Fighting Fit

Fighting Fit


Your body must be ready for action. It doesn’t matter if you’re getting ready to practice Muay Thai, wrestling, jiu-jitsu, or if you’re about to hit the weights, your muscles and joints must be prepared. Many injuries occur when you force your muscles to work before they’re ready.

For years, athletes would warm-up by stretching, which makes your muscles relax and slows down your nervous system—precisely the reason why stretching is great after a workout to help your body recover. However, stretching before training can make you more susceptible to a muscle strain and it may decrease your performance.

A combat athlete should activate muscles instead of relaxing them. An excellent, simple way to prepare your body for action is with a burpee (named after Lieutenant Thomas Burpee). When performed correctly, this exercise will prepare your entire body for combat or weight training. There are many variations of the burpee, but I’ve found the following version to be ideal for fighters.


1. From standing, squat down and place your hands on the ground in front of you.

2. Jump your feet back so you’re in a push-up position.

3. Perform one push-up.

4. Jump your feet forward so you’re in the squatting position.

5. Jump up and reach overhead.

It’s important to do this exercise as fast as possible to fire-up your muscles and prepare your joints. Do as many burpees as you can in 20 seconds. Then, rest for 20 seconds and repeat the burpee/ rest sequence 2 to 3 more times.

The burpee is also an excellent fat burner since it’s an intense total body exercise that can be performed explosively.

Challenge your workout partner to see who can knock out the most reps in 5 minutes.


Lunges are a great unilateral (one-leg) exercise option that can help improve your stance, level changes, directional changes, and punching power. By focusing on the strength and ability of each leg independently, it allows you to “bring up” your weak side and reduce your chance of injury. Add these three lunge variations to your workout regimen to improve the strength and performance of your lower body.

After a two-year hiatus, heavyweight Todd Duffee returned to the Octagon at UFC 155, earning Knockout of the Night over Phil De Fries. Currently, Duffee is training at American Kickboxing Academy with big boys Cain Velasquez and
Daniel Cormier.


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1. Anterior Leaning Lunge

The anterior leaning lunge provides an eccentric overload stimulus to the hamstrings, glutes, and lower back that can help improve your ability to change levels.

Stand tall and hold a dumbbell in each hand at your side. Step forward with one leg, keeping your front knee bent 20 degrees and your back knee straight. As your front foot hits the ground, simultaneously lean forward by hinging at your hips. Keep your back straight and allow your rear heel to come off the ground. Reverse the motion by stepping backward and returning to a standing position.

Coaching Tips

• Don’t round your back. The anterior (forward) lean should come from hinging at your hip joint.
• Don’t let the dumbbells touch the floor at any point during this exercise.
• Lean your torso forward until it becomes parallel to the floor.
• Keep your back knee straight as you lean into each rep.
• Allow your rear heel to come off the ground as you lean into each rep.


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2. Fighter’s Lunge

The fighter’s lunge creates a reciprocal resistance stimulus by simultaneously strengthening the hip flexors on one side while also working the hip extenders on the other leg. This replicates and improves the force production pattern involved in creating explosive knee strikes.

Stand tall and hold a dumbbell in each hand. The dumbbell in your right hand should be outside of your right hip and the dumbbell in your left hand should be in front of your left thigh. Perform a reverse lunge by stepping backward with your left leg, allowing your left knee to gently touch the ground. As you return back to the standing position, allow your left thigh to meet the center handle of the dumbbell. With the dumbbell against the middle of your left thigh, flex your hip and raise your knee just above 90 degrees to the floor (as throwing a knee strike). Step backward again with your left leg and repeat.

Coaching Tips

• As your rear leg comes forward, the dumbbell should be mid-thigh level as you flex your hip.
• As you flex your hip, lift your knee just above your hip joint before returning your leg back for the next rep.
• Your thigh should gently touch the dumbbell.


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3. Lateral Lunge with Cross-Body Reach

The lateral lunge with cross-body reach helps improve the ability of the glutes to load and explode in a manner that transfers force across the body from one side to the other. This helps improve your ability to change direction and throw powerful strikes.

Stand tall and hold a dumbbell in your left hand by your side. Step out laterally with your right leg, allowing your right knee to bend 20 degrees. Simultaneously shift all your weight to your right leg as you reach your left arm in front of your right foot. Explode out of this position and return to the same starting position.

Coaching Tips

• Hinge at your hip joint and do not round your back as you lean forward and reach across your body.
• Keep both feet pointed straight ahead throughout this exercise.
• Do not take long lateral steps (this is not a stretching exercise).
• It is designed to improve your ability to transfer force across your body.
• Your trailing leg should be straight as you begin each lunge.



3-6 reps per leg with each set of lunges.


3-5 total sets of each lunge variation. Be sure to use 1-2 different lunge variations within a given workout.


Lower into each lunge using deliberate control. Explode out of each lunge in a powerful manner while still maintaining solid technique.


Stop the pain train in its tracks.

If you train hard, you’ve felt more than just sore muscles the next day—and some of those nagging injuries can take a toll. No worries. You can give your body a fighting chance with a few simple moves that will help you alleviate your minor aches and pains.


MMA takedowns can mimic the whiplash of a car accident. Add a few choke attempts and eat a punch while sparring, and it’s no wonder you have neck pain.

Chin Tuck
Lie on your back and tuck your chin gently toward your chest. Lift up your head while keeping your chin tucked and your neck long. (Hold for 30 seconds, and repeat five times.)

Chin Tuck


Despite the diverse causes of knee pain, a universal truth is that you need good strength and flexibility in your hips and glutes to allow your knees to stay aligned and decrease abnormal stresses.

Glute Stretch
Lie on your back, and grab your left knee with your left hand and your left ankle with your right hand. Bring your left leg up toward your right shoulder. (Hold for 30 seconds, and repeat twice on each side.)

Glute Stretch

Lie on your side with your knees and hips slightly bent. Leaving your heels together, lift your top knee toward the ceiling. Keep your abs tight, and don’t let your top hip roll back. (Repeat 20 times on each side.)



After a tough workout on the heavy bag or sparring, have you noticed pain in the front or top of your shoulders? Covering your chin makes sense, but when your shoulders live up by your ears, chances are you’re going to end up with some tightness as the tendons in your shoulders get pinched.

Pec Stretch
Stand in a doorway (or between two heavy bags) and bring your arms up to your side. Draw your shoulder
blades down and in, and let your chest stretch. (Hold for 30 seconds, and repeat twice.)

Back Strengthening
The muscles that attach to the inside base of your shoulder blades are particularly helpful in preventing shoulder pain. Lie on your stomach with your arms at your side and squeeze your shoulder blades together. (Repeat 15 times, holding for five seconds each time.)

Back Straightening

Try this again with your arms straight out. (Repeat 15 times, holding for five seconds each time.)

Back Straightening


The number one cause of missed days of work may also be one of the biggest causes of days off the mat. If you ever have numbness or tingling down your legs, pain shooting below your knees, groin numbness, or any urinary problems (like trouble starting the fl ow of urine), you need to see a doctor right away. If your symptoms are mild, or you’d like to try to prevent back problems, some basic exercises may help.

Back Stretch
Lie on your back with your right leg crossed over your left leg. Rotate both legs to the right, stretching the left side of your lower back. (Hold for 30 seconds, and repeat twice on each side.)

Back Stretch

Form a plank on your elbows and toes with your abdominal muscles engaged and shoulder blades drawn firmly against your rib cage and away from your ears. Keep a straight line from your head to your tailbone. (Hold for 30 seconds, and repeat five times.)

Back Straightening


Creating a strategy for your performance extends beyond the gym. Your ability to keep going during training and competition, recover fully and efficiently, prevent injury, and maintain optimal body composition defines the need for supplementation. Unfortunately, the cost of nutritional advice, energy bars, high-end drinks, and sports formulas can leave a sizeable hole in a fighter’s pocket. However, being equipped with the basic knowledge of sports nutrition and a simple grocery list can alleviate a great deal of expenses.


The most important meal of your day is the one consumed before a workout. It sets the tone of your performance on the mat or in the ring. Remember, timing is key. Research has shown that consuming a snack one hour prior to intense physical activity helps enhance performance. When picking the ingredients, it is very important to have the right consistency of nutrients—low-glycemic carbohydrates for a consistent energy source and fluids for hydration are the optimal choice to fuel a high-quality, long lasting training session.




All great fighters know that training never finishes on the mat or in the ring. What you do before, during, and after a long day of sparring, drilling, and conditioning is an extension of your performance and ultimately your success.


Purchasing bananas, milk, almonds, cocoa powder, and peanut butter will cost you about $10, creating six to seven pre-training power smoothies. A week of fancy sports drinks and bars will triple the cost.




Do you ever feel like your cardiovascular system can keep going, but your body doesn’t have another rep left? That’s due to a depletion of glycogen—no fuel, no fight. If you want to capitalize on your conditioning, you must optimize muscle glycogen storage. Try one of the following pre-workout foods and see how much more consistent your rounds get.


• 4 hours prior to training, consume a full meal, such as a bowl of whole-wheat pasta.


• 3 hours prior, a small bowl of oatmeal or whole-grain cereal and milk is a great choice.


• 2 hours prior, choose a whole-wheat bagel and light peanut butter.


• 1 hour prior leaves less time for digestion, so choose a liquid supplement such as a smoothie. The nutrients will help you optimize performance and stay hydrated, while the liquid snack digests far more rapidly than solid food.


Every athlete must eventually face the buildup of lactic acid in muscle tissues. Know your enemy and arm yourself with the right strategies to delay the buildup and enhance recovery!


Lactic acid or “lactate” is a waste product produced by your muscles during exercise. Technically, it’s a compound that forms when sugar (glucose) is broken down for energy. During most aerobic exercise, lactic acid is readily cleared from your muscles, but high intensity anaerobic workouts will cause it to accumulate leading to that familiar burning sensation we all know well.


Accumulation occurs when your body produces lactic acid faster than your cardiovascular system can clear it. This environment is brought on by intense resistance training or cardiovascular exercise and is referred to as the anaerobic state


It can take from 25 to 75 minutes for lactic acid to fully exit body tissue. Muscles recover best with an active recovery. A low intensity cool-down is a must for every hardcore workout. Lactic acid gets a bum rap because it accumulates at the end of intense exercise so its presence in the body corresponds to muscle fatigue. Post workout muscle soreness has more to do with muscle damage and repair than lactic acid

EAT AND HYDRATE 1-2 HOURS BEFORE STARTING A WORKOUT: This will make sure that your tank of stored muscle fuel (glycogen) and blood sugars are at peak capacity. Combining carbohydrates with small amounts of protein and fat will help the sugars to digest at a reasonable pace without creating spikes in blood sugar.

BEST BETS FOR PRE-WORKOUT SNACKS: 1 bowl of oatmeal, ½ banana, and 2 egg whites; 1 slice of whole -wheat toast, ½ tablespoon peanut butter with ½ cup OJ; 10 almonds and an apple; 1 cup of low cottage cheese topped with a small handful of blueberries.

DRINK 1 CUP OF A CAFFEINATED BEVERAGE 1 HOUR BEFORE EXERCISING: Caffeine is a scientifi cally proven (and legal) performance enhancer. It takes about 1 hour for it to go into full effect. Caffeine promotes fat burning as fuel for a workout, which is a great way to spare those precious sugar stores.

BEST BETS FOR PRE-WORKOUT CAFFEINE: Tea: white or green teas are rich in healing antioxidants and are the least processed of all teas. Coffee: Be sure to add skim or low-fat milk instead of cream.

KEEP A REGULAR WORKOUT SCHEDULE THAT INCLUDES WEIGHT TRAINING: Experienced athletes develop a better tolerance for working out under anaerobic conditions.


How the MMA submission staple almost became extinct.

On March 3, 2012, Ronda Rousey won the Strikeforce Women’s Lightweight Championship via armbar submission of Miesha Tate. The formula was perfect: pre-fight hype, nonstop action, an epic finish, and a star’s emergence. That same weekend at UFC on FX 2, two more fighters—Daniel Pineda and TJ Waldburger—also won via armbar. While snapping arms is Rousey’s norm, armbar submissions have actually been lessening over time. Lost in the excitement and elegant brutality of Rousey’s submission was the revival of that technique’s place in MMA history.


The armbar submission made its UFC debut on March 11, 1994, at UFC 2 in Denver, Colorado. The inaugural UFC Champion Royce Gracie won twice by arm locks on his way to a second tournament championship. The signature jiu-jitsu technique was made famous by the image of a straining Gracie in a ruffl ed gi, stretching the arm of a confused and panicked Jason DeLucia a moment longer than is comfortable to watch.

Fast forward to the end of 2011, with the UFC wrapping up its 191st fight card at UFC 143. Fighters have submitted to chokes, locks, cranks, and other uncomfortable positions 479 times in eight years of UFC fights. One of the clearest and most iconic submissions was the armbar, secured 74 times during these primordial years of modern MMA. The domination of Gracie Jiu-Jitsu in the early years of MMA led to a rapid evolution of other submission disciplines. And before the words “mixed martial arts” were truly part of the sports vernacular, competitors understood that striking alone was insufficient in the Octagon, a realization that often took the form of a desperate tapout. Gracie’s infl uence on the sport was, in fact, the intention of the UFC’s inventors to begin with—to demonstrate the superiority of jiu-jitsu over other fi ghting systems. However, in any highly competitive system, there’s fast learning, and other fighters began to train the grappling arts to even the playing field.


The competitive landscape finally began buying into jiu-jitsu as a pre-requisite for MMA, and there was a surge in armbar attempts and fi nishes at the end of 1990s, while the BJJ players weeded out the old-school brawlers and wrestlers. But a funny thing happened as the Zuffa years kicked off—armbars started to disappear. As the UFC survived its dark years and the explosion in popularity (and competitiveness) began, the “tap or snap” technique that solidified the Gracie claim of BJJ superiority declined in use. The riddle here is whether or not this was due to fighters getting better at defending armbars or if they simply abandoned the technique in favor of other moves.

Let’s dig deeper into the numbers to see how exactly armbar attempts have evolved in recent years.



The risk in executing an armbar is giving up dominant position. Losing a hold of the arm sometimes means losing ground control, thus sacrifi cing dominant positioning that could win the round. It’s possible that fighters with dominant control have transitioned to submission techniques that better maintain dominant position, such as arm triangles, or they’ve simply skipped armbar openings while continuing to advance position to secure the highest success technique of all—the rear naked choke. Regardless of why fewer armbars are attempted, another interesting conclusion from the analysis is that success rates of armbar attempts have not fallen. While fewer fighters are going for the arm, they continue to be successful roughly 20% of the time. The results are volatile due to a small sample size, but a trend line confi rms that, since 2001, the average success rate has not declined signifi cantly. The average success rate from 2001-2005 is the same as it was from 2006-2011. If submission defenses were forcing the extinction of armbars, we should see a steep decline in the success rates, but we don’t.


Hold for hold, the armbar is not the likeliest of submissions, with two common chokes having better chances of success. But it’s also not the riskiest either. Consider the guillotine choke, which typically means a fi ghter will be put on his back. Not locking that choke means plenty of time spent on the losing end of groundand-pound. But from a dominant mounted position, fighters have more options. And they may be realizing that the 1 in 5 success rate of the armbar is too risky to sacrifi ce control, opting instead for continued striking or an advance to back control. From here, attempts for a rear naked choke are successful at almost twice the rate of armbars, and failed attempts don’t lose position, but rather may simply lead to another attempt.


The evolution of the armbar came full circle in 2006 when Royce Gracie stepped into the UFC Octagon for the last time against UFC Welterweight Champion Matt Hughes. After suffering a brutal arm lock by Hughes, Gracie ultimately succumbed to strikes. Less than two years later, Hughes tapped (verbally) to an armbar by Georges St-Pierre, relinquishing his title once and for all. Arm locks played a critical role in these defi ning matchups of modern day MMA, and in many others. Yet, in all of 2011, there were just three successful armbars on 19 attempts in the UFC. The armbar was being abandoned. As of May 2012, we’ve already seen five successful armbar submissions in the UFC, including one in the unlikely heavyweight division by Stefan Struve at UFC 146. Whether or not the trend continues remains to be seen, but armbars could be making a comeback.

MMA athletes have evolved since the early days of “no holds barred” fighting, and the evolution continues. The armbar is still one more gambit in the arsenal of human chess, and skilled fighters must always have a full repertoire of attacks should the right opportunities arise. Whether it’s an unlikely heavyweight giant like Stefan Struve or the newest face of women’s MMA in Ronda Rousey, the art of the armbar is still alive and dangerous.


Anderson Silva

The UFC’s middleweight division is full of talented strikers, but it’s no surprise that Anderson “The Spider” Silva stands alone.

Taking a point-in-time assessment of a division’s roster is a quick way to compare fighters without having to wait for a matchup that may take years to materialize, if ever. It’s not perfect, but if done properly, it should show some basic performance patterns among fighters. From a fan’s perspective, it adds a new dimension of understanding and appreciation of the competitors we pay to see. Let’s focus on the UFC middleweight division, which is now in need of a top contender to face Anderson Silva.


To understand stand-up striking performance, which is more multifaceted in MMA than it is in boxing, let’s identify a few of the most important variables that determine success as a striker. These are fairly uncomplicated variables in isolation, but together they can summarize a fighter’s overall capabilities, including these three offensive metrics.

• Accuracy: Using power head striking accuracy (as opposed to body or leg strikes, or jabs to the head), the average for UFC middleweights is about 26 percent. The accuracy of the power head strike is a great indicator of a fi ghter’s striking prowess, and there’s a wide range within a single division. This is the vertical axis, so more accurate fi ghters are higher in the graph.

• Standup Striking Pace: Prior analysis reveals that outpacing your opponent is a key predictor of success, and it certainly correlates with winning decisions, as it reflects which fi ghter is dictating the pace of the fi ght. Using the total number of stand-up strikes thrown as a ratio to the same output from a fi ghter’s opponents, all strikes attempted from a stand-up position are counted, including body shots and leg kicks. This is the horizontal axis in the graph, and the average for the whole division must be one, so fi ghters with superior pace appear farther to the right.

• Knockdown Rate: The objective of every strike thrown is to hurt your opponent, and knockdowns reflect a fighter that has connected with a powerful strike. Using the total number of knockdowns a fighter landed, corrected by the amount of total fi ght time they have, will show who does the most damage in the least amount of time. The size of the bubble for a fighter indicates their relative knockdown rate. The bigger the bubble, the higher their knockdown rate. The very small bubbles indicate fighters who have yet to score a knockdown in the UFC.

The data includes all UFC, WEC, and Strikeforce fights through June 2012, including UFC 147. Fighters with 15 minutes or less of fight time in the UFC middleweight division were excluded from the chart, which amounts to 12 active fighters, including Vitor Belfort.


Anderson Silva is the longest reigning UFC champion in history. He’s also the most accurate power striker in the middleweight division, landing a whopping 40 percent of his power head strikes. When it comes to overall signifi cant strikes, Silva is again the best in the business in terms of accuracy, with a UFC-leading 68 percent according to

Silva also pairs his superior accuracy with knockout power, having landed more knockdowns in the UFC (16) than any fighter in history, including heavier champions such as Tito Ortiz, Randy Couture, and Chuck Liddell. With his dominant combination of superior accuracy and knockout power, it’s no surprise then that Anderson Silva remains the best fighter on the planet.


The last man to hold the UFC Middleweight Title before Silva was Rich Franklin, who has logged nine (T)KO stoppages in his UFC career. He leads all middleweights with an average stand-up striking pace that is more than double that of his opponents. He pairs that furious pace with 38 percent power head striking accuracy, third overall among active middleweights.

Francis CarmontTwo contenders set to collide, Brian Stann and Michael Bisping, have excelled in very different ways in the Octagon. Despite only “average” accuracy, Stann has clear knockout power combined with the ability to the push the pace of action. Bisping, on the other hand, has superior striking accuracy, but only outpaces opponents in volume by 20 percent, and rarely ever scores knockdowns. It will be very interesting to see how Bisping handles Stann’s onslaught in their upcoming bout at UFC 152. As Stann perfects his striking under coaches Greg Jackson and Mike Winkeljohn, he is well positioned to assume the role of one of the most feared middleweight strikers.

