Category Archives: fitness

Monkey Bar – Day Two

A little tired going to class last for day two of our rugby class at the Monkey Bar Gym. And it was snowing and slippery.

Big T and I were running late so I missed the initial first few jogs in our warmup, but lucky me got in with time for the skips, lunges and bear crawls in all four directions.

If you want a killer exercise for warming up, try bear crawls. Our warmup is in lunchlines, three times down and back about 10 meters. We bear crawl forward, backwards, then sideways facing one way and then the other. Three times each. It just burns.

Next up, we jump-roped for time. 150 forward jumps and 150 backwards jumps together for time. I should’ve done the backwards jumps first, because they are trickier. But I did forwards first and paid for it later as I was tired trying to skip that rope backwards which requires more coordination and timing. I also need to work on not using a double-jump on my backwards jumps. I finished in about 5:20. Not very good, but I know how to improve. Our better athletes were in two to three minutes, FYI.

Our main workout was clean and presses for one half of the group and then kettleball swings and bodyrows for the other group. I was in the kettleball/bodyrows group. We did 15 seconds of kettleball swings and 15 seconds of bodrows, switching back and forth for 10 minutes. I used a 12 kg. kettleball, which is about 26 pounds. I averaged 6-7 swings in my 15 seconds, but only five bodyrows by the end.

I found this good explanation of kettleball swings:

Kettlebell Swing
1. Hold one kettleball between your legs and your body is in a bentover stance with your back flat.
2. Swing the kettleball backwards and then forcefully swing the kettleball forward to a chest level. Keep your arm straight and forcefully extend your hips, knees, and ankles.

But we hold our kettleballs with both hands, not single-handed as this describes. There is even this little cartoon guy to demonstrate (he moves at the original link):

For bodyrows, we use a a two-handled strap thrown over one of the various poles and beams in our gym room (it is a veritable jungle gym in there). You set the handles at waist height, then drop down to the ground. You hang on with your hands, but you row up your body to the handles powering through your torso and hips, not a pull-up.

Here’s a semi-decent picture of a bodyrow, although we keep our backs straight:

The body rows are tough. They start out pretty easy, because you’re not using just your arms, but your torso, so that’s much stronger. But by the end, you’re just exhausted. I love the kettleball swings though. They are hard, but I really like them.

We switched to the other exercise of cleans and presses. I started by grabbing a 20-pound ball, but realized I should use a 25-pound ball. But there were none left, so I used a 30-pound ball. A bit much, so I had less reps per 15 seconds, but it was tougher, so it’s okay. I started with 4 reps per 15 seconds, but finished averaging 3 reps. With this one, we’re simply picking the ball up in a clean and then pressing it straight up above our head. Drop it back down to knee height, then clean to chest and then press. Try to hit the same number each 15 seconds. You get a 15 second break while your partner goes. This kicks your ass. With six minutes left, we were all groaning.

We used D-balls for this, basically weighted medicine balls that don’t bounce. I prefer using the balls versus trying to use a kettleball in each hand to clean and press, which is the other option. I think I would have a hard time keeping my hands coordinated and lifting together.

We cooled down with a basic yoga move to work on our core strength.

Needless to say, I’m pretty wiped out today. I’m assuming tomorrow’s soreness will be worse, but hopefully not. Overall, it was good to workout already knowing the exercises and the proper technique.

Pretty glad it’s Friday and I don’t have another workout tonight, but I’d like to make sure I run and jumprope a bit this weekend and take some nice long walks to loosen up before we work out again next Tuesday.

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Sore, Tired

Our indoor rugby session last night amounted to over 90 minutes of stop-start sprinting with ball-handling drills. A hell of a lot of running.

I was already hungry before we got there, but Big T ignored my attempts to convince him it would be more fun to eat instead of train. He keeps me focused, even if I’m still hungry.

Lots of good drills, some four corners, two-on-ones, three-on-ones, and then variations on those some more, then some mauling work. We had a new player show up who I think will be a good fit.

Tuesday’s fitness testing has finally shown up in some soreness in my abs and legs, ever so slightly in my traps. And the running just makes me tired. So I’m a bit stiff today and definitely didn’t want to get out of bed.

Tonight is our first major workout at the Monkey Bar. So look for an entertaining recap tomorrow of me getting my ass handed to me.

Big T has also suggested we do our own MBG-style workout this weekend so we don’t spend four days doing nothing in between the three-day bonanza of fitness. I said sure, albeit a bit grudgingly. I do have a jump rope though that needs some jumping.

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Monkey Bar – Day One

Holy crap, do we have a lot of ruggers taking our Monkey Bar classes this year.

This is my third year of taking the rugby classes with our trainer Chad. Day one we always do fitness testing to set the bar, if you will, for improvement. I have recently decided that I like fitness testing. Because I like to see myself improve over time. We’re going to do some basic testing on our team when we head outside for practice too, so everyone can see where and how they have improved by the end of the spring.

I did better than I thought I would in some aspects. I am a serious weakling in others. All in all, I was slightly surprised that I had my natural strength considering I have been a very lazy butt since October. And when I say “lazy”, I mean pretty much nothing since our last game or practice. Ugh.

I ran a surprisingly decent 14.92 second 60-yard shuttle. The slower girls were running 16-second times while our fastest were in the 13-second range (who are both awesomely fit and gifted athletes). My time was only slightly slower than one of our speedier players, so I was kind of happy. It probably helped that I ran against the Goose.

My balance tests were awful. We have to stand on one leg, with our arms crossed over our chest and our eyes closed (hard to do!) for 60 seconds. If you wiggle too much, lose your balance at all or touch your foot down, you get a point. You count all of your points at the end. My left leg had a 4, while my right had an 8. I’ll have to start doing my balance exercises again while I wait for the bus. A good way to work in some strength while I’m just standing around.

I was not so bad in the pull-ups, but I did the 90-degree pull-ups from the ground versus the full-weight hanging style. I know I couldn’t get even one on those, but I had 14 in the 90-degree. The 90-degree pull-ups use a rope with two handles hung from the ceiling (or a monkey bar in our case) set to chest height (Boobs!). You lower your butt down to the floor, arms straight up to your handles and you feet out in front of you a bit, so that when you pull yourself up, you move straight up, you power up with your legs helping through your heels and your knees don’t move forward. Whereas, the traditional pull-up is the one where you hang off the ground and just pull yourself up. Yup, not working for me. But we work the same muscle groups, so there is – literally – nowhere to go but up. (I know, horrible aren’t I?)

Push-ups were my worst. Got to do them with proper form. My full plank was only 7. That said, they were full plank and not on my knees. I would wager the vast majority of you who think you can do a “a lot” of push-ups aren’t using proper form at all. Suckas. Abs in, back straight.

Later, I used the power-wheel to do pike-ups and had a 6.5. I fell attempting my 7th, because I didn’t keep decent form (which means I’m done). You start in a plank with your feet in the wheel, then pike your butt up into the air, bring your legs in under you. It’s pretty tough. Although, I’ll take that for now over having to do the crawl on the wheel. I nearly vomited on that one last year.

We also had to do a weighted-throw with 20-kg balls. My chest press throw and my backwards throws were decent, a 17-foot and a 15 or 16 I think. Not too weak, but could be better.

My walking lunges holding a 12-kg weight in each hand sucked horribly. I only made it about 12 yards before I was done. But that’s a bigger weight than I initially wanted to use, so that’s pretty good considering. My knees were not bothered, but boy were my legs not happy. They did not want to move up. The goal is to do walking lunges, touching each knee to the ground in proper form (meaning feet/knees straight, not moving your knees past your toes, etc.). HARD!!

So, tonight, we have our team indoor sessions. Lots of running and ball-handling. I need that cardio badly, but I know I will be sucking wind. Hello, inhaler! Worth pointing out, it will only cost me $5 for all eight indoor winter sessions. $5!

Thursday, I’m back at the gym and I’m not looking forward to the big workout, but the sadistic inner rugger in me says bring it on. I hate that bitch sometimes. But the gym and all of our teammates make it worth it.

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Monkey Bar Starts Tonight

Tonight’s the first night of our Monkey Bar Gym classes for eight weeks. Fitness testing tonight and then we hit it hard Thursday night.

Plus, for the next eight weeks, all of our rugby teams will have indoor sessions on Wednesday nights.

Three nights of rugby-related workouts a week for 8 weeks.

Wow.

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Gym!

It’s that time of the year where once the holidays are over, all of us offseason ruggers realize that spring will be here before we know it. And that means it’s time to sweat.

We’re organizing our now annual rugby training classes here in Madison at our favorite local gym, the Monkey Bar Gym, and we’re signing all of our players up to start in January. Needless to say, I had better start running and exercising, because otherwise that first day will just suck.

Anyway, I was on the MBG site this morning and the gym was featured in Outside Magazine this month. A great article on the philosophy of the gym and also some great exercises that I wanted to share with everybody. You can do these at home. Visit the link to see accompanying photos/images.

Outside Magazine, December 2007
Bodywork
Hang Time: At the Monkey Bar Gym, fitness is fun again
By Frank Bures

IT WAS IN LOS ANGELES while training pro athletes and celebs in 1993 that Jon Hinds decided there was something wrong with the American gym and its emphasis on machines and mirrors. So the certified strength-and-conditioning specialist developed his own version of functional-strength training, bringing his clients to a section of Santa Monica beach with old-school equipment like ropes, rings, and poles. They climbed, they walked on their hands. They loved it—and soon Hinds was getting dramatic results with the likes of Darryl Strawberry and Eric Davis.

“I just couldn’t stand the thought of going into another gym after that,” Hinds says. Until, that is, he thought of a way to make if fun again. In 2001, in his hometown of Madison, Wisconsin, Hinds opened what, for lack of a better term, could be called an anti-gym. He named it the Monkey Bar Gymnasium, a nod to the full-body motor mechanics—that is, fun—of our youth. “My simple philosophy is that I follow nature in almost everything we do,” says Hinds. “And nature is about movement. In nature we run, we jump, we crawl, we climb. So we take variations of those movements, kick up the intensity, and integrate them into training regimens that stress full-body movement.” Last year the gym had to double its size due to demand, and its online membership (monkeybargym.com) is growing 5 percent a week, says Hinds.

At right are the key ways the Monkey Bar Gym differs from all the others you’ve seen. Turn the page for a Hinds-approved workout you can do at home.

Breaking the Rules
To rethink the gym, Hinds first had to tear it down. Here are a few of his simple rules.

No Mirrors
No preening in the Monkey Bar Gym. The focus is on how you feel and move. “When you feel good and your body’s fit,” says Hinds, “you look damn good.”

No Machines
Muscles weren’t made to be worked one at a time. They’re parts of systems that work together. “Machines are purely about isolated movements for aesthetics,” says Hinds. “People get on the machine with the whole purpose being ‘I have to lose fat,’ not ‘I want to hike a mountain.’ “

No Weights
Nobody does endless reps with dumbbells in the Monkey Bar Gym. Instead, the workout uses only body-weight resistance, medicine balls, kettlebells, and controlled movements, gradually progressing through three levels, from stability to strength to power.

No Shoes
You’ve got toes; use them. Hinds’s program strengthens your whole system from the ground up, and that starts with your feet, which he believes are weakened by shoes. Let your feet do what they were meant to do—balance, stabilize, and support.

No Stretching
Toe touches are out. Hinds doesn’t allow any static stretching in his gym. Members instead do yoga-based “active stretching” to improve flexibility and warm up at the same time.

No iPods
Music players aren’t banned, but members don’t use them, mostly because trainers and trainees are in constant communication. “The isolation of both the muscles and the mind when people are on machines is completely unhealthy,” says Hinds.

Follow the Numbers
If you’ve ever paid for a gym membership and rarely used it, you’re not alone. Average attendance for gym members industrywide is 4.8 times per month, according to a study by researchers at UC Berkeley and Stanford. But Hinds’s program reverses this stat. At the Monkey Bar Gym, 90 percent of members come three times a week. “I usually come to the gym six or seven days a week,” says Bill Gurske, who’s been a member for over two years. “The workouts don’t leave you so wiped out that you need a few days off. They leave you feeling more energetic.”

The Program
For best results, Hinds advises you to work out five times a week, alternating strength and conditioning programs and doing alignment exercises daily. Start with the two programs at right, one 10-minute conditioning day and one 45-minute strength day. But don’t overdo it: Start small and build slowly through a natural progression of movements with three distinct stages: stability, strength, and power. Mastering one level (e.g., stability) before moving on to the next (e.g., strength) is how his gym members get from barely being able to do a knee push-up to being able to walk 30 yards on their hands. For more sample exercises, including Hinds’s 60-Day Fitness Challenge, a precisely monitored two-month program, go to monkeybargym.com.

Alignment [Daily]
Practice holding these positions for 60 seconds each day. Prone Mountain (b) Lie facedown, keeping your nose an inch off the ground. Reach toward your knees with your hands and extend your body from heels through the top of the head. Supine Bridge (c) Lying on your back, plant your feet six inches from your butt and six inches apart. Place your arms out to your sides, elbows at 90 degrees and palms facing inward. Now raise your butt off the ground and hold.

Conditioning
STABILITY Jump Rope (a) Complete 75 forward and 75 backward jumps as fast as possible. Then do 20 pike-ups. Begin in an inclined-plane position, then roll feet in toward hands by “piking” hips up and then back down, to a straight posture. Repeat 3 times.

STRENGTH Jump (More) Rope Work up to 150 forward, 150 backward, in less than 2 minutes. Then do 20 pike-ups. Repeat 3 times.

POWER Double Jump Rope Complete 50 double jumps forward, 50 backward, in less than 3 minutes. Then do 20 pike-ups.

Strength [Lower Body]
STABILITY Full Squat (d) To get your body alignment dialed, begin with weight-free squats, working up to 3 sets of 16 (under 20 seconds per set). Keep your chest and butt out, knees and toes aligned, and weight evenly distributed on each foot. Squat down, bringing your thighs parallel to the ground, then stand back up.

STRENGTH Controlled Jump Jump up slightly at the apex of each squat and descend into a controlled, deep squat. 3 sets of 10.

Advanced: Jump higher; repeat. Controlled Box Jump Repeat onto a box or step (elevated 12 inches). Concentrate on good form. Do 3 sets of 10.

POWER Box Jump Sets Same as Controlled Box Jumps, focusing on height and speed. When you can do at least one jump per second, raise the height of the box. 4 sets of 10. Power Box Jumps Using small hand weights or tubing resistance (Hinds designed the Lifeline Power Jumper for this purpose), do Box Jump Sets with weight/resistance. 4 sets of 10.

Strength [Upper Body]
STABILITY Assisted Chin-Ups Grasp a ceiling-hung cable or rope, or a bar, at a 60-degree angle. Lean backwards with your back straight and weight on your heels and pull yourself up to standing position. When you can do 20 reps, move the rope to 90 degrees, perpendicular to the floor. Work up to 20 reps again, then move to next level. Repeat 3 times. Lateral Floor Walk Start out in a push-up position and crab-walk laterally one direction, then return to the start. If you can walk 30 yards easily, move up to the Lateral Wall Walk. Repeat 3 times.

STRENGTH Chin-Ups Alternating forward and backward grip with each set, work up to 10 or more unassisted chin-ups (pulling up from hanging position). Repeat 3 times. Lateral Wall Walk With a wall behind you, kick up to a handstand and place your feet on it. Facing the wall, walk on your hands laterally. Work up to at least 30 yards. Repeat 3 times.

POWER Kip-Ups Grasping a secure chin-up bar, swing your legs back and forth for momentum and pull yourself up to touch your chest to the bar. When you’ve mastered those (20 reps), move on to gorilla kip-ups: At the apex of each rep, slap your hands to your chest or behind your back. Repeat 3 times. Lateral Wall Walk, Reversed With a wall in front of you, kick up to a handstand and place your feet on it. Back to the wall, walk on your hands laterally. Work up to at least 20 yards. Repeat 3 times.

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"Rugby took a middle aged guy who was on the fast track to depression, and it gave me my smile back."

High-five to our buddy OBG for sending me this link to a new rugby blogger – Nurse Dude – in Minnesota. Read about how rugby saved his life.

I’ll add him to our sidebar.

Added: In the comments at Nurse Dude, there was a link to a story on the Durant Family of Boston – Rugged Heritage. Three generations of ruggers and the first father-son duo to help the Boston Irish Wolfhounds win the D-III National Championship. The grandfather helped refugees across the world as a Doctor and didn’t pick up rugby until he was 47. Another great story!

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Why Front Rows and Wings are the same player … or why I think your position number doesn’t matter in a game.

I’m back from vacation. Back to the grind. Back to the computer. *sigh*

Big T and I had a great time. The weather was gorgeous all four days. My friend KJ’s wedding was also gorgeous with great food, beautiful setting and of course, a beautiful bride. 🙂 And I even turned my rugby tan into a “I’ve been camping and kayaking” tan.

I’ll post some pictures later maybe.

Thanks to everyone who posted some lively comments while I was away. One in particular put my mind in motion to our Touch Rugby post from two weeks ago. Anonymous said “I HATE touch. It may be great for backs but as for front rows, what’s the point?”

And to this I say … what a crock. What’s the point of physical fitness? What’s the point of working on some of the big basics of the game – ball-handling, passing, decision-making and change of speed? What’s the point of working on all of these in your off-season?

And since when did being a Front Row disqualify you from needing to work on these basic elements of the game? Because in my humble rugby playing opinion, last time I checked, your position is only important in the set plays, not the overall game. A prop or hooker should be just as fit and mobile as any other player on the field, including your wings and centers. And if you are sitting there shaking your head in disagreement, then you are hurting yourself and hurting your rugby team.

I firmly believe that outside of our set pieces – scrums and lineouts, possibly some penalty plays if your team has them – all 15 players on the field should all be able to run the ball, pass the ball, kick the ball, tackle, catch a kick, etc.

Granted, our various body types make us more suitable for certain positions versus others. And yes, specific positions are better suited to passing the ball, kicking, etc.

But anybody who thinks that a prop can’t sprint up the field to score a try or a wing shouldn’t be in the rucks and mauls is deluding themselves. If anything, a large forward who’s capable of running with the backs or a lithe back who can get in the rucks and win ball for your team is a dangerous addition to your team.

Perhaps this bugs me even more because I played in a co-ed Whorefest tournament recently. Two women and 7-8 men per team. And when I am clearly one of the smaller players on the field, but I find myself having to ruck my own ball as the scrumhalf because I’ve got a team of a bunch of male backs in their waiting for the ball to magically appear, I get a little pissed off.

So … yes, Anonymous, there is a point to playing touch rugby all summer. Just like there is a point to practicing, working out on your own, improving your own game and workrate.

But that’s just my opinion … what does everyone else think?

Via the Comments:
J – Please quit leaving comments if all you want to do is antagonize. I know it’s you now. I’m tired of it. You feel the need to keep nitpicking your little fights for god knows what reason. You have always done this the entire time I’ve known you, and I always tried to listen and converse with you after practice or on the phone over the past few years, but earlier this year, your anger towards me and C was uncalled for. And I didn’t need to take it then and I don’t need to deal with your attitude now. I don’t have the patience or the time.

Em & everyone – I let my former teammate J’s comment get under my skin today. I am the “utility player” who supposedly thinks she’s “not committed to fitness”. Something I have never said nor actually even thought, but she’s out to pick a fight over something that she clearly can’t let go of, which has nothing to do with her fitness. She quit our team due to a disagreement, one she is still holding grudges for, and I guess now she likes to come on here and antagonize me in the comments. Her grudge has carried over into a friend’s soccer team, so I guess I’m not too surprised that she’s on the blog needling me. I am sorry that you still feel the need to pick fights with me J, but let it go. Seriously. Don’t you have anything better to do?

Em – You have a very good point. I shouldn’t have latched on to Touch Rugby to discuss my opinions on my beliefs about positions. They are better served as two different issues. Touch rugby is by no means the best or only way to learn the basics. And yes, since I knew the commenter, and she left a number of various anonymous comments on here this week with attitude, I gave it to much weight. That said, my opinion on positions still stands.

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