If you’re looking to really build your core, you’ve come to the right place. We’ve taken and outlined the keys to the core of UFC champ Jon Jones. So whether your looking to get in the ring for an MMA bout or want to look great at the beach this summer here’s a few tips that will get you exactly what you want.
Find your threshold
A fight doesn’t end when one guy does 12 kicks or 12 punches. Combat sports are ruled by the clock. That’s why you don’t count reps or sets at the Wat. Instead, you exercise in 3-or 5-minute intervals to simulate rounds in a fight. “The goal is sustained intensity over time,” Kru tells me. It’s brutally efficient. Time-based training forces you to go as hard as you can for as long as you can and to find your own maximum work rate. You learn to pace yourself—fast.
To try it, pick three exercises—the pullup, squat thrust, and goblet squat, for example. For each, see how many you can do with good form in 1 minute, with no rest. As soon as you finish pullups, start doing squat thrusts, and as soon as you finish those, start squatting. Rest for 1 minute and do another set. The short-term aim is to improve the total number of reps you can do in a minute. In the longer term, you also want to increase the resistance you use. Typical Kru workouts are variations of this: 10 to 20 rounds of calisthenics, lifting, striking drills, and sparring, and then stretching.
Warm up instantly
Snap, snap, snap: Rope-jumping fighters provide a soothing back-beat at the Wat. Kru favors this warmup because it activates your upper and lower body, cranks up your ticker, and fine-tunes your hand-eye coordination. Try this drill (if the rope is too challenging, do jumping jacks instead): Start with 2 minutes at a gentle pace, jumping with both feet. Then go faster for 45 seconds, followed by 15 seconds of active recovery (that is, jumping at your slower pace). Now jump on your right leg for 45 seconds, with 15 seconds of active recovery, and then repeat with your left leg.
Activate every muscle
Whole-body movements demand greater energy expenditure while also strengthening the muscles that need to work together. Cut to me, suffering once again: Kru is strapped to my back, his legs cinching my waist, and he’s choking me. In this exercise, he’s the load—155 pounds of twisted steel. I’ve slowly gone from sitting to kneeling, finally to standing, and then back down to sitting. Fighters do these Thai getups with Kru for 3-minute intervals. Don’t have a muay Thai legend to carry around? Then do the Turkish getup: Lie on your back with your legs straight, holding a dumbbell or kettlebell in your left hand with your left arm straight over your chest. This is the starting position. Now raise your trunk. When you’re fully upright in a seated position, the weight will be over your shoulder. Holding it steady above your head, use your right hand to help you push yourself into a kneeling position, and then stand up one leg at a time. Reverse the move to return to the starting position. See how many you can do in 3 minutes, alternating arms every 30 seconds. Increase the time from the first to the second workout, and then increase the weight in the third workout.
Wring out your core
Many men do the same core drills over and over. Instead, Kru makes exercises like planks and leg raises progressively harder as his athletes master the basic moves. He schooled me on these gut busters.
A. Plank with knee kick
Assume a pushup position and hold it for 20 seconds. Drop onto your right forearm and push back up, and then drop onto your left forearm and push back up. Alternate sides for 20 seconds. Then, from the pushup position, thrust your right knee to your right elbow and bring it back, followed by your left knee to your left elbow and back. Do this for 20 seconds. That’s 1 minute total; take a 1-minute breather. Do three 1-minute rounds until you can finish strong, with explosive knee thrusts. Eventually work up to 2-minute rounds.
B. Pullup with hanging leg raise
Do a pullup, but at the top, add a leg raise: Lift your knees toward your shoulders. Lower your body and, while hanging, do a single-leg raise on each side. Lift each leg as high as you can without letting the nonworking leg move forward. That’s 1 rep. Do three 1-minute rounds, resting for 1 minute in between.
Strengthen your legs
A good punch—or really, any athletic movement, from driving a golf ball to throwing a football—requires powerful hip rotation. And hip rotation requires coordination of the legs and core. While the connection is apparent in any sport this side of chess, combat athletes are acutely aware of it for a simple reason: “Think about how much heavier your legs are than your arms,” Kru says. In fact, on average, each leg represents 16 percent of your body mass, versus 5 percent per arm. He made me try this three-part leg circuit: Do each exercise for 20 seconds, for a 60-second interval. Rest 60 seconds, and do two more circuits. (Make it harder by holding dumbbells or convincing a stray human to climb onto your back.)
A. Calf raise
From a standing position, rise up onto your toes as high as you can; slowly descend. Repeat.
B. Squat jump
Push your hips back and descend into a half squat. Jump as high as you can and land softly on the balls of your feet. Repeat.
C. Split jump
From a staggered stance, drop into a lunge; then jump and switch legs midair so you land with the opposite leg forward. Repeat.
I’m out of the ring now, luckily. Kru’s playing a beefed-up version of patty-cake with Jones: He’s holding pads and calling out combinations. Jones obliges with punches that thud and kicks that boom. In 5 minutes, Jones throws 55 punches, 10 knees, and 35 kicks. It’s a powerful display of sustained intensity. Beginners usually find themselves out of breath after a few punches and kicks. Conditioning is one reason Kru always includes striking drills early in training. The other reason is mental. “Whether you’re throwing a punch or blocking one, you have to be 100 percent there in the moment,” Kru says. “Learning to focus is one of the great benefits of muay Thai, along with learning to do more with your body, which gives you greater confidence.”
He’s right. Kru’s drills made me push beyond my threshold, and it felt great, once I regained my breath. Plus, I went toe-to-toe with a UFC champ, something I’ll be able to tell my kids. It was only leg wrestling, of course, but I won’t tell them if you won’t.
Courtesy of Menshealth.com