This is a recommended resource page for those who’re a little lost in training.
There’s a lot of conflicting and confusing information out there and this is my, hopefully helpful, contribution to calm the chaos and provide a little order to the confusion.
The previous list has gone. It was written over two years ago and was in dire need of a fresh coat of paint so to speak.
This list, hopefully will act as some form of guide – Something to give direction to your strength, fitness, conditioning, performance and toughness goals.
The things that appear on this list are here because they’re the things I truly believe will help you in your quest. I’ve used them in my own and my athletes training plans, sessions and protocols. I’ve sweated, experimented like a mad-scientist hell bent in a lab. I’ve pushed, embraced the grind and struggled countless times in the pursuit of strength and better martial arts performance.
As a final point of clarity and frankness, certain items on this list will be linked to outside sources for the particular item. Anything purchased through said links will warrant me a small commission. I do feel the need to stress that, one, if it’s on this list, it’s because it works, has been tested and proven of value to me, my coaching and more importantly my athletes successes. And two, that you will be charged nothing additionally for using any links provided.
The list below I’ve broken up into some big categories:
Home Gym Gear
I truly love kettlebells, especially for combat athletes.
While you’ll never build maximal strength with kettlebells, they offer up incredible power endurance, strength endurance, hip drive, grip strength, lat strength, full-body tension and mental fuckery – All requirements for combat athletes.
Do you need to buy them in pairs? Starting out, I’d say no. A single bell will do fine and offer a lot of room for progression.
For guys I’d suggest a 20kg, a 24kg and a 32kg.
For women I’d say 12kg, 16kg and 20kg.
When it comes to training, get a coach and master the basic six movements: Swings, Snatches, Cleans, Squats, Get-ups and Presses.
You’ll never need to go beyond these six stables and for BJJ players and grapplers, the swing and the get-up are a must. If you’re not in a position to hire a coach (I still think this is a necessity for kettlebells because of all the subtle nuances) then these two books will be the best place to start on your kettlebell path. Both cheap, both worth every penny and both rammed with information, drills, techniques and workouts.
I’m a firm believer that fitness need not be complex.
The sandbag is arguably the simplest tool of all – it’s a bag… with sand in it… yet, like everything in life, it has succumbed to unnecessary complexity.
The sandbag shines when it’s kept heavy and it’s kept basic. Nothing fancy, nothing superficial, certainly no handles- just a bag, filled with sand.
It’s meant to be heavy. It’s meant to be intimidating. It’s meant to scare you.
– Lift it off the ground. – Hold it and walk with it. – Squat it. – Shoulder it and press it.
Don’t believe me? Load a bag up heavily- grip it, rip it, hip it, hold it until you have to drop it and repeat. It’s simple, but it’s effective.
The bags will take a beating. I’ve used homemade for years and still do frequently. The homemade bags do have a limitation though when it comes to the weight and abuse they can take. I’d say anything less than 150lbs, homemade is probably fine, anything over, go for a professional option. The professional bags are designed specifically to take the abuses and the weight so, although a little more expensive, they will last in the long run.
Which bags to use?
There are only two companies I go with – IronMind, who produce the World’s Strongest Man sandbags and Cerberus, a newer company with excellent attention to detail, incredible products and a phenomenal understanding of what their athletes want from their gear.
Bodyweight training should never leave your program, whether weekend warrior, amateur or professional.
Staples like push-ups, pull-ups, lunges, squats coupled with explosive movements like box jumps, broad jumps, vertical jumps, clapping push-ups will keep you strong, fit, explosive and athletic. Being too strong or too muscular for bodyweight training simply doesn’t exist.
Jump with explosive power and strength while landing with control and grace.
Keep the pull-ups strict and volume in the hundreds, or heavily weighted for low reps and a multitude of sets.
Walking lunge frequently for distance or time to condition the legs, the lungs and the mind.
Perform full-range of motion push-ups on a daily basis, keeping the mechanics tight and the body rigid.
Look for a quality 7ft Olympic barbell. If you’re buying new, look to spend a little more for quality and it’ll last you a lifetime.
As for plates, I’m in a similar boat to Dan John:
“A few years ago, I noted that most of us should toss out the bulk of our weightlifting plates and just use 45s and 25s. One would have thought I’d blasphemed! I got negative feedback for weeks from that.
I stand by it. Yes, it’s a jump to go from 185 to 225. It means you have to own 185 and you’d better be ready for the load at 225.”
If you’re new to the barbell, scour the used ads and sites to find someone selling a set. Again, only grab an Olympic bar and plates though. The standard 1” plates and bars can’t support enough weight in the long run.
Something to Hang Off
Having something to hang off of is imperative in your set-up.
There's something special about being up early – seeing the sun rising, feeling the bitter morning uk air and walking peacefully around while others are still asleep. It's this morning time, post meditation that I tend to reflect the most. My mind feels in a state of clarity, uncluttered by everyone else. My training, like always, followed the same principles – clarity of purpose and completely uncluttered. I took the gym rings to the woods and worked on pull-ups. Pull-ups have always been a weakness of mine and one I could easily justify to myself by acknowledging my 6'6 270lb frame. It's something I can't do though. Size is a non-issue. I accept the difficulty in the task ahead and am committing to turning a previous weakness into a new strength.
Having a quality set of resistance bands again is a must.
Daily band pull-aparts are a staple in my own and my athletes training.
The bands can be used to add resistance to the lockout of deadlifts and squats.
The can be used for wrestling style drills like snap downs and arm drags for time or reps.
They can be used to assist in the bottom portion of pull-ups until enough strength is built to perform reps fully unaided.
They can be used for resisted partner sprints, or anchored for resisted shots.
Travel with them and perform band resisted push-ups, rows, squats, presses and palof presses.
And finally they can be used for mobility drills, again a daily task for me and my athletes.
A hill to Sprint
If anyone asked me about conditioning, fat-loss or mental toughness, it’s hard to beat the hill.
People fear the hill. One trip to it and it becomes more than an incline in the world. It becomes a villain, a training partner and an ass kicker. It’s painful running the hill. It’s uncomfortable. It’s a brutal experience that’ll leave you with burning lungs, a powerfully beating heart and legs that feel they can’t take another step.
It’s free, yet so unutilized.
You’ll never outgrow the hill despite your best efforts. You’ll run harder and it’ll undoubtedly come out on top again and again. Everything you’ve ever wanted aesthetically, mentally and performance based is at the top of the hill. All it requires is your hard work and willingness to get it.
"Resistance has no strength of its own. Every ounce of juice it possesses comes from us. We feed it with power by our fear of it. Master that and we conquer resistance." The above quote is from the incredible book "The War of Art" by Steven Pressfield and while he may be directing his thoughts towards creative endeavours – writing, design, music and the like, I think it wholeheartedly embodies an issue people struggle with every day in regards to training, fitness, exercise, health or however you want to phrase it. There is fear and resistance to starting on a healthy journey. Perhaps perpetuated by the fitness industry which at its core seeks to deceive, mislead and beguile all while stealing money from the pockets of the ones looking for help rather than being the inspiration and the guiding hand it needs to be. Fitness need not be elitist. Top end supplements, equipment and gear, while arguably being great are a far cry from a necessity. Take this hill. It has no merit, no name, no manufacturer. It comes with no price tag, yet it has the power to strip fat, build unstoppable lungs, a heart that won't yield and an indomitable mind in even the most elite of athletes. There should be no fear in getting healthy. The resistance here is minimal – find a hill and push yourself to new heights, physically and mentally. #savagesimplicity
The humble jump rope had stood the test of time with boxers, Thai boxers and wrestlers for centuries.
As a warm-up, a conditioning tool, a fat-burner, or a brutal finisher, the rope has it all. Much like the hill, you’ll ever outgrow the rope. Shoulder endurance, healthy wrists, lighter feet, leaner middle, coordination and transportability coupled with a minimal learning curve and cost and the rope simply has to make an appearance in your training.
Throw in 10 minutes of alternating footwork as a warm-up to get the blood-flowing and heart beating or try this little number as a finisher:
Jump Rope Finisher
- 5 x 60 second Flat-out Sprints. Rest 30 seconds between each.
- 5 x 30 second Flat-out Sprints. Rest 15 seconds between each.
There are plenty of different ropes available, but opt for something simple and effective like this one.
Sleds are everywhere in the MMA strength and conditioning world and with great reason. They’re a phenomenal addition to anyone’s training arsenal.
The nature of sled work is minimal eccentric loading. Meaning you can push, drive, grind hard and be left with little soreness the following day. This is particularly ideal for fighters because strength and conditioning work should never leave you too tired to make the most of your technical marital arts work on the mats.
