Ninja KB Swing – Version 2

So, at Ninja Headquarters, we really enjoy having a good time. Sometimes we have ideas that don’t turn out like we anticipated, and sometimes things actually work out every bit as well as we had hoped! With that, here is the follow-up to our first Ninja Kettlebell Swing post (See Version 1 Here!):

Today was our first attempt, so we started light. You can expect heavier ninja swings in the near future!

Resolving to be More Functionally Unfunctional

by Arlo Gagestein

With the coming of the new year, many lives are filled with often fitness related resolutions. I too have some gym goals for the year (see, even fitness professionals do it!). Like most resolutions, time quickly erases them from our memories, and next year we find ourselves re-evaluating and either recommitting, or deciding the goal wasn’t worth the effort and we should pursue something new.

Last year I hit some goals and missed some goals. I did finally run a trail marathon in September, so check that one off the list. However, running is on my New Year’s list again this year. Everyone who knows how much I despise running will be very proud to know I have thus far stuck with my goal with unwavering resolve this year. On January 1st I ran 40 seconds on the treadmill, and yesterday I hit 45 seconds.

The only thing more shocking than running on my list is my second and infinitely more important goal for 2016. I am going to do more biceps curls. Depending how well you know me, this may or may not seem like a big deal. Let me put it in perspective by disclosing that in the 11 years I have owned my own gym, I have done bicep curls less than a dozen times. Part of it stems from my belief that doing exercises for aesthetic reasons only is silly. I have always been a firm believer that if I train for performance, my sex appeal should remain sufficient without adding “curls for the girls” (besides, I’m happily married already). Also, until now, I have believed that biceps curls were far from functional. Complex, multi-joint movements are more similar to actions our body does in real life and will do much more to improve athletic performance. If I’m doing chin-ups, pull-ups, and rows, my biceps shouldn’t need extra attention. Even some complex movements such as the bench press, the supposed “king of upper body exercises”  haven’t seemed particularly functional. When in sports will a person lay on their back and push something off of themselves?

Over the past couple years, everything I though I knew about sports performance has been destroyed. My world has been shattered. I have been both enlightened and confused to the point of tears that my sport of choice, and in my opinion the MOST FUNCTIONAL martial art, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, is from a training standpoint, largely UN-FUNCTIONAL! It all started with the bench press. When would I ever lay on my back and push something off of me? Oh wait…that’s Jiu-Jitsu. The stupid leg curl machine (FYI, hip extension is a much more important function of the hamstring than knee flexion)…? Hmm, resisting kneebars, finishing triangles and armbars, keeping a closed guard…yeah, again, Jiu-Jitsu. Bicep curls, the most un-functional single joint exercise known to man? Resisting armbars and finishing chokes. Yep, Jiu-Jitsu. Joint by joint, exercise by exercise, a fellow Meathead Jiu-Jitsu (if you haven’t heard of that style you will) practitioner and I went through the functional uses of non-functional exercises. I buried the knowledge deep within, content to fake ignorance and continue on in my functional training ways.

Then, I made two startling discoveries that will change the direction of my life forever.

1.  While doing chin-ups recently, I realized my biceps fatigued much faster than my back and were actually substantially limiting the number of chin-ups I could do. While this should give me plenty of reason to work biceps, it alone might not have been enough. Reason #2 however, made me realize what a desperate situation I’m in!

2.  In October, my physical therapist pointed out that I have horrible elbow range of motion. Unfortunately it is a bony restriction rather than tight muscles (or restricted fascia for those in the know), so it’s not going to be an easy fix.  For 6 years now I have been struggling to finish guillotine chokes and suddenly it all made sense. I knew I didn’t have the mobility to front squat worth beans, but didn’t make the connection to my Jiu-Jitsu game. Compare these pictures, the traditional selfie pose (1st photo) and me trying as hard as I can to bend my elbow (2nd photo):


My traditional selfie pose.

Straining for all I'm worth to bend my elbow.

I know, it’s the same, right. Now it’s about to get crazy. Check out these pictures of the guy who routinely catches me in a North South Choke:

The selfie pose.


Now, several things should be blatantly obvious. 1) He has much bigger biceps than I do. 2) My wrist is daintier though. 3) If my neck is wedged between his biceps and his forearm, I will go to sleep much faster than he will if his neck is loosely fitted between my biceps and forearm.

Now, not only is it a tighter fit, while caught in a particular choke last week  I thought I was okay until the above pictured arm flexed and I immediately had to tap. It was uncanny how much tighter the choke got when the muscle contracted. So, back to my resolution. Putting two and two together I immediately knew what has to happen. I need bigger biceps. Without full range of motion at the elbow joint, I need a giant mass of muscle to close the gap to effectively choke people out.

So, there it is. My main motivation for my most important New Year’s resolution to choke people. Is that wrong? Who cares, I’m gonna go work the GUNZ!!


