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Perpetual Motion Workout

October 20, 2004 01:07 PM

We've all been in situations that have demanded more from us than we originally thought possible. Even if you can handle the job alone it's usually good to know there is a helping hand not too far away. When I was a Navy Diver, I can't tell you how many times we assured ourselves that a project was going to be "quick and easy" only to find ourselves, 5-6 hours later, still busting our backs. What was amazing to notice after a while was that each of us would stay in the water as long as possible before you changed out with another diver. Even if your hands felt like blocks of ice, you couldn't feel your feet anymore, you hadn't had water in what seemed like forever, and you were damn near exhausted, you dug down and gave it all you had until the job was done. This was the unspoken rule most of us followed because you didn't want anyone else having to take up your slack, or to be the weak link in the team, ever.

This mentality was not about ego, bragging, or trying to be labeled "hard-core" in any way. The jobs were usually cold, long, and were dangerous at times. We all knew that if we didn't give it 100% that the next guy would have to do more and that attitude was simply unacceptable. Knowing that every person on the team was giving it his absolute best motivated everyone involved. The strengths of one person would support another's weaknesses until this mutual support created an almost unstoppable mentality that enabled us to perform well beyond our own individual limitations.

These days I run a bodyweight conditioning class that mirrors the physical and mental training I went through as a diver. By "mental training" I mean that the class is expected to pull together to help those that fall behind. I have no time for those who are too busy patting themselves on the back to extend a helping hand to anyone else. No man is an island; my actions impact you and yours impact me, and this workout can really drive this point home.

I consider this workout a combination gut check/team builder because it instills a "I'll do more so you don't have too" mentality. I've used this particular workout in my fitness classes and there have been many a participant that has run off to the sidelines to puke in the middle of it, so be ready to push yourself. You will need a partner for this workout and I call it Perpetual Motion because each person is always doing something. By doing your best to make sure your partner doesn't do more than "his share" of exercises, you'll be pushing yourself harder and harder as the workout progresses. There is seemingly no time for rest and any rest that is taken during the workout only insures that your partner will suffer longer. It's easy to fall in to the "you took your time, now I'll take mine" game and believe me it ruins the workout in quick order. Drop the ego, assure your partner that you will do more so he won't have to, and give it 100%. Let's play.

Perpetual Motion

Set up:

The first thing we'll need to do is select 5 exercises for the workout. The option to select exercises that fatigue predominantly upper or lower body parts or choose exercises that are considered "full body" is yours. Just to make things interesting, I've selected the following 5 exercises for you: Shoot-fighter squats, dive-bomber push-ups, dumbbell or kettlebell swings (just to show some of the versatility of the workout by using weights), squat thrusts (or burpees), and flutter kicks. Take 5 index cards, or pieces of paper, and write one exercise on each card.

Take your 5 exercise cards and shuffle them up so they are in no particular order. With your back to the pull-up bars (with cones and cards in hand) walk about 40-50 yards directly away and place your first cone and card on the ground. Don't worry about which exercise is first, even if it's the easiest one in the group and you start to worry that you'll place the difficult ones towards the end. Do not change the order of the cards from the original shuffle! It's tempting to place the more difficult exercises at the beginning so that you can do them when you're fresh, and save the easier ones for the end of the workout, but that's just too bad. We've already discussed that life doesn't always let you do the hard stuff when you're fresh and that's not the point of this workout anyway, so suck it up! Continue walking directly away from the pull-up bars and placing the cones/cards at 10-15 yard intervals. When you've placed all your cones down you should have a direct line, away from the pull-up bars, that's about 100 yards long.

You and your partner should decide on a set number of pull-ups that you feel you can do for all 5 sets. Pick a number that is challenging but doable. Remember that you must do all the pull-ups before you can leave the pull-up bars so try to be realistic about your abilities and keep in mind that you'll be sprinting before the pull-ups. This puts a whole new twist on this section of the workout! If you pick a number of pull-ups that is too high and you can't do them all at once, your partner is in for a treat because you will not leave the pull-up bars until you have done all the pull-ups in your set. Keep this in mind as you're shaking the fatigue out of your arms and he's out there doing squat thrusts, waiting for your sprint back. We'll see why this workout can really play with your head in a minute.

Now walk back to the first cone and you and your partner are ready to begin.

The workout:

Both partners are standing at the first cone and have read the card, which might say "squat thrusts". When you are both ready to begin, partner "A" will start performing squat thrusts while partner "B" sprints to the pull-up bars, does his set, and sprints back. Now this point is crucial: "A" will not sprint until "B" begins doing the exercise that is designated on the card! Why? Because after sprinting, pull-ups, and sprinting again, it's likely that "B" will stand at the cone with his hands on his knees praying for death, while "A" sprints to the bars. By the time "A" starts to sprint back from his pull-ups, "B" may have only done 5 squat thrusts as opposed to the initial 25 that "A" did. This workout isn't about you catching your breath while your partner suffers, so your partner is not allowed to leave the cone until you begin the exercise! This might be where the term "suck it up" takes on a whole new meaning.

You might be saying to yourself; "Well, I can do one squat thrust so my partner can go and then I'll stop to catch my breath." Think again. If, while your partner is sprinting to the pull-up bars, you stop for more than 2-3 seconds then you will yell out "ADD ON". Be ready for your partner to start cursing you (or me for that matter) because "ADD ON" means that he now has 2 sets of pull-ups to complete before he can leave the bars. This means that if the designated number of pull-ups was six he will now do twelve. Honesty is the key here so don't be a cheater and take a break when you think no one is looking!

Once "A" has sprinted to the pull-up bars and completed his pull-ups he will sprint past the first cone to the second cone, look at what's on the card, and begin whatever exercise is written on it. As soon as he begins the exercise he will call out "GO!" and "B" who will then sprint to the pull-up bars, perform his set, and sprint back to the second cone to start the exercise. Remember what I said about the transition at each cone! This will continue for each cone all the way across the field. Whoever is "A" will always sprint to the next farthest cone after completing the pull-ups. Done in this manner, both partners will "leap frog" each other down the field and the workout is finished when both have completed the pull-ups and sprints for the very last cone.

Final notes:

One of the best things about this workout is the endless variation you can throw into it. You are only limited by your imagination and lack of knowledge of conditioning drills. Remember that this workout is not only designed to build your capacity for more work it's also going to develop your mental toughness like you won't believe. It's somewhat easier during a traditional workout when you know how many reps and sets you will be doing. With Perpetual Motion, you have no idea how many reps you will perform so you really have to dig down deep and find the drive to continue.

I've included a diagram to help explain the set-up for those that might not understand from the written explanation and a few more variations you can use during the workout as well.

Train hard!



Pull-up bars - > *Cone 1 - > Cone 2 - > Cone 3 - > Cone 4 - > Cone 5 - >

The * indicates where "A" will start the first exercise and the arrow lines indicate how he will progress down the field.


In place of sprinting:

? Lunges
? Bunny hops
? Duck walks
? Bear crawl
? Farmer's walk
? Sandbag drag
? Sandbag chest carry
? Sandbag overhead carry
? Wheelbarrow push
? Throw medicine ball (any technique), run to ball, repeat

Bio and contact information

I was a Navy Diver for 10 years with 4 of those years spent as support for Navy SEALs in Hawaii. I am one of the few non-Special Forces personnel to attend, and graduate, the SEAL Hand-to-Hand Combat Instructor Course. I trained with World Jiu-Jitsu Champion, Two Time World Racquetball Champion, and Super Brawl Champion, Egan Inoue for 3 years. I fought, and won, Future Brawl 6 (an 8 man, No Holds Barred competition) in 1996 and won my professional fighting debut in Super Brawl 13 in 1999.

I also began, and still lead, Basic Training by Fish; a military style fitness class based on my training experiences in the military and training for competitions. This class has been used by military dependents, active duty military members from all branches of service, Federal Law Enforcement Officers, Federal Fire Fighters, military personnel preparing for Navy Dive School, BUD/s (SEAL training), and SAR (Search and Rescue Swimmer) Training. Basic Training by Fish is now the official program used by military commands in Pearl Harbor to get active duty military members up to physical fitness standards. It was also the only program used to get candidates prepared for SAR Training and enjoyed a 100% success rate with everyone that attended the class and then went on to SAR school!

Since 1999 I've offered free bodyweight workouts that have been downloaded by thousands of practicing martial artists, law enforcement personnel, and those that simply want to get in better shape. I continue to offer free workouts, exercise descriptions, and a bodyweight conditioning 2-tape video set that contains 5 workouts and runs almost 4 hours in length, at my website: