By Jared Evans
6 training methods to develop toughness
Deep down, we all want to be tough.
To be able to survive, and to help others in a crisis.
Being stronger, faster, more skilled, and having all around conditioning, makes you
more resilient and more useful to others.
We get a lot of benefits out of strength training to help us reach this end, but there are
gaps in most people’s program.
Here are 6 training methods most people aren’t using to help build their survival skills
that will fill the gaps of your conventional workouts and make you tougher than ever.
Carrying weight for distance or time is a great way to build unconventional strength. You
can carry anything you want, as long as it challenges you. If you are stuck in a
commercial gym, you can use dumbbells, kettlebells, trap bars, and more.
Use different positions to work your body from all different angles, racked at the
shoulder, overhead, with the arm bent, down low hanging in the hand, etc.
You can also get more creative at certain old school or strongman gyms or if you train
outside. Carry other people, kegs, stones, sandbags, logs, use your imagination!
Carry for time or distance, the key is to challenge yourself in new ways that will build
strength in places you didn’t even know you had!
Climbing up on to a ledge or over a wall may save your life someday, so it helps to build
that skill before you need it. There are a lot of places you can learn and practice these
skills such as Parkour gyms or the MovNat system. I did a 2 day seminar in this course
years ago and it was excellent for teaching natural movement.
If you don’t have this luxury, you can also train your climbing muscles doing indoor (or
outdoor) rock climbing, at the local park on the pullup or monkey bars (once they are
safe again), or just go into the woods and find a tree! If you can’t even do that, you can
get a lot of the same benefits by simply hanging from an overhead bar in your home or
at the gym.
Climbing builds your grip, shoulders and back in ways that other workouts can’t. Give it a shot!
#3: Self Defense
Someday, you may have to deal with a face to face confrontation that you cannot get
out of. I will be the first to tell you, you should avoid physical altercations whenever
possible. Even if you think you are the biggest, baddest person in the room. It get’s
messy, even IF you win.
That said, sometimes there is no other options other than to be a victim of violence, or
to stop the attacker with force. But if you haven’t prepared these skills ahead of time,
your chances of success are drastically reduced.
The solution? Train your self-defense skills! There are many practical solutions that can
help, and getting into all of the different styles and their merits is beyond the scope of
this article. Also, everyone has a different opinion on what works and what doesn’t “in
However, systems that pressure test their skills, are the ones that will hold up best in a
real fight. That means sparring or drills that are as close to real as possible. This can
make them more dangerous to train. Minor injuries like black eyes, muscle strains, etc.
can and will happen from time to time. But this is the only way to know if what you are
learning really works.
Boxing is great for learning how to use your hands, kickboxing has great knees and
elbows, brazilian jui jitsu has great ground work, judo has great throws, krav maga can
teach you about weapon disarms, there are many good systems that can teach you
different things but none of them do it all.
Even if you can’t train at a gym with others, you can practice basic movements on your
own that will prepare you for future training and up your chances.
We don’t really throw much anymore, but it has been an important movement for our
species since we were hunters and gatherers- using spears, slings, and rocks as
weapons to hunt or fight.
Even if you can just go get a burrito from the freezer or head down to the grocery store
(HEB anyone?), it is still good to be able to throw with accuracy and power. How can
you do this in a gym? You can start with medicine ball work. Slams and tosses of
different types will give you a lot of the same benefits. Throw backwards, to the side,
overhead, from on you back, seated, or jumping forward.
If you can go outside, find some moderate sized rocks and throw them anyway you can.
But use caution, if you haven’t thrown anything in a long time (maybe since you were a
kid) start very carefully and make sure you are warmed up first. As the old saying goes,
don’t throw to warm up, warm up to throw.
#5: Rolling and tumbling.
Being able to break your fall and not your back when you trip is a very practical every
day skill that almost no one is training.
We will all fall at some point, and when we are younger we can usually recover just fine.
But many elderly people fall and have life ending or life altering injuries from a lack of
skill to break their fall. Even if you don’t yet qualify for AARP, you can benefit from
learning to fall. Actually, the sooner you learn, the better!
True story, I was long boarding a few years ago on a concrete trail. I was going too fast
downhill and lost control. I tried to step off the board and stop but I tripped. Without
thinking I immediately went into a forward shoulder roll. I had so much momentum that I
My first thought when I popped to my feet was embarrassment. Luckily, no one saw it.
Then I thought, “Am I hurt?” I quickly checked myself over and I wasn’t bleeding and
had no broken bones. I was completely fine even though I had no pads on and was in a
t-shirt and shorts (don’t be like me, wear protective gear, kids).
All of the forward rolls I had done in judo and karate over years of practice had become
second nature and I was able to avoid broken bones that day.
So to practice, start very low to the ground and slow… Use a thick padded surface and
wide open space. There are good resources online that you can use to learn these
techniques. You can look up GMB Fitness, they have made a great resource on how to
fall safely that is totally free. I am a fan of their work.
Most of us don’t do this much anymore, since we were past a year or two old anyway.
But even as adults, we can benefit from returning to our roots, crawling and exploring.
Crawling is an abdominal workout that doesn’t feel like your usual planks and crunches.
It uses the whole body together as one piece. You can crawl with very basic beginner
variations that anyone can do, all the way up to incredibly advanced variations that
would test the strength of top level athletes.
From a practical perspective, crawling can be used any time you need to pass under a
low obstacle. A fallen tree, entering or exiting a cave, use your imagination!
Transitioning from the ground to standing is part of what makes crawling great and you
can incorporate it into your routine with other movements to seamlessly blend these
modalities. Crawling paired with rolling and then carrying into throwing and then
climbing into…. Fighting? Like I said, use your imagination!
Crawling can be done anywhere without equipment, that is part of what makes it great.
There is a bit of a learning curve though, at least, for optimal results. The guys who
basically wrote the book on crawling to restore our bodies are over at Original Strength.
I have personally been coached by their founder Tim Anderson who helped me improve
my body for the Texas Savage Race a few years ago and I had a great experience.
***Putting it all together
This may seem like a lot to do, especially when you are already busy working on getting
ready for pool season and have already laid out your routines for chest, back, arms, and
But I can show you how to make these methods fit into the rest of your program for
well-rounded strength and a bulletproof body that can survive the toughest scenario.
Next week I will give you a sample routine for how to do exactly that, so stay tuned.
Until then, remember, stay strong!