Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Strand Pulling!

Found a great article by John McKean HERE
The strandpulling forum is a nice resource. Here is the article ---

Cables to Enable by John McKean
(MILO, March 2000 / Vol 7 /No. 4

With all due respect, the burly state trooper took a stance while asking our small group's martial arts mentor about thwarting a particularly nasty type of street attack. Not a word or a glance or even a millisecond transpired as instructor Kenny Burner instantly leapt into action, violently flooring his "assailant." Reminiscent of a hungry tiger pouncing on a cornered gazelle, Ken's blinding speed and dynamic strength proved unerringly efficient; his opponent was allowed to live, we shocked onlookers realized, only because this was merely a "controlled" training demo. Dazed yet again by a brutal simulation typical of our school, the downed police officer could only smile and whistle an admiring "wow."

I like to think that Ken's extra aggressiveness that evening was due in large part to the additional stimulation we experienced before our two-hour class. He and I had enjoyed a vigorous training session utilizing heavy duty rubber cables, which combined unique flexibility exercises, traditional competitive strand pulling movements, and specially rigged leg and back work. Since that evening—three months now—Ken has packed on twenty pounds more muscle from his unusual cable program. And he tells me that at 49 years of age, these twice-weekly workouts have left him stronger than at any time in his life.
I first met Kenny Burner while attending last year's "American Combatives" summer training camp. Ken is one of the senior teachers and the firearms director for this war-based system, under founder and director John Kary Additionally Burner is a lifetime exercise buff, having long experience with weightlifting, many varied contact sports, jogging, and even military training programs featuring high rep schemes of pull-ups and push-ups. Though his fitness level is amazing, Ken sought an improved training system that would be aggressive enough to fit his gung-ho attitude—yet would provide relief from troubling chronic knee and lower back pain. Of course, it had to be brief and intense to wedge into his ultra-busy family, work and combatives schedule.

Therefore, when we first discussed strength and lifting, he was enthralled to learn that I'd recently been certified to teach a very concentrated, max effort, but relatively pain-free form of rubber cable exercise. From my freshly acquired education, personal experiments and applications I was confident to guarantee that he could greatly increase his flexibility, strength, and, especially, his already world-class striking power.

Obviously Ken Burner is a very functional and competent athlete, expert at his specialty. So I couldn't help but wonder aloud just how much harder he possibly wished to hit! Chuckling, he sheepishly admitted with his soft-spoken West Virginian accent, "Well, I guess dead is dead. Heck, anybody can summon the moxie needed to do in an assailant with our simple, gross motor tactics. But physical improvement is always a goal, and any increase of speed with strength commands the same respect in martial arts that it does for weightlifting."

Part of Burner's extremely explosive power is due, obviously, to the rather straightforward training methods of his particular martial art, so lets begin there. American Combatives was derived from methods taught by the OSSs legendary Colonel Rex Applegate during World War II. Simple and direct, these basic techniques were extremely well-researched for practicality and one hundred percent effectiveness, being tested thoroughly with documented results during actual battlefield conditions. Master Instructor John Kary of Huntington, West Virginia was given encouragement by the late Colonel Applegate to continue this tradition, refining these brutal, once highly classified methods for increasingly dangerous modem street conditions.

Hit 'em quick, and hit 'em hard! is Mr. Kary's motto. It also typifies his school's total training scope. Students are implored from the very start and every workout thereafter to throw each and every strike one at a time, at full force into thick pads, lifelike latex mannequins, or well-shielded instructors—sort of like performing near limit rest-pause singles in dynamic lifts such as the snatch and clean and jerk. In fact, this hardcore militant style has the closest training procedure to top-level weightlifting competition, of virtually any fighting system I've ever come across. Unlike traditional, Eastern based martial arts, there are no intricate slow motion forms to wade through, simply training aimed to constantly develop pure hitting power. And few have reached the peak that Kenny Burner has achieved. In fact, it's hard to believe that a quiet, friendly man like this humble government administrator has developed such truly lethal force.

Like all of us iron-minded athletes, however, Mr. Burner hungers more and more raw power, if for no other reason than to derive personal satisfaction upon realizing new plateaus of physical capabilities. So it was, then, that Ken took to cable training with such gusto. From the beginning when we warmed up with highly innovative stretching maneuvers utilizing thick "rubber bands," Ken sensed an amazing application of cables toward martial arts and any other athletic pursuit dependent on flexibility, speed, and strength.

Allow me to digress for a moment to introduce Dick Hartzell of Youngstown, Ohio, the genius behind the "Jump-Stretch" cable training system. For 20 years now, Mr. Hartzell has taught innumerable high school, college, and pro athletes how to stretch every joint and muscle group with his variety of massive bands, without the injurious overstretch caused by well-meaning partners or over-zealous coaches. Plus he's devised a most novel way to greatly improve ballistic strength quickly. Dick's own spacious gym is unique in the world because, with the exception of a power rack and one Olympic barbell, nothing else but varied colored rubber cables of different strengths —hundreds of them—hang from every beam, pillar and post! A list of top-level powerlifters, Olympic lifters, and pro football, basketball and baseball players who are clients would astound you. Several local colleges and high school football teams who have used Dick's explosive band training have yielded a phenomenal ten national and state championships in only the past few years.

