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I remember saying during my internship at University of Portland to the head coach, I don’t know sports. I don’t know positions, or what people should be doing. So I questioned my ability to be a strength coach. And Bradford Scott essentially said to me that we are more so in the business of optimizing the functionality of the human body and training sports. And that resonated with me more than anything ever in my entire life.
That’s what drew me to strength and conditioning in the first place. For me, it was the human body and physiology in general. And that is what I have observed a lot of in 2022 via different sporting events. I did actually consider early in my fitness training career going into the niche of strength and conditioning for MMA athletes.
I’ve been a fan of MMA since I was 16 or 17. And there was a couple fighters locally that Nathanael used to be training partners for. That kind of brings us to the first observation that I have made. Sporting events that have changed or challenged or encouraged my view of strength and conditioning have been the UFC, watching the Olympics, and the CrossFit games. This episode is drawing some broad stroke conclusions from my observations of all of these high-performance events.
Mobility is king
I’ve mentioned this on other podcast episodes, but the Olympics had a large part in challenging my view of the spine, keeping a neutral spine, and the role that spinal mobility plays in the body‘s ability to move as a unit overall. We will expand on that idea today with mobility in general being king (in my opinion) on the movement side. Your aerobic base or fitness is the king on the fitness or conditioning side. Mobility is king of movement. We see this across the CrossFit games, certainly in the Olympics, and most definitely in MMA. Especially jujitsu or other forms of grappling.
Where someone lacks mobility, there is compensation and often injury. Having mobility through your end ranges in the ability to control it is a strength. End of story. It’s an advantage more often than not. Do not mistake this for uncontrolled flexibility. That is not what I’m talking about.
The next time the Olympics rolls around, look for mobility throughout the entire body. Look for it in discus, or javelin, or even rowing, obviously in gymnastics and other acrobatic events. But also in other extreme sports like snowboarding.
As someone who is a huge fan of programmer of tempo, we often think of tempo as slowing down movements with intent. But we can also use tempo to encourage and train explosiveness. Being able to explode, and respond to things rapidly is an element of athleticism. If you want to feel like an athlete for life, mode training explosiveness and things like reaction time will keep your name off. In addition to that mobility piece. Moving slow is important more often than not, but moving quickly is also important. And it doesn’t need to be feared.
Adding in for speed like a ladder drill to your warm-ups can be a fun way to do this. We’re intentionally using box jumps super setted with deadlifts. Even doing more jump rope. In the upper body we can use countermovement push/pull exercises on a pulley system or with bands. It doesn’t have to be plyometric push-ups. It just needs to involve speed.
We can absolutely train the adaptation of power production as opposed to force production or in addition to force production. Force production being strength, where time and speed are not a factor.
Again, this is something that I did a lot of early in my strength training. I was also Olympic lifting at that time so speed and power work was built into my programming. But over the years I nearly removed all of it from my programming with more of a strength or bodybuilding focus. So watching these events has kind of sparked the need for power and agility back into programming for myself and for my clients. Again, I think explosiveness is something that we naturally use in play as children and obviously in sports, and then it often dwindles from our forms of exercise as we age, and that’s not necessarily a good thing.
Bodies often do choose the sport
There is a give-and-take here. I do think that training in certain ways for certain sports does influence the physique and we take on, and often times your natural frame and musculature does choose which sports you are going to be best at. Especially when looking at elite performance. Summers are broad with long limbs and long bodies in general. There is a reason that most elite swimmers have similar builds. It’s not because they swim. It’s because they were given perform as well at swimming.
Again, I am not saying that people are 100% restricted to a sport based on their bio individuality, but I do think there is a component that can’t be ignored in many cases. And certainly, the training influences the physique. but if you were built to be a swimmer, you’re likely not going to be an Olympic shot putter. Genetically we have predispositions towards how much endurance we have, versus how much power we can produce. We know this. And I think it’s fascinating. You see this the most clear I think, in the CrossFit games. Which kind of leads me to the last observation.
The hybrid athlete is more achievable than ever
I saw this in MMA years before I was in the CrossFit world or observing the CrossFit world. Even in college, we talked about how mixed martial arts marries the demand for endurance as well as repeated power output. And that perhaps we can achieve both.
I think it’s become pretty well known in the last five years or so that the bodies ability to adapt to and retain endurance based adaptations and power based or strength based annotations depends more on the recovery and being sure enough fuel is being taken in, in order to actually get the desired adaptations at both ends of the spectrum. We now see in CrossFit said six minute miles on repeat, while also expressing very impressive maximal strength and power output in the same season. Yes, if an athlete only trained power or strength, they would likely be able to get slightly stronger and more powerful than when also trading endurance. And on the flipside if they were only training for a marathon, their strength would likely decrease and they would reach a new level of endurance. But for the most part, the hybrid of endurance and strength or power is more achievable than ever. And we see that through different Olympic sports, CrossFit, and certainly MMA.
So don’t be afraid to mix training modalities for fear that one will take away from the other.
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I'm an adventurous introvert from Vancouver, Washington who lives on sleep + "me time." I'm a lover of lifting weights, dinosaurs, real talk and traveling with my husband. I am here to help you move better, lift more, bust the myths of the fitness industry, and inspire you to love the process.
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