Stability Ball Wrestling

This is one of our favorite strength and conditioning drills for grapplers. It literally works EVERYTHING! With a training partner (preferably one of similar size/strength), grab a stability ball from opposite sides and simply try to take it away from each other. It is good to set some basic rules before you begin (no shin kicks, groin shots, etc.), but basically anything goes. Also, make sure you have plenty of room to move around. Obviously this is exhausting from a strength standpoint, but it will also put your heart rate through the roof! Enjoy.

Starting Today

Post written by Arlo Gagestein

*I originally wrote this post on May 6, 2015. I wanted to repost because this past weekend, Richard Call, competed in the No Gi Worlds and came home with the bronze medal! Congrats Richard, I’m proud of you. There’s no doubt in my mind you’ll be a world champion!


I was hit today with an aha moment. Why it took so long, I do not know. I routinely share quotes such as:

Never give up on a dream because of the time it will take to accomplish it. The time will pass anyway.” -Earl Nightingale


The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now” – Chinese Proverb

So, with even with this “Go For It” attitude, I for some reason intentionally hold myself back from becoming the person that I could be. Don’t get me wrong, I haven’t let myself go by any means. I am still on track this year to accomplish the goals I set for myself back in January. They are legitimate, lofty goals and I’m proud of my progress, but I know deep down that I can do more. As a perk of my profession, I stay in reasonably decent shape. I am strong, have good endurance, and am leaner than the vast majority of Americans. I also feel confident that I have a good enough conditioning base that given a dedicated month, I can prepare for just about anything. A big beach volleyball tournament? I can be ready. A big grappling tournament? Just tell me when it is and I’ll get to work. A marathon? Barring injury, I’m confident I can do most anything with a month’s preparation.

I was training a 27 year-old jiu-jitsu athlete this morning whose #1 goal right now is to become a world champion by the time he turns 30. Richard has a goal and he is going for it. He also knows what he needs to do to reach his goal. He has lined up a team of people he believes can get him there. He has top level training partners, an amazing jiu-jitsu instructor, a fantastic professional strength and conditioning coach (like that shameless plug?), and such targeted focus and dedication to his goal that I have no doubt he will eventually reach it (like in the next 3 years).


Pushing him through the workout today, I started to think about competition. I have competed A LOT, in a number of different sports. I love competition. Whether volleyball, jiu-jitsu, obstacle racing, or our own private, invitation only combination strongman/grappling tournaments, I love the atmosphere, I love the challenge, and I love putting myself against like-minded individuals. The thing is, I eagerly jump in regardless of my preparation. I’m fit enough that I usually do decent just going into competitions “off-the-couch”. Watching Richard train this morning, it dawned on me, “With the work he’s putting in, in very little time, I’m not going to stand a chance against this guy on the mat.” He has only been doing jiu-jitsu a couple of years. I have been training for seven. He is a lower belt than me, but challenges me every time we spar. I’ve been in a rut, deceiving myself to believe I can compete with anyone in my division with a month or so of dedicated work. But it is nonsense. My friends and my competitors alike are going to leave me in the dust because THEY are willing to put in the work NOW. Richard already beats me frequently, and before long it won’t even be close.

Watching him push himself in the gym today i realized I need to up my game. Sure I can be ready physically for a competition in a month, but how far ahead of me will everyone be who have already started and didn’t wait for a deadline. Chances are they will destroy me. I am a huge believer in ALWAYS being ready for competition. I hold myself to a relatively high level of fitness so that I CAN jump into competitions “off-the-couch”. But I am cheating myself. I know I can perform at a higher level. Not just good, but great. I know I my fitness can be better, but I have been avoiding what it takes because it is hard. I have opportunities to push myself daily, but frequently let these opportunities pass by, making excuses that I have business stuff to tend to at the gym, justifying my good, but sub-optimal fitness by consistently doing only the workouts that are getting me closer to my 2015 goals.

After watching Richard work through his first circuit (I was busy doing other “important” things of course), I jumped in for the second circuit. I went through one round and it was hard. The second round was harder. I considered bailing out, shamelessly because I had other stuff to do. In the end, I stuck with it all four rounds, embracing the suck because that is what everything but my body screams at me to do. Everyone I’ve trained with knows I love a challenge, that I do things the hard way, that I thrive on being uncomfortable doing things that suck. Trouble is, even when I put on that facade and suffer alongside my friends and clients, I’m holding myself back. I’m not giving 100%. ICAN give more and I WILL give more. I will no longer put off optimal fitness. I am starting my pre-competition month NOW, without a competition on the horizon. I will no longer avoid the work because it sucks. I’m fit, but I want to be at the highest level I know I can be.

Richard – I’m coming for you! Jeff, Lucus, Tiny – you too.

Jake – it pisses my off that you are so much better than everyone, but have no doubts, my conditioning will be better than yours.  😉

Our Ninjas Featured in Jiu-Jitsu Magazine!

It was an honor to have a handful of our ninjas appear in the October 2015 issue of Jiu-Jitsu Magazine!

Now yesterday their adventures were also featured on Jiu-Jitsu Magazine’s website! This article is a fantastic example of our mission at Jiu-Jitsu Advantage to blend strength and conditioning with jiu-jitsu! Check it out here: