The Legendary Great Gama
In 1890, over 400 bodybuilders gathered at the national physical exercise competition of the Rajah of Jodhpur. All at once, they started performing free squats known as Baithaks. Sometimes called the Hindu Squat, it’s a variant of the regular squat exercise, where you swing your arms to the rhythm of your motion. A standard regimen involves doing one hundred or more of these.
At the Raja’s contests, grown men performed thousands of these squats for hours on end. One by one, they dropped out due to fatigue. By the time there were just 15 athletes remaining, the Raja called off the contest. It was clear that one of them had earned both the crowd’s attention and the prize of the contest – ten-year-old Mian Ghulam Muhammad.
Ghulam would later be bedridden for weeks. But his legendary training regimen is just one of the reasons the Punjabi lion went undefeated in wrestling for 50 years, under the name ‘The Great Gama’.
– “The Great Gama: The Legendary Wrestler Who Inspired Bruce Lee”, in: Madras Courier, November 15, 2017.
The Great Gama protocol is named in honor of one of the most famous warriors in history, Ghulam Mohammad Baksh Butt (22 May 1878 – 23 May 1960), Pakistani wrestler, undefeated champion of the world in a career spanning more than 52 years.
That victory didn’t necessarily show any wrestling ability, but it did demonstrate unusual qualities of physical robustness, will power and competitiveness in the young Gama. At that time he was routinely doing five hundred Baithaks and five hundred Dands (stretching pushups) daily, and working on pit digging – turning over the earth of the wrestling area with a pharsa (hoe).
– Graham Noble, “‘The Lion of the Punjab’ – Gama in England, 1910”, in: Journal of Alternative Perspectives, May 2002.
Many sources claim that The Great Gama and many other wrestlers did thousands of Hindu pushups and squats a day. True or not, it doesn’t matter – these exercises deliver multiple benefits, as you will find out on your own: mobility, flexibility, strength, endurance, health.
Pavel writes in Super-Joints:
There are a million exercise complexes out there,” muses Academician Amosov. “Look up the literature on physical culture and you will find very complicated routines that have 40–50 exercises. These for the first week, others for the second, etc. ad nauseam. They argue that every muscle needs its own movement. Let us not pick on them, an expert’s job is inventing and complicating… Non-athletes training for health do not need complicated routines. Why cram their brains? Let the person bend and squat…
This is exactly what you are going to learn – a straightforward routine with some forward and backward bends, pushups, and squats, plus a few additional exercises: time-tested “youth-restoring calisthenics” routine that you can keep doing for months, possibly years, possibly a lifetime.
No equipment? No excuses!
…you can practice anytime, anywhere. All you need is a few square feet – Chinese masters call it “lying buffalo’s spot” (wo niu zhi di 臥牛之地) – i.e., a space big enough for a buffalo to lie on is big enough to practice.
You will improve your mobility, flexibility, and movement quality!
…using some of the most popular and time-tested exercises from the arsenal of the Chinese and Indian warriors. Rehab routine? Possibly, but leave it to your physio. Prehab and body maintenance routine, beneficial to your muscles, joints, sinews, ligaments, and other connective tissue? You bet.
You will get stronger!
…although GGP is not a pure strength program. It is an excellent “general physical preparation” program, building a great movement and strength foundation for any subsequent training.
You will improve your endurance!
…although GGP is not a conditioning program either. As Strong Endurance™ taught us, the typical HIIT acid baths do work – but for a price. We will use altogether different programming than AMRAP (if you don’t know what it means, good for you). Forget the DEADCONs… I mean METCONs.
As for the conditioning, you will get extra benefits by utilizing nose breathing only, breath holds after exhaling both during and after the exercise, and “fast and loose” drills between the sets.
Let our motto be:
If after your exercise, your bath and your rub-down, you feel fit to battle for a kingdom, then your schedule is right.
