Monkey Stunts: Training for Performance
By Adam Sinicki
When I was ten I was a fan of Spider-man (I still am, I just try to keep it quiet these days), a ‘Spider-fan’ you could say. I was also a Jackie Chan fan (or ‘Jackie Fan’ you could say. Damn I’m cool today). In them I saw a level of ability that was above and beyond what was generally considered possible. Yet Jackie Chan was a real person. He could glide over obstacles like they weren’t there, flip down stairs and had the body of a God (that sounds a bit gay but you know what I mean). Then there was Schwarzenegger. In his films he cut through swathes of opponents and ripped phone booths from the floor… and he looked as though he could really do it.
That’s why I started training at the young age of ten. Not because I wanted to pull girls, not because I got bullied at school and not because I was teased. I started because I wanted to push myself to a level of excellence and imitate my heroes. It baffles me that more people don’t feel the same way.
Sure there are lots of bodybuilders out there, but they’re so large that they’ve lost their speed and most of their strength is in a restricted range of movements. They train more for aesthetics than for performance. There’s nothing wrong with that, but it’s not what I was looking for. Likewise you have sprinters who have nothing in terms of strength. Why not train for both? And while you’re at it, you could throw in some agility and flexibility.
Monkey Moves are something I devised to test my abilities. I started leaping over things and climbing things. Basically I was trying to do what I saw Jackie Chan do and maybe Spider-man. This was all before anyone knew what ‘Parkour’ was. My poor Mother nearly had a heart attack when she caught me doing a handstand on a bridge railing over a motor-way.
Obviously I don’t recommend you do this exactly, but it is something that requires balance and upper body strength. I could leap over railings nearly 5 feet tall, which requires explosive power and agility. Every time I tried a new stunt I was pushing myself and the boundaries of what I could do and I needed a new training regime to push the boundaries even further.
So I started training for maximum performance; trying to be as strong and as fast and as agile as I could be all at the same time. I wanted to be as close to a real life super-hero as possible (except I wouldn’t be doing any crime fighting, or wearing tights… much).
It seems however that such a training style doesn’t exist. How do you go about training with no single goal in mind? Well, I’ve spent the last decade experimenting and the little success I’ve had so far has come from a couple of techniques.
First of all, bodyweight training is incredible powerful no matter what your goals are, and is sadly neglected. If you use it enough you will be able to command your body like never before. Press ups, dips, pull ups… they all help you to take the weight of your body on your hands with ease.
To further train balance and strength and as a way to monitor progress, I developed what I call ‘Power positions’. These are isometric holds that require core stability, dynamic strength and high levels of endurance. By holding any of these positions you will test almost every muscle in your body. Once you can do them all you know you’ve reached a high level of agility. Some of them I invented, others I’ve ‘borrowed’ from Capoeira, Tai Chi, Yoga and Gymnastics. I’ve got more but I’m still working on being able to do those myself!
So enough bodyweight training will help you to climb lampposts and mount high walls. It will give you a large amount of brute strength without slowing you down. But that’s only half the story. You also want to be able to run fast and jump high too (well I do and I tend to assume everyone wants what I want). To get explosive power in your legs you need plyometric training. Basically this involves things like jumping on and off a box, or jumping forwards and backwards with your legs together, or hopping as high as you can. All these train the fast-twitch fibres in your muscles giving them the power to explode forward. Clapping press ups are an example of this type of training that work the upper body. Use these exercises just as any other with sets and reps.
To test and practice my explosive power I once set up an adjustable hurdle in my back garden (made crudely from wooden sticks and tape). I started off with it quite low – it was no problem to hurdle it. Every now and then I’d adjust it so it was a bit higher, the difference almost invisible to the naked eye. Psychologically it seemed like no problem at all and after not long I’d be hurdling things almost as tall as myself. Psychologically it also seemed to my Mum like I’d gone completely mad.
Supplement all the above with moderate weights work for added strength, stretching for flexibility and sports (or monkey moves) for coordination and you’ve built yourself a high-performance body. You’ll soon be the Ferrari of humans. Personally I’d rather be a Lamborghini. You don’t want to be a Beetle, that’s not cool. Unless you’re the original Bumblebee (Transfans will no what I’m taking about).
To use so many different training styles effectively I use what I call ‘Time Division’. Basically by alternating between CV, high rep, and plyometric training on the one hand, and high weight and isometric training on the other you train both fast twitch and slow twitch muscles. Also, unlike bodybuilders you don’t go through cycles of bulking and cutting – you’re constantly working towards the goal.
I devised a way to monitor my progress, using an equation that would take into account speed, strength and every other aspect of performance and that would result in a single number that was an indication of an overall ability level. Goto: http://www.adamsinicki.com and look under ‘Project Superman’ (cool name huh?) to learn more.
Once you build yourself into a speedy, flippy, strong, freak you can impress people with your feats of agility and super… ness. It’s also a great way to make friends if you’re socially inept.