The other credos of responsible coaches is never hurt the athlete. The sled / Prowler work offers up hellacious training, with very minimal risk of injury. In fact, it makes a great option for leg training post injury/rehab.
Sleds and prowlers can cover a number of bases in training. Load them heavily for grinding leg strength, lighter loads moved quicker for conditioning and speed work or a medium weight over a longer distance or time for a much needed kick in the ass, a mental toughness test and a healthy dose of muscular endurance training.
When it comes to getting one, honestly most will do. A homemade tire sled has sat in my training arsenal for years and performs as well as some of the commercially produced ones I’ve used. You do have a number of options for purchasing ones, if the homemade numbers look a little ropey or you’re not the homemade type.
I get it, why get a GymBoss when your phone has a million and one apps to use to time your intervals and rest periods?
It’s that very reason I tell my athletes to use a GymBoss. Your phone is the single biggest source of distraction at the gym or in training. Selfies, texting, Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter… There simply too many chances to get distracted from the task at hand.
Keep the phone away and train like a man or woman possessed. The gym time is minimal and the phone will still be there when the training is over.
Manage your time better in training, keep the intensity high, minimalize distractions and get the work done.
Additional Grip Work
The addition of Fat Gripz is a no-brainer for combat athletes. A strong grip is vital.
Anyone who’s worked with me, or read this blog, knows how much I value this simple, yet incredibly effective tool. The design is robust and fits onto virtually all barbells, pull-up bars, dumbbells and cable attachments. In doing so, it’ll make the bar more than twice its original thickness which will target the hands, the wrists, the fingers, grip and forearms. Use some innovation and the Gripz can be placed onto resistance bands for all sorts of strength, conditioning and sports specific work.
My suggestion, start with the standard and after a good time has passed and notable strength gains have been achieved, invest in the Extreme version.
Captains of Crush grippers (CoC’s) have been utilized by those in strength circles, old time strongmen and grip enthusiasts for countless years.
These grippers make an incredible difference in the hands of grapplers, wrestlers, MMA guys, BJJ players and any other combat sport. In combat, the ability to grip, lock onto, hold and control your opponent is of the utmost importance. The old adage is, without grips, you have nothing.
I’ve had my CoC’s for a number of years and they still challenge and strengthen my grip to this day. There are countless others available, but the Captains of Crush are time tested, well respected and the best available.
They’re available in a number of varying resistances ranges from the beginner right up to world class elite. The Guide model starts at 60lbs resistance, the Number 1 requires 140lbs and the heaviest model, the Number 4 requires a ridiculous 365lbs to close. There are 11 total models with very manageable jumps in resistance in between each.
As far as training them goes, I feel “greasing the groove” is the best option. Throw one in your bag or keep one in the desk and throughout the day, attempt a number of singles. This method is very forgiving in terms of fatigue and the central nervous system, and the volume mounts quickly over the days and impressive strength levels increase rapidly.
Sourcing thick rope can be either expensive or awkward, but 100% worth it. Something like 1.5inch thickness is fine, but 2inches, while harder to get is better.
The rope itself can be used for a number of different things:
More conventional uses like climbing it, using it for rope pulls on the sled or pull-ups and recline rows.
Or slightly more unusual uses like looping it through the handle of a kettlebell and performing curls, rows, swings and the like.
Jits Grips are something on this list that I wouldn’t consider super necessary, but an incredible addition to those who train in Gi’s.
And yes, I guess you could just use a Gi to replicate the training but, for convenience and the fact that they cost a fraction of the price a Gi that you don’t want to damage, it makes sense to me.
Jits Grips are made with real Gi materials so offer up a very solid training experience. The sleeves are two pearl weave with reinforced cuffs making them a very long lasting addition to your training gear.
The latex band is my least favourite part of these and to be honest I use them solely without.
My go-to’s with these: Recline rows using various grips – collar, spider, pistol…
Farmer’s walks with them attached to kettlebells. Pull-ups and hangs for time using the grips.
Like I said, I feel these are not a necessity, but do make for a great addition to those who train in Gi’s. They’ll strengthen the hands, fingers, wrists and drips in a very real, very sports specific way.
The premise behind foam rolling is self-myofascial releasing the tissues – Essentially, a fancy term self-massaging in order to relieve muscle tightness and break up any trigger points.
The foam roller is the first go-to for this tissue work. It has a large surface area allowing for very broad sweeps of the tissues and muscles. Regular work with the foam roller will keep muscles functioning normally and optimally, meaning they’re elastic, restriction free, healthy and ready to perform whenever.
When it comes to having a deeper understanding of self-myofascial work, a great starting point is Kelly Starrett’s “Becoming a Supple Leopard”.
The lacrosse ball is for the same tissue work. The lacrosse ball allows for more intense, localized work. If you think about the foam roller above covering your upper back as a whole, the lacrosse ball would allow for more direct work on say the traps for example.
If a lacrosse ball is too hard to begin with use a tennis ball and work up to the lacrosse ball.
Anything and everything mobility related I turn instantly to Kelly Starrett. His YouTube channel is brimming with amazing information everything to do with the way the body moves, functions and fixes for those things that aren’t moving as they should.
My copy if his book “Becoming a Supple Leopard” has become so worn I’m going to have to buy a second copy soon. It’s an amazing read and an even better resource for all things mobility.
Admittedly, Donnie Thompson has only recently been a go-to mobility resource for me. I’m incredibly gutted I didn’t find his work sooner. His lower back protocol alone makes him one of my first recommendations for people.
He’s done a lot of amazing work with top powerlifters, NFL guys and a host of other elite athletes. His YouTube channel and his Instagram are excellent resources and he’s a super nice guy on top of it all.
Fight Specific Gear
Hayabusa products are incredible across the board. These gloves, while a little pricier than others, one, perform amazingly well, two, look incredible and three, are a worthy investment for any serious martial artist.
I actually have a review of them here if you’d like to read more.
For a number of years I was an old school jock strap guy. That is, until these came into my life. These compression shorts are the only thing I’ll train striking in and spar wearing.
They’re super comfortable, nice tight fit, offer excellent protection with no rubbing or digging in.
Train frequently with your gloves and these are a must.
There’s nothing worse, or more unhygienic, than leaving wet sweaty gloves in your bag. Glove dogs are a simple insert that dries and deodorizes the gloves keeping them more hygienic and fresher.
A nice touch is that they’re available in four different fragrances – my choice, the cedar
Chances are if you’ve been around wrestling, BJJ, football, Sambo, etc… you’ve probably seen or at least heard of Defence Soap. And rightly so, they’re the guys that marketed the first soap for combat athletes and still the one of the only soaps with clinical studies backing up their products.
The soap will last me around three weeks, using it twice a day, five days a week – which coincidentally is the time it stated to last on their website.
The soap itself, while not the greatest of smells, leaves you with a clear mind knowing that you’re germ free and avoiding any nasty skin ailments that’ll keep you off the mats.
Mini First Aid Kit
Not a necessity, but honestly you never know. So I like to be safe and keep one in the gym bag at all times.
Again, you never know… Plus, how good is this stuff!
Fingers and toes are in constant need of taping so throw a roll in your bag, for another, you never know situation.
Boil and bites are ok, but custom made Dentist options are the best in the long run, albeit, a more expensive investment.
Honestly the amount of people who train without a note pad astounds me. I’ve written about the benefits of keeping a training journal in the past and this page is already pretty damn long, so check it out here.
To save this page from being even longer than it already is, I’m going to link you to my bookshelf over at my other site Savage Simplicity.
There I have been reviewing books I’ve read on coaching and mind set and sharing the ones I feel will be the most helpful and the most worthwhile for you guys reading these words.
Never overlook the power of books.
They have the ability to expand your mind and build mental strength. Mental strength is a fascinating thing. The mind, when stronger, can always endure more, take more and overcome more. And while your body may have determined genetic limitations, the mind is truly unstoppable. Mental strength is infinite. It’s limitless in its potential and the only thing holding it back is you.
Read more, absorb more and become more mentally strong.
This page/list/resource page is ever evolving.
I’m not afraid to make changes based on new findings or results. That’s the fun part of not taking a dogmatic approach to strength, fitness and performance. The work, the training and the results are continually getting distilled, refined and reworked.
It’s a process that forever evolving.
I’m truly hoping this page is of some use to you in you fitness journey. Any questions regarding training, equipment, workouts or coaching, feel free to send me a message.
Train hard all – both physically and mentally.