Black Panther Training for Reflexes, Jump Height and Speed

By on February 12, 2018

You guys requested it and it’s topical… so here it is: Black Panther’s workout and training for reals.

I’ve looked at Batman’s training in the past, and at Arrows and the reason I chose those guys was because they were more realistic in terms of their skillset. These are humans with no superpowers and in theory, anyone could attain their abilities with training and good genetics. Like LOADS of training. And FANTASTIC genetics.

Black Panther is a little beyond ‘peak human’ though. He can communicate with his deceased ancestors and he’s covered in invincible super-metal. I can’t help with that.

But what we can look at, is how you might train to move like a big cat. How you can increase your speed, your stealth, your reflexes and your jumping height in order to become a super-athlete.

And let’s not forget that Black Panther is also a polymath and uber martial artist. So, we can touch on that a little too.

Just how close can we get to beyond peak human?

Without further a do then, let’s get to it.

Knowledge and Genius

Like Bruce Wayne and Sherlock Holmes, T’Challa is a straight up genius detective with superhuman knowledge. He has also mastered ‘every major martial art’. I’m not going to go into these points in depth here, as I have covered them in previous videos.

That said, to stand a chance of gaining that kind of knowledge, you’ll likely want to employ some accelerated learning techniques – such as the Feynman technique or Tim Ferriss’ DISS method. You might also help yourself along with some nootropics to increase brain plasticity and perhaps some memory master techniques. I’ll include links in the description below, so you can find all of that information.

Something that has worked for me, is doing a job that allows me to research things that interest me. I’m a freelance health, fitness and technology writer – so I spend my days researching ways to boost brain power and running speed, and learning new programming languages.

Consider doing something similar: find a job that will allow you to pursue the things you want to learn, or that will generally challenge you and expand your knowledge. You could also check out this post on the neuroscience of genius.

Martial Arts and Fight Reflexes

As for mastering all those martial arts, this is going to be a rather impossible task. Mastering a single martial art can take an entire lifetime!

In the comments on my Batman video, a lot of people said they thought you could just learn a few martial arts and that there would be enough cross over that you’d be able to pick up the smaller differences of each substyle easily. In other words, master karate, kung fu and judo and then you won’t need to learn that much to pick up the basics of kickboxing, pa kua and jujitsu.

It’s a nice theory, but I’m not entirely convinced. I learned wado ryu karate for 5 years, along with tai chi and capoeira. First of all, those martial arts are completely different. But more to the point, when I decided to try taking up wing chun kung fu here in my new hometown, I found that karate actually got in the way.

Martial arts is about rote learning blocks and attacks through muscle memory. By repeatedly practicing the same pattern over and over, you myelinate the neural connections in your brain to the point where it becomes second nature.

A kung fu ‘chain punch’ is entirely different from a karate reverse punch. And my inclination to ‘inner block’ attacks actually made it harder for me to block in the correct wing chun manner. And bear in mind that wado ryu is a particularly ‘soft’ style of karate – unlike the more common shotokan. And I was familiar with sticking hands from tai chi.

Point is, that the ‘interference principle’ – a term normally applied to athletics – actually comes into play here. ‘Mastering’ multiple martial arts at once may actually make you less efficient in any of them.

Far more useful then would be to adapt multiple styles into your own fighting approach. This is how many of the most formidable martial arts were formed: such as krav maga and jeet kune do. And speaking of jeet kune do, that is actually what Bruce Lee was all about. By absorbing what is useful and rejecting the rest, you can develop a fighting style that suits your body shape. And many people say this was the seed that eventually grew into mixed martial arts.

This I believe should be the ‘real world’ equivalent of ‘mastering every martial art’ should be, and the goal of any practitioner. T’Challa developed a technique called ‘Shadow Physics’. But this was more about crafting weapons from the shadows. So yeah… a little outside the realms of what we can accomplish here…

Adopt techniques from multiple disciplines, but learn a way to punch, block and kick that agrees with your individual biomechanics. Then practice that over and over again. ‘Greasing the groove’ like this is what will allow you to ingrain those movement patterns so that you can move with T’Challa-like lightning reflexes when you need to block an attack or throw a punch.

Repetition, sleep and good nutrition will help increase your reflexes further. I recently found out that supplementing with omega 3 fatty acid can increase myelination, not to mention improving the speed of synaptic transmissions through your central nervous system.

Proprioception, Reflex and Jump Height Training

Black Panther is super-fast and super strong, but like Spider-Man, a lot of his awesomeness comes from his agility and reflexes. He can jump, land and react like a cat and leap through tree tops without a problem.

How can we attain that?

Proprioception refers to our ability to sense our body in space. This allows us to know where our limbs are so that we can coordinate movements and balance. This is at least partly possible thanks to the action of muscle spindles, which provide feedback as our muscles strength. Using this information, as well as our internalized physics engine, we can visualize the position of our limbs in space.

Muscle spindles are also what give us our reflexive strength. This is the monosynaptic stretch reflex – a protective mechanism that causes us to contract and shorten any muscle that is rapidly stretched. This prevents injury and also helps us to balance – when you start to go over and muscles in your leg stretch – you reflexively shorten the muscles in the gluteus medius and other stabilizing muscles to correct your posture.

A similar mechanism, along with preparatory muscle activity, is what allows us to land softly from a height and to absorb impact safely with our legs. Studies show that increasing the sensitivity of the muscle spindles, it was possible to increase ‘joint awareness’ for softer landings (study, study).

So how do you increase the sensitivity of your muscle spindles?

Explosive Eccentric Training

In my video on increasing explosive strength, I talked about how you could increase jump height and explosiveness by using depth jumps and other forms of ‘explosive eccentric’ movements. Other examples include clapping press ups or catching medicine balls: anything that involves absorbing force.

This not only practices using that reflexive strength, it also builds flexibility and it increases jump height. Ideally, jump from a short height – around 42 inches from the ground for maximum benefit – and then land, spend less than 0.2 seconds on the ground, and then use that stretch response to transfer power back into a higher vertical jump.

You can increase the height as you build strength. Once you can squat 1.5 times your own bodyweight, then you can go past 42”. Keep in mind that this impact is equivalent to roughly 3-4 times your own bodyweight! Good thing your reflexive strength is considerably stronger!

This will train your muscle spindles, improve your ability to land softly and quietly and in at least one study, athletes were able to increase their jump height by 14% with this program! (study)

Balance Training

Another approach is to practice balancing, while being mindful of your muscles as you do. Stay focussed on how your muscles feel as you practice balancing and you’ll increase your ability to utilize the supportive muscles that help you balance in your core, hips and elsewhere.

Most of us don’t have time for balance training in our routines, but what you can do is to combine leg training and core training with stability training. Do this by utilizing bodyweight leg exercises such as one legged calf raises and sissy squats. The latter are fantastic for building strength throughout your core and your legs but they do place an unnatural strain on the knee – so be careful with these and speak to your PT if you’re unsure. They can be used as part of a rehab program, so I’m not ruling them out. I’m just saying to proceed with caution.

Don’t forget that proprioception also applies to your upper body. You can build those supportive muscles by practicing hand balancing, which is a particularly fun way to train the shoulders, pecs and core. Build up to moves like handstand press ups by starting with the crow pose and the pike push up. Not only will you build supportive muscles in your upper body, but you’ll also increase the mind-muscle connection so that you have more precise control and quicker reflexes.

Finally, practice contralateral movements. These are movements that require coordination of your limbs on the right and left sides of your body – for instance spider-man crawls or lizard crawls. Your left arm and right leg are neurologically linked (which is why our arms swing when we walk) and by training in this way, you can improve the coordination between either side of your body.

General ambidexterity training is also highly beneficial.

Stretching

One answer is to stretch while remaining mindful of your body in space as you do. Stretch the muscles and really tune your senses into how that feels so that you can increase your spindle sensitivity.

Stretching will also reduce your chance of injury and help you to become more light footed as you will be able to lengthen the time before your stretch reflex kicks – by letting you drop further into that drop.

What’s very interesting is that stretching the tibialis anterior on the front of the shin can also help to increase your jump height. This works because the tibialis anterior acts as an antagonistic muscle to the calves – meaning that it is constantly pulling the toes upward. If this is stiff and inflexible, then it will exert resistance on your foot when you try to explode upward. You can prevent this though by stretching your toes downward and that way you’ll be able to move your foot more freely to provide that explosive power.

Leg Strength

Finally, in order to improve your balance and your explosive jumping ability, you also need to use progressive overload to train your leg strength. Training with squats and heavy leg presses will boost your jump height, as evidenced by countless videos of people leaping onto stacks of crash mats.

At the same time, you should also focus on training the flexor hallucis longus – the muscle that controls the big toe. This has a surprisingly large role in launching you off the floor but often goes overlooked. You can train it by using one legged calf raises (while keeping focussed on the motion of the toe) and by using glove shoes like the Vibram Five Fingers. These will build all the muscles in your foot in fact, which has surprising benefits for running speed, balance and more.

One of my favorite exercises for increasing jump height is the calf jump. This is an exercise that simply involves jumping without using your upper legs – so keeping your knees straight. This allows you to focus on the role of the calves in the jump, ensuring they won’t be a weak link in your performance.

Further Reading

So, to move like Black Panther, you should add:

  • Explosive eccentric training/box jumps
  • Stretches (especially for the tibialis anterior)
  • Balance training (especially one legged calf raises and hand balancing)
  • Compound lifts
  • Martial arts – with a focus on devising your own style

The final piece of the puzzle is to develop your senses. Rather than go over all that again though, I’ll instead direct you to this post on training your senses like Daredevil. You’ll also find even more jump training/technique over here.

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About Adam Sinicki

Hi there! My name is Adam Sinicki, I'm an entrepreneur, psychology graduate and amateur bodybuilder interested in fitness, self improvement, technology and transhumanism. I run an online business (NQR Productions) which allows me to live the lifestyle I want: getting time to hit the gym and to work on my projects and apps. Stick around and I'll be sharing my experiments and adventures in brain training, bodybuilding, productivity, business and technology.
  • Niels Rustenhoven

    Hey, great blog post, will try some of these out for sure! One note though, at the stretching part the sentence just ends halfway: “in particular if you stretch the….” But besides that, looking forward to what’s next. Keep it up!

    • thebioneer

      Thanks a ton for that, excellent spot! Fixed now 😀 And glad you enjoyed the post, lots more on the way 🙂

  • Excellent, I was just going to ask you about this!

    After injuring my left hip doing too-heavy sumo-style deadlifts I’ve been looking around for other ways to train my lower body. Today I gave box jumps a shot, and…boy am I out of practice.

    I’ll be adding some of this to my routine. Thanks Adam!

    Best,
    -Trent

    • thebioneer

      Awesome, glad it was useful! How did the box jumps go? They can be rough on the hips too, so go careful 🙂 Great fun way to train legs though!