Physical Conditioning: The Squat & Hip Mobility

As martial artists, one of our top priorities is physical fitness.  While I do not actively use Crossfit as my exercise program, it has definitely advanced popular training practice as it is seen today.  More than ever, people are using free weights, utilizing power and Olympic lifts such as squats and deadlifts and functional movement is all the rage.  Many years ago my instructors Guro Travis and Guro Joey opened the first Crossfit “box” in Long Beach, CA.  One piece of literature that they recommended and that I still refer friends and students to today is Crossfit Journal’s “What is Fitness.”  What I like is that is gives a (but not by any means the only) structure for conceptualizing physical fitness.

You can download “What is Fitness” HERE.

Although Bruce Lee and Guro Dan Inosanto are lauded for advancing martial arts training and exposing American culture to many forms of martial arts, they were also fitness fanatics.  Much of Sigung Bruce’s writings have to do with running, skipping rope and weight lifting, and as a former career physical education teacher much of Guro Dan’s training progressions closely mirror athletic attribute development.


Every few weeks I go on podcast theme binges, wherein I find a person or topic I’m fascinated by and pretty much scour iTunes and the internet for any and all podcasts on the topic.  Last summer I became interested in Mark Divine, former Navy SEAL and Crossfit enthusiast who has combined his passions into SEALFit.  One of the things I loved was how he structured his program, using what he termed the Five Mountains.

You can download “The Five Mountains” HERE.

While most of us are knowledgeable (even if not active in practice) on strength training and cardiovascular exercise, one of his priorities emphasizes maintenance.  He focuses on box breathing and meditation, but he also incorporates movements that we all know we should do, but generally do not.  Stretching, range of motion and other activities that keep our bodies moving and healthy usually take a backseat, especially after a hard workout.  I know for me, the last thing I want to do after a long run or even a heavy lift is stretch even though I know it is important.  But the cumulative effect after weeks or months or even years can be dramatic.

So this is my excessively long intro to what I will try and regularly write on Physical Conditioning.  One of the most important in my mind is hip flexibility/mobility.  For pure brute strength, I think the most important weight training exercise of them all is the squat.  There are a lot of resources out there on squat form and performance.  My favorite is probably Mark Rippetoe’s book “Starting Strength“.

For cardiovascular exercise, although I hate them I admire burpees for dynamic movement and full body involvement.

A great combination of strength and dynamic movement of course are
Russian Swings with kettlebells.

Lastly, for maintenance Kelley Starrett writes on a ten minute squat test.  It is difficult at first, but definitely worth it to open up the hip joints.

While I rarely write on specific physical training programming, I would suggest trying to incorporate dynamic cardiovascular motions such as burpees or Russian Swings a few times a week.  Three times a week or every other day is a great place to start.  For weight training I would say at least 1-2 times a week.  And for prolonged squat (as long as you can tolerate) I would suggest test about once a week as a good diagnostic and assessment of progress.

Hip drive is part of the Posterior Kinetic Chain, and whether you are competing on an Olympic level, trying to reach your personal goals at home, or simply trying to maintain the strength to sit down and stand up off of the toilet, these motions are essential.

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