Friday, November 14, 2014

Functional Fitness

Functional Fitness

Crossfit. Gym Jones. Military Athlete. Combat Conditioning. RAW, MARSOC Prep: What do they all have in common? They all work in some fashion to be functional for survival of every day life with a focus on making you stronger. Certain programming sets will set you up for more Military/Law Enforcement specific fitness, others, general fitness.

What is functional fitness? This was best defined by the author/blogger “John Mosby” as:
“Physical conditioning training is only functional if it fulfills one simple performance criteria: will it help you improve your ability to do what you need to be able to do, for the duration of how long you need to be able to do, it on demand. If not, it's not functional fitness, it's... Retarded."

Functional Fitness will have buzz words you will hear that will be outside the normal weightlifting lingo, and the non fitness oriented worlds’ lingo.  I will use some of these terms throughout the post:

·      WOD – Workout Of the Day
·      Movement – Anything done on the workout. Weightlifting, Calisthenics, Gymnastics, etc.
·      Bodyweight Movement – anything done with only bodyweight – push ups, air squats, pull ups, etc.
·      1RM – 1 Rep Max
·      PR – Personal Record

I used to do the stereotypical “Monday is Chest day, Tuesday is arms day, Wednesday is Leg Day (Frequently skipped by the weak girly men in the world), Thursday is Back Day, Friday is something else day” workout plan. What I found was that I was spending anywhere from 1 hour to 2 hours at the gym each day, which left me with no time to do any running, which is a personal relaxation tool. I noticed that yes, I did slowly get stronger on the typical workout routines, but that I didn’t have the same endurance nor did I have time for this important thing called life.

For a while, my goal was to switch to a “Functional Fitness” style workout routine and finally had no choice when my local gym shut down over 2 years ago. A co-worker agreed to set up a garage gym at his place and we bought equipment for it. Kettle Bells, Bumper plates from Rouge, squat rack, bar bells and some dumb bells. I quickly found that this was all I needed to do basic Functional oriented workouts.

In January of 2013 I had the opportunity to receive some basic coaching in Olympic style lifting from a couple, who had become close family friends. This helped greatly focus my workouts with more lifts being applied, and mostly proper form. A garage gym will allow you to slack off on form because nobody is there all the time to critique your form. This is a negative to a garage gym, but one you can work around by attending coaching sessions as well as videoing your lifts for critique. The form matters, not the weight or reps. The family friends would send us their WOD each day allowing us to have no choice but to do the assigned movements each day. This helped stop me from picking my workouts based on the movements I liked or was good at and skipping those I needed to work on.

As I progressed from a beginner, to more “experienced” with the WOD’s I realized my body was getting rapidly stronger. The WOD’s shifted from beginner level to more difficult. 
Example Beginner:
·      For Time:
·      21 Pullups (with or without rubber band assistance for those needing assistance)
·      21 Kettle Bell Swings (53# is usually the minimum men’s weight and 35# the women’s)
·      Run 400 meters

Example Current:
·      10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1 Front Squat. 
o   Work towards your 1RM if not set a new one.
·      Then
·      5 Rounds for time:
o   7 Muscle Ups
o   21 Sumo Deadlift High Pulls at 95#s.

There is a huge fitness level difference in what is required to push through the beginner level one and be on your back afterwards and sore for the next two days, and 12 months later doing the Second example and walk out the door a little sore and exhausted but ready to go to work.

Can you do “functional fitness” workouts when you do not have access to Kettlebells, Olympic Lifting Bumpers and Bars, Squat Rack, etc? Yes. You won’t get as much strength improvement out of it necessarily, but by being creative and utilizing your environment and what junk is lying around your house/yard/shop, you can find some weight to lift. To do pull ups, you can spend $20.00 at Home Depot and build a frame for a piece of scrap metal tubing to do pull ups from. Used large tires – tractor or semi-truck size – can be used for tire flips or attach a rope to them and do tire drags. Use of sand bags for one handed snatches or carries as well as weighted squats. Also you can do ruck marches or “rucking.” Plenty of resources available on that online.

I really have noticed the benefit from changing workout styles in the more physically demanding aspects of life. Especially telling was an incident where what was supposed to be a 6 mile trip in full kit (30-40#’s) turned into a 13.2 mile desert walkabout. Interestingly, those who do functional fitness styled workouts, were fine and kept going during this. Those who did the bodybuilding Arnold/Weider stuff, sucking wind and needing breaks frequently. A trip to the Harvard of Gunfighting, DARC, sure showed the benefits. There fellow students who did some variant of functional fitness, all were kicking butt thanks to a more intense training regimen as found in Functional Fitness.

