Anaerobic training underwater! What’s the amazing benefit?

I was fortunate to train with the 15 year world kickboxing champion, who held 3 belts and 3 weight classes, many have argued possibly the greatest champion of kickboxing of all time, Dennis Alexio, light heavy, cruiser, heavyweight champion.  We trained about every other day of all 1986 until he moved to Santa Monica, Ca.

Besides, running (usually uphill), swimming, stretching, kicking, not much sparring (he was 200lbs, I was 155-160), upper body workouts, etc, about once/week we did what he called “underwater blowouts”.  Not sure where the name came from but here’s what they were:

You had about 50ft to the first mark at the bottom of a college lap pool (most lap, racing lane pools have these).  You started in the shallow end (I hyperventilated for a minute or two before I started each time) and swam underwater to that mark and came up, still in standing up depth.  When you surface you get 3 breaths (I didn’t count the first breath because it was a quick blast) then you went back, came up and got your 3 breaths, repeat till you fail… in other words when you need many breaths to catch up as you go into oxygen debt, about a 5 minute break.

What Dennis was doing was a little known trick that allows the body to work far more efficiently under an anaerobic state (he was known for diving for 3 minutes or more).  Remember, a combination of fast hard kicks and/or punches is basically a “sprint” (working anaerobically) in the ring under the pressure of a skilled opponent that also has been training long hours to take you out!

A couple years later I decided to try an experiment, to see how I might adapt at 2 of these sessions per week.  As usual I would start at about 3-4 reps (50ft being a rep), but in this case, doing it 2x/week and about 4 total (each point of failure ended a set of reps) each time in the pool, I got better faster!  I went quickly to 6-8 reps average per session, then 10-12 reps, these took longer so I started doing 3 total per session.  Then what happened was strange, I was at about 14-16 reps, major improvement, and then I had a time when I just kept going… at about 20-22 reps, I just stopped, it was like I broke through some barrier.

Another thing I started doing was adding a couple reps of a very hard, fast breast stroke up and back in a standard high school lap/racing pool, nearly a sprint at the end of each session.  There is nothing I’ve done, not even Peak 8’s that get your heart going like that!  It’s pumping jack!  I felt these added more anaerobic fitness.

So I took this to the track for an experiment.  I used to run a 75 sec lap (400 meters) and at about 100 meters would go from a 4 foot stroke breath to a 2 foot stroke breath (breathing faster) the rest of the way, forced.  After maxing out my blowouts, this actually is what I observed… I was 4 stroke breathing… the whole lap!  My oxygen efficiency translated to running!

Here’s why Dennis did these: in ring combat this allowed him to “sprint” (throw a very long set of kicks and punches) till his opponent failed or was damaged by the attack.  Many times the referee would stop the contest during his sprint as too much damage was incurred without being answered.  This was a definite edge!

Bottom line: Making your body utilize oxygen more efficiently translates it’s use to other sports or training.  This is another arrow in your fitness quiver you can add to accentuate another strenuous activity or just overall health.  I do these sessions to this day about once per year for a couple months and find that I adapt very quickly and become very efficient again… plus we’re at 6,300ft elevation, and that IS a factor!

Maximizing your ability to utilize oxygen is another tool very, very, few ever use to add an amazing edge to any physical performance!  Shhh!  Don’t tell anyone!  Until next time, God Bless always,



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