Thursday, November 29, 2012

How to Build A Power Suit and/or Powered Armor, Part 3: Systems Control

Hey guys, sorry for the lack of post yesterday.  Doing battle with a cold, got halfway through writing this sucker and took a nap, haha.  Anyway, here it is!

Alrighty, so we've built ourselves a nifty exoskeleton at this point, but how do we drive it?  Well, I'm going to mention it again at the beginning of this article, and I mentioned it again in the last article, but when getting into programming robotic interactions I cannot recommend Lego Mindstorms more highly.  Seriously, it's a fantastic little creation system and you can really cut your teeth on it.

If you're not interested in Mindstorms, or you feel you've graduated past it, you might want to start looking into Arduino boards.    What are Arduino boards, you say?  Well, from their main introduction page... "Arduino is a tool for making computers that can sense and control more of the physical world than your desktop computer. It's an open-source physical computing platform based on a simple microcontroller board, and a development environment for writing software for the board."  Basically, a way for you to control motors and such in the physical world on a hobbyist budget, without requiring Lego pieces.  They have a fantastic online community base, and tons of tutorials.  On top of this, the system is compatible with Windows, Linux, and MacOS, and it completely open source, on the software AND hardware size.  The boards are also quite affordable!

So we know we need a microcontroller.  The Arduino is one option, there are other microcontroller options out there, but Arduino is really nice for the home hobbyist.  So we've got out microcontroller for our motors and/or pistons, but how do we collect the information necessary to make them move properly?  How do we tell our suit what to do?

First off, it's going to be difficult, just heading that one off at the pass.  You're going to have a lot of trial and error.  You're going to need to develop a program that not only reads the same electrical impulses your brain sends, but it will also need to recognize common patterns and predict what's going to happen next, in order to keep up with the speed your brain moves.  Remember, your brain is a pattern-based computer.  It doesn't just react to stimuli at a 1:1 ratio, it actively assesses situations, and makes predictions subconciously so it knows what muscles to prep next.  This means when you're computing, you really need to develop a "learning" style algorithm to handle the data collected.  You probably want to look into some basic artificial intelligence programming for this sort of thing.

And how do we collect the data for this program?  Nowadays, most prosthetics and assistance devices use electrodes on the surface of the skin to read electrical impulses from the brain and feed them into a machine.  In fact, here's a cool link about a new and unprecedentedly accurate prosthetic hand using such a system.  Of course, we're going for total body coverage, most likely without someone helping us to put the suit on when we want to wear it, so taping on individual electrodes all over the body is somewhat unfeasible.  I would recommend the Zero Suit Samus approach.  That is, a skintight, flexible suit with the electrodes sewn into it at all the right contact points.  This would be something you could make from scratch yourself, put on easily by yourself, and hook right into your central computer.

Finally, I would say you would probably want all of your central processing to take place on a laptop with some nice muscle, strapped most likely to your back inside the suit.  This laptop could also handle the processing of your sensory magnification systems, which we're going to take a look at in our next post.

Keep in mind, people, all this stuff is somewhat theoretical, we're just beginning a "what if" journey here.  Hopefully you're getting some good starting points, and understanding the scope of the project.  Tomorrow we're going to look at sensory amplification and helmet systems, which should be fun, followed by our final post on the subject with armor and weaponry.  I'll see you tomorrow!  Until then, make sure to follow me on Twitter,  like the blog page on Facebook, and continue to be awesome.

Dan "DaRatmastah" Wallace

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

How to Build A Power Suit and/or Powered Armor, Part 2: Physical Augmentation

Alrighty!  So, we know what we're looking for in a power suit, and we know what the market has available right now.  So let's drill down the basics of physical augmentation, how companies are accomplishing this now, and possible alternatives for the future, and for the home hobbyist.

What do we mean when we say "physical augmentation?"  The first thing that comes to my mind, personally, is strength amplification.  Enabling a person that can normally lift, say, 250 pounds, to lift something more like 500 pounds when wearing the suit.  Now, most likely due to the nature of mechanics this would be a linear strength amplification, that is, the suit is capable of exerting a certain amount of power(in this case, 250 pounds), so if the same person could lift 400 pounds normally, the suit would bump them up to 650.  Multiplicative would be bumping it to 800, but it's mechanically very difficult to do this.  That said, adding an extra 250 to your bench press is amazing in itself, so we won't knock it.

The main goal of modern power suits thus far, however, has been focused mainly on endurance.  This is for several reasons, the biggest of which is that we don't necessarily need soldiers in the field to be physically stronger, but we need them to be able to go longer with a moderately increased payload.  More gear and endurance means better rested soldiers with more equipment at their disposal.  This should not be brushed off, as Samus Aran or Master Chief would be in a bad way if, by the time they got to their destination, they were too pooped to fight.

Another element of physical augmentation is speed, maneuverability, and reaction time.  Increase your leg strength, and you should be able to run faster and jump higher, theoretically.  In order to stick to this idea with a powersuit, however, you need to maintain a good power to weight ratio.  A power suit that put an extra 100 pounds of strength into your legs but weight 80 pounds itself isn't going to have that visible an effect.  Conversely, if you can get the suit to put an extra 250 pounds of force into your legs, and it only weighs 80 pounds, well, you're gonna see a hell of a difference there.  The other side of this is that you need speed in the exertion of this power.  It's not going to do much for your vertical if you can put out that extra force, but only at a low velocity.

So where do we go here?  The first thing any power suit is going to need is an exoskeleton.  This is the framework you attach your mechanical muscles to, much like your own skeleton.  Two major things need to be considered in the exoskeleton.  Firstly, there's the issue of materials.  You want your frame to be lightweight, but also strong.  It's going to be taking a lot of angular forces.  If you're on a budget, your options are probably steel stock for a nice sturdy frame, or, for less sturdy but more lightweight, aluminum stock.  The nice thing about these options are that they're cheap, plentiful, and easy to work.  Steel is quite easily weldable, if you have such skills, and both are easily machined in the home.  Titanium is your third option, offering superior strength to aluminum, without as much weight at steel.  One inch diameter, bar stock for aluminum, titanium, and stainless steel weighs about 1 pound, 1 1/2 pounds, or 2 1/2 pounds per foot, respectively.  Titanium is stronger on a pound-for-pound basis than aluminum or steel, however it is a pain in the ass to work with, especially in a home environment.  Stainless steel is strong, but heavy.  I would honestly say our biggest contender here is aluminum.  It's relatively easy to machine and work with, available enough for the home consumer, and not prohibitively expensive.

Now we come to our second issue: joints.  Knee and elbow joints are easy enough to take care of, they only go one way.  Shoulder and hip joints, however, are a pain in the ass.  Because of the way they function, the best place for the mechanisms for the joint to be located are, unfortunately, inside your shoulder and hip.  This, obviously, is not an option.  Because of this, you're probably going to have to build the exoskeleton rather far off the body if you want full range of motion at these joints(see the XOS that we discussed in the previous post).  Or, you can be creative, and try to come up with a new way of articulating these joints while still keeping the framework close to the body.  Which brings us to our next hurdle...

Force generation.

How do we exert the power?  Currently, all major manufacturers are utilizing powerful servo motors.  These are similar to the motors you see in remote-control toys.  Typically electric-powered, these motors activate on the major joins in the exoskeleton, driven by a computer processing the input from your body.  They have their drawbacks, though.  First of all, they are quite expensive.  Second of all, they tend to be power-hungry, and third of all, they are rather poor at mimicking "real" organic movement.  You can see this in the awkward slowness in the XOS' punching movements in the demo video.

So what other options do we have?  There is hydraulics and pneumatics, firstly.  Both of these are closer to mimicking the actual mechanics of muscles, however they have the drawback of being rather large and clunky, as well as typically being either rather slow(hydraulics), or requiring charging time with each use(pneumatics).  Also, they tend to be rather binary, especially in the case of pneumatics(that is, they're more of an on-or-off kind of thing).  This is not always the case, however, and I think, especially for the home hobbyist, that hydraulics could be an option.  Basically you strap the parts for a lift  gate or forkift on your arms and, goshdarnit, you can lift hundreds of pounds!  Rather slowly, but still, the power function is there.

Finally, there is the fringe, future-tech kind of stuff.  Electro-active polymers are currently being investigated for the purpose of artificial muscles.  EAPs are materials that contract when an electrical current passes through them(similar to our own muscles).  It is a burgeoning field that holds promise, but the concrete stuff exists mostly on the academic level.  That said, the guy that discovered them back in the 1800s did so just by running an electric current through a rubber band, so home experimentation is a possibility.  If you feel like being intrepid, take a look into this!

There's also pneumatic artificial muscles.  These are nifty, and different from traditional hard-tube pneumatics in that they operate with flexible air-filled bladders.  These look very promising as well, however you still need to conquer the air compression hurdle.  Also, to operate in any kind of non-air situation(like underwater, or in a vacuum), you'd need to carry your own air tanks with you in addition to your compressor, adding to your weight requirements.

So, all this said and done, let's look at our possible options this far, going from cheap, junkyard robot, to futuristic space warrior.

Option 1:
Frame: Stainless Steel Exoskeleton
Joints: Mechanical hinges, no ball joint actuation at shoulders and hips
Force: Hydraulic muscles
Comments: The junkyard special!  You're probably not going to get anywhere very quickly, and you're going to have a limited range of motion, but hey, you can probably lift a car!  You can also probably construct most of this with a good solid base knowledge of welding and hydraulics.
Cost: $500-1000 (not including cost of the computer driving the mechanics)

Option 2:
Frame: Aircraft Aluminum Exoskeleton
Joints: Mechanical hinges at elbows and knees, ball joint actuators at shoulders and hips.
Force: Industrial Servos or Pneumatic Air Muscles
Comments: The home hobbyist with some money to burn!  You'll get pretty damn good range of motion out of this(assuming your computing is good), and have solid power output as well.  If you can figure out good joint mechanics for your ankles, then you can probably add to your sprinting and vertical, as well.  Drawback is the issue with servo motors stated above, or the annoying "whooshing" sound you'll make every time you move if you use pneumatics.
Cost: $2500-10,000

Option 3:
Frame: Titanium-aluminum alloy, with carbon fiber reinforcement.
Joints: Mechanical hinges at elbows and knees, external ball joint mechanics at shoulders and hips to keep the exoskeleton close to the body.
Force: Elector-activated polymer muscles attached to carbon fiber tendons.
Comments: The space-warrior!  I'm not even sure if this thing is theoretically possible currently(probably not).  EAPs are still too experimental and have too short a range to really be considered for combat application yet.  That said, if you could build this sucker, it's probably as close to video-game canon as you can get.  Definitely something to shoot for!  If you really want to work on something like this, you should probably look into getting a degree in robotics and going to work for Northrop-Grumman or something like that.
Cost: $50,000-??????

Okay, so that's a good start to our theory-crafting!  I hope I gave you all some good starting points in your research.  Tomorrow we're going to look at the computing system for our power suit, as well as sensory driven systems and maybe some other nifty stuff.  If you guys are really serious about getting into this kind of thing, I'd recommend looking into Lego Mindstorms.  It's a relatively cheap and easy-to-work-with robotics system, and holy crap, you can do some cool stuff with it.  If you can build a lego arm that reacts in real-time to your own arm with some sensors strapped onto it, I'd say you're well on your way to a promising career in exoskeleton manufacturing.  =P

See you tomorrow!  And don't forget to go "like" the facebook page!  Twelve more likes and we get a bonus character post on the weekend!

Dan "DaRatmastah" Wallace

Monday, November 26, 2012

How to Build A Power Suit and/or Powered Armor, Part 1: The Basics

Hi guys!  Soooo I know I said in the Samus Aran skills post that powered armor for private individuals is a bit far-fetched.  But I know I've toyed around with the idea before, and you probably, have, too.  So let's start taking a look at how we might go about such a thing.  Keep in mind, this is all theoretical stuff, I'm not necessarily advocating you go out and spend tons of money on this!  That said, most of us here are bright, young minds, so I'm not necessarily poo-pooing our chances, either!  We'll probably be covering the different aspects of powersuits and powered armor for most of the week!

For starters, let's take a look at what most powered armor and powersuits feature across games, movies, and comic books:
  • Enhanced Protection from Harm
  • Enhanced Physical Capabilities
  • Enhanced Sensory Capabilities 
  • Enhanced Transportation/Mobility
  • Futuristic On-Board Weaponry or Weapon Interfaces
  • On-Board Computer(often voice activated)
Okay, so, now we know what we're looking for, let's look at some real-world attempts, first.

The Trojan, by Troy Hurtubise
Troy Hurtubise is pretty well-known for constructing his series of bear-proof suits after an encounter with a grizzly bear.  After building quite a few of these, he parley'd his knowledge into construction a suit of armor for military use.  The result, the Trojan, honestly looks like it's from a video game.  It's bullet-resistant, full-body protection, the helmet has solar-powered cooling fans, and it has bear mace mounter in one of the gauntlets.  It doesn't amplify physical characteristics, but it's still pretty nifty.

HAL, by Tsukuba University and Cyberdyne(yes, they got their name from the movies)
Woohoo Japan!  We knew you guys would come through!  HAL is a series of partial(HAL 3) or full(HAL 5) exoskeletons for public use!  Designed with disabled and elderly people in mind, HAL 5 is capable of amplifying a user's strength by up to five times!  It's already in use in hospitals across Japan, and can be rented for the low, low price of $2000 a month!  That said, amplifying strength is the only characteristic it fulfills, with no protection options, and I'm not able to find much about it working in athletic activities, like running and jumping.  It would be interesting to see how it performs, though.

XOS 2 by Raytheon
The XOS 2 is a bit bulkier than HAL, and at the moment must be tethered to a power source, however, unlike HAL, it's being developed more for military purposes.  It moves very fluidly, and greatly amplifies the wearer's strength.  No armor or weapons systems on this one, either, but with the larged size and heavy duty construction, it's a bit easier to imagine.  What if you combined this suit with the Trojan?  Could be interesting...

HULC by Lockheed Martin
The main competitor to the XOS, the HULC is smaller, untethered, and also militarily-aimed.  It is, however, lower-body only, and, again, doesn't feature any armor.  Their main goal is amplifying carrying capacity and endurance for soldiers in the field.

ReWalk by Argo
Meant for medical use, the ReWalk is engineered with the idea of helping people who have severe walking impairments or paralyzation.  Typically paired with a set of crutches, it provides full lower body support.  While noble, and awesome, this probably least fits our goal qualifications for a powered combat suit. That said. it's another case study to consider.

So now we've taken a look at the contenders, let's theoretically build a franken-suit.  Take the sleek design and portability of the HAL 5, add in the fluidity and combat-readiness of the XOS 2 and HULC, and slap on the full-body armor capabilities of the Trojan.  Now we're getting somewhere!  Full-body bullet and blast resistance, augmented strength and endurance, and personal air conditioning!  Unfortunately, this suit would be extremely expensive to build, and require a lot of expertise.  Let's take a look at the hurdles to overcome.

Exoskeletons are, basically, robots being driven by your brain and/or nervous system.  You need an on-board computer with at least some rudimentary AI to decipher whatever method you're using to communicate with the suit.  The HAL 5, probably the most user-friendly of these suits, reads electrical impulses from sensors on your muscles, interprets them, and tells which motors to fire and how.  This is not easy, though, and if you look up some videos of the early HAL prototypes you can see there was a lot of trial and error involved.  You might want to look into Arduino boards, with possible hookup to a laptop with more detailed programming.  If you don't know any programming or electrical engineering, Arduino boards are a great place to start, and there's a huge community for it.

Exoskeletons need to be lightweight yet sturdy.  Typically titanium and other modern alloys are used in production, but these can be expensive and difficult to work with.  For prototyping, you could probably go with some cheaper components like steel.  These would be heavier, and possibly not as strong, but you could pick up a lot of the materials from your local junkyard, and they are relatively easy to machine.(I personally love to do home metal working with my Dremel).  For armor, there's always BulletProofMe, however Troy Hurtubise came up with his own armor compounds, so you might want to look into that sort of thing.

I'm going to assume we're operating on a home hobbyist's budget, here, so cost is going to be an issue.  You can cut some corners, using things like junkyards, salvaged parts, and craigslist, but you're still going to need to spend some coin.  You're either going to have to look at a second job, rebudgeting yourself on your own job, or finding investors.  This is not something to be underestimated, Troy bankrupted himself because of his projects, you don't want to end up in that situation if you can avoid it.

There's other hurdles as well, things like power sources and methods of augmentation, but we'll confront those issue-by-issue as we go through, today is just the overview write-up.  I love talking about stuff like this so I look forward to the coming week, and I encourage you to post any questions or comments here, or on the Facebook page.

Tomorrow we'll be covering physical augmentation methods, both known and experimental. Until then, make sure to follow me on Twitter,  like the blog page on Facebook, and continue to be awesome.

Dan "DaRatmastah" Wallace

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

The Samus Aran roundup!

Alrighty, we have finished up our foray into Samus Aran, let's take a look back!

But first, a bonus link!
Samus Aran vs. a Spartan II in "Haloid" by Monty Oum - Yeah, I know it's old, but it's still awesome.

Character Breakdown: Samus Aran
We outlined Samus as a character, and her background as a video game heroine.

The Samus Aran Workout
We put an emphasis on functional body management and solid endurance to keep our bounty hunter in shape!

The Skills of Samus Aran
We looked a bit into body armor and force multipliers with some high jump boots and bullet-resistant armor, and then different methods of exploration and situational awareness.

The Mind of Samus Aran
We examined solitude vs loneliness, and how sometimes hurt and guilt can drive us to push people away.

That's it for our armor-clad heroine.  I will most likely not be posting for the rest of the week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, but I will see you all next week with some cool new stuff! Until then, make sure to follow me on Twitter,  like the blog page on Facebook, and continue to be awesome.

Dan "DaRatmastah" Wallace

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

The Mind of Samus Aran

Sorry about the lack of post yesterday, guys, some family stuff came up again.  Seems November is the month for that sort of thing.

Anyhoo, let's peer into the mind of the unparalleled bounty hunter, Samus Aran!  What makes her tick?   What goes on inside her head?  It's somewhat tough to get a true bead on this, due to her somewhat lacking in-game dialogue and introspection.  We can pick up some bits and pieces from some of the games, though, like the intro to Super Metroid, the ongoing storyline and epilogue in Metroid Fusion, the bits and pieces in Metroid Prime 3 and Zero Mission, and, yes, even the immature and stilted storyline of Other M.  Warning: Spoilers ahead!

First off, Samus is, for the most part, a loner.  This does not necessarily mean she is lonely, however she does spend a lot of her time in solitude and/or self imposed exile.  We know she experienced great loss in the form of her CO, Adam Malkovich, dying to save her life.  We also know that she is not completely cold or ruthless, either, evidenced by her sparing the baby metroid that imprinted upon her.  She experienced loss, again, when this baby went on to sacrifice itself to save her life against Mother Brain.  Early in her life, she lost her parents to the Space Pirates led by Ridley, and that she later lost her mentors in the Chozo when their race went extinct.

It is quite possible the Samus willingly subjects herself to isolation due to all of this loss.  Allowing yourself to be close to someone and having them taken away from you again and again can be painful.  Sometimes solitude is not loneliness, but rather, a method of collecting oneself and regaining your footing.  Samus is obviously a strong, determined, and resourceful woman, capable of taking care of herself in dangerous situations.  However, it can be difficult to be so strong and not be able to save the people you care about.

The other emotion Samus may be dealing with from these losses is guilt.  Most of those close to her that she has lost sacrificed themselves to save her life.  In this, her relative solitude and reticence to work with other organizations may stem from a feeling of responsibility for others' deaths.  In this sense, her isolation is most definitely unhealthy in the long term, as self-imposed guilt for others' actions is toxic when not dealt with.

What do we take from this, then?  Well, I have experienced some loss in my life, probably not as much as others, but enough to know that withdrawing within yourself is a perfectly normal reaction, for a time.  There is nothing inherently wrong with needing time for yourself.  However, you need to eventually accept loss, and surpass your own boundaries to come out of your shell, again.  A healthy life can be lived alone, but not if the motivation is pain of loss, fear of being close to people again, or guilt over past deeds.  If you find yourself feeling these emotions, I urge you to take the time to have a conversation with yourself, and figure out where your motivations for isolationism come from. 

There's  a whole world of great people out there that want to get to know you, and you should get to know them, as well.   Spending time alone with yourself is fine, but don't forget, humans are social creatures.  Don't spend your whole life lost inside yourself, reach out to other people.  You'll be pleasantly surprised with the outcome.  =)

That's it for today, I'll see you all tomorrow.  Until then, make sure to follow me on Twitter,  like the blog page on Facebook, and continue to be awesome.

Dan "DaRatmastah" Wallace

Sunday, November 18, 2012

The Skills of Samus Aran

Okay, so the first thing we think of when we think of Samus Aran is a totally kickass armcannon-equipped powersuit.  Let's be honest, if you're a fan of the series, you've probably had the thought, at least once or twice, of what it would be like to have such hardware at your disposal.  Well, the good news is, several different entities are developing powered armor or exoskeletons!  The bad news is...they're usually either military-grade, or prohibitively expensive.  They also don't exactly fulfill the fantasy of super-people yet, they're more geared towards restoring mobility to paralyzed people, or making it easier for soldiers to carry and move heavy gear loads.(EDIT: I decided to tackle the idea of a home-built powersuit, just for the heck of it.  Check out the first post in the series here)

So what's a wannabe power armor user to do?  Well, there are some cool "force multiplier" type devices out there for the amateur augmented human.

The first is jumping stilts.  Marketed under brand names such as "Poweriser," "Air-Trekkers," or "PowerStriders," jumping stilts enable you to run at 20 MPH, or jump 10 feet in the air.  A pair can cost anywhere between $100 and $500, depending on the model, which is pretty cheap considering how much powered exoskeletons can cost.  I've never tried them myself(for money reasons, not lack of want), but they look like a lot of fun to me.

For armor, you can purchase body armor online relatively easily.  My favorite ballistic protection site is BulletProofME.  They offer affordable vests and body armor of all different ratings and sizes, for very affordable prices.  They also have a lot of info on body armor.  Something to keep in mind, however, is that there is no such thing as "bullet proof."  Only bullet resistant.  A vest can protect you from a shot or two, but the vest is then unsafe for continued use, and you're still going to end up with some bad bruising, even if the vest stops the bullet.

For arm-canons, that's tough.  Samus' gun fires bolts of energy, electricity, plasma, or lava, depending on what upgrades you have and what game you're playing.  I've linked before to the Prometheus Device, which is nifty.  You could also start experimenting with magnetic rail and gauss guns, which fire projectiles, yes, but using magnetics and electricity rather than gunpowder.  Of course, you could always just go learn to shoot a gun, which is a fine force multiplier itself and something I recommend everyone at least learn how to do.  For that, you can check out local shooting ranges, or ask around at your local sports/outdoorsman store.

The other skill Samus Aran has that anyone can use and make use of is the art of exploration, and observation.  The Metroid titles are all about exploring your surroundings, finding new upgrades and areas, and solving environment-based puzzles.  If you want to be really intrepid, you can start learning about cartography, the art/science of mapping.  It's really neat stuff.  If you don't want to go that far, you can just learn about how to use/read maps, which is a skill in and of itself.  You can also get into geocaching, which looks like TONS of fun for outdoorsy/exploring types.  It's basically participating in a giant, GPS-based treasure hunt.  Well worth your time.  Urban exploration is also tons of fun, and a personal favorite of mine.

Really the spirit of Samus Aran is relying on your own devices and skills in unknown situations to overcome obstacles and reach new areas or goals.  If you're creative, you can apply this to many situations in your life.  Try to visit new places or try new things often.  Be more aware of your surroundings when you go places, and see if you can spot things that people who aren't paying as close attention might miss.  You can even make a game out of it, if you're with friends.  Kind of like an open-ended version of "I Spy."

Give it a shot!  This concludes our second weekend post(ever!).  I'll see you all tomorrow, when we look at the mind and psychology of a space-bound bounty hunter!  Until then, make sure to follow me on Twitter,  like the blog page on Facebook, and continue to be awesome.

Dan "DaRatmastah" Wallace

Saturday, November 17, 2012

The Samus Aran Workout

Sorry for the two-day break, guys, my father-in-laws funeral proceedings kind of took up my time.  To make up for it, I'm posting this today, Saturday, and you'll get another post tomorrow, Sunday(weekend updates, whee!).  Also, our current quest, Activate the Book of Faces, has stalled at 36 likes!  We're sooo, close!  Consider sharing the Facebook page or one of the blog post with your friends, so we can hit fifty, and get weekend updates next week, too!

Okay, so let's start with admitting something to ourselves here.  Samus Aran is infused with both Chozo AND Metroid DNA.  She is not completely human, and as such, she is capable of doing things that no human would be capable of, such as jumping twice her own height(without her power suit, as shown in Zero Mission), and other assorted physical feats.  She does, however, still work off of a basic blueprint we can go with!  Samus is 6'3", 198 lbs (1.9m, 90 kg for our metric friends), and is described as being in peak physical condition, with a somewhat slender, but well-muscled body.  From his we can see she is not a bodybuilder, but rather focused on "functional" strength.

Samus had two different phases to her physical training in life.  Her younger years(4-15 years old), she was raised and trained by the Chozo.  They gave her Chozo DNA to boost her physical capabilities, but besides this, much of her training appeared to be gymnastic in nature.  She was also taught physical combat moves, and acquainted with power suit mechanics.  After this, she entered training in the Galactic Federation police branch, where she honed her shooting and combat skills.  We're going to take the approach of practical, physical strength, which means maintaining a good power-to-weight ratio, as well as the cardiovascular health necessary to sustain prolonged combat.

Equipment Needed:
Chinup Bar(seriously, if you don't have one yet, get one)
Rings for Chinup Bar(I just got some heavy rope from the hardware store, looped it through two short lengths of PVC pipe, and hung it from the bar.

Strength Training
Level 1: Beginner
3x10 Chair-Assisted Pullups
3x10 Chair Dips
3x10 Hanging Ring Rows(resting butt on ground if needed)
3x10 Knee Pushups
3x20 Crunches

Level 2: Intermediate
3x10 Pullups
3x10 Chair-Assisted Ring Dips
3x10 Hanging Ring Rows (no butt)
3x10 Pushups
3x20 Twist Crunches

Level 3: Advanced
5x10 Pullups
5x10 Ring Dips
5x10 Hanging Ring Rows
5x10 Pushups
5x20 Bicycle Crunches

Level 4: Bounty Hunter
5x20 Pullups
5x20 Ring Dips
5x20 Hanging Ring Rows
5x20 Pushups
5x20 Leg-lift Twist Crunches

Cardio Training
Level 1: Beginner
30 Minutes Brisk Walking/Jogging

Level 2: Intermediate
30 Minutes Running
5x10 Burpees(no pushup)

Level 3: Advanced
30 Minutes Running with 20 Second Sprints Every 4 Minutes
5x10 Burpees(with pushup)

Level 4: Bounty Hunter
30 Minutes Running with 30 Second Sprints Every 3 Minutes
5 Minutes Hill Sprints
5x10 Burpees, with Pushup and Tuck Jump at the end.  Do 40 jumping jacks in between each set(this is your rest period, you should have no break between jumping jacks and burpees)

If you want to spice up the strength workout, you can try adding some weight to the exercises.  Make sure you don't cheat on form or number of reps/sets to do so, though(start with a low weight).  Strength training is every other day.  Cardio is every day, but alternate between A/B workouts.  I'd recommend the A workouts on the day you do strength training.  Remember to always have at least one day of full rest between each strength workout, and have at least one day of complete rest(no cardio or strength) at least once a week, maybe twice if your body needs it(especially when first starting the program).  If you get stuck between workout levels, go check out my recent write-up on clearing the workout plateau.

That's it for now!  We have another post coming tomorrow, on the skills of Samus Aran, so make sure to check back then!  Until then, keep being awesome!

Dan "DaRatmastah" Wallace

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Character Breakdown: Samus Aran

Name: Samus Aran
Game(s): The Metroid Series, the Super Smash Bros. series, assorted cameos.
  • Bounty Hunter
  • Expert Marksman
  • Pilot
  • Explorer
  • Willful
  • Independent
  • Resourceful
If Chun Li is the first lady of fighting, then Samus Aran is the first lady of video games.  Yes, there were girl characters in games before her, but none of them were protagonists of their own series, more often than not they were just damsels in distress to be rescued by the male heroine.  The funny thing is, the majority of gamers at the time were so accustomed to this stereotype that they had no idea the armored character they were playing was a female until the very end of the game.

Samus began her career as a star member of the inter-space police force(yes, I'm disregarding the silly "Other M" reboot here), before something went wrong on a mission and drove her to disappear.  Years later, she reappeared as the galaxy's most feared bounty hunter, putting her fearsome skills to more petty and money-driven pursuits.  Somehow, however, she always ended up saving the galaxy anyway, usually from the Space Pirates and their leader Mother Brain, although later adventures saw different, more varied enemies, including a dark clone of herself.

Samus has always been a strong, willful character, fiercely independent.  Typically she gets sent into a planet when all others have failed, relying on her skills and her powersuit to carry her through to win the day.  The type of isolation and independence is nothing to scoff at.  Modern-day astronauts typically go through specific training for this sort of thing. Being isolate on a desert planet full of hostile alien life forms is not exactly a picnic.

Other hints of Samus' past have come up in her later games, like her connection to the Chozo, an ancient, birdlike race, now extinct.  It's said the chozo designed her specific power suit, unmatched in its capabilities and functions, and that they were legendary in their ability to work with raw energy.  She carries the legacy of the chozo, both on her shoulders and, possibly, in her blood.

We're going to look at the sort of physical fitness a galactic police officer-turned-bounty hunter would require.  We're also going to go over the skills it takes to adapt to one's environment quickly, especially if it's a hostile one.  Finally, we're going to take a look at the mental conditioning and psychology a person that goes through such extremes must have in order to survive.

Sorry this post was a bit late today, busy busy busy!  The good news is, it's up, and we'll have another one tomorrow!  Also, our current quest has made some progress, and we're now at 36 Facebook likes!  So close to an extra character breakdown, only 14 to go!  I'll see you all tomorrow.  Until then, keep being awesome!

Dan "DaRatmastah" Wallace

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Leveling Up: How to Break Through the Plateau

Wait!  This is not the only post for today!  I also posted a small bit of my NaNoWriMo as an apology for not updating yesterday, go check it out!  Also, our current quest, Activate the Book of Faces, made significant progress, doubling our Facebook "like" count!  We're sitting at 34 likes at the time of this post, which means that 16 more and you guys get a bonus weekend character breakdown!  Way to go, guys!

So, hopefully if you've been following this blog for a while, you've picked a workout program and started to go with it.  If not, why not?  You've got nothing to lose and everything to gain. =D  Even if I haven't covered the exact character archetype you'd like to model yourself after yet, it's always good to establish a "baseline."  This post is going to be for people who have been working out for a while, and feel as though your progress has slowed, or stopped, and you're just "going through the motions" and seeing no improvement.

In fitness communities, this is known as the dreaded PLATEAU.  They suck, because you feel like you're working your butt off for little to no benefit.  We're going to take a look at how to shake things up so you can gain a level or two and get off the grind.

Up the Weight
This may seem rather straightforward, but if you're not challenging yourself, you won't get better.  Your muscles adapt and overcome the situations you present them with.  If they're already used to lifting a certain weight in a strength exercise, they're not going to get any better by lifting it more(at least not from a strength perspective, but they will gain more endurance if you go higher reps.  More on that later).  For lifting regimens, like the Kratos sandbag workouts, this is simple, just add more weight.  But for bodyweight-based workouts this can be tricky. Chances are, while getting more in shape, you've also lost weight.  This actually makes your bodyweight exercises easier for your body to perform.  Personally, I'm a big fan of adding weight to bodyweight exercises, so maybe you want to try adding a backpack with ten pounds of books or sand to your pushup sets.  Experiment, and take it slow.

Increase the Intensity
This is great for cardio-heavy workouts like Link's.  Try to shave time off your runs, or insert some sprints here and there.  If you're doing lots of bodyweight stuff as your strength training, try doing the reps faster, and maybe throw in an extra set, or something along those lines.

Change the Exercises
This requires a bit more know-how and research on your part, but sometimes the best thing to do is switch an exercise in your routine out for a different one.  Remember, the workout programs I provide here are basic outlines and introductions, they can, and should, be changed as you get more physically fit.  When you switch out an exercise, try to pick one that compliments.  Like, maybe instead of doing weighted pushups, you can do weighted dips, or butterfly curls and tricep extension with dumbells.   I'm looking to start a video compendium of exercises soon that will categorize them according to muscle groups, hopefully when I get that done this will make this easier.

First of all, you should be getting plenty of sleep at night, especially if you're feel like you're plateauing due to fatigue or lack of drive.  Eight hours is a good guideline to shoot for for an adult, more if you're not an adult yet.  This is a lot of sleep, and most people don't get this much, but you'd be surprised how good it is for your body.  The other kind of rest I'm talking about is just taking a break from your workouts for a week or two.  I mean, still stay active, go on walks and stuff, but just take a week off without doing any serious training.  It sounds counter-intuitive, but the idea is you give your body as much time to recover as it could possibly need, then come back.  Sometimes it just needs a vacation =)

I'm sure you're already following the Big Guy diet or the Fighter Diet.  Right?  Right?  ಠ_ಠ  Anyway, sticking to your diet is really, really important for your body.  Remember to get your protein in, and keep your food at a relatively regular interval, ideally every 2-3 hours in moderate portions.  Your body can't repair itself without fuel.

So there's some ideas for plateauing.  If you find yourself stuck, and you still have problems after trying these, feel free to message me on Facebook, or leave a comment here.

Tomorrow we should be moving on to a new character(although I'm not sure who, yet, any suggestions?).  Until then, make sure to follow me on Twitter,  like the blog page on Facebook, and continue to be awesome!

Dan "DaRatmastah" Wallace  

Makeup Post - NaNoWriMo Preview!

Hey guys, sorry I didn't post yesterday, we had a death in the family over the weekend so I was a little preoccupied.  That said, I still owe you all a post, so I'm doing a double today.  This first one is a snippet from the first chapter of my NaNoWriMo challenge.  I'll be posting the whole thing online in episodic format when I finish/edit it, so consider this a little taste of something cool to come!  I will be making another, more video-game-oriented post after this, so no worries. =)

The boy's breath came quickly, but evenly, as he dashed through the crowded fish market. Adrenaline coursed through his veins, but he forced himself to quiet his mind and stay focused as he fled the sounds of the pursuing guards. A cart appeared in front of him, he slid under it. An angry fish monger reached for his arm, but he twisted deftly out of the merchant's slimy grip. A small dog ran along, nipping at his heels, but a quick dodge around a row of crates and he lost the mutt. He paused momentarily, listening to the sounds behind him. The members of the guard that were chasing him obviously weren't having as easy a time maneuvering their way through the market, but they were persistent.

Sheesh, steal a single lockbox worth of gold from the guardhouse and they get all in a tizzy. the boy thought to himself as he continued on. The boy's name was Jassik Shadeleaf. Small, slight, with a mop of mossy-grown green hair, Jassik looked deceptively small and young for his fifteen summers(or so, the lady at the orphanage never could seem to remember how old he was before he escaped that cruel place). His hair, along with his green-tinged skin and silvery eyes betrayed his elven heritage. Jassik never knew his parents, so he wasn't sure how pure his blood was, but he was almost definitely a half breed of some sort. You never see pure-blood elves outside the Deepwoods.

Jassik and the guards continued their game of cat-and-mouse through the lower ward of Rockcliff. The city stood at the edge of the Materan Sea, existing on two distinct levels The lower ward consisted of the docks, the tanneries, and the fish markets. It existed in the shadow of a steep and foreboding cliff face, upon which gulls and seabirds nested in the thousands, swarming above the fishing vessels as they came into port. Above the seagulls, still perched castle Rockcliff, home to Duke Thorvald Griss, or “Thorvald the Tyrant,” as his subjects were wont to call him(though never to his face, of course). Castle Rockcliff sat at the head of the ridge that housed the upper ward. If the lower ward was full of the unmentionable and unwanted members of society, the upper ward was full of posh high society, a society of the latest fashions, knights-errant shining in their armor, and skilled artisans plying their trades. Fashionable houses and apartments stood in stark contrast to the shacks and hovels that existed in the lower ward, filled with clean people that wanted nothing to do with the lower castes quite literally below their feet.

This societal divide was not normally lost upon Jassik, however he had more pressing matters on his mind at the moment. He cast a look over his shoulder to see if his pursuers had a clear sight line of him. A blind spot afforded him enough time to duck into an open stable, slipping past the boy mucking the stalls. Given different circumstances, Jassik mused he and the boy could have gotten along, were it not for his elven heritage, frowned upon even here in the squalor of the lower ward. The humans barely tolerated his presence, and he had quickly learned the only thing anyone would respect about him was his coin.

Still, elf blood has its advantages, Jassik thought to himself, as he scampered nimbly up into the rafters and pressed his small frame into a corner. He heard the guards before he saw them, heavy booted footfalls upon the rough cobblestone announcing their presence.

“Oi, you there! Boy!” Jassik heard one of them call. For a moment he caught his breath, thinking his hiding spot found. He breathed a sigh of relief when the guard roughly grabbed the stable hand instead, who squawked in surprise. “'ave you seen a dirty little street rat come runnin' through 'ere with a bag o' coin?”

“No sir, no, no coin here!” the boy stammered. Jassik almost felt sorry for him, but then he remembered the boy would sell him out without a moment's thought if he knew he was there. The guard's partner caught up at that point, the somewhat portly man wheezing heavily as he leaned over, hands on his knees.

“Jas- -pant- Jasper, -wheeze- the boy's -huff- gone,” the heavier guard regained his breath and slowly straightened up, “Didn't you get a look at him? Silver eyes, green skin, that urchin had elf blood in him for sure. No way we're catching him down here.”

“Hmf,” Jasper the guard grunted, shoving the poor stable boy into the manure he had been mucking out, “You're probably right. Don't know how you could make out his skin under all the shit he was covered in, though,” he chuckled. Jassik's nose wrinkled at that comment. He certainly had less shit on him than the stable hand did at the moment. The unfortunate boy in the muck was looking quite miserable, and glared impotently at the guards as they made their way off into the crowd. He got up, wiped himself off as best he could, and went back to work.

So that's it, just a small bit of chapter one.  It's still very rough as I'm powering through this thing, I'll likely do some serious editing/proofing before it goes live, but look for it sometime next month =)  Otherwise, look for a normal blog post later today!

Friday, November 9, 2012

New Quest: Activate the Book of Faces

Hey guys!  I'm looking to boost readership a bit, so now that we're done with Kratos, I'd like to announce the first official blog quest!  Currently we have several dozen regular readers every day(if my stat tracker is to be believed), and our Facebook page is sitting at 19 likes.  I want to get word out about the blog, build the audience a bit, and start an active Facebook community.  SO!  Here are your quest parameters:

New quest: "Activate the Book of Faces"

Quest Description: Greetings, adventurer!  You have traveled long and far to get here, and a new task lays before you, if you are willing to accept!  The Book of Faces is capable of illuminating the world, but it currenly lies inactive and unused.  You must go out and acquire "Likes" for this page.  If you can get the likes we need to activate the book of faces, I have a reward or two you might appreciate!

Quest Requirements: Get the "So You Want To Be A Video Game Character" facebook page to at least 50 likes.

Quest Rewards:  Upon reaching 50 likes, I'll do an extra character breakdown the weekend after we reach our goal.  If people suggest a character on the Facebook page, I'll do the most popular one, otherwise I'll just pick one from the video game pantheon.

Bonus Reward!: If we reach 100 likes, I'll do my first vlog as well!  Topics for the vlog can be suggested on the Facebook page, otherwise I'll just pick a theme and run with it.

I'm kind of interested to see how this turns out!  If we're successful, I'll run some more "quests" in the future.  Regardless of how it goes, we've got a new character coming up next week.  Haven't decided who, yet, we'll have to find out on Monday! =D Until then, make sure to follow me on Twitter,  like the blog page on Facebook, and continue to be awesome!

Dan "DaRatmastah" Wallace

Thursday, November 8, 2012

The Mind of Kratos

Whew, sorry for the delay, I blame getting married and hurricane Sandy.  Still no power! ;_;  Oh well, I'm at work, and have time to post, so there's that!  Today we will take a peek into the mind of Kratos!

Have you ever felt angry at the world around you and not really known why?  Or maybe even inexplicably sad?  Do you feel as though the world is out to get you in some way, or maybe owes you something in return for sacrifices made?  This post may be worth a read, then.

Okay, let's start out at the top here.  On surface level, Kratos is angry, and, to use popular internet speak, gives zero f&#$s.  He completely disregards anything between him and his goal, including other people, their wants and needs, their lives, or even death itself.  In some ways this level of determination is admirable, however, it crosses the line into what most would consider cruelly ruthless, with no care given to decency or any real moral code.

What drives a man to reach this level?

The answer is twofold, pain, and immaturity.  Kratos suffers from great pains in his past that he cannot seem to overcome.  This manifests in a rage-filled drive for revenge.  Now, in some ways, this revenge may be well placed.  In the first game, it's clear Ares is very much responsible for most of Kratos' pain.  However, Kratos grows increasingly angry and petulant.  For all the awesomeness of his hyper-macho figure, his temper and method of justifying things seems an awful lot like an angry toddler with way too many muscley-muscles and pointy things at his disposal.

This may sound like I'm selling Kratos' character short, and in some ways I am.  He has a bit more depth than this, especially if you go further into his past with the handheld games.  However, in the end, most of Kratos' pain is self-inflicted.  Without dipping too far into spoilers, it's his own lust for power, or fear of defeat, that drives him to strike self-harming bargains.  He lashes out at the world in response to his own personal pain, but more often than not this is just to obscure the fact that he is responsible for most of his problems.

From a personal perspective, I can relate to this.  For much of my angsty teenage years I was angry at the world, and it took me a while to realize that I was in fact angry at myself for my own choices.  Laziness, procrastination, and perceived waste of my own potential.  When I got a bit older and less hormone-ridden, I began to realize that the problems I was dealing with were mostly my own.  Unfortunately, this flipped in the exact opposite direction from anger, and rather than taking responsibility for these shortcomings and moving on, I began to belittle myself and fall into depression.  Even now I'm still learning to accept my shortcomings and poor decisions and adapt to them, rather than wallow in them.

Typically in these situations, the advice given is everything from, "Suck it up and face your problems like a man!" to "Oh you poor dear, take some time for yourself and be self indulgent."  I find that both of these extremes are part of the solution for me, personally, and maybe for you, too.  First, you have to realize that some problems you're dealing with in life are your fault.  Maybe more than some, maybe most, or even all.  Realizing this can sometimes be hard, and can hurt, and can be the scariest part because this is the point where it's easiest to fall into a hole that is very hard to get out of.

Remember.  Even if you somehow come to the conclusion that EVERYTHING in your life that you dislike is entirely your fault(highly unlikely), berating yourself for it does you no good.

Okay, so your life isn't great.  It's some, most, or all your fault.  But now what?  I can tell you outright, wallowing does NO good.  You need to be constructive, and move forward.  This is terrifying though, because as soon as you think about starting anew the first thing your subconcious is going to say is, "Hey, if you screwed up that bad in the past, it may be done and gone and not worth worrying about, but you've got a pretty bad track record here, buddy.  Best stay safe and not stick your neck out."


That is not you.  You are a new person every moment of existence.  Every time you start a new task, it is new, and fresh, and clean, and has nothing to do with your past performance on anything.  So start a new task.  Right now.  Make is something like cleaning a room.  Do the dishes.  Mow the lawn.  Pick something you know how to do, and complete it.  It seems dumb, but getting even that little bit of happy "I did something and finished it," brain juices can be enough to jump-start you into something bigger.  Go for a walk.  Heck, if you're nervous to take on anything like that, just go sit in a public place, and then come home.  Even that is a big step for some people, and if you are one of those people, I know you can do it.

Go do something.  Something tiny.  And when you're done, tell yourself, "Hey me, you did a pretty good job."  Seriously, say it out loud, it helps.  Kratos internalizes his pain and self-blame, without ever acknowledging or letting it out.  This is poison inside you.  There's a difference between being determined, and being a rage-filled monster.  Don't be the monster, be the constructive, determined person, driven by past mistakes AND victories to build a better, more purpose-driven life.

For today, my little victory was writing this blog post.  I started, and finished it, and now the task of starting my NaNoWriMo challenge eight days late seems a little less daunting =)  I'll see you all tomorrow, thanks for reading!

Until then, make sure to follow me on Twitter,  like the blog page on Facebook, and continue to do stuff!

Dan "DaRatmastah" Wallace

Friday, November 2, 2012

The Skills of Kratos

Kratos, as a spartan warrior, was trained in all manner of grecian combat.  Spear, shield, and sword are traditional weaponry of the spartan army.  When he became the servant of Ares and the Ghost of Sparta, however, he received a rather non-standard issue of chain blades fused to his forearms.

Unfortunately, we need to start this discussion by admitting that such fantastical weapons do not exist.  If you are feeling particularly industrious, you can, of course, try and make some yourself.  I take no responsibility for what may happen in trying to use such things, however.  Flexible weapons are notoriously difficult to control, and due to the physics of their nature even masters cannot control them for every second of their movement, especially after striking a target.  Strapping a pair of big-ass one-handed swords on the end of them and then expecting to have the coordination to control them one-handed is a bit much to expect.

There are, however, similar weapons.  The medieval flail or morningstar is, functionally, a similar weapon to Kratos' blades.  It's got the force multiplication factor of a flexible weapon, but the addition of a long handle and a short chain makes it significantly safer to wield.  It's a brutal, smashing weapon like Kratos' blades.  I took a look around on youtube and found a couple informative videos:
This one has no sound, but demonstrates some interesting combat motions on a one-handed morningstar.
These are a nice approach to the two-handed peasant's flail.
This is a little overview from the history channel on the history of the flail, with a bit of lesson as well.

