Monday, 3 January 2011

Fixing Strength and Conditioning Weak Points - Is There Any Point?

“One does not accumulate but eliminate. It is not daily increase but daily decrease. The height of cultivation always runs to simplicity”

Bruce Lee

In strength and conditioning there exists the conventional wisdom that an athlete should have well-rounded fitness. Most coaches would normally take an athlete through a series of tests; look at the demands of the sport and then work to fix the weak points in that athlete’s physical game. But is this the most effective strategy and is it even necessary at all?

In this article I’ll be examining whether you can maximise your training by avoiding your weak points rather than trying to fix them.

The demands of MMA

In strength and conditioning terms, the demands of MMA are variable. We have many different styles and multiple ways to succeed in competition. This makes it difficult to apply a rigid structure to the strength and conditioning framework required for athletes. The bottom line is that strength athletes, power athletes and endurance athletes can all be highly successful. So, if I’m a power athlete and I win all of my competitions in the first round – should I spend time focusing on my endurance? And if I do this, will my power suffer? To answer this we must first examine whether this is a weak point.

What is a weak point?

Traditionally a weak point would be highlighted as a peer-tested variable. As an example, if you are not as strong as another athlete in your weight class (or you are below the average strength for your weight class) then this is a weak point. Most individuals train this way, trying to attain an ‘acceptable’ competence level in various different facets of strength and conditioning. But the million dollar question is - does this make you a better fighter?

My criteria for classifying weak points are very simple:

  • Does the variable involved (e.g. strength/shoulder flexibility/anaerobic endurance) affect your ability to succeed in competition?
  • Does the variable involved affect your longevity as an athlete?

I would argue that there is another, more effective way to view your level of strength and conditioning. I believe that everyone has an inherent fitness level. We are all good at certain ‘physical skills’, and the lucky individuals are good at lots of these. Some people can lift and throw heavy objects, others can move very quickly. Rather than cross-train and always try to develop weaker areas of strength and conditioning that don’t affect your ability to succeed why not just devote your energy into developing your strengths.

So, the question remains – does training to improve your weaker areas really help?

Horses for Courses

I’d like to continue by suggesting that most people are attracted to sports that they will naturally succeed at. We can also look at martial arts and fighting styles in this way. The strength and conditioning demands of striking and grappling are very different. If I asked you now – rate your of fitness out of ten (ten being excellent) for the following elements:

  • Strength
  • Speed
  • Power
  • Agility
  • Endurance
  • Flexibility

If you have been training for any length of time you’ll be able to answer this fairly easily. My suggestion is that you already fight/train in a way that supports/or is supported by these physical strengths and weaknesses. If you took a serious look at your training history you will probably find that you’ve spent countless hours in the gym working towards goals that don’t support you.

Applying this to your strength and conditioning

Take a look at your current training programme and examine the current weak points in your physical game. Next, think about whether they really are weak points – as defined in the above criteria. If you have training practices in your programme that don’t support your road to success then take them out. Try this for 4-6 weeks and devote the extra time and energy to working on your strengths.

If you have any specific questions on Olympic lifting, Strength & Conditioning for MMA or you’d like to discuss workshops, professional fighter coaching or a review of your current programme feel free to get in touch.

Originally published on BritMMA

1 comment: