Lookin' back on the track for a little green back

Got to find just the kind for losin' my mind

Outta sight in the night, outta sight in the day

Lookin' back on the track, gonna do it my way

Outta sight in the night, outta sight in the day

Lookin' back on the track, gonna do it my way

Look back

—George Baker Selection, “Little Green Bag,” 1970

I’ve been a Tarantino fan since Reservoir Dogs was released in 1992. I can vividly recall the initial credit sequence, when the eight gangsters donned in black suits exit Uncle Bob’s Pancake House and strut down the street—Mr. Pink doesn’t believe in tipping. Tarantino filmed the scene in slow motion with "Little Green Bag" as the background music. It sticks with me.

In honor of Tarantino’s most recent big screen release, The Hateful Eight, I decided to release my own Hateful Eight, which are eight exercises and/or specific training modalities that either make me cringe or have made the athletes I’ve trained shudder with anxiety, angst, and downright hatred.

So, let the countdown begin on the Beast Reality Hateful Eight—Tarantino, we salute you:

8. Sprints

Mandatory Inclusion Recommended (Most Athletic Training Programs)

I gave my son (aka The Pitcher) a short list of things I thought he should consider doing everyday as part of his baseball training—he’s a senior in high school. Performing sprints was at the top of the list. He must be doing them in a clandestine manner, because I haven't caught him in mid-stride yet.

In my heart I know sprints are a great way to build explosive power, but I admit I hate them now and hated them when I was in competitive athletics. Unfortunately too many coaches favor quantity over quality and they become more of a cardio exercises, which has little carry-over to explosive-based athletics.

Give me a half-dozen or so quality repetitions at maximum or near-max effort and call it a complete exercise. For example, considering my son’s situation, in re-reviewing the aforementioned daily training recommendation, the training prescription was for six 60-yard sprints followed by six 10-yard sprints.

RECENT: The Balls to the Walls Paradox

Also, for young athletes, I recommend they try and do the sprints at a location other than home if possible (i.e., the track at school or an open field). I think the change in venue puts a more intense focus on the exercise, because of the greater level of commitment.

You might not be able to fight like a samurai, but you can at least die like a samurai.

—O-Ren Ishii, the movie Kill Bill: Vol 1


7. Prowler Work

Inclusion Strongly Recommended (Most Athletic Training Programs)

Prowler sprints were the first training modality to land me in the hospital for an overnight stay—severe overtraining!

The Prowler 2 (more commonly known as The Prowler) is essentially a weighted sled that can be pushed and/or pulled on pavement, asphalt, and/or turf. It is a great tool for general conditioning and lower body strength and endurance. Additionally, in my opinion, it definitely facilitates gains in speed and therefore translates well to the field of play.

I wrote an article in which I recalled watching a boxing documentary in which sports journalist and boxing commentator Larry Merchant referred to Joe Frazier as a “Truth Machine.” He meant that when a fighter was in the ring with Joe, if he wasn’t in shape, Frazier was going to find out—Joe, by virtue of his tenacity, was going to get to the truth.

Prowlers are a “Truth Machine” of sort; they reveal whether athletes are truly willing to do what it takes to get into awesome game shape. They reveal the truth.

Almost every athlete suggests they want to win, but very few are willing to do the really hard work to win. The Prowler can be a useful tool to differentiate between the athletes who only orally express they want to win from those who are actually willing to make a commitment to becoming better.

Hey, Pam, remember when I said this car was death proof? Well, that wasn't a lie. This car is 100% death proof. Only to get the benefit of it, honey, you REALLY need to be sitting in my seat.

—Stuntman Mike, Death Proof

6. Abs/Core Training

Inclusion Strongly Recommended (Most Athletic Training Programs)

I am a perpetual procrastinator when it comes to abdominal training, but there’s not much to say here. The value of having a strong core in athletics cannot be overstated and should be apparent to all athletes and trainers alike.

AK-47. The very best there is. When you absolutely, positively got to kill every motherfucker in the room, accept no substitutes.

Ordell Robbie, the movie Jackie Brown

5. Deadlifts

Inclusion Strongly Recommended (Most Athletic Training Programs)

Early in my lifting and athletic careers I was literally obsessed with the bench press. It was the lift I trained the most diligently and, as a result, it is definitely my best lift relative to the other power lifts. Unfortunately I allowed the squat and deadlift to assume a lower priority in my training. This was a grave error.

Although deadlifts typically filled me with anxiety, I became possessed by the Deadlift Devil during my years at Beast in Connecticut and couldn't stop obsessing over what we affectionately termed the “Devil Lift.”

Simply put, this exercise builds slabs of muscle from head to toe and should be a cornerstone of any effective training program.

I like the way you die, boy [Django to Big John Brittle].

—Django, Django Unchained


4. Barbell Rows and Chins/Pullups

Inclusion Recommended (Most Athletic Training Programs)

I’ve been a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist for over seven years and I’m not sure I can explain the difference between a chin-up and a pull-up—probably because I don’t care—just grab the bar and pull your chin over it.

It’s really hard to overtrain the back, so with good form, these exercises are great for upper body training, particularly for athletes. Make them staples in an athlete’s training program to help maintain muscular balance in the upper body.

[Regarding the five-point-palm-exploding-heart technique] Quite simply, the deadliest blow in all of martial arts. He hits you with his fingertips at five different pressure points on your body. And then he lets you walk away. But after you've taken five steps, your heart explodes inside your body, and you fall to the floor, dead.

—Bill, Kill Bill: Vol 2

3. AMRAP Sets 

Inclusion Recommended (Most Athletic Training Programs)

AMRAP — As Many Repetitions As Possible (without breaking good form).

I’m going to pick on The Pitcher again, if only because I know he will probably never read this piece. The Pitcher hates AMRAP sets with a passion. Prior to commencing any set, his preference is to know at what number of repetitions he can set that nasty bar in the rack.

In my article “Hawaiian Pizza, Baseball, and Group Training” I discussed the benefits of group training, as there is nothing like a little dose of healthy competition to drag an athlete out of his comfort zone. AMRAP sets can be a critical component of group training/competition, but the athlete’s form cannot be allowed to suffer.

That's what I like to hear. But I got a word of warning for all you would-be warriors. When you join my command, you take on debit. A debit you owe me personally. Each and every man under my command owes me one hundred Nazi scalps. And I want my scalps. And all y'all will git me one hundred Nazi scalps, taken from the heads of one hundred dead Nazis. Or you will die tryin'.

Lt. Aldo Raine, Inglourious Basterds

2. Cardio

Inclusion Recommended (Most Athletic Training Programs)

I get winded just from watching Vincent Vega (Travolta) and Mia Wallace (Thurman) win the dance contest at Jack Rabbit Slim’s restaurant. I hate cardio. We all hate cardio, but some general physical preparedness training is necessary regardless of you sport or life endeavor.

[Jules shoots the man on the couch] I'm sorry, did I break your concentration? I didn't mean to do that. Please, continue, you were saying something about best intentions. What's the matter? Oh, you were finished! Well, allow me to retort. What does Marsellus Wallace look like?

—Jules, Pulp Fiction

1. Burpees 

No Specific Recommendation

Who the hell invented these things? Full confession here, doing up-downs at Pop Warner Football practice (when I was thirteen years-old) is the closest I’ve come to completing a burpee. I’m not sure I’ve ever done an actual burpee in my life, and I don’t intend to.

MORE: Three Burpee Technique Flaws and How to Fix Them

I suspect the exercise must have some value though, as I can imagine Mr. Pink doing these until the cows come home and he appears to be incredibly resilient.

Five guys sitting in a bull pen, San

Quentin. Wondering how the fuck they

got there. What'd we wrong? What

should we've done? What didn't we

do? It's your fault, my fault, his

fault. All that bullshit. Finally,

someone comes up with the idea, wait

a minute, while we were planning

this caper, all we did was sit around

and tell fuckin' jokes …

—Joe Cabot, the Big Boss, Reservoir Dogs