JH: I have been involved with sports and exercise from an early age. I was very active as a child. At a young age I was interested in martial arts and Bruce Lee. When I was 9yrs old I began training in a martial art called Seishin Kai. I was also reading ever martial arts publication and watching ever movie I possibly could. My dad was very interested in martial arts as well. He had a big influence on my fascination with martial arts. I also loved weapons. I became very good with nunchakus and decent with a sword. I won The Seishin Kai Usa Kumite and Kata championship while is was competing in the sport. I was also playing baseball at this time. I began playing with weights at about 10 yrs old. I also played basketball for a short time. My goal from the age of 10-16 was to be a pro baseball player.
MM: When did you get into weight training?
JH: I kind of got burnt out with baseball and begin focusing on weight training. A few years later I started boxing. I was the president and founder of Eastern Kentucky University's boxing team. I also participated in golden gloves boxing. While I was at Eastern I studied fencing for a short time. I was not very good at it. At the end of my boxing career I was studying a few martial arts at the same time.
I was also doing a great deal of work designing workout regimens for my friends and their friends. Shortly after I stopped competing in boxing, MMA started to be my major emphasis. I began training at Four Seasons Martial Arts. I also served as conditioning coordinator for a while. I was working at another gym doing personal training an teaching Kick boxercise classes.
I started a personal in home training service. I began writing articles for exercise and sports publications. I have written for approximately thirteen different publications. I published a book called Optimum Physique. I have written for a couple of international publications (Massive Lifestyles and Razm Avar). Physique was very important to me for a while. I won 2nd place in the Northern Kentucky Bodybuilding Championships - as a lightweight. Currently, I am busying designing strength and conditioning programs for athletes as well as general fitness enthusiasts. I am always working on some new writings and studying a wide array of literature; 20-30 hrs per week. I am a research fanatic. I serve as honorary member and adviser to K.I.C.K (Karate International Council of Kickboxing), and I am a USA registered Boxing coach, judge, and referee. I serve as strength and conditioning forum moderator at www.mma.tv.
MM: What are some of the common mistakes that athletes make with regards to their training programs?
JH: I could write a book on this subject. Most common mistake trainees make is listening to their friends and the media. Where did their friends get their education? Probably the popular muscle mags or their friends. Obviously not a reliable source of information. The media is probably even worse. They are looking for a story; that is it. My favorite people to work with are the ones who claim to know very little and who say they need help. They are usually very coachable. Another problem is unrealistic goal setting. Everyone should have goals, but these goals need to be within reach. Everyone can not box like Roy Jones or run like Michael Johnson. I can go on and on about this subject but on a final note I would like to mention the obsession with the bench press. I do not know why everyone is obsessed with this movement. The bench press is an inaccurate indicator of overall strength. What about the squat, deadlift, push press or clean? The bench ranks way low on my list of effective movements. What about for bodybuilders? Incline bench and any form of db benching are more effective. Use the bench as a supplementary movement.
MM: What are some successful techniques that you have used to help athletes blast through plateaus?
JH: This depends on the individual and their training history. I have found that many athletes train hard, but not smart. Almost any individual I have came in contact with has been able to improve their fitness levels by altering their movement selection or tempo of movement. I have found westside training to be very successful in increasing athletes absolute strength , and speed strength. I alter the the program for each athlete, but the backbone is usually the incorporation of bands into their training regimens. I have seen large increases in athletes agility levels when I introduce ladder drills to their programs. Speed can usually be enhanced when the athletes ability to produce power increases.
I use a variety of olympic lifts and derivatives of olympic lifts as well as plyometrics. Arm swing is also of monumental importance in increasing maximum velocity sprinting. As Dan Fichter has pointed out to me the number one key to increasing speed is increased vertical ground force. Therefore work on becoming more powerful and you will probably become faster assuming you have decent sprinting mechanics.
The easiest way to improve physique is through proper nutrition. Remember the body is a very adaptive organism so nutritional regimens need to be altered just as training programs do. In regards to endurance athletes beware of over training and under feeding. This happens often with these athletes.
MM: Can athletes still train when injured?
JH: This depends on the level of injury and the desire of the athlete. I think we should use common sense in these situations. People with severe injuries such as broken bones and connective tissue tears should probably lay off of training. If they do train it should be light in nature or maybe unilateral. If might right arm is injured should I train my left? You definitely should. When training a neural transference takes place that allows the non trained limb to become stronger even though it is not being directly trained.
Anabolic hormonal levels also rise through out the body which contribute to size and strength (refer to an article titled Exercise Science Research at www.maxcondition.com for more info on this subject). When running a fever I would recommend against training. Let the body rest. When speaking of competitive athletes they are often required to train under non favorable conditions. It is the job of the coach to monitor the training closely to ensure no further damage occurs. I recently had an MMA competitor getting ready for a fight who had a cold plus a pulled groin. I usually give the athlete the option of pulling out or going through with the competition. We made it through the training and ended up crushing the competition.
MM: What kind of training should MMA athletes be doing?
JH: Training for MMA athletes should address a number of motor qualities. The sport of MMA requires tremendous all around athleticism and psychological strength. A couple of problems that really stick out to me is the excessive use of low intensity aerobic activity and exclusion of weight training. MMA athletes need to weight train, and they need to perform high intensity endurance work. Keep in mind weight training and interval type endurance are only part of the equation. In my MMA programs we use a vast array of training methods including stongman movements, range of motion work (static and dynamic), agility training, quickness training, olympic lifts and power lifts, body awareness drills, endurance training, Mb work, plyometrics etc We tackle all of the issues necessary. Every athlete I train has an individual program. Most programs are very similar, but are still varied accordingly.
MM: Tell me more about your book?
JH: My book Optimum Physique is geared towards general fitness enthusiasts and bodybuilders. The book does have something to offer everyone. Unit 1 discusses training; mostly bodybuilding methods. Unit 2 talks about nutrition. In Unit 3 we explore methods to enhance recovery. This aspect is often over looked. Unit 4 gives the reader insights on supplements and performance enhancing drugs. I think the rest and recovery unit and the supplement section are very helpful for athletes. You can see excerpts for the book at www.maxconditon.com.
MM: Are there any nutritional supplements worth using?
JH: I would say there are some supplements on the market that are very beneficial. I refer to creatine, L-glutamine, and protein powder as the big 3. Creatine has been supported in numerous research studies and I have witnessed it's success first hand. There are a couple of things you need to be aware of when taking creatine. Drink plenty of water to prevent cramping and purchase a quality brand. Those cheap ten dollar bottles of creatine are just that, cheap. L-glutamine is referred to as the all star supplement because of the numerous benefits it offers the user.
L-glutamine is particularly important for athletes that have volumous training loads; as it fuels the immune system and helps to prevent muscle breakdown. Adequate amounts of protein for tissue repair and growth has been highly documented for years. In my book I discuss the basic science behind the above mentioned supplements as well as a host of others. Before any supplement can be effective the proper training and nutritional protocol should be in place.
MM: Do machines have a place in an athletes programs?
JH: They have a place, but a very small place. When an athlete comes back from a long layoff or has a off training week minimal use of machines is probably okay. Machines can also prove benefical in some rehab programs. There is a big problem when athletes or anyone training begins to think machines are just as effective as free weights. They are not even close. In fact they can be very detrimental; particularly to athletes. Machines eliminate stabilizer muscles that are used in everyday activities. Basically every movement you perform requires a certain amount of stabilization. Machines force the user to function in one plane of movement. Sporting activites are performed in three dimensional planes. Another problem that can occur is called pattern overload syndrome. This is similar to carpal tunnel as the joints perfrom the exact movement patterns over and over. My advise would be to make minimal use of machines and laugh when anyone begins to explain to you why this machine is better than using free weights. This is not debatable and the only ones that will debate this issue are machine salesman and people that like to do things the easy way.
MM: Are you working on any new projects right now?
JH: I have a few things I am working on. Coach Davies and I have spoke about releasing a MMA Strength and Conditoning book. I am working on putting together an Ebook that will contain a collection of my published articles as well as writings that have not been published yet. I have a bunch of literature lying around. I have a new program that I offer at my site which is Personalized Video Training Programs. I realize that people are sometimes not familiar with the exercises I prescibe in my programs. On the Personalized Video Training Tapes I demonstrate each movement. Many of the movements I prescribe I have designed myself. It is easier sometimes to show a movement than it is to describe it on paper. As far as I know I am the only one offering this service right now. It involves a great deal of time, but it is worth it to ensure that the trainee is following the program correctly. I am looking at putting together a series of videos as well.
MM: Thanks for doing the interview!
For more information on Coach Hale, visit his site at www.maxcondition.com.
About The Author
Mike Mahler is a strength coach and a certified kettlebell instructor based in Santa Monica, California. Mike has been a strength athlete for over ten years and designs strength training programs for athletes, law enforcement, and fire fighters. Mike is available for workshops all of the US and in Europe. For more information, visit Mike s site at www.mikemahler.com or email Mike at firstname.lastname@example.org.