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Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Review: Going Ballisitic

Going Ballistic: Circular Strength Training for Boxing Manual
by Brandon Jones
RMAX.TV Productions

A (short) disclaimer:

Scott Sonnon and his RMAX International organization are one of the more controversial organizations out there, on par with Crossfit in terms of the amount of digital ink and vitriol that has been created around them. I confess to not having a completely unbiased view of on this matter, but I will do my best to review this product in as neutral a fashion as possible.

On with the show.

Going Ballistic is, as the subtitle suggests, a short guide to using RMAX's Circular Strength Training methodology to prepare for boxing competition. In his introduction, Jones further clarifies this by saying that the book itself will focus on preparing for amateur boxing competitions, but that the program could be applied to professional boxing, or even other combat sports. Jones further points out that the manual is not intended for beginners, either in boxing or in Circular Strength Training (CST from here on out).

The introduction out of the way, Jones proceeds to go through a quick overview of the bodies various energy systems, and introduce a variation on the Tabata protocol which is the heart and soul of this program. This section is pretty solid; it's a bit brief, but the information is good, and easily understandable. The specific variation of the Tabata protocol he proposes is interesting--I cannot say if it's effective, because I haven't tried it yet. I may, but until I do, I'll reserve judgement. It seems basically sound, if rooted in some rather corny (or least, cornily-explained) mathematics combined with cliche.

The manual after this rambles a bit, covering some concepts like Joint Mass Center and Emotional Joint Mass Center, a pair of interesting concepts that really could stand a more solid explanation, but the basic idea is conveyed here. Also conveyed here is the concept of triangle point, a concept familiar to many grapplers, but not, perhaps, to many boxers. The information again, is solid, if a bit sparse.

Jones then moves on to attack the "Stinking Bog of Tradition", or four "myths" that he sees as problematic in the boxing world. He breaks down each myth separately and reasonably convincingly. The only one I'm unsure about is his argument about the relationship between having a strong neck and resisting a knockout. I think some of his logic is sound, but having a strong neck still seems valuable to me. but then, as a Muay Thai coach, I can think of other reasons for a fighter to have a strong neck.

There are some pages on the relationship between the head, neck and shoulders, and on static stretching. I didn't find much in here I didn't already know.

The next chapter covers some interesting footwork drills which I plan to play with a bit. I always love finding new footwork exercises, and these seem fun. The diagrams are a bit hard for me to follow, but I've never been good at translating movement from pages.

The next chapter, finally, includes the Clubbell exercises for this program.
Here, frankly, is where I got most annoyed: there is one exercise in here that Jones lists, but refuses to show, saying it needs to be taught in person. Four more are included in a different set of material, and thus not replicated here. Which I guess is fine if you already own those other materials, but rather annoying to someone who wants a single manual for their program. I fail to see how it would have hurt the manual to include some of these exercises, even if there was some replication.

As for the one "unsafe" exercise, if you don't want to teach it, why bother listing it? It seems useless to me.

And that wraps up the manual.

So, is this book worth it?

This part where I diverge into something I rarely talk about with training materials: production quality. For the most part, production quality is rarely a factor for me. Tony Blauer, who I consider a great teacher and mentor, was notorious for having videos with less than stellar production values. I've gotten great mileage out of a lot of material that was not printed on fancy paper, or shot on high-definition digital cameras.


This manual is very, very short. I don't know how short because it's not even paginated. It's printed on white paper, single sided, and bound like it was printed at a local Staples. In short, it looks and feels more like a graduate students term-paper than a professionally produced publication. Yet it retails for as much as a hardcover novel would in a major bookstore.

And frankly, I think it's too much. While the manual offers some very interesting ideas, making full use of them requires investing in a slew of other materials (not just the Clubbells, but other videos or manuals from RMAX as well). The basic protocol which is the heart and soul of the training method takes about two-pages to explain, and while it's an interesting idea, I am not convinced it is $24 worth of interesting. I hate to always fall back to comparing to Ross Enamait's material, but his books have become the gold standard by which I judge value. His production values aren't great either, but his books are PACKED with information. This one, not quite as much.

Still, as I said, I may experiment with it. If you are a S&C junkie like I am, this may be worth looking at particularly if you coach boxers. If RMAX offered this at a cheaper price, or even as a PDF download, I'd say it's worth grabbing. As things stand right now, however, I can't recommend this one.

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