But if you're more into the showy, long-ranged combat aspect, you might want to look into the rope dart, meteor hammer, or kusari-gama.  The rope dart and meteor hammer come from chinese martial arts(shaolin kung fu), and the kusari-dama from japanese and okinawan arts.  The meteor hammer is the weapon used by Gogo Yubari in Kill Bill, if you've seen the film, and Assassin' Creed 3 is currently highlighting the rope dart as one of its unique weapons(though, not having played the game yet, I'm unsure how a Mohawk native American came to use a Chinese weapon).  The Kusari-Gama is one of the extra weapons that Ryu Hayabusa wields in the second Ninja Gaiden game.  All of these weapons are showy, and nice, but historically difficult to control, and near-useless if your opponent grabs them.  Regardless, here's some videos!
Meteor Hammer by a practitioner of Shaolin.
Rope dart form!
Kusari Gama vs Katana!

As always, I recommend learning martial arts from well-historied schools, rather than trying to learn online.  European weaponry is, unfortunately, much harder to find schools for, so sometimes online is your only option.  For the asian weapons, you probably have better odds.  If you're interested, see if any local schools teach the weaponry you're interested in.  Chances are you'll have to learn hand forms first, as that's a normal prerequisite for weapon work in most dojos, but those are usually worth learning anyway.

The other skill Kratos has that is notable, is mental and physical fortitude.  The man just will not quit.  He gets stabbed in the stomach and refuses to die.  While, of course, I don't encourage any self-harm upon yourself, you can still train yourself to face extreme challenges.  One of my hobbies has become mud running, particularly the Tough Mudder.  It's become quite a popular activity and you can find mud runs in many locations around the world.  Training for and completing a Tough Mudder gives you a rush and sense of accomplishment that is hard to find in everyday life, and will definitely increase your mental and physical fortitude.  Barring this, even just pushing yourself a little harder in your workouts than you think you can go(stay safe and don't hurt yourself), or forcing yourself to take cold showers every morning, or eat foods you don't like but you know are good for you, are all small ways to increase your personal fortitude.

Living through difficult situations requires mental toughness, so preparing yourself for such a thing is always useful in everyday life.  Living a spartan lifestyle is another way of saying to live on the bare minimum.  See how much you can actually cut out of your life and still survive without.  You might be pleasantly surprised.  Everyone in my home state of NJ is currently dealing with the after-effects of Hurricane Sandy.  I'm lucky enough to have power and internet here at work, where I'm writing to you right now, but even so, I've found that most of the good things in life don't really require all that much.  When you're stripped down to the bare basics, even something like a hot meal with your family and a board game by candlelight can be enough to make your life feel complete.  See what you can live without sometime, you'll be a better person for it.

Now I'm off to have a bachelor party, and get married tomorrow.  Wish me luck!  There will most likely not be a post on Monday as I'll be on my mini-honeymoon, so I'll see you all on Tuesday!  Until then, make sure to follow me on Twitter,  like the blog page on Facebook, and continue to be awesome.

Dan "DaRatmastah" Wallace

Thursday, November 1, 2012

The Kratos Workout

Kratos exudes power.  Every move he makes emphasizes machismo and rage-fueled strength.  In combat, he wrestles with beasts and monsters twices his size and dominates them.  As such, we're going to focus on brute strength with a preference towards controlling unwieldy forces.  Additionally, Kratos moves rapidly from battle to battle, often performing strenuous physical feats in between.  For this aspect, we're going to look at anaerobic conditioning and quick recovery times, rather than the long-distance stamina of Link or Ezio.  With this workout I'd recommend the Fighter Diet, although you may want to up your caloric and protein intake a bit with larger servings of protein sources.  This workout setup is designed to be rotational.  You perform strength workout A one day, then cardio workout A the next day, and so on and so forth for six days.  On the seventh day, you rest.  Remember, start slow and low, at your own pace, and increase incrementally as you go.  There's info on the equipment and workout style choices at the bottom of the post.

Equipment Needed:
Weighted Backpack
Wall or Boxes to Jump Onto

Strength Workout A:
3x7 Sandbag Deadlifts
3x7 Sandbag Lunges
3x7 Box Jumps

Strength Workout B:
3x7 One-Armed Sandbag Rows
3x7 One-Armed Sandbag Overhead Presses
3x7 Weighted Pushups

Strength Workout C:
3x7 Sandbag Front Squats
3x7 Weighted Pullups
3x7 Weighted Dips

Cardio Workout A:
4-8 Minutes Tabata Burpees

Cardio Workout B:
20 Minutes Sledgehammer Swings

Cardio Workout C:
4-8 Minutes Tabata Sprints or Hill Sprints

Sandbag Construction:
I made my sandbag from a simple army surplus duffel bag with the straps cut off.  I bought play sand from the local hardware store(it was like $3.00 for 50 lbs).  I then measured out 13 1/3 cups of dry sand into a supermarket plastic bag, and then triple bagged it for strength.  13 1/3 cups is roughly ten pounds, so I had my sand in nice ten pound increments.   If you're getting really industrious about it, you can also bag the sand in burlap or denim for extra strength.  I cut up some old jeans and I'm currently switching from plastic sand bags to denim sand bags, as they're more sturdy and environmentally friendly, but the plastic bags will get you started, mine lasted me over a year before they started to wear out.

For the overhead presses and weighted pullups/dips/pushups you can throw your sandbag in a sturdy backpack and use that.

Why Sand?
First of all, it's cheap.  Totaled up, you can get away with a nice weight set for under $50(minus the cost of the chinup bar, which you should already have).  Additionally, sandbags promote large amounts of hand strength, which normal lifing bars do not, since you really need to grapple with the bag to make it happen.  Also, the sand has a tendency to shift and be uneven as you lift it, which forces more total body fitness and core strength.  Because of this, if you have experience lifting, you should probably start at lower weight than you're typically used to.

What's with the cardio workouts?
We're promoting full-body anaerobic combat conditioning here.  The idea that, in combat, your muscles need a lot of energy over a short period of time, rather than a steady amount of energy over a long period of time.  However, these workouts will also promote quick recovery times, due to the interval training, so now you have quick recovery BETWEEN your short bursts of strength, which is basically the Kratos mode.  The sledgehammer slams need to be done on an object that can take lots and lots of slams without damaging.  This is typically an old car tire(you can usually get these for free or cheap from a mechanic).  When swinging the sledgehammer, alternate sides so you get a whole body workout.

I'm planning on beginning some video logs soon detailing every exercise I cover in the workouts, and indexing it in a large post, as cross-indexing every exercise every workout post is kind of tough, and requires me to rely on youtube channels that I have no control over.  This should be coming soon!  If you're unsure how to perform an exercise before then, and you can't find a good example in the archives or on youtube, feel free to leave a comment!

Next time(hopefully tomorrow), we'll be looking at the skills of Kratos.  Until then, make sure to follow me on Twitter,  like the blog page on Facebook, and continue to be awesome.

Dan "DaRatmastah" Wallace