How does one measure the results of their “functional fitness?” There are many ways to do this. Tracking the 1RM on various lifts, finish times in running to overall times for so called “benchmark” workouts (Fran, Murph, Grace, etc.). There is also the ultimate test of being able to do perform on demand. I found that Mosby put it well when he described this:
“It doesn’t matter how big your biceps are, or how fast you can run 26.2 miles; if you can’t get your self and your gear to the fight, under physically challenging conditions; and engage the enemy with well aimed rifle fire, then you are fundamentally, functionally useless.”

Hopefully all of my readers as well as myself will never have to run the performance on demand test, but if you do, you better be able to perform. It could be your life, the life of a family member or the life of an innocent victim.

For more reading:
Crossfit Football:
Ranger Athlete Warrior – RAW:

Monday, November 10, 2014

AR Pistol Grips: BCM Gunfighter MOD 1 and Magpul MOE SL

AR Pistol Grips:

BCM Gunfighter Mod 1 and Magpul MOE SL

One of the first things I swapped out on my first AR-15, was the A2 pistol grip. This was ditched for many reasons, chief among them that the finger grooves were nowhere near where my fingers, nor anyone else I have ever met, fingers are placed. At the time, there were about three aftermarket pistol grip options; Tango Down Battle Grip, Ergo Grip and the new Magpul MIAD. I had felt the Tango Down and Ergo Grip’s on friends rifles, and found them to thin for my liking with the same grip angle of the A2, if not slightly more canted with the Ergo. 

I went with a Magpul MIAD with the medium backer insert and no finger groves on the front. This combo was very popular with shooters and became the Magpul MOE grip. I ran the Magpul MOE for several years while seeing other options come out that didn’t really shock the market with problem solving. During this time I noticed that while standing with the rifle at a patrol ready hold or when shooting higher round counts I would feel some discomfort in my firing hand wrist. This was found in my issued rifle with A2 grip as well as personal MOE/MIAD equipped rifles. 

While browsing the internet, I read some discussion about the HK-416 pistol grip and how it was more vertical and solved the complaints that people had with the current options on the market.  At that point I started looking to test a replacement pistol grip option. Magpul released the “K” and “K2” grips, Tango Down the “Flip Grip” and the unobtainum KAC PDW Grip were on the market. As I was about to buy one of the afore mentioned, BCM released the “Gunfighter Grip.” The Gunfighter Grip came in 2 models – mod 0 and mod 1.  The marketing on all these grips indicated a more vertical alignment that was conducive to modern gun fighting stances as well as more time spent holding the gun vs. bulls eye shooting. 

I picked up and installed the BCM Gunfighter Mod 1 on my rifle as a trial, and fell in love. It was more ergonomic for my shooting stance as well as comfortable for long periods of holding the gun – barricaded subjects, long desert walks, etc.  It does maintain a similarity in appearance to the HK-416 grip; take that for what it is. After buying a couple $30.00 BCM grips to upgrade a few of my rifles, I realized that $30 grips to replace a $20 Magpul grip didn’t make a financial sense. Naturally if it makes you shoot better, that $30 investment is worth it. During this time I had one real complaint and that was it seemed slightly thick for my preference of a year round functional grip  - no gloves in summer, thicker gloves in the winter.

While loosely keeping an eye on the AR accessory market, Magpul announced the MLOK system and its upgraded MOE SL (slim line) line. In this announcement was the new MOE SL pistol grip. Magpul announced it as a more vertical grip than the standard A2 grips. Naturally I was interested by this, but could never find one locally to test. Long story, but Drake from Magpul sent me a MOE SL grip. I was very excited by this opportunity to get some literal hands on use of the grip. 

Upon receiving the MOE SL grip, I was first concerned that it would be similar in grip angle to the old MOE grip. This is definitely not the case and I found it felt like a slightly thinner BCM Gunfighter grip. I’ve run the MOE SL on my SBR since receiving it, and have found one complaint with it. No cover for the bottom, which is where I store my SBR paperwork. A simple fix was to place duct tape over the bottom of the grip. For $20, you can’t complain about that over the $10 more grip having a latch covering the bottom. 

BCM on Left, MOE SL on Right:

BCM on top of MOE SL:

MOE SL on top of BCM:

Grip angle of the BCM MOD 1 and MOE SL is by all appearances and feels, the exact same. You will also note the width difference. Without a pair of calipers handy, I cannot compare the width difference, but its noticeable when looking and holding the grips. 

Looking Down on grips, MOE SL on top, BCM on Bottom:

All things considered, either option is a good upgrade for anyone with an AR rifle, Unless you need to hold something like SBR or Suppressor paperwork in your pistol grip, the MOE SL at $20 is the best option, and really, an entire roll of duct tape is cheaper than $10 if that is something you need. I won’t be selling all my BCM grips just to get the new MOE SL grips, but as I finish building or replacing A2 grips, it will most likely be with MOE SL grips.