For too long, there’s been an unnecessary divide between sleeve-stretching bodybuilding and the type of lung-searing workouts you see performed in more functionally-inclined facilities.
Although many make the valid argument that a dog chasing two bones invariably gets neither, with a bit of smart programming, an eye on movement selection and some clever execution— you can build a body that’s as much ‘show’ as it is ‘go’.
This partner protocol from the minds of MH Elite coach Tom Kemp and MH Squad head of training Andrew Tracey, was programmed to whet their appetite for conditioning sessions, as well as act as a tasty pre-dinner pump. Armed with nothing but a pair of dumbbells in a hotel car park (after all, who doesn’t travel with a set of dumbbells), they came up with this stamina-boosting finisher, that works to jack up your biceps, triceps, back and shoulders, while dealing a deadly blow to your heart and lungs.
The structure is deceivingly simple. You and a partner are going to work down a ladder of two movements, dumbbell hang cleans and close grip push-ups on your dumbbells, sharing the descending reps equally as you go. This allows you just enough rest to focus on quality form. Between every rung of the ladder, you’re going to hit a near maximum effort 400m run as a pair, ramping up the calorie burn and boosting your functional fitness.
Before you grab your bells and head for your nearest NCP, read our tips from TK and AT on how they tackled this beast, for optimal blood flow, fitness and, of course, pumpy fun.
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The hang power clean is an explosive movement that uses full-body momentum to propel your bells from hips to shoulders. The idea is to use an extension from the hips, allowing you to move a much heavier weight than if you were to remain upright and stationary. This is great for building muscles of your upper back and pretty much your entire backside. However, for our purposes, we also want to keep some of that tension on the smaller muscles of our arms. Pick a set of dumbbells that you couldn’t, in your wildest dreams, strict curl, but could definitely grind out a few reps with a bit of body ‘English’. This way, when you start your cleans, you keep some tension throughout your arms, and get those biceps into the mix. We worked with a pair of 22.5kg bells – too heavy to curl neatly, yet fairly pedestrian for cleans. Perfect.
SHARING IS CARING
You’re going to begin with 50 reps of each movement, chase those with a run, hit another 40 reps out of the park, run, then 30, 20, 10 respectively, with a run between each. This is some significant volume and a pretty tall order, so splitting the work equally between the pair of you is vital to avoid red lining and losing movement quality. In the higher rep sets, keep the work up and exchanges to a minimum, if you can tackle sets of 10-15 each, go for it. Once the reps lower, tackle them in 5’s focussing on fast and efficient switches. If you’re slightly stronger than your partner or vice versa, lean into each other’s strengths and take an extra 2 or 3 reps per set. If you’re fitter and faster, gas the last 100m of each run and despatch the first set, giving your partner a chance to breathe. Remember, this isn’t a race, it’s about looking out for each other to finish in the most efficient way possible.
TAKE A LAP
Pacing the run is crucial. Yes, we’ve said near max effort, but that’s max effort for this workout, not a one and done 400m dash. As the metres start to clock up fatigue will begin to set in, the last thing we want is to be moving our dumbbells with poor form, stifling our pump, or worse still inviting injury. A great tip for not over reaching is throttling yourself back by nasal breathing throughout the run; after your final press-up take a sip of water and hold it in your mouth for as long as you can during your run, forcing you to breathe through your nose and control your breath.
Perform 50 reps of both movements, breaking up as necessary (but completing all cleans before beginning your push-ups), followed by a 400m run. Move into 40 reps of each, run; then a round of 30, then 20 and then 10 before a final, all out run.
1) Hang Power Cleans x 50, 40, 30, 20, 10
Holding a pair of dumbbells at your sides, hinge at the hips to lower them to your knees (A). Stand back up with a slight jump, using the momentum to pull the dumbbells on to your shoulders (B). Stand up straight, then lower under control to your sides and repeat.
2) Close Grip Push-ups on Dumbbells x 50, 40, 30, 20, 10
Drop your dumbbells onto the floor, touching each other, and assume a long arm plank position, with your core tight and your hands below your shoulders (A), bend your elbows to bring your chest to the floor (B). Keep your elbows close to your body as you push back up explosively.
3) Run x 400m between each round
Run at a pace that lets your lungs and legs know you meant business, but still enables you to come in from the home straight, take a few deep breaths and get stuck into those cleans.
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