Interestingly, recent title challenger Chael Sonnen shows up as a below-average striker in terms of accuracy and knockdown power, but he has made up for it by generally outworking opponents.

The newest addition to the middleweight title picture, Chris Weidman, also has poor accuracy and average pace. But he also continues to improve, as evidenced by his recent destruction of Mark Munoz.


Cung Le logged his first UFC victory against Patrick Cote at UFC 148. Notably, it was his first ever win by decision, as all his other wins have come by strikes. Despite being 40 years old, there’s still a few fights left in Le, and a potential fight with Rich Franklin would make for a matchup between two elite strikers.

Striking AssessmentItalian boxer Alessio Sakara brings excellent striking accuracy to the Octagon. Since his recent loss to Brian Stann, Sakara is without a new opponent. But at only 30 years old, he still has plenty of knockout performances ahead to add to his four UFC stoppage victories so far.

Tristar Gym product Francis Carmont is perhaps the newest name to turn heads in the middleweight division, with three consecutive victories in less than a year in the UFC. Training partner and UFC welterweight champ Georges St-Pierre believes Carmont can make a run at the title, and that would match up the two most accurate strikers in the division.

Cypriot boxer Constantinos Philippou is undefeated in four UFC fights at middleweight. Now training with the Serra-Longo Fight Team, Philippou’s powerful and accurate striking will be seen on bigger stages in the near future. That’s good news for fans who like to see a brawler who can drop opponents.

Showing up above current contenders Tim Boetsch and Alan Belcher is Aaron Simpson. As the current division traffic jam works itself out, watch out for A-Train to keep chugging along.


Jason MacDonald gets the dubious honor of the division’s worst striker, as evidenced by being on the receiving end of Tom Lawlor’s Knockout of the Night performance in May.

The aforementioned Lawlor holds down the dead center of the striking assessment chart, showing that even an “average” UFC middleweight is capable of a devastating knockout.

Wrestler Nick Catone holds a lower left corner spot on the striking chart, showing low accuracy, no UFC knockdowns, and the lowest relative striking pace in the division.


The most important weapons of an MMA fighter are his hands. Each hand includes tendons, muscles, nerves, blood vessels, and most importantly, bones. The hand has 27 separate bones including carpals (wrist), metacarpals (palm), and phalanges (fingers). They can be used for blocking, grappling, wrestling, and as a striking tool. During these types of actions, there are a variety of injuries the hands can sustain, specifically to bones, including:




The most common injury in contact sports is called the metacarpalor “boxer” fracture. The main damage is done to the bones that form the palm and knuckles, called metacarpals. When a fighter strikes,the force is transferred from the hitting knuckle to the body of the metacarpal bone, causing the bone shaft or neck of the bone to break. The most frequent metacarpal fracture is to the fifth finger area (your pinky finger). With this type of break, you may still be able to move your fingers, but there may be pain throughout the knuckle or the back of the palm. Other signs of fracture include swelling of the area, hematoma formation, deformity, and, of course, pain. Remember, just because you can move your finger, it doesn’t mean that you don’t have a fracture.




A joint dislocation is when any bone leaves its normal position in the joint due to pressure, but there is no fracture. Dislocations are recurrent, so once you have had one, you are susceptible to reinjury. This is because the tissue holding the joint stretches, leaving the joint prone to dislocation. Again, it’s always best to let a physician relocate the bone.




A sprain results when the joint is overextended, causing swelling, pain, and difficulty in movement of the joint. Tendons and ligaments travel beyond their normal range of motion, and some fibers may even break. Sprains are very common and require as much treatment as fractures, including immobilization.




The finger fracture happens when enough force is applied to a phalange (bones in the finger) and the bone breaks. Again, as in the “boxer” fracture, this type of fracture may become displaced. Finger fractures are very common in the thumb and index finger. Usually a displacement can be remedied by placing the dislocated bone back in place, a process known as reduction. It’s always a good idea to have a physician put the bone back in place because deformation is a possibility.




Proper care of hand injuries is of utmost importance. Immobilization and rest are essential to a speedy recovery. The use of anti-inflammatory medication and cold therapy (ice) also plays an important role. The majority of chronic problems after a hand injury are almost always due to inadequate treatment or reinjury to a previous lesion. Always follow your physician’s advice, as it may very well prevent further problems.


You can help prevent injuries to your hands by:


using proper wrapping and padding when striking a heavy bag


wearing adequate gloves when striking and sparring


using correct technique when striking (use your first two knuckles)


applying ice and resting your hand if it becomes sore


seeking immediate treatment from a physician if you have swelling, discoloration of the skin, or any deformity


Don’t play the fool with your diet this April.

Every day is April Fools’ Day for many food companies clamoring for your business. With clever marketing, they can trick you into thinking you’re eating something far more healthy than you really are. Don’t allow this to become a detriment to your health. If something seems too good to be true, do some research before making it a part of your daily routine, and watch out for these four common fooling foods.

Gluten-Free Bread


If it’s gluten-free, it has to be healthy, right? Wrong, and gluten-free bread isn’t the only culprit. Over the past few years, the variety of gluten-free products has increased, including bagels, donuts, and pizza. The gluten-free label sure does make it sound healthy, but commercially produced gluten-free breads and cookies are not made by magically mashing up brown rice and baking it with olive oil and cinnamon. Overly processed, nutrient-deficient, high-glycemic index flours and additives such as white rice flour and white potato starch are typically frontrunners in the mix. A steady diet of items like this can lead you down an unwanted path of blood sugar issues, weight gain, and inflammation.


image descNaturally gluten-free foods such as sweet potatoes, quinoa, beans, and brown rice have always been clean food choices and should continue to be your primary carbohydrate sources, along with fresh fruits and veggies. However, if you need that piece of toast sitting beside your organic eggs, choose 100-percent sprouted-grain breads. Food For Life’s Ezekiel breads are never processed into flour. True whole grains, with all their fiber and nutrients, are soaked and sprouted in water, and then slowly mashed and mixed into dough to be baked in small batches. If you are truly gluten sensitive or avoiding gluten for other reasons, the Ezekiel breads won’t be safe for you as they do contain wheat (albeit sprouted). Your best bet is consuming gluten-free foods in their whole form or making your own gluten-free breads from nutrient-dense, lower-glycemic index coconut and almond flours.

Almond and Coconut Milk Yogurts


If almond and coconut milks are low-sugar alternatives to dairy milk, then the almond and coconut milk yogurts must be healthy and low in sugar too, right? Nope. image descMost yogurts do seem like a smart choice with all those friendly probiotics (healthy bacteria needed for GI health and immune function), and unsweetened/original almond and coconut milks are top alternatives to cow’s milk, but their yogurts aren’t quite up to snuff. Fruit flavored coconut milk yogurts can have more than 21 grams of sugar per 6 ounces (25 grams of carbs total). The plain yogurt may be better with 7-12 grams of sugar (18 grams of carbs total), but protein ranges from 0-2 grams. Almond milk yogurt’s numbers are quite similar, with a slight bump in protein at about 6 grams, as some are infused with a few grams of vegan pea protein.


If cow’s milk is agreeable with your stomach, choose plain organic Greek yogurt with its 4-6 grams of sugar and a whopping 17 grams of protein per 6 ounces. Goat and sheep’s milk may be easier to digest if cow’s milk is questionable. Goat milk can taste a little strong in flavor to some people, but sheep’s milk yogurt is mild and closer to cow’s milk in taste. With only 3 grams of sugar and 10 grams of protein per 6 ounces, plain sheep’s yogurt from Old Chatham Sheepherding Company is a great alternative if cow’s milk yogurt is making you bloated and gassy, but you don’t want to go for the sugary alternatives. If all animal dairy is off limits, get your probiotics via supplement form or go for the live cultures found in the plain coconut milk by So Delicious.

Veggie Chips


image descVeggie chips…they’re pretty much dried vegetables in a bag, right? Definitely wrong. White potato is a vegetable, so should we start considering a tube of Pringles multiple vegetable servings? Not a chance. Even though veggie chips may contain some spinach or tomato (most likely in a processed powder form), they’re predominantly still white potato based. Worse yet, 90 percent of “chips” in most grocery stores—even in health food stores—contain that all too common dangerous mix of soy, corn, safflower, and/or sunflower oils. Even those nutritionally angelic sounding sweet potato chips are culprits of sporting these bad oils. Soy and corn will most likely be genetically modified—if not organic—and all are considered very unstable (turning rancid) at higher cooking temperatures.


If you want veggies in a bag, you should really just buy some carrots, celery, bell peppers, and broccoli, give them a wash and chop, and pack them in a baggie along with hummus for dipping. Other optimal options include using a dehydrator and making your own true veggie chips. No dehydrator? Kale chips can be made in the oven with coconut oil, salt, and pepper. Store bought kale chips are okay, too, just be careful of those with lots of additives. For an occasional splurge of actual potato chips, look into companies using only healthy, heat-stable oils like Honest Potato Chips (coconut oil) and Good Health Natural Foods (avocado oil).

Fruit Juice


As natural as it sounds, fruit juice is not something that should be part of your regular diet. With approximately 27 grams of carbs per 8 ounces (24 grams coming from sugar), it’s got pretty much the same sugar and carbohydrate content as 8 ounces of soda. Don’t be fooled by anything in that long grocery aisle filled with endless flavors of brightly colored sugar bombs. image descThe “100 percent fruit juice” label won’t even help you here. Both the 100 percent juice and “cocktail” version with added sugars and sweeteners give you few nutrients.


If you want 100 percent fruit, eat a piece of fruit. You can also throw fruit in a juicer along with organic greens. If you want a quick-grab beverage without all the sugar, hit the health food store and stock up on coconut water. Coconuts are technically classified as a fruit, so you’ll still be reaching for a “fruit juice,” but one with far more health benefits. Coconut water comes from the low-calorie, naturally fat- and cholesterol-free clear liquid of young, green coconuts (not to be confused with the high fat/calorie thick textured canned coconut milk). Boasting the potassium of more than four bananas, coconut water contains all five essential electrolytes (sodium, potassium, calcium, phosphorus, and magnesium). It will not only leave you refreshed with its light, sweet flavor, but it will also replace electrolytes lost during workouts and help keep muscle cramps at bay. Its sodium content is a little lower than your typical sports drinks, but it’s nothing a sprinkle of sea salt can’t fix on particularly heavy training days when sodium losses may be higher.


This month, five time World Champion Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu player, Marcelo Garcia, helps us fine tune the rear naked choke.

The rear naked choke is the ideal submission from the back, but setting and finishing it is always a challenge. If I am able to jam my wrist into my opponent’s neck but he prevents me from grabbing my biceps to lock the rear naked choke, I transition to this alternate finishing grip to end the fight. Tucking my arm under his chin is an opportunity that I cannot waste, and I am content to choke my opponent in any way possible. When you apply this choke, be on the lookout for an opening to lock in the rear naked choke. Threatening one choke will often lead to the other, so be prepared to switch between the two if necessary.


1) I am on Henrique’s back, looking for the rear naked choke.

2) Seeing that his neck is exposed, I wedge the blade of my right wrist under his neck. I attempt to slide my right arm across his neck to set the rear naked choke, but he is resisting.

3) I transition to an alternate back choke by setting the back of my left hand on Henrique’s left shoulder.

4) I clasp my hands together.

5) To finish the choke, I set my left forearm against Henrique’s spine and squeeze my arms as I pull back. If I need to, I can tighten the choke by walking my hands up his shoulder like I was tightening a bolt with a ratchet.


In the first photograph, the gap where my opponent’s neck would be is large. To begin closing the gap, I chop my left hand downward. In the final photograph, you can see that I am squeezing my elbows together to eliminate the last bit of space, but notice the difference in the positioning of my right hand between the second and third photograph. In the third photograph, I am reaching as far beyond my left biceps as I can to tighten my squeeze.

Excerpted from Marcelo Garcia’s book Advanced Jiu-Jitsu Techniques, this technique is one of hundreds that have applications in both pure grappling and MMA competition. Make sure to check out the book and Marcelo Garcia’s website,, where you can see videos of thousands of techniques in both practice and practical use.