General Physical Preparation/Anatomical Adaptation: The Foundation

In a previous post I have described concepts related to the planning of training.  One of those concepts relates to the idea of building a foundation prior to more intense or specific training.  The error that takes place in many training or fitness programs is to not realize that long-term planning is necessary for results.  Individuals take on forms of exercise without understanding that a some time should have been spent in a more basic program.  This is largely due to the culture of “high-intensity” exercise has spread through social media and the internet, and that if you are somehow not constantly creating excessive levels of fatigue through endless burpees and squat jumps that you are not training optimally.

A well-planned general physical preparation phase of training (or what is sometimes referred to as anatomical adaptation) can build a solid foundation for more intense exercise/training to follow.  This type of training also allows individuals to address orthopedic injury prevention to maintain structural health during training and competition.  The following is an example of a two day a week training program that may be implemented for this purpose.

Day 1

Extensive Dynamic Warm-Up

Strength Training Pre-hab (Injury prevention exercises based on sport)

Strength Training

1A.  DB Reverse Lunge 3X15
1B. DB Flat Bench 3X12
1C. Rolling Side Plank 3X10

*30 seconds between exercises/2 minutes between sets

2A.  Cable Row 3X15
2b.  Stability Ball Hip Lift/Hamstring Curl 3X12
2C.  Birddog 3X5 sec, 4 sec, 3 sec, 2 sec, 1 sec holds

*Rest periods same as above

3A.  DB Lateral Raises 3X15
3B.  Tricep Pressdowns 3X12
3C. DB Stiff-Legged Deadlift 3X12
3D.  McGill Crunch 3X12 each side

*Rest periods same as above

Day Two

Extensive Warm-Up

Strength Training Pre-hab

Exercises 1A-1C from Day 1 session weeks for 4 sets of 12, 10, 8 reps respectively with same weight used on Day 1.

Exercises 2A-2C from Day 1 session for 12 and 10 reps.  Birddog can be 4 sets of 3 with descending holds

Exercises 3A-3D from Day 1 session for 4 sets of 12, 10, 10, 10.

These sessions can be performed on non-consecutive days during the week.  Typically with a program such as this I would prescribe a three-day program, but this two-day program can certainly get someone off to a good start.  For the most part this type of program can be performed by anyone who is a beginner, or is at the start of a training period before increasing the intensity of training.  It was mentioned previously that some injury prevention work can be included in a program such as this.  Some examples are:

Rotator cuff work

Basic hip strengthening

Ankle strengthening

The inclusion of work such as this during training would be as specific as you would get given the nature of this type of training.  It would be recommended that other types of training be conducted simultaneously with a program such as this (i.e. low-intensity jumps and aerobic work) to address other necessary components of one’s physical preparation.

References

See previous post.

Training for the Amateur Combat Athlete Part II: Warm-Up and Strength Training

In Part I of this series, there is an overview of some of the general concerns associated with training competitive amateur combat athletes.  As stated in that post, the focus of the series will be on athletes involve in competitions that rely on striking (i.e. kickboxing).  While some of the information can carry over to events that involve grappling, there will be other elements that should be added to optimize performance in those events.  This post will focus on the warm-up to address joint mobility and preparation prior to general and technical training, and the strength training element.  It is suggested to read the first part of this series to give oneself an idea as to what some of the issues and items to address with amateur fighters.

Warm-up is an important component when engaging in physical activity.  The physical benefits on an appropriately designed warm-up includes the following:

*enhanced activation of the nervous system

*improved metabolic response to exercise

*increased muscle temperature

*increased oxygen delivery to muscles

*nourish the joint surfaces

What is important to remember is that the warm-up should encompass much more that just static stretching or a few minutes jumping rope (although both of these things may be included in the warm-up with other activities).  By performing a gradual progression of activities in a warm-up, one can both optimize the training session to follow and help prevent injuries.  Going though a longer, more extensive warm-up one can also help improve work capacity.

Here is one example of a warm-up that can be used for combat athletes

As you see in the video, there is a gradual progression of the types of movements performed in the warm-up.  There is also the inclusion of power speed drills typically used in the preparation of athletes who require sprinting as a component of their sport.  While no form of running is directly specific to any combat athlete, the general nature of the movements can effectively prepare these athletes for their main training sessions.  In addition, if the athlete partakes in sprinting/running activities as a general part of their training, these drills function in working form.  Longer warm-ups can also have the ability to enhance work capacity and help in developing the aerobic system in a low cost manner.  Activities such as this can be performed on “off” days from more intense training to also assist with recovery.

