So I want to talk generally about training for martial arts but before getting into specifics I want to outline and qualify a few things. Firstly, I am not going to get into the physiology and science of training…I am happy to do that after if people would like me to but I don’t think it’s the best use of my time. The best way to do that if you are interested though is for me to point you in the right direction to get after it yourself because most of it is a matter of just reading up. Personally I have never stopped reading and never stopped studying either. I did yet another unit of advanced exercise physiology and neuroscience last semester and I was bored beyond believe talking about it and writing about it ‘academically’…it is boring as hell and I would much rather write and talk with you about the practical and real life implications of the material in question. I figure that we can define some terms and talk about the components of strength and conditioning along with some of the ‘traditional’ ways in which people approach there physical preparedness for martial arts.
One of the problems that some people have when they are considering the topic of strength and conditioning is that they don’t really know what they are looking at when they are looking at displays of what they think of as ‘fitness’. When some people say a particular athlete is ‘fit’ some people are talking about the appearance of their physique…and even then some people are saying they are ‘fit’ because they are super lean and yet others because the athlete in question is jakt. Some people think of fitness as speed and power and yet others as endurance. So we need to ensure that we are properly defining the terms. I always get people asking me ‘How can I improve my fitness?’ and what they are after is always some attribute on the athletic spectrum with power on one end and endurance on the other and with things like speed, anaerobic power and repeatability along with strength in between. Sometimes what they are after is improvements in EVERYTHING which is fine as well.
To save some time and so people can bail on this post now if I’ve already bored the hell out of them…I will get to the ‘take home’ points right up front:
1. You can’t improve everything at once.
2. You need to ensure you are focussing and prioritising the attributes that are going to give you the greatest returns with regards performance in your chosen martial art.
More on these take home points later.
So where to start….that’s simple.
“If you are not assessing you are guessing.” – Someone awesome (Years Ago)
Put simply if you aren’t testing and measuring then you have no way of monitoring the effects of any intervention (training or training alterations) you put in place. Winning fights is not a way to measure the ‘effectiveness’ of your training…winning fights is how you measure the effectiveness of your fighting. You can be a bad athlete and a great fighter and vice versa.
So what comes first with regards fitness assessment.
Mobility and Stability
This is always where I start because it has by far the biggest impact on your overall performance.
I am planning to delve into all this area as with the others I outline here in detail but to start this series I just really want to give you an overview of where I am coming from.
If your mobility and stability is appropriate (again…I will define this in detail in later posts) then your chances of acquiring a chronic injury are almost non existent. Your chances of acquiring an acute injury are also greatly reduced…for sure freak accidents are unavoidable in contact sports but having appropriate mobility and stability will pretty much reduce your chance of injury to just that…freak accidents.
Here’s a really simple and easily repeatable test of functional mobility.
You can do it regularly and video it and monitor your progress.
Speed, Agility and Fitness Testing
This is what I think comes next because when it comes to martial arts…strength and power is great but if you are unprepared to ‘go the distance’ then your chances of being able to use your strength and power are severely limited. The spider test has always been my ‘go to’ test in this regard. I think for martial arts it’s hard to find a more economical test…in that you can test lots of attributes individually but this is a test that stresses all your attributes simultaneously. The spider test is 6 x 30 seconds efforts with 30 seconds recovery between efforts…the fastest and most agile get the furthest on the first effort and the fittest athletes get the biggