Fun With Model Fighter Planes

Back when I was younger, I remember spending long Saturday afternoons in my basement putting various plastic models together. At that time I favored racecars and ships, and my bedroom was filled with the finished products. I eventually grew out of the hobby, but now that I have kids of my own, I’m slowly getting back into it. My sons love model fighter planes, so now our weekends are consumed with finding the perfect jet and working to put it together.

One of the best things about toy models is the process of building something. I can see the excitement in my boys’ eyes when they unravel the instructions (which they insist on referring to as “blueprints”) and lay all the pieces out side by side on the workbench. Then they take turns assembling the plane, carefully putting each piece in place and securing it with glue. It’s amazing to see model fighter planes slowly emerging in this fashion from the individual pieces, and the kids frequently stop to admire their progress. Finally, once the main assembly work is done, they decorate the aircraft with stickers or paint and prepare it for display.

Obviously, putting together model fighter planes is a terrific way to promote family bonding. Models are relatively cheap, and no other special equipment is required. All we need are a few basic supplies and a clean workspace, and we’re ready to go. Usually the boys argue and bicker as much as any other pair of young siblings, but when they put their heads together over one of these model fighter planes, they really take the principles of teamwork seriously. As a parent, this is wonderful to behold!

Another great thing about this particular hobby is that model fighter planes are very easy to find. There are a couple of hobby shops within reasonable driving distance, so we usually take a drive out to one or the other store on weekends to check out the selection. If we don’t see something we’re interested in, we can also purchase model fighter planes online from a number of discount websites that offer free shipping. The bottom line is there will never be a shortage of projects to work on.

And you might not think it, but putting together model fighter planes is an excellent way to take in a bit of history as well. Whenever possible, I try to read up about a specific plane before our weekend sessions, and then as they’re busy with the project, I’ll tell the boys what I’ve learned. Interesting discussions usually ensue, and we all come away having learned something new about Japanese Zero Fighters, Soviet Migs, or P51 Mustangs.

All I can say is I’m very pleased that my sons are enjoying these plastic models as much as I did when I was their age. Model fighter planes have provided my family with countless hours of fun and quality time together; maybe they can do the same for yours!

Bull Fighter Exercise

Last week I got the chance to watch a little of the American Freestyle Bull fighting Championships on the Outdoor Life Network. I’ve done a lot of tough guy sports. I’ve lifted a lot of whacko heavy things. Things that most people are afraid to try. I’ve been a fighter and that’s some tough business. But these guys just might take the cake.

Let me briefly explain what they do. Many of them work as rodeo clowns, which means that their job is to protect bull riders and keep them from getting killed by distracting a 2,000lb bull. One of the biggest, meanest and possibly deadliest animals on the planet. In freestyle bull fighting there’s no cowboy to protect, only the bull fighter in the ring with the bull by himself. In freestyle bull fighting they use smaller Mexican fighting bulls, still probably 800lbs or better. It’s bloodless. They don’t kill the bulls like the Mexican matadors. The bull fighter gets points for artfully dodging the bull around the ring for about a minute. The closer and more dangerously he dances with the bull the higher he scores.

Things like jumping over the bull as it runs at him, “step thrus,” where he side steps the bull while turning his back to him, grabbing the bull by the horn and jumping along with him, etc. One bull fighter absolutely amazed me. To start his round he turned his back to the bull pen, when the bull came roaring out he jumped purposely allowing the bull to hit him in the calves and caused him to turn a backflip over the body of the bull as he ran underneath him. No fear at all. Think about that the next time you get a little nervous trying for a heavy PR or do a little sparring. Talk about tough. One guy had a wrist broken during the early part of his round in a little close encounter with the bull. He didn’t even consider calling the round short, he just kept going. Think about that the next time you have an ache and pain.

These are guys whose lives depend on their body’s ability to move. Their conditioning and agility as well as nerves of titanium and probably being tougher than they are smart (I know a bunch of us who are guilty of that), so we’re going to dedicate a little training routine to them.

One of the things that they did during the show to demonstrate the different moves was to take a small two-wheeled handcart or dolly and pretend it was the bull. This allowed them to use an implement that moved like a bull (the rear end has to turn to turn the front end), and slowly demonstrate the different dodges that the bull fighter does. It struck me how that kind of agility would be great to have in real life. Great for fighters and athletes because it’s very applicable to what you do, i.e., moving around in the ring or on the football field or self defense, basketball, baseball… or what have you. Also how this could be combined in a routine to help create those qualities of quickness, balance, coordination, control, agility, along with conditioning and strength.

So here’s how we’re gonna do it. We’re going to combine heavy barbell lifting, an alternative conditioner, and the “bull fighter” agility drill. So the first part of this workout; pick a heavy barbell exercise you’d like to do for singles. This could be squat, presses, deadlifts, whatever. You’re going to perform a warm up set or two as well as a little bit of light jogging, general movement to warm up and get a sweat going. From there you’re going to do 5 to 10 progressively heavier singles. Between each single you do 30 to 60 seconds of the bull fighter agility drill. Move back and forth as quickly as possible. If you have a small dolly and a partner you can do it by simply having your partner chase you around with the dolly. Now dodge it, but stay close. Don’t flat-out run from it. Work on your lateral agility, being able to change directions, body positions and the feet you drive off of. Kind of like a sprint, but only for a few steps in each direction and then immediately change direction. If you don’t have a hand cart but you do have a partner you can improvise this by simply having the partner chase you or chase you with a stick. (I guess the bigger the stick, the faster you move. LOL), don’t go out there and whack each other, just get some good movement. If you don’t have a partner, just imagine you’re being chased and move around.

Finish the routine by picking an alternative conditioner, i.e. a bodyweight exercise, kettlebell exercise, Indian club swinging or sledgehammers or cable pulls, etc, and do 5 sets of that mixed with 5 rounds of the bull fighter agility drill.

In this routine you’ve lifted heavy, done some high reps and built some athletic qualities. You should be sweating like a horse and desperately out of breath if you’re doing it right.

Have fun and no complaints. Sometimes we all need to toughen up a little bit.

As a side note, this routine might seem a little funny especially to you hardcore lift guys. I can just hear you now, “What kind of a goofball routine is this?! He wants us to pretend WHAT!? I just lift heavy stuff…I’m too macho to do anything else.” Well try it. The drill itself is really a simple movement based, sprint type agility drill. See how heavy you can lift when you’ve just sprinted back and forth for 45 seconds and your heart is beating at 180 beats a minute. The good thing though is that if you do this a few times, you actually can lift quite heavy when you adjust to it and your heart becomes efficient. This conditioning carries over. You’ll feel it. The whole routine shouldn’t take you more than 20 minutes and you get strength and cardio at the same time.