NEW Batman Training Program 2020 Part One – Functional Power

By on December 12, 2019

My Batman training programs have been among the most popular posts on this website, and so to continue the 100,000 subscriber celebration, I felt this would be an excellent topic to return to.

Not only that, but while I stand by everything I discussed in the first video, the fact remains that I am constantly learning new things as a result of running the Bioneer. Since last year, I also gained a diploma in personal training!

Batman training

Batman is the ideal fictional motivation for the kind of training I’m interested in on this blog: training to ready for anything, and capable of accomplishing feats that aren’t strictly required by modern living. Training outside of any given modality, taking what works from any training method, and applying it in a logical way. Going way beyond boundaries.

So this is the new Batman Training Program for 2020, incorporating entirely new elements such as functional strength training with kettlebells, metabolic conditioning, and more.

Batman training plan

This is a two part series. In this part, I’ll be talking about kettlebells, clubbells, hybrid exercises, and functional training. In part two, I’ll introduce metabolic conditioning, calisthenics, and meditation. Then I’ll be discussing how to combine it all into a program, and I’ll go over some of the more interesting movements.

Batman is the ideal fictional motivation for the kind of training I’m interested in on this blog

Oh and keep in mind that this is NOT a programmer for beginners. For that, check out my “Batman Begins” routine.

Strength Training: Batman Style

The programs I have written recently for this channel have focused largely around speed, explosiveness, and agility – see the Nightwing Workouts, Building Bruce program etc.

Batman is a different kettle of fish. Batman is fast and agile yes (because he’s Batman so he can do everything), but he is more often portrayed as a tank. He is big, strong, and powerful; and he ploughs forward to mow down his opponents.

Batman strength

But he is also highly functional. Batman is not at all interested in aesthetics, or about breaking records even. He wants to build a fighter’s physique, and one that can also take blows, handle leaps across rooftops, and lift heavy objects off of trapped civilians. He needs to be quick, powerful, and unstoppable.

Some might approach a training program by sticking with the compound lifts, performed explosively at 90% 1RM to generate real power and performance. But the problem with relying purely on these lifts, is that they leave a lot of gaps in our performance.

One argument against the use of “functional strength” is that there is no such thing as being “strong AT a given task” but that rather, there is just strong. An example I heard was that it was pointless to practice swinging a heavy baseball bat in order to hit a baseball harder – because the weight would ruin your timing and you wouldn’t gain any specific adaptations to improve performance.

But that doesn’t really track: swinging a heavy baseball bat would improve your grip strength, as well as training rotational strength – strength on the transverse plane. That means stronger internal and external obliques.

If all you do is squat, deadlift, and bench press, then you actually aren’t doing anything for your rotational strength. And as such, you won’t only be weaker at swinging a bat, but also at throwing a punch, or grappling an opponent. Neither are you training the frontal plane. Let alone your straight arm strength, or your wrist strength.

If all you do is squat, deadlift, and bench press, then you actually aren’t doing anything for your rotational strength.

While I’m not a proponent for standing on Bosu balls while doing light dumbbell curls, I do think that in order to maximize your potential, there are some basic things you should be able to do extremely well. And if we’re trying to be Batman, then there are some very advanced things too!

I think that you can gain a LOT by learning to throw a punch or a kick.

Batman martial arts training

This is why gymnastic strength training and calisthenics is such a great option for building real functional strength: it builds control and power at unusual joint angles, it increases mobility, and it develops amazing relative strength and explosiveness. It’s why gymnasts are some of the strongest athletes in the world.

Kettlebell and club training are the strength athlete’s equivalent to calisthenics.

But Batman isn’t Nightwing. He isn’t just interested in relative strength, and being able to somersault is not his priority. While you can build strength with calisthenics, it is not the optimum solution for building raw max strength.

So what is? What marries the dynamic, functional nature of calisthenics, with the powerful, explosive nature of heavy compound lifts?

Leverage tools. Offset exercises.

I’m talking the clubbell, the mace, and the kettlebell.

Batman functional training

Why? Because the uneven weight distribution of these tools, combined with momentum, means that the precise angle and amount of force will change throughout a given movement. It also means that you’ll be forced to work your body at angles you typically may not be used to. You’ll be working in all three planes, building immense rotational power, and even strengthening the grip.

Kettlebell and club training are the strength athlete’s equivalent to calisthenics. This will give you the kind of strength you need to lift a crate over your head and then smash it down into an opponent.

Turkish Getup

You know, the sort of stuff you do all the time…

Consider this quote from Pavel Tsatsouline:

“The get-up is an old-time strongman stunt that is the king of “functional training.” While everyone pays functional training lip service, the get-up delivers. When done with sufficient weight, it teaches the body many movement lessons that cannot be learned through exercises using balls, bands, and Ken and Barbie dumbbells. Once you have conquered the get-up, you will be the master of your body, not its guest.

The get-up does magic for one’s shoulders, making them remarkably resilient against Brazilian jiu-jitsue shoulder locks and heavy bench presses. The get-up is also one of the best ab exercises.”

Pavel Tsatsouline

And what is more badass and Batman-like than swinging a mace around?

Hybrid Exercises

But as this is Batman we’re talking about, we need to go further. That’s why I’m also going to be using hybrid exercises.

Not to be confused with a complex, a hybrid exercise means combining one or more exercises into a single movement. This will be accomplished either by performing on compound lift immediately after the other, or by combining an isolation movement with a compound movement.

Battle rope push ups
Combining battle ropes with explosive push ups!

Another example might be to alternate push ups and pull ups, or a kettlebell swing and a press or a clean. The reason these movements are so powerful, is that in real life you will rarely perform a single movement in isolation. You don’t just pick something up off the ground: you pick it up, carry it, then put it down somewhere. In my case recently, you lift your baby up onto your shoulder, then pull the pram out the boot and then assemble it with one hand while balancing said baby.

Then there’s that crate smashing example we discussed, if you’re Batman.

This kind of training becomes much more skill oriented too, making it more nervous-system intensive. That not only trains you to perform the movements themselves, but also to transition between them – which is very often where we are weakest.

These movements are truly “strength as a skill.”

(Now would be a good time to reiterate that this is NOT a beginner program.)

You can consider the burpee to be a hybrid exercise, because it combines a press up with a tuck jump. In this routine, you’ll be doing a renegade row push up. This involves balancing in push up position on two kettlebells or dumbbells, rowing one toward your body, performing a push up, rowing the other toward your body, doing another push up and continuing.

Not only does this train both pulling and pushing movements due to the combination of a row and a press, but it also challenges you to maintain a rigid core and straight posture with a unilaterally distributed weight. In other words, when you row one dumbbell or kettlebell, you have to resist the rotational force while lifting. This builds oblique strength and can help you to maintain balance when wrestling or leaping over rooftops.

Renegade row

Oh and when trying to train so many different properties in one program, movements that give you two for one in this way become extremely useful.

On top of all that, using so many muscle groups in a single movement will force the circulation to switch rapidly from one muscle group to another. This makes them even more metabolically demanding, and the perfect option for burning calories and building strength.

These movements are truly “strength as a skill.”

The only problem with these hybrid movements, is that they are exhausting and they involve so many muscle groups. The result is that if you use them to liberally, you’ll risk causing injury when fatigued. Not only that, but you also risk reaching failure long before any single muscle group has fully fatigued, thereby preventing hypertrophy or true max strength development.

Batman workout

That’s why my recommendation is to use hybrid exercises in combination with their simpler variations. In other words, you might perform kettlebell press glute bridges to failure, and then when you can carry on no more, switch to regular kettlebell presses. This mechanical drop set will allow you to keep training the pecs to failure, even once your core has lost its endurance.

Likewise, you could perform kettlebell swings and cleans or swings and snatches, and then switch to just swings or just cleans. Clean and presses could just become presses.

In the next part of this series, I’ll talk more about how to do this, and I’ll also be introducing some more concepts into the program – including metabolic conditioning, calisthenics, brain training, and how to fit all this into your week.

About Adam Sinicki

Adam Sinicki, AKA The Bioneer, is a writer, personal trainer, author, entrepreneur, and web developer. I've been writing about health, psychology, and fitness for the past 10+ years and have a fascination with the limits of human performance. When I'm not running my online businesses or training, I love sandwiches, computer games, comics, and hanging out with my family.

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