Sports Training For Weight-Related Athletes

Article by: Tyrone Jensen, Tight Fitness Solutions

TyroneQualifications-Sports training for weight-related athletes is becoming more supported with strength training in recent years, as more weight-related athletes are recognising that power and strength can be improved without adding unwanted weight or size. The need for educated strength and conditioning coaches today extends far beyond your average personal trainer, bodybuilding or fitness magazine.

Weight training began to steer away from the ‘gym junkie bodybuilding’ stereotype in the late 70s and early 80s, around the time when the need for more corrective exercises and functional movements became prevalent in the sports field. Olympic weight lifting, for example, started focussing a lot more on power cleans, snatches, squats and bench presses.

However, as everything evolves, changes and develops in sports science, over time some things do become distorted and move in the wrong direction. We still have fighters and bodyweight-related athletes sitting on the fence on whether or not they should be lifting weights, purely for the fear of gaining unwanted weight or size, becoming slower, or having to change from the weight class they prefer to fight in.

Functional training has previously been based on what coaches knew best at the time. The programs seemed to revolve around so-called functional pieces of equipment and flavour of the month routines including kettlebells and swiss balls. Oh, wait, and don’t even get me started on CrossFit (cough, cough, excuse me while I clean the bad taste from my mouth).

Everyone was convinced that a few genetically gifted human beings had success using these items so it must be the best thing since a protein shake after a hard workout. Though I must mention the media rarely seemed to address the areas that almost every athlete will need improvement in. The areas that will improve athletic performance scientifically are very important elements of strength training. I’m referring to structural balance.

Structural balance is a term that refers to the balance of muscle strength in muscle groups related to an athlete’s sport. It focuses on detecting weaknesses in a muscle group that is required for the sport. For example the balance of strength ration between the quadriceps and hamstrings.

Structural balance is a term and a method of corrective strength training that I learnt from Charles Poliquin. In the number of years I have been a strength coach I have obtained a Level 4 in Strength and Conditioning – Poliquin’s second highest level of qualification. Level 5 is an Olympic-level athlete, so I can assure you I know what I’m talking about.

In Brazilian Jiu Jitsu the two predictor lifts I use to determine the strength ratio of the athletes upper body is the incline BB Press and the Wide Grip Pull Up. These two lifts, physiologically speaking, are known to be the most powerful movers in the sport.

In terms of these two lifts, there are supporting muscle groups in the external rotators of the shoulder, the lower trap, the rhomboid muscles in the back, as well as the biceps and triceps which are crucial for the pushing and pulling power needed in the BJJ sport.

For an athlete to be structurally balanced these remedial lifts need to be in a percentage ratio of the two main lifts. For example, if someone can perform a 100kg Biacromial Bench Press for one repetition they should be able to perform a percentage of the following major lifts of the upper body:

  • 90% Of 1 RM – Incline Bi-Acromial bench Press
  • 46% Of 1 RM – Ez Bar Seated Scott Curl
  • 87% Of 1 RM – Supinated Chin up
  • 35% Of 1 RM – Standing Reverse Curl
  • 66% Of 1 RM – Standing Behind the neck Press
  • 117% Of 1 RMV – Bar Dip

If this is not achievable then structural balance in the upper body needs to be addressed.

The relative strength of the athlete will increase simply by correcting this imbalance. Not only will it make him or her stronger it will also lower the chance of the athlete developing over-use injuries such as tendonitis or crucial ligament tears.

In Brazilian Jiu Jitsu the difference between two guys with black belts and winning is strength. Even though technique is a major and vital role in the sport, if you have two black belts that have an equal skill level, and are both efficiently sound in technique, then the stronger athlete is going to win. TAP OUT.

There are four main components that differ between strength and technique in BJJ:

  • The athlete with superior power to weight ratio is going to win.
  • The athlete with superior strength is going to win.
  • The athlete with superior endurance is going to win.
  • The athlete with crushing grip strength is going to win.

Developing these areas will require a technique called time under tension (TUT for short). Time under tension revolves around putting the muscle under strain for a certain period in order to determine the overall outcome of the training.

The areas of strength training relate to:

  • Relative strength – TUT Less than 20s
  • Functional hypertrophy – TUT between 20 and 45s
  • Hypertrophy – TUT between 45 and 75s
  • Strength Endurance – TUT Above 75s

In BJJ relative strength is the area (after structural balance has been achieved) that the athlete needs to train for in the gym. This area of training strengthens muscle fibres to provide force, strength, power, the ability to move heavy loads and a velocity that will produce a maximum power output.

This doesn’t add volume to the muscle cells, nor does it increase muscle size. After structural balance has been achieved and all imbalances have been addressed, you will notice increased power on the mat or out on the playing field.

With all of this in mind, understanding and education in the field is what makes a valuable strength coach. It is your weakest link that will hold you back in any area – whether it is your strength, skill or lack of knowledge on the correct areas of training. Don’t be fooled by mainstream media. Do your research. Look for someone that commits to education, and by that I don’t mean a monthly subscription to Men’s Health magazine.

Happy training.

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