Friday, April 23, 2010

TACFIT Commando Review

Dear Readers,

Can i assume that by now you already know what is Circular Strength Training (CST)? If not, head over to the website and at least have glimpse of what it is now.

As a trainer who has certifications in various systems/schools, including conventional strength & conditioning and physiotherapy, CST by far is the most advanced and deep of all of them. Please note that i am not saying that these other certs are bad. But CST has surpassed them in breadth and depth.

If by looking at the movements in CST programs, you think that it is unorthodox, think again. It is more than orthodox. CST is the expression of human movement in its finest. It is the personification of kinesiology. Where the academic discipline of kinesiology is the science of human movement, CST is the art of human movement. What is defined in theory in kinesiology is expressed in CST. The best thing is, CST is not a sport. It applies to all movement. It cuts across disciplines. Two people could be doing seemingly opposite activities like weightlifting and yoga, yet both are doing CST. It is more of a philosophy than a school in the traditional sense of the word.

Ok, i think i have done enough introduction of CST. I'll cut it short and go straight to the point.

TACFIT Commando is a bodyweight only program designed for tactical responders: military, paramilitary, law enforcement officers etc. It contains many varied movements form the humble push up to single leg lunges and more. There are in total 54 variations of exercises arranged in three levels of increasing sophistication (movement complexity).

That is just the workout section. There is also the warm up section and cool down section, three of each.

Each program, which is meant to be done in the 4x7 programming, has six movements.

So it is a massive library of 3 programs x (warm up + 3 sophistications + cool down) x 6 movements = 90 exercises.

If you can grow out of the program, you can consider yourself the elite of the elite. No joke. Though the movements look quite easy (I can do all the movements with ease), it is the total programming that is the magic. Coupled with the Tabata protocol, simple movements can feel hard.

Now, the best thing about TACFIT Commando is everything has been laid out for you. What to do on what day, everything has been mapped out and you just have to follow it to the letter to get the most benefit out of it.

One of the most frequently asked questions on the Rmax Forums is how does one start with CST. And i think that TACFIT Commando fits the bill perfectly.

Here are my top five reasons why this program is the perfect program to start with:

1) Everything is already planned out for you. No more guessing. The 4x7 wave, Intu-Flow(R) warm up, Prasara cool down, all have been designed in conjunction with the workouts so that you can reap the most benefit from each of them.

2) Bodyweight only. No need for equipment. Anytime, anywhere.

3) It only takes 41 minutes (6 + 29 + 6) to complete from warm up to cool down. No more slogging for hours at the gym or treadmill.

4) Though this program was designed for the specific movement requirements of tactical operators, other beneficial side effects that you can expect from it from the fitness aspect are extreme fat loss, functional strength and muscle gain.

5) Anyone who has been exposed to CST for a while would know the breath and depth of the scope of it. And it can be quite overwhelming just to decipher all the information available. You could say that each program, each warm up and cool down section is a sneak peek into the rabbit hole of CST. This program is a distillation of all the possible variables and presents only what you need to know to achieve the said goals. When you are ready to go deeper, you can purchase the other programs to enhance your toolbox.

I used to tell people that if you can't train anything else, just do the deadlift. I would like to recant and say do TACFIT Commando. It is CST's program minimum and it won't disappoint you.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Can Pilates Help Me Lose Weight?

Well, Pilates is dead, he can't help you in any way.

Jokes aside, can Pilates (or insert any other kind of exercise here) help you lose weight?

I have been asked this type of questions many times from prospective students and friends.

So let's analyse the mechanics of fat loss. Allow me to get a bit technical here.

The basic premise that i am taking is that, your training programme must be high intensity to create an environment geared toward fat loss. As mentioned many times elsewhere, this would elevate your metabolic rate for many hours post-workout, giving you a better fat burning effect than conventional long-slow-distance (LSD) cardio.

What does affect intensity? It is the amount of work done in a certain amount of time. In simple physics this is called power.

1) Power = force x velocity = force x displacement / time

2) Power = 0.5 x mass x velocity^2

From these two equations, it is clear without a shadow of doubt that velocity is a component of power, and hence fat loss.

From the second equation, velocity has a factor of two, ie the speed of movement contributes to the power more than the resistance or mass moved.

If you look at a power curve of muscle, you would notice that the biggest area under the curve (ie power), occurs at a moderate level of resistance and velocity.
Image courtesy of

And notice that at maximum resistance and maximum velocity, the area under the curve is ZERO.

Therefore isn't it clear that slow movements or static poses (like in yoga) are not as effective in fat burning? No doubt that muscle contraction by itself requires energy, but mechanically speaking there is no energy consumption if there is no movement, no matter how much the resistance.

The trick is finding the right resistance, this relates to the weight in weight training, leverage or movement difficulty in bodyweight exercise, that allows you to produce the fastest speed of movement (i won't cover this here).

If the speed of movement is fixed, like in a push up, doing more repetitions in the same amount of time would be higher intensity.

Of course there are many other factors involved, but that's it for now.

I hope i have benefitted you from this article. Please post a comment if you have any questions.

What is the Right Way to Breathe In Specific Exercises?

This is a frequently asked question by people who are into weight training and/or physical training.

Let's analyse how to go about doing it.

Allow me to get a bit technical. Let's take a look at the Breath Mastery Scale™ from Prasara: Flow Beyond Thought ™:

1) Fear Level Breath: Passively inhale and hold on perceived effort.

2) Anger or Force Level Breath: Actively inhale and hold on perceived effort.

3) Discipline Level Breath: Actively exhale on perceived effort; passively inhale on cessation of effort.

4) Flow Level Breath: Passively exhale on compression; passively inhale on expansion.

5) Mastery Level Breath: Control pause after exhalation on activity.

6) The Level of Deepening Mastery: Passively extend pause after exhalation on activity.

So actually there are six levels of mastery of the breath. These are different breathing patterns that occur naturally depending on the perceived level of difficulty of an exercise/activity/movement. 

For the uninitiated, you can call this six variations. Though 1) and 2) are definitely not healthy.

So back to our question. How to breathe during specific exercises? Without going into the detailed explanations of the mechanics of breathing, you should always start with Discipline Level. As you get more proficient at the exercise, you go further into the levels going toward Mastery.

Let's take the example of the push up at Discipline Level. For ease of use, we'll divide the movement into four phases:

1) Downward movement: actively exhale as you encounter resistance and exert effort.

2) Bottom position: passively inhale as resistance ceases and effort ceases.

3) Upward movement: actively exhale and you encounter resistance and exert effort.

4) Top position: passively inhale as resistance cease and effort ceases.

This is quite different to the commonly prescribe breathing pattern of exhale on the way up, inhale on the way down. This method can be used provided you do not encounter resistance on the inhale. Inhaling on resistance (and hence effort) serves to increase your intra-thoracic and intra-abdominal pressure and is therefor not healthy. 

Exhaling on effort on the other hand, serves to activate the core muscles to stabilize the core and increase force production. The more force required, the more you need to exhale to activate the core muscles.

If you can't remember anything, just remember this: exhale on effort, inhale on cessation of effort. Once you get this right, getting better at your breathing comes subconciously as your proficiency in the exercise gets better.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Modifying Combat Boots for Better Movement

We know that combat boots make your movements sluggish. They have thick stiff soles that allow less mobility of the feet. Also high cut top that allows less movement from the ankles.

Compared to the old combat boots that i used to wear in my National Service Full Time (NSF) days, the new SAF combat boots (Gore Tex version) are a lot better in terms of performance. The soles have better grip and the fabric sides makes for better ankle mobility.

However, there still can be further improvements in performance with some simple reversible mods. If you are interested to find out more, read on.

Mod #1

The first that i did was to remove the insoles. The soles are already thick and allow less movement and sensation of the feet. Removing the insoles get your feet closer to the ground and allows your feet to feel the terrain better. Less shock absorption forces you to absorb shock with your movement.

Mod #2

The second mod i did was to modify the lacing pattern to allow more dorsiflexion of the ankles. With the conventional lacing pattern with all eyelets looped, in a full squat, the front of the ankles feel very tight, limiting range of motion. Sometimes the compression can feel painful on the ankles.

On the left is conventional lacing, on the right is my modified lacing. Skip the 4th and 5th eyelets (counting from the bottom).

With the modified lacing, the eyelets are able to separate horizontally in a full squat, allowing more ankle dorsiflexion.

Still, i believe there are better boots design out there that allows full ankle mobility, like this. If anybody know what make and model these boots are, do let me know. I am interested to get a pair for myself.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

SAR21 Review

Finally after 8 long years of hiatus since my Operationally Ready Date (ORD) in 2002 my first In Camp Training (ICT) came. A lot of Army stuff has improved, catching up with technology. So here are some reviews of them. In this installment, we'll cover the SAR21, Singapore's assault rifle.

According to the instructors, the SAR21 is the most technologically advanced rifle in South East Asia.

My first impression of this rifle is that it is very cumbersome. It looks as if it has too many technological gadgets on it: the scope, the laser aiming device and the gas regulator.


Stripping and assembling is much simpler. There is no firing pin retainer that can get lost so easily. The firing pin is held in place by a lever that is attached to the bolt assembly.

The design is ergonomically better, especially the cocking handle is at a good position for pulling. Although it weighs heavier than the M16, the balance is better.

Assuming the scope is zeroed properly (as per the factory), it is very accurate and consistent. I got a poorly tuned rifle at first. But borrowed a well tuned one from my bunk mate. Although i still have to aim off the target, it shot the target everytime my technique is good.

Clear plastic magazine make it easy to count the number of rounds in the magazine.


As mentioned before, there are a lot of parts to this rifle. Like the cocking handle with could be rotated to the right or left. The bullpup design which puts the firing mechanism behind the trigger.

However the parts and build quality is very good. So as long as the parts don't fail, it is a very good rifle.

Triggering technique

The trigger stroke is softer and longer compared to the M16. Initially i found it irritating because i have to pull longer to shoot. However after a few shots and getting myself familiarized with the feel of the trigger, it actually made me pull more steadily.

There were a few shots which i stupidly missed because i wanted to pull faster. But after some tips from some comrades to pull slower, i hit the target every shot thereafter, even for the night shoot.

As for the breathing pattern, in my old unit during my active days, the Company Sergeant Major gave us a few options on when to pull:
1) After a full inhale
2) After a full exhale
3) After a partial inhale
4) After a partial exhale

But after a few years with Circular Strength Training (CST), now i pull on the control pause (the pause after a full exhale). It is really more consistent than the other breathing patterns.

I am still not sensitive enough to control the pull between heartbeats. And since it is the first time in eight years shooting, i probably am not conditioned enough to get my heart rate low during the shoot.

In summary, although had reservations about the new rifle. After trying it out first hand, i actually liked it better than the M16.