any part of your body needs healing, say from a cut, recovery from a hangover or even sleep deprivation, it’s glutamine that gets used, and a great majority is extracted straight from the skeletal muscles. Unless there is some spare via supplementation. There aren’t many supplements worth spending your hard-earned or hard-stolen cash on but glutamine is without doubt one of them, get it in powdered form, for ease of absorption.

Sleep

Most of us don’t get anywhere near enough sleep, the regeneration magic happens then But when we are so busy in our daily lives with those vile afflictions known as day jobs, those wondrous affairs called social lives and those horrors we address as responsibilities; sleep is the first thing Sleep deprivation can have a big impact on our metabolism; slowing it down and hoarding fat and not getting enough sleep slows glucose metabolism by as much as 30 to 40 percent, causing even more fat gain. EEK

Eve Van Cauter, PhD , from the University of Chicago Medical School, studied the effects of three different durations of sleep in eleven men aged 18 to 27.

For the first three nights of the study, the men slept eight hours per night; for the next six nights, they slept four hours per night; for the last seven nights, they slept 12 hours per night. Results showed that after four hours of sleep per night, they metabolized glucose least efficiently. Levels of cortisol were also higher, which has been linked to memory impairment, age-related insulin resistance, and impaired recovery in athletes.

Van Cauter said that after only one week of sleep restriction, young, healthy males had glucose levels that were no longer normal and showed a rapid deterioration of the body’s functions. This reduced ability of the body to manage glucose is similar to those found in the elderly. This study shows that sleep deprivation can negatively impact physiology that is critical for athletic performance — glucose metabolism and cortisol status.

While no one completely understands the complexities of sleep, this does indicates that sleep deprivation can lead to decreased activity of human growth hormone (which is active during tissue repair), and decreased glycogen synthesis.

Psylocke demonstrates sleeping. Never mind showing off all the psychic abilities and martial skills, eh?

So how much sleep is required?

It going to differ from person to person, but the general consensus is 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep, more for is required for athletes due to greater physical exertion. A minimum of 6, preferably 7, and if you’re raining hard 8 to 9 hours.

Some of our genes act as internal clocks and release hormones according to cycles called circadian rhythms, which are triggered by darkness and light and alternate over 24-hour periods. When we mess with these rhythms by not getting enough sleep, our metabolism of glucose declines, and our level of cortisol increases. Further, sleeping for long stretches is naturally anabolic.

During deep sleep, our bodies release growth hormone, which stimulates the healing and growth of muscle and bone. So while it’s possible to push through a lack of sleep during any one day, proper sleep helps athletes by boosting areas of performance that require cognitive function, reaction time, hand-eye coordination and of course it aids recovery from grueling workouts.

Anything else? It is a pretty big team to learn from

Use your mind.

The mind-muscle-connection

Great things can be accomplished with strong focus, concentration and visualisation. A technique utilised by many athletic pros to maximize muscle and performance. By developing a strong ‘mind-muscle connection’ ,this connection is made by visualizing the muscle being trained and focusing on the feeling of it working through its complete range of motion during each rep.

When applying the technique don’t think about where you feel the muscular stimulus, think about where you’re supposed to feel the stimulus. For example; during press ups the muscle that should be shifting all the weight are the pectoralis major, but a lot of people end up focusing too much on the arms, triceps specifically, which are only assisting the movement. Instead you must focus on contacting the pectorals thereby bringing the arms together and forward, the triceps assisting only to extend the elbow joint. Continue with this thought process during the negative phase of the movement, focusing on the feeling of the pectorals stretching.

Keeping your mental focus channeled in this manner will direct the majority of stress to the target muscles of your chest, maximizing muscular stimulation. It sounds daft, far-fetched even a little sci-fi but believe in your Rogue Advisor, beloved reader, the mind-muscle connection is the real deal.

Visualization

Some athletes routinely use visualization techniques in both training and competition. Those who’ve used these techniques have cultivated not only a competitive edge, but also found renewed mental awareness, and a heightened sense of focus.

Visualization is also referred to as guided imagery, mental rehearsal, mediation, etc. Regardless of the term applied, the techniques and concepts are the same. Visualization is the mental process of creating an image or intention of what you desire.

Colossus. Clearly.

“Throughout my bodybuilding career, I was constantly playing tricks on my mind. This is why I began to think of my biceps as mountains, instead of flesh and blood. Thinking of my biceps as mountains made my arms grow faster and bigger than if I’d seen them only as muscles.” – Arnold Schwarzenegger

This technique can be used to increase the ‘intent’ of the result of a competition or training session. By visualizing the desired scene, complete with reverie of a previous best performance or a future target, the athlete is then ‘steps into’ that feeling. While imagining these scenarios, the athlete will imagine in perfect detail, all the myriad sensations of the way it feels to perform in the desired way, or the results wanted from that training session.

And finally

Keep it cool.

No really. It does wonders for you. Every time you get stressed out, start vexing or get your raging bellyache on, you get a massive surge of nasty old cortisol, which breaks down muscle tissue. So when you have to skip a meal or a workout, don’t be miffed but don’t use cortisol as an excuse to slack off either. Temperature also affects testosterone levels. Everyone knows that guys who sleep in the cold have a higher sperm count right? That’s because testosterone is boosted when the testicles are at just the right chilly temperature. Yay.

Until next time. Stay informed.

 

Empty Hand

This one is a favourite here at Level Up. Not just because it’s an awesome combat skill, but also because it’s one of the few structured martial arts that doesn’t involve the use of any weapons.

Batman narrowly missies Wolverine with a well formed Yoko tobi geri.

Batman narrowly misses Wolverine with a well-formed Yoko tobi geri.

That’s right, beloved reader, today your friendly neighbourhood Rogue Advisor will be helping you level up your skill in one of the greatest unarmed fighting systems from the east.

Karate

Shotokan to be precise; the unified form of Karate founded by the late, great Gichin Funakoshi. Before we hit the resistance training in all it’s kinesiological glory, let’s get to know more about the art of the empty hand.

The tiger emblem of Shotokan Karate.

Contrary to popular belief Karate is not a Japanese martial skill, it’s Okinawan, but because it has been developed and popularised by Japanese exponents the terminology of the combat sport is now almost exclusively in the Japanese language. It started life called simply ‘ti’, or in Japanese, ‘te’. It’s also not as ancient as many think.

In 1372 trade relationships were established with the Ming Dynasty of China by King Satto of Chūzan. This led to some forms of chinese martial arts being introduced to the Pechin class of the Ryukyu Islands. Given the similarities between them, it is reasonably safe to assume that the Chinese martial arts to influence Karate’s development, Fujian White Crane probably being one of the main culprits. In 1429, however, the political centralization of Okinawan King Shō Hashi brought with it a ban on all weapons, at the time all martial skills were weapon based with little need for unarmed combat to be practiced unless for sport, this was reinforced in after the invasion of the Shimazu clan in 1609. These both played important factors in how Karate and it’s sibling martial art Kobudō evolved. Kobudō is responsible for bringing us delights such as nunchaku, tonfa, , sai and kama. Whilst developed at the same time and for the same reasons, Karate and Kobudō are separate arts but often mis-categorised together.

Funakoshi Sensei getting serious with a Makiwara.

Funakoshi Sensei getting serious with a Makiwara.

During all this developmental chaos, along came Gichin Funakoshi; the father of modern Shotokan. He had trained in both popular styles of that time’s Okinawan karate; Shōrei-ryū and Shōrin-ryū. Funakoshi was quite known for his writing, he was an avid poet and philosopher as well as being a Karate master. In 1939, after many successful years of nurturing his Karate style and teaching a plethora of students, he built the first official Shotokan Dojo in Tokyo.

Shotokan derives its name from Funakoshi’s pen name, Shoto, meaning ‘waving pines’ and Kan means training hall or house. Thus Shotokan’s can be translated as ‘house of Shoto’. He also changed the way the characters for Karate written, from meaning ‘China hand’ to ’empty hand’. The two words sound the same in Japanese but are written differently. It was his belief that the term ‘Chinese’ would be misleading and people would think Karate had originated with Chinese boxing. Funakoshi’s interpretation of the word Kara to mean ’empty’ caused problems for him in Okinawa, thus he remained teaching in Tokyo.

Ryu demonstartes a Soto-uke block whilst in a Kokutsu-dachi stance. Thanks Ryu.

Ryu demonstrates a Soto-uke block whilst in a Kokutsu-dachi stance. Thanks Ryu.

The resistance training

There are a lot of techniques that need augmenting here, but hold faith beloved reader. Your’s truly, holding a 4th Dan in this wondrous discipline, is unabashed in advising you. Unfortunately Level Up is still an impoverished little company, therefore we will have to make use of links to other sites for the time being. Stay tuned though, as Level Up studios will be coming this summer. Yay.

Lunge with twist: These bad boys will be an invaluable help for your stance work, especially with zenkutsu dachi, and the twist at the end will assist in all those gyaku-zuki punches you undoubtedly be drilling endlessly. These don’t have to be practiced with a medicine ball, or any resistance at all.

Leg extension: That’s right, another exercise for the quadriceps, we need them. Powerful legs will accommodate all the tough stances we encounter and even the newest Karate exponent knows that with a good kick you raise the knee first, then extend for maximum power and range.

Reverse-grip chins: Helpful for a fast pull back to launch another kizami/gyaku/oi-zuki punch, and for giving all-round physical development.

Decline press ups: Even though the waist is the prime mover in any punching movement, the pectoralis major  assists in this. So for powering up all our ‘zuki’ moves we’ll be focusing on the clavicular fibres; it’s already much easier to punch godan and chudan heights, so hitting upper chest will add oomph to our jodan height attacks.

Supination curls: The supination movement of these will augment many punches / blocks, whilst working both biceps brachii and brachialis. Nice.

Arnold press: Yes, these are named after Arnold Schwarzenegger. Their pronation / supination movement nicely mimics the twisting, power generating motion of many Shotokan punches and blocks.

Dips: Great for adding punching power and speed. Once again, even though the waist produces the power of the strike the triceps assist the movement by extending the elbow.

Knee raise: Few realise that to get height in a kick, not only do you need flexibility, but well conditioned abs to raise the thigh above waist level. These do the trick nicely in combination with the leg extensions from earlier, we’ve successfully added greater range and power to our kicks.

Standing calf raise: To get the fullest extension on all those mae geri kicks, you will need decent contractile strength in your gastrocnemius. Add resistance to these when you feel comfortable with the movement.

I'm afraid even your friendly neighbourhood Rogue Advisor can't teach you the Hadoken technique.

I’m afraid even your friendly neighbourhood Rogue Advisor can’t teach you the Hadoken technique.

Perform one set of each exercise for as many repetitions as possible, but with perfect technique of course. When you feel you’ve got these sussed, perform them again for a circuit training effect, this will get the heart and lungs pumping nicely as well. Repeat the circuit as many times as desired.

Basic Terminology

Before we delve into the terms and jargon, your friendly neighbourhood Rogue Advisor should give you a quick insight into Japanese language vowel pronunciation.

“a” as in father ; “i” as in feet ; “u” as in flute ;”e” as in bed ; “o” as in okay.

Age Tsuki

Rising punch

 

Age Uke

Rising block

 

Ashi Barai

Foot sweep

 

Awase Tsuki

U-punch

 

Bensoku Dachi.

Cross-legged stance (also female horse stance or Kosa Dachi)

Boshiken Tsuki

Thumb fist

 

Choku Tsuki

Straight punch

 

Chudan

Middle area

 

Chudan Uke

Inside circular block

 

Empi

Elbow strike

 

Fudo Dachi

Free stance

Fumikomi Geri

Stamping kick

 

Furi Tsuki

Circular punch

 

Gedan

Lower area

 

Gedan Barai

Downward block

 

Gedan Uchi Barai

Outside downward block (open hand)

 

Go

Five

 

Goju

Fifty

 

Gyaku Mawashi Geri

Reverse round house kick

 

Gyaku Tsuki

Reverse punch

 

Hachi

Eight

 

Hachiji Dachi

Natural stance (feet shoulder width apart, toes pointed slightly out)

Hachiju

Eighty

 

Haisoku Barai

Instep block

 

Haisoku Geri

Kicking with the instep

 

Haito Uchi

Ridge hand strike

 

Hajime

Begin

 

Han Zenkutsu Dachi

Half front stance

Hasami Tsuki

Scissors punch

 

Heiko Dachi

Parallel stance (feet shoulder width apart)

Heiko Tsuki

Parallel punch

 

Heisoku Dachi

Closed foot stance (feet together)

Hidari

Left

 

Hiji Uchi

Elbow strike

 

Hiji Uke

Elbow block

 

Hiki Uke

Pulling/grasping block

 

Hiza Geri

Knee kick (also called Hiza Ate)

 

Hiza Uke.

Knee block

 

Hyaku

One Hundred

 

Ichi

One

 

Jodan

Upper area

 

Jodan Uke

Upward block

 

Ju

Ten

 

Kagi Tsuki

Hook punch

 

Kaikoken Tsuki

Crab shell fist

 

Kakato Geri

Heel kick

 

Kama-De

Bear hand

 

Kamae

Ready and alert

 

Kanketsu Geri

Stamping kick, joint kick

 

Keikoken Tsuki

One knuckle fist

 

Kiba Dachi

Horse riding stance

Kime

Focus

 

Kizami Tsuki

Leading punch, or jab

 

Ko Uchi

Bent wrist strike

 

Ko Uke

Wrist block

 

Kokutsu Dachi

Back stance

Kosa Uke

Cross block

 

Kote Uchi

Forearm strike

 

Ku

Nine

 

Kuju

Ninety

 

Kumite.

Sparring

 

Mae Geri Keage

Front snap kick

 

Mae Geri Kekomi

Front thrust kick

 

Mae Tobi Geri

Jumping front kick

 

Mawashi Geri

Round house kick

 

Mawashi Tsuki

Round hook punch

 

Mawashi Uke

Round house block

 

Migi

Right

 

Migi Heiko Dachi

Right foot forward Heiko Dachi

Morote Uke

Augmented block

 

Musubi Dachi

Formal attention stance (heels together, feet at an angle)

Nagashi Tsuki

Flowing punch

 

Nagashi Uke

Sweeping block

 

Naihanchi Dachi

Kiba Dachi with the heels out and toes in

Nakadaka Ken

Middle finger knuckle fist

 

Nanaju

Seventy

 

Naname Shiko Dachi

Diagonal straddle leg stance

Neko Ashi Dachi

Cat foot stance

Ni

Two

 

Nidan

Second dan

 

Nidan Geri

Double front snap kick (back leg first)

 

Nihon Tsuki

Double punch

 

Niju

Twenty

 

Nukite Tsuki

Finger thrust or spear hand

 

Oi Tsuki

Lunge punch

 

Randori

co-operative sparring

 

Rei

Bow

 

Ren Geri

Double front snap kick (front leg first)

 

Renoji Dachi

The letter “Re” stance (or “L” stance)

Roku

Six

 

Rokuju

Sixty

 

Sagiashi Dachi

Heron stance

San

Three

 

Sanbon Tsuki

Triple punch

 

Sanchin Dachi

Hourglass stance

Sandan

Third Dan

 

Sanju

Thirty

 

Seiken Tsuki

Fore fist strike

 

Sesan Dachi

Side facing straddle stance

Shi

Four

 

Shichi

Seven

 

Shiko Dachi

Straddle leg stance

Shodan

First Dan

 

Shotei Otoshi Uke

Open hand dropping block

 

Shotei Tsuki

Palm heel thrust

 

Shotei Uchi

Palm heel strike

 

Shotei Uke

Palm heel block

 

Shuto Uchi

Knife hand strike

 

Shuto Uke

Knife hand block

 

Sokutei Harai Uke

Sole of the foot block

 

Sokutei Osae Uke

Pressing block with the sole of the foot

 

Sokuto Geri

Kicking with the foot edge

 

Soto Uke

Outside forearm  block

 

Sukui Uke

Scooping block

 

Tate Tsuki

Vertical punch

 

Tettsui Uchi

Bottom fist strike (or hammer fist strike)

 

Tobi Nidan Geri

Jumping double kick

 

Tsumasaki Geri

Kicking with the tips of the toes

 

Uchi Hachiji Dachi

Natural stance with heels out and toes in

Uchi Uke.

Inside forearm block

 

Ura Tsuki

Short punch (palm side up)

 

Ura Uke

Back hand block

 

Uraken Uchi

Back fist strike

 

Ushiro Geri

Back thrust kick

 

Ushiro Mawashi   Geri

Round house to the rear kick

 

Washi-De

Eagle hand

 

Yama Tsuki

Mountain punch

 

Yame

Stop

 

Yoi

Ready

 

Yoko Geri Keage

Side snap kick

 

Yoko Geri Kekomi

Side thrust kick

 

Yoko Tobi Geri

Jumping side thrust kick

 

Yoko Uke

Circular block

 

Yondan

Forth Dan

 

Yonju

Forty

 

Zenkutsu Dachi

Front stance

Stay tuned for more

Until next time. Stay informed.