The second item to address in this post will be the strength element.  Strength training is an important component of physical preparation for any sport, and may times is neglected due to erroneous fears associated with strength training.  As with many individuals in sport preparation, amateur fighters lack general preparation and attempt to train by only utilizing specific means  of preparation (fight training) for a contest.  This is not to say that the technical aspects of training are unimportant; but everyone who competes in any sport need a level of conditioning to achieve optimal results.  Randomly throwing in general forms of exercise (i.e. battle ropes, kettlebells, yoga) within the technical training is not a plan for conditioning.

For the amateur fighter and purposes of this post, it will be recommended to have structured weight training carried out two times per week (it will be assumed that a fighter is about 3 months away from a fight).  The schedule and structure to be suggested is based on a model proposed by Scott and Saylor (2010), and one the author has suggested in the past for these types of competitors.  The two sessions should be separated by at least 72 hours to allow for appropriate recovery.   The training days for strength will take place on Monday and Friday (this can be adjusted based on what days the fighter will be training during the week and the intensity of training on those days).  The following example will be a 3 week block of training one may utilize.

Monday

1. Box Squat- Work up to 90% of 1 Repetition Max and take 2-3 more singles at that weight or heavier

2.  DB Romanian Deadlift 3 X 10

3a. DB Flat Bench Press 3X12

3b. DB Single Arm Row 3X15-20

4.  DB Lateral Raises 3X12

5.  Abdominal Exercise

Friday

1.  Box Squat Dynamic Effort

wk1- 60 12 X 2 (40 second rest between sets)

wk2- 65 12 X 2

wk3- 70 10 X 2

2. DB Lunges 2 X 12-15

3a. Band Good Mornings 3 X 10-12

3b.  Abdominal Exercise

4.  Lat Pulldown, Chin-Up, or Pull-Up (Choose one) 3 X 10-125.

5.  Oxidative Push-Ups (2 seconds down, 2 seconds up no lockout at top) 30 second sets/Rest 60 seconds X 4 sets (This can progress over the course of 3 weeks)

The program outlined utilizes both the max effort method and the dynamic effort methods as described by Zatsiosky and Kraemer (2006) and applied by Simmons (2013).   One of the goals of this training is to improve one’s ability to apply force.  Improvements will come in improvements in absolute strength, providing a fighter with the capability to have greater outputs during their fights.  While raising absolute strength though max effort weights may not improve outputs in a professional level fighter, fighters at the amateur level will typically need to raise this quality in order to maximize their performance.  In reality, the design of this portion of the general physical preparation training will be based on the individual needs of the fighter; however, many amateur fighters (and their coaches for that matter) don’t think they need to raise their strength levels when in fact they need to.  Some individuals may require a program based more on lower intensity/high volume strength work to prepare their bodies for this type of strength training (this topic can be addressed in another post).  The next power with look at explosive power development through jumps.

Resources

Scott, S. & Saylor, J.  (2010).  Combat Conditioning for Sports.  Santa Fe, NM: Turtle Press.  Kindle Edition.

Simmons, L.  (2013).  Explosive Strength Development for Jumping.

Zatsiorsky, V.M., & Kraemer, W. J.  (2006)  Science and Practice of Strength Training.  Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.

 

Practical Strength Applications for Athletes

Athletes in any sport require development of various physical attributes to have success in competition.  Strength development is necessary in athletic preparation, yet is commonly not addressed in a manner necessary to provide optimal results for the athlete.  There are aspects of strength development that need to be considered based upon the demands of the sport and the experience of the athlete.  While strength development for athletes is important, the level of strength and priority of it will be based on the resistance that gets encountered in the sport (Baker, 2014).

Many individuals will take the previous statement and limit exposure to strength training with external resistance claiming it is unnecessary for athletes.  These same individuals will cite individuals who compete at certain levels while only undertaking certain strength modalities (i.e. bodyweight only, kettlebells, etc) and claim that is all they need to make them strong.  Limiting the strength prescription to this can possibly neglect base strength development, particularly for more novice athletes (anyone not competing at an elite level- professional or Olympic).   This post will focus on some basic considerations when looking to design a strength program for an athlete who does not compete in powerlifting or Olympic lifting.

1.  Develop strength in basic movements first

The benefits of incorporating the power lifts (bench press, squats, and deadlifts) will be discussed; however, it is important to understand basic movements prior to doing more advanced exercises.  While bodyweight exercises can accomplish this, they should not be seen as the only way to address this issue.  Resistance bands, dumbbells, kettlebells can be utilized early in developing appropriate movement patterns and base levels of strength.  Many individuals will require a certain amount of work be completed in certain bodyweight exercises prior to utilizing external resistance.  This can possible cause certain movements and muscle groups to be neglected.  Take pulling as an example; chin-ups and pull-ups are typically more difficult for younger and less experienced individuals who undertake a strength program (as opposed to push-ups).  While there are certainly progression with chin-ups and pull-ups, strength in the pulling muscles may also be developed via pulling motions with external resistance (i.e. dumbbell rows, lat pulldowns, etc).  Witholding those exercises until vertical bodyweight pulling can be completed at a certain level (i.e. everyone must perform 20 chin-ups before utilizing external resistance), overall strength in these muscle groups may get delayed.

2.  The benefits of barbell exercises (power lifts)

Francis (2014) discusses that strength work will always be a means and not an “end.”  Athletes don’t need to have numbers of elite powerlifters in the power lifts (squat, bench, and deadlift), however there is a great benefit to utilizing these exercises for physical development.  Beyond what are considered the obvious adaptations to exercise, the recruitment of motors units with exercises such as these had a great benefit to an athlete.  Any of these lifts performed at greater than 80% intensity are considered a high intensity stimulus (Francis, 2014).  This type of motor unit recruitment can assist with power development by affecting force-velocity relationships in sport activity.  This requires responsible loading of strength activities, coupled with utilizing complimentary training activities, which includes jumping activities (explosive strength) and high quality speed work.  Max strength as a quality should be developed to an level to the point where it does not interfere with other athletic qualities

3.  Injury prevention.

Neuromuscular coordination and soft tissue resiliency can be addressed through proper strength training.  Athletes should be addressing regions of the body that are susceptible to injury based on their sport.  Gender can certainly influence the impact of certain injuries and should be something to take into consideration when designing the program.  Early in training, high-repetition exercises can be utilized to allow for soft tissue adaptation (Scott & Saylor, 2010).

Strength training in athletic preparation is sometimes poorly planned, or in some instances, not utilized at all.  The prevailing attitude of some sports is that strength training is either unnecessary or should be kept to a minimum to prevent a decline in performance.  Much of this thought is due to not having an understanding of how strength training fits into the preparation of certain types of athletes.  While training for maximum strength in the weight room is not the goal of many team and individual sports, neglecting achieving an optimal level of strength will limit one’s development in other areas of sports performance.

Recommended Readings

Baker, D. (2014).  Using Strength Platforms for Explosive Performance.  In Joyce, D., & Lewindon D.  (Eds.)  High-Performance Training for Sports.  Champaign, IL:  Human Kinetics.  Kindle Edition

Francis, C. (2014).  Training for Power and Strength in Speed.  http://www.charliefrancis.com.  Kindle Edition.

Scoot, S., & Saylor, J.  (2010).  Conditioning for Combat Sports.  Santa Fe, NM:  Turtle Press.  Kindle Edition.

Training the Hamstrings: Sprint Drills & Technique

The first post on training the hamstrings focused on the strength training aspect.  While it is very important for athletes to achieve an optimal level of strength for their sport, this aspect of training alone is not a guarantee for success.  Athletes need to train other aspects of physical preparation in order to match the demands of their chosen athletic endeavor.  Proper sprint training is a key component to success in many sports; this is even true of sports where sprinting may not be performed much at all (post on elitefts.com by well-respected coach of physical preparation Buddy Morris when discussing training volleyball players).  Clicking on the post will get into some of the information that we are going to discuss on sprint training in this post and others, along with having some other interesting points as well.

One way to work on sprinting technique is through a series of drills designed by Polish track & field coach Gerard Mach.  These drills represent various parts of the sprints, and can be used to improve upon sprint technique or address general athleticism.   This group of drills that Mach used was known as the “ABC” series.  In a post by Lee (2012), the drills were described as working on the  following components the sprint:

A: Knee lift

B: Foreleg reaching and clawing action

C: Push-off and extension

These drills can commonly be utilized in a warm-up, or they can be included into the main portion of training as a component of an athlete’s speed work.  All of the drills can be broken down into marching, skipping, and running motions, as a progression throughout a training program (i.e. A march, A skip, A run, etc.).  If utilized over short distance, the drills are deemed “power speed” drills; when utilized for longer distances, they are considered “strength endurance” (Lee, 2012).

It is important that drills are performed with proper form.  Regardless of the application (i.e. performed in a warm-up or used as a strength endurance activity), anytime form breaks down the drill needs to be stopped.  Correct use of these drills can help in improving sprint form, along with helping to prevent hamstring strains while sprinting.

Sources:

Lee, Jimson.  Sprint drills:  Gerard Mach revisited.  [Online] October 19, 2012.  [Cited December 12, 2012.]  http://speedendurance.com/2012/10/19/sprint-drills-gerard-mach-revisited/.

 

Training for the Hamstrings: Strengthening Using Hip Extension

The hamstrings represent a muscle group that receives a great deal of attention due to how commonly they are strained and their impact on sports performance.  Questions arise as to the most optimal way to train the hamstrings, particularly as it relates to training for sports performance and injury prevention.  Understanding the basics as to how the hamstrings function is vital in attempting to determine what are the best ways to train them.  The hamstrings are a bi-articular (two-joint)  muscle group responsible for extension of the hip and flexion of the knee.  Athletic events that involve either sprinting or dynamic movements throughout a large range of motion (i.e. martial arts, dancing) place high demands on the hamstring muscle group.  This post will be the first part on a series of posts that will examine the function of the hamstrings and how to train them for sport.  Each post will focus on different aspects of training for the hamstrings, examining different modes of training and their importance for performance and injury prevention.  This focus of this post will be on strength training for the hamstrings.

Strength training is an important component to the general physical preparation process for athletes of all sports.  When it comes to the hamstrings, it is very common for individuals participating in a strength program to focus on knee flexion based movements (i.e. leg curls) to improve hamstring strength.  While the leg curl can facilitate improvement in muscle cross section and general strength, it does not address the main function of the hamstring important in sprinting.   Sprint-based activities rely heavily on the hamstrings as an extensor of the hip, rather than a flexor of the knee  (Francis).

Strength training focusing on hip extension is more advantageous in promoting strength with carryover to sport activity.  Some good options for doing this involve variations of the deadlift exercise:

Conventional deadlift

Sumo Deadlift

Stiff-leg Deadlift

Romanian Deadlift

Sumo Stiff-Leg Deadlift

Snatch Grip Romanian Deadlift

Barbell Good Mornings

Band Good Mornings

Kettlebell Swings

(*Note:  variations of these exercises may be performed with dumbbells as well).

These exercises will focus on improving the strength of the hamstrings in their function in extending the hips.  Even for some sports activities that do not involve large volumes of (or in some cases do not involve any) sprinting, strengthening in this manner will stress the hamstrings more at the hip where more of the stress usually occurs from a range of motion and power development perspective.  For instance, when a marital artist throws a high kick, the hamstrings don’t get stressed structurally at the knee as much as they do at the hip.  Strengthening the hamstrings using these movements may help in improving the integrity of the hamstrings at their origin at the hip, rather than emphasizing their movement at the knee.

Hip extension based movements are an important component to a strength training protocol for athletes.  While there can certainly still be a time and place for knee flexion strengthening exercises, these types of movements should not be the primary mode for improving hamstring strength for an athlete.

References:

Francis, Charlie.  GPP Essentials.  www.charliefrancis.com

Abdominal Training & Featured Exercise

Whether it is for improved performance, general fitness, or injury prevention and treatment, training of the abdominal region is an important aspect of any training program.  While there are a multitude of exercises that can be used to strengthen the abdomen, one needs to be aware of how to properly apply loads to this region based on their current abilities.  It is generally preferred for anyone involved in strength training to focus on the ability to use these muscles to stabilize the lumbar region rather than produce large forces and movements

With this in mind, the author in most instances prefers to use abdominal exercises that involve stabilization or low amplitude movements to strengthen this area.   This enables one to condition the torso to provide stiffness through the muscles and abdomen through the low back, which will allow for safe movement that will not stress the structures of the lumbar spine.

In a previous article, some exercises were described that can serve this function.  In a video posted below, there is another exercise that is slightly more advanced that can be used to strengthen the abdomen and train it for stiffness to support the low back.  This exercise is known as the “Stir the Pot” and was taken from Stuart McGill, who is known for his research on biomechanics associated with the low back.

An important point with this, as with any stability based abdominal movement, is to hold and maintain a strong abdominal brace.  This should create tension throughout the torso (low back and abdomen) allowing one to stabilize the spine.  This particular movement also teaches one to resist twisting torque through the torso, which requires further stabilization to protect the spine.

Shoulder Pain- Mobilize the thoracic spine

Many individuals involved in physical activity encounter shoulder pain at one time or another.  Various exercises can be performed to address issues that can cause shoulder pain; exercises to address the rotator cuff and scapular muscles are commonly used for this purpose.  While many of these exercises can be used to address weak areas around the shoulder girdle, mobilization techniques can also be used to both treat and prevent shoulder pain.

While mobilizing the glenohumeral joint may be necessary, people tend to neglect mobility around the thoracic spine which can contribute to shoulder pain as well.  Limited motion around the thoracic spine (mid-back region) will limit the ability of the humerus and scapula to move efficiently during complex movements.

Here are three exercises you can include in a routine either prior to training or an extra workout to work on mobilizing around the thoracic spine:

Foam Roll Upper Back

Cross your arms in front to move your scapula out of the way and roll up and down you mid-back (thoracic) region.  You may also lean to one side or the other to focus on each side separately.

Cross your arms in front to move your scapula out of the way and roll up and down you mid-back (thoracic) region. You may also lean to one side or the other to focus on each side separately.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Foam Roll Thoracic Extension

Foam Roll Extension/Rotation (This movement incorporates movement at the thoracic spine and shoulder joint).

Combining these movements while addressing other weak areas around the shoulder should assist in eliminating or preventing shoulder injuries.

On-Site Seminars & Training

Mensinger Performance & Fitness Systems is offering on-site seminars and training on various topics in strength training and conditioning . I will travel to your site and present on any topic including, but not limited to:
*Strength/Speed Development
*Injury Prevention/Warm-Up
*Developing explosive power
*Lifting techniques

Seminars can be customized to your meet the needs of your group or organization (school teams, club teams, martial arts/combat sports, fitness groups or any other group looking to enhance physical performance).  Companies who want wellness programming for their employees can benefit from these seminars as well, as information can be tailored to meet the needs of just about any audience.  For more information call 610-301-5591 or email at jasonmensinger79@gmail.com.  To learn more about Mensinger Performance & Fitness Systems click here.

The best information in physical performance/fitness training in the Berks County region and beyond.

Shoulder Injury Prevention

The shoulder girdle represents a very complex structure in the body that requires muscle balance and stability for proper function.  Certain athletic activities place a great deal of stress on the shoulder region.  Athletes who are classified as “overhead” athletes need to be sure that the structures of the shoulder are able to withstand the forces that are applied to them.  This will not only ensure optimal performance, but will also prevent injuries to the region that are more common in activities that involve increased stress at the shoulder.

A good place to start would be to look at the static posture of an individual.  Although it is not the only upper body postural distortion that could occur, a common one to come across is a forward head/rounded shoulder posture or what is called upper crossed syndrome (as described by Janda).  This postural distortion typically involves the following muscle imbalances.

Tight/Overactive Muscles

*Pectoralis Major/Minor, Upper Trapezius, Levetor Scapulae (in the upper back/neck region)

Weak/Underactive Muscles

*Rhomboids, Middle Trapezius, Lower Trapezius, Deep Flexors of the neck, Serratus Anterior

Other issues commonly seen with individuals with this type of posture is a tight latissimus dorsi and weak rotator cuff mucles.  A way to help address these imbalances to place exercises in one’s strength training program for this body region.  Exercises to work on these weak or tight areas can easily be implemented in a pre-lift warm-up or can be included in the main part of the training session.

Here are some movements you can use to include in your program.  In a future post, I will add some additional exercises and include a program that can be used as a warm-up prior to training.

Blackburn holds

YTWL Series

Band Joint Traction (Thanks to Dick Hartzell at Jumpstretch), Scapular Wall Slides, Band Pull-Aparts

Dynamic Blackburns

Standing Static Pec Stretch

Push-Up Plus

These are just some of the exercises that may be used to promote mobility and/or strength around the shoulder girdle.  In upcoming posts I will include more exercises, along with some routines that may be used in a training program to help prevent injuries to the shoulder.

Combative Warm-Up

Any form of martial arts requires a good amount of strength and mobility to perform optimally and avoid injury.  Even if one is not doing martial arts for the purpose of competing, being physically prepared to defend oneself will enhance the skills that are taught in self-defense.  Prior to training it would benefit one to perform a warm-up that includes elements of both mobility and corrective exercise to assist with performance enhancement and injury prevention.

The following is the first warm-up of a series that will be utilized in a Comabitives class that will be taught at the school where I learned Isshin-Ryu Karate (Moyer’s Karate, Shillington, PA).  This class is a new class that is being taught as an advanced self-defense class with a physical preparation component included.  This warm-up can be performed prior to any type of martial arts training (or any other sport for that matter).  Even though one can’t warm-up prior to a real life self defense situation, performing activities of this sort over time will enable one to be more mobile and less prone to injury.

Here is the warm-up.  For all stationary & ground drills, perform 5-10 repetitions each.  Movement drills (i.e. skipping) can be done for a distance of 10-15 yards.  Hold all static stretches for 15-30 seconds.

As mentioned previously, this warm-up will change over the course of the year; stay posted for updates.

For more information on this class or instruction in Isshin-Ryu Karate, visit the Moyers Karate website.