Hartzell and his son-in-law, Carl LaRosa, himself a weightlifter of some repute, taught and certified a group of us in his highly effective yet unusual exercise program early last year. It seems demand from all parts of the country kept Dick scrambling just too much to continue instructing everyone interested himself. Shortly thereafter, I used his flex band gear and, particularly, some of Hartzell's personally prescnbed flexibility maneuvers to overcome nagging, lifting related shoulder and knee problems as well as to totally limber up an old body. This new approach allowed me to literally glide into my easiest win ever at our annual USAWA all-round national weightlifting championships. Thus revitalized just after the big meet, Ken Burner and I began our strength-speed experiments for use in American Combatives.

Unfortunately, there isn't space in this article to detail the rather comprehensive cable-oriented flexibility program meticulously developed by Dick Hartzell. Although Ken Burner and I always wanned up with favored flexibility maneuvers, lets talk power, the focus of our recent workouts.

As a MILO reader, you're undoubtedly familiar with Dr. Randy Strossen's famous SUPER SQUATS book. Combine his documentation with Dick Hartzell's "supported ballistic squats," and you have the big gain factor, the core of Kenny Burner's workouts. Rubber band squats are performed on a Hartzell designed steel base with two sets of bands looped around side stanchions at the stand's bottom, then draped over both the user's shoulders up top. Cables are kept from slipping sideways with a special Velcro belt worn behind the back that connects the parallel strands. Beginning at below parallel position, the trainee grabs a wall-mounted pole above for balance and control (not necessarily for assistance), then rapidly thrusts upward. The idea is to bang out a set as quickly as possible, something not safe or even doable with heavy weights. Due to the increasing tension toward completion, and total muscle involvement throughout every inch of movement (cables do not permit momentum to whip one through a rep), such band usage supplies a rather torturous several seconds and new meaning to the term "breathing squats!"

When my pal Ken strives to perform two sets of 20 with enough cable loading to yield an estimated 650 pounds resistance at lockout, well, he's trashed. Believe me, when max speed is added to these heavy, high rep sets—a whole new dimension for power movements—your chest feels as if it will explode while the fittest set of legs on the planet won't reacquire much standing stability for many minutes. In fact, on completion of a set, thighs feel amazingly similar to the noodle-like bands that just harassed them. I tease Kenny by reminding him that 60-year-old Dick Hartzell may be the only man around who has found a way to constantly kick his ass! Nevertheless, Burner still tries to summon the energy to squeeze out 20-rep breathing pullovers (more like gasping pullovers!) after each set.

Another unusual exercise utilizing the Hartzell stand is Burner push-ups (well named). Kenny stretches two flex bands width-wise across the base, where they just acquire some tautness. Then he burrows under the bands, lets them conform to the contours of his upper back, and rapidly pumps out a unique style of resistance push-ups. Working up to 20 ballistic reps enables the practitioner to transfer the power for throwing extremely hard martial arts hand blows. Then again, this practice isn't exactly novel among rough and tumble type fighters. One of my neighbors used to do speedy pushups with a bunch of people sitting on his back. Perhaps you've heard of him, pro wrestling legend Bruno Sammartino (one of the world's first legitimate 600-plus-pound bench pressers, way before "steel coiled" shirts and wraps allowed virtually anyone to bench big).
Other stand and band exercises mimic conventional barbell lifts. Ken's routine includes presses, rows, high pulls, and good mornings. All are done for two sets of 20, or at least with enough cable resistance that 2 x 20 is a reasonable target. This is eventually achievable by the simple progression system of adding one additional rep per workout. When both sets become overly comfortable on a regular basis, stronger cables or more of them can be employed. Noteworthy, a viable option is that any given series of reps can be "juiced up" by just pumping faster, even without an increase of resistance.

Recently, competitive strand pulling, as practiced throughout Great Britain, has been making inroads in this area. Since tournament grade steel spring sets are hard to come by this side of the Atlantic, and are difficult to adjust anyway Ken and I have been using Fabled Cables™ to mimic certain of these events. Usually we do overhead pulldowns for lats, back presses to hit delts and triceps, a strange version of standing flyes for the chest, and one-arm presses to enjoy a sheer strength challenge. Again, we do two sets of 20, although we sometimes single up, as do many English record holders, to open options when sanctioned strand pulling contests become more established. Incidentally, we've had two official meets in Western Pennsylvania during 1999 Kenny Burner's complete routine looks like this:

** Monday
Ballistic squats
Breathing pullovers
Seated calf raises
Abduction-adduction
Kneeling presses
Upright rows
Side bends

** Thursday
Ballistic squats
Breathing pullovers
Donkey calf raises
Back presses
Bent over rows
Good mornings
One-arm presses

He tells me that his back and knee pain have disappeared, while his recuperation and energy level are at an all-time high. Something about the smoothness of band exercises, Ken maintains, encourages relatively easy and constant progression. Yet the brevity of these sessions allows plenty of time to join his lovely wife in attending the many activities of their three energetic children, as well as permitting him to give his all during very intense twice weekly American Combatives workouts with John Kary.

Perhaps the only downside is that now nobody wants to brace behind thick air shields for Ken to practice his favorite "cup hand" strike, because the newly increased impact on diis speedy arcing maneuver is literally earth shattering!
Cables can stretch the ole joints, buff one's bod, and supply supplemental power for virtually any activity. It has worked to perfection for Ken's Combatives, my all-round lifting, area football teams, and many pro athletics. Are you into powerlifting, Olympic lifting, strongman stuff, Highland Games, or arm wrestling? Cables will enable!

2 comments:

Shaf said...

Kick ass bit by McKean.

Tyciol said...

Nice read, wish I had that kinda setup.