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.

 

The Use of Power Speed Drills in Sport

Exercises to improve speed development are utilized in various sporting endeavors to improve performance. Smith (2014) states that power speed drills are typically utilized by track & field athletes to parallel the kinematic actions of the sprint action. These drills should be implemented based on the goals the individual is trying to achieve. This can include, but not be limited to the following (Lee, 2012; Smith 2014; Francis 2012):
1. Improved sprint mechanics
2. Warm-up
3. Aerobic Training (Utilizing extensive tempo approach)

Some of the more notable power speed drills are the A-B-C series.  This series consists of marching, skipping, and running drills for each variation (i.e. A march, A skip, A run, etc).  These drills are commonly used as warm-up drills, but can also be included into the speed portion of the training based on the intensity of the drills.  They should also be instituted early in the rehabilitation of hamstring injuries (A drills early on, with B drills only included later in the process if tolerated and performed appropriately by the athlete).  Various other drills can be included in the category of power speed as well, including:

Various single/double leg hops/Bounding drills

Backwards Runs

Lateral Shuffles/Carioca

Lateral skips

Modified Glute Kicks (Note:  I prefer Glute Kicks with added hip flexion rather than just performing rapid knee flexion)

Walking Hip External & Internal rotation with hip abduction an adduction (both with knee flexed and extended)

Lateral straight Leg Kicks

Front straight leg kicks

Stiff Leg Bounds

Ankling Drills

Athletes looking to improve their abilities as they relate to speed should consider utilizing these drills through their various modes of training.  These drills may also be used as a part of the rehabilitation process (a post on this topic will come at a later date).

Special Acknowledgement:

In the references and recommended readings I have cited James Smith’s work “Applied Sprint Training”.  I would HIGHLY suggest to anyone in the strength & conditioning or sports medicine fields (or if you are in both) to purchase this work.  This is by far one of the best resources on speed development, with information that applies to both track & field and non-track athletes.  This coupled with the multiple works by Charlie Francis can make for a great reference library on the topic of speed development

The manual can be purchased here: http://www.athleteconsulting.net/

References & Recommended Readings:

Francis, Charlie.  (2008).  The Structure of Training for Speed.  CharlieFrancis.com.

Lee, Jimson.  Sprint drills:  Gerard Mach revisited.  [Online] October 19, 2012.  [Cited Mar 16, 2014.]  http://speedendurance.com/2012/10/19/sprint-drills-gerard-mach-revisited/.

Smith, James.  (2014).  Applied Sprint Training.  AthleteConsulting.net.

Shoulder Mobilization Strategies Part II: Videos

Here are the videos of the exercises talked about in Shoulder Mobilization Strategies Part I.

Banded Bully

Overhead Banded Distraction

Supine Bilateral Internal Rotation

Shoulder Mobilization Strategies Part I

In my previous post I covered some information about the shoulder, and by how mobilizing the thoracic spine we can help to eliminate many issues with pain and injury at the shoulder.  I would highly suggest you read that post before getting into what is going to be discussed next if you have shoulder issues.  While mobilizing the thoracic spine is important, it does not mean that the shoulder (glenohumeral) joint itself should be ignored.  Rotator cuff tendinopathies and impingement are just some of the chronic shoulder issues that plague active individuals.  By making sure that appropriate posture and mobility is in place, one may avoid these issues.  But before I get into some specific exercises to address this problem, one needs to examine what causes many individuals to develop shoulder pain.

Many of the postural issues that people have are just caused by how we sit; we sit with our upper backs rounded and our shoulders in a forward position, causing individuals to have reduced internal rotation at the shoulder for functional activities.  Over time, this causes shortening of soft tissue around the shoulder.  However, even though we have this shortening of tissue, the body is capable of adapting to this through dysfunctional movement, which eventually causes irritation and damage to the tissue (one of the reason why with many athletes I work with I NEVER do overhead pressing- the risk to me just outweighs the reward of what is a good strength movement).

Most people will exhibit forward shoulder posture either because of natural postures in everyday life (i.e. work, driving) or different sport activities.  One of the changes that occurs with this type of posture is tightening of the pectoralis major and minor.  In particular the pec minor will shorten due to the posture of your scapula (shoulder blades).  This tightening will cause inhibition and weakening of other muscles surrounding the shoulder girdle (see some of my previous posts on shoulder injury prevention). In order to correct this, one will typically need to mobilize both anterior and posterior regions of the shoulder, and then complement this by adding in strengthening exercises to address inhibited muscles in order to help in supporting good postural alignment.

Kelly Starrett in his book Becoming a Supple Leopard describes many different types of mobilizations that can be used to address the shoulder (and for any other body part for that matter).  These exercises can be included in a warm-up prior to activity, or they may be added in as an extra workout in helping to improve mobility.  It is highly suggested to spend at least 10-15 minutes daily working on problem areas to avoid injury.

Part II of this post will include videos of some of the suggested exercises to use to correct these issues.  The following exercises that can be performed to address dysfunction at the shoulder are:

1.  Banded Overhead distraction

2.  Supine (lying on back) internal rotation mobilization

3.  Banded Bully

Future posts on this subject will also include application of exercises to strengthen the region in supporting good postural alignment.

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.

Abdominal and Low Back Training

With injury prevention being a high priority in strength training and conditioning programs, much attention should be paid to the low back.  Low back injuries are both common and quite debilitating, but what most individuals don’t realize is that their exercise routine can be contributing to their low back problems.  This is due to the fact that many individuals begin with exercises that their bodies are not prepared to handle (even though from a movement perspective, they can complete the movement through an inappropriate motor pattern).  It is not until one beings to experience pain that something is wrong.

There are many novel approaches for individuals doing abdominal or “core” work.  The issue becomes that people begin an exercise program using many novel approaches without a basic understanding of how to move and use the musculature appropriately.  An example of this is the common use of the swiss ball for exercises.  While I believe the swiss ball does have a place in training and exercise, it is many times utilized by individuals who do not know how to perform basic movement patterns to maintain a healthy spine.

While there is not one ideal execise approach for all individuals, there are some basic exercises that should be appropriate for most individuals.  The following 3 exercises are advocated for by Stuart McGill, spine biomechanics expert at the Univeristy of Waterloo.  While they are very simple movements, they are very effective in strengthening the torso.

McGill Crunch

**NOTE:  Most people do not need to do the more advanced version with the hands by the head (notice, the hands are in front and not supporting the back of the head.  Many individuals who hold the back of the head end up pulling up with their arms putting added strain on the cervial region).  And, before I get any corrections on technique, I actually lift by upper body a little higher than needed on the second version in the video (although I still keep my rotation pretty much isolated to the thoracic region).

Side Plank

Side Plank V2

Birddog

Birddog OneBirddog Two

 

 

 

 

 

 

These three exercises activate all of the appropriate musculature for the core, while simultaneously sparing the lumbar spine from increased stresrses commonly seen with many other abdominal exercises.  It would benefit most individuals undertaking a fitness/conditioning program to implement these exercises as a way to strengthen the abdominal and low back regions.  While they may look simple, if performed correctly, these exercises can be challengening.

Most trainees need to understand that they do not fall into an advanced category, and that by doing abdominal and low back exercises that cause added stress to the spine can result in injury.  Even some individuals that do fall in the advanced classification can benefit from exercises like this if they have succumb to muscle imbalances due to their chosen activities.  In another post I will further get into these exercises, along with variations that can be implemented, and also how to incorporate these exercises into a training regimen.  In closing, the referenced text below is a must read.

 

McGill, S.  (2006).  Ultimate back fitness and performance (2nd ed.).  Waterloo, Ontario:  Backfitpro Inc.

Another Exercise for the Hips- Band Clamshells

bandclam1

bandclam2

Band set-up.  Tie a knot in a resistance band to make a small loop.

Band set-up. Tie a knot in a resistance band to make a small loop.

 

Wrap the band (with the knot tied in in as shown in the picture, unless you have a really small resistance band) just above the patella.  Drive the top knee upwards while keeping the feet together.  It should be noted that some individuals can benefit by performing this exercise without resistance (particularly if they have muscle imbalances and issues with activating their glutes).  Much like the band X-walk, this exercise can be beneficial for individuals with back, hip, and knee problems.

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.

Various Warm-Up Videos

I have added some new warm-up/mobility videos to the youtube site.  Check out different drills you can add to your preworkout routine by clicking on the link.