– Earle Liederman, Secrets of Strength, 1925
About the Teacher
StrongFirst Certified Master Instructor & StrongFirst Elite, Practical Hung Kyun & MMA Gym Prague chief instructor, old-time strongman training fan, Flexible Steel Specialist, Oxygen Advantage Instructor, cat lover, Pu-Erh tea drinker, and generally nice guy.
The Content of the GGP Online Course
- About the coach
- Great Gama, one of the greatest wrestlers that ever lived, undefeated for over 52 years!
- Eastern/Western old-time strongmen/martial artists and their bodyweight exercises of choice
- “Morning recharge” or a standalone basic program
- Overview of all sections and exercises
- Benefits? Health, strength, conditioning, joint mobility, flexibility, movement
- High reps for healthy connective tissues: tendons, ligaments, and cartilage
- Resilience, antifragility, “in-between strength,” and high rep/light practice as an ideal counterpart to low-rep/heavy training
Preliminary Exercises [9:51]
- Arm-swing exercise from Chinese martial arts and longevity arts
- Correct basic posture & breathing
- “Swing Hands Exercise” (Ping Shuai Gong 平甩功/Ping Shuai Shou 平甩手)
- “Swing Hands Exercise” – without the knee dip
- “Swing Hands Exercise” – with the knee dip
- „Spiritual Dragon Twists the Pillar“ (Shen long jiao zhu 神龍絞柱) for rotational power and much more
- Combination of both preliminary exercises
Sun Salutation – 3 Subsets [10:10]
- Sun Salutation (Surya Namaskar) as body maintenance of the old-time Indian wrestlers
- Complete set deconstructed for more accessible learning
- Subset 1: Backward and forward bend
- Subset 2: Lunge sequence
- Subset 3: Upward/downward dog
- A more complex variation of Subset 3
Sun Salutation – Full Set [16:12]
- Putting all 3 subsets together
- Demo of the complete set – just the movements first, front and side view
- Variation 1 – front foot flat, pushup on the knees
- Variation 2 – front foot on the toes, standard pushup
- Breathing – 3 (actually 4) simple guidelines
- Anatomical breathing explained
- Demo of the complete set – with breathing, front and side view
- Most common mistakes
Dands aka Hindu Pushups [13:17]
- Building on the foundation of Sun Salutation
- Variation 1 – 4 steps Hindu pushup
- Details – hands, fingers, palm, shoulders, stance, neck…
- Tempo, rhythm, speed, flow, breathing
- Why not flare your elbows
- Variation 2 – “Iron Ox Ploughs the Earth” (Tie niu geng di 鐵牛耕地), common in Chinese martial arts
- Variation 3 – Navy SEAL’s Dive bomber pushup
- What if even variation 1 is too hard? Variation 0 – Upward/downward dog straight-arm “pushup”
- Closing notes to pushups (that will apply to the rest of the exercises as well)
Baithaks aka Hindu Squats [10:35]
- Toes over the knees – dangerous, or not?
- Variation 1 – Deep knee bend – slow and controlled movement from point A to B
- Variation 2 – regular Baithak
- Arm swing, rhythm, flow, speed, breathing
- Variation 3 – jumping Baithak
- What if even variation 1 is too hard? Variation 0 – supported Baithak
- Tips for the (weighted) variations of the squats
- Most common mistakes and advice for the older model Terminators with mileage
Thoracic Bridges [9:31]
- Different kinds of wrestler’s bridges and the bridge for today’s sitting population
- Variation 1 – modified Reverse table pushup
- Extra arm extension drill for tight shoulders and biceps
- Variation 2 – Rotational thoracic bridge: Floor version
- Variation 2 – Rotational thoracic bridge: Wall version
- What if even variation 1 is too hard? Variation 0 – reverse Table hold
- How to progress in the future (get StrongFirst RESILIENT, of course)
Chinese Health Preservation Methods [6:11]
- Yang shen fa 養生法 of the traditional Chinese medicine
- Sharp vision – “Eyes bright like precious pearls”(Ming yan bao zhu 明眼寶珠)
- Healthy teeth and good digestion – “Clicking the teeth, swallowing the saliva” (Kou chi yan jin 叩齒嚥津)
- Young face and alert mind – “Washing the face, beating the [heavenly] drum” (Mu mian ming gu 沐面鳴鼓)
- Energizing the body and mind – “Rubbing the ears method” (Rou er fa 揉耳法)
- Smart brain and shiny hair – “Combing the hair” (So Lei 梳理)
Morning Recharge: Sample Sequence [4:50]
- “Morning recharge” – step by step procedure after waking up
- Follow-up routine with commentary
- Selected Chinese health preservation methods (Rolling the eyes, Clicking the teeth, Swallowing the saliva) >
- Arm swings >
- Sun salutation >
- Pushups >
- Squats >
- Bridges >
- The remaining Chinese health preservation methods (Washing the face, Beating the drum, Rubbing the ears, Combing the hair)
Evening stretching [8:39]
- Elephant walk to improve the toe touch
- Contract-relax methods
- Kneeling postures options and variations
- Upward/downward dog variations + Pump stretch
- Flexible Steel extra exercise 1: Tactical frog
- Flexible Steel extra exercise 2: Hip switches
- Teacher, method, student
- Follow up questions
- Keep practicing
- Health & strength!
- GGP Manual
- Training logs
- Vintage pictures
Pavel Macek’s Great Gama Protocol is a great piece of work. It is beautifully shot and clearly presented. The workbook that accompanies the videos is packed with information that supports his video instruction. Pavel clearly presents exercises from older Chinese and Indian systems of physical culture, even including the Chinese characters and their English translations. His descriptive instruction is informal and friendly, but also very precise. I improved my Namaskar or Sun Salutation within minutes of watching, with only a small modification of hand positioning. The ‘Protocol’ part of this project is the real jewel here: at the level of the individual exercises, Pavel presents four levels of difficulty or challenge for each one. At the level of programming, he offers ways of using the same materials for multiple functions: one can imagine using this material as a warm-up, for active recovery, for the main phase of training, or for working on attributes like flexibility and mobility. I teach movement professionally and I’m delighted to share how much I learned from this thorough, accessible presentation. – Daniel Mroz, Ph.D.
I just purchased the GGP at the weekend and included turned it into my morning routine. It makes me feel comfortable trough out the whole workday at the office. I was first skeptical if I should buy it, as the movements are not really new to me and I was already practicing Dands, Baithaks and Crab Reach from Animal Flow. But It was totally worth it and I’m happy I did! Your approach for programming the exercises is excellent as well as your instructions! I love the protocols simplicity, nothing fancy or complicated, but everything you need to keep and increase the body’s functionality for daily life and sports. Thanks a lot for this! – Nick Kato
Purchased yesterday and watched in one run. Even if I knew majority of exercises from different Pavel Macek’s videos, articles or our lectures, the real devil is in the details…and established system….and the system details. I like the way the traditional Chinese and Indian practices are combined into unique comprehensive system. I would also like to highlight quite cool Sin City look of the videos. – Petr Šimsa
Great aesthetics with black and white filming. Not often we see that today. – Anders
I love it! Toe Touches, Hindu Squats, Hindu Push-Ups are my all time favorites, and your stuff is spot on progressions and programming! I love how you have given these unjustly maligned exercises the Pavel Tsatsouline, Strongfirst, and SIMPLEXTRONG treatment! – Richard Barret
It is exactly what I’ve been wanting as a supplement to my Simple quest. – cmerow
It gives you an healthy and strong routine for lifetime and, in addition, it matches very well with strength training (I am doing S&S with 32 and 40 kgs) It is a good investment and Pavel Macek is a great instructor. Very good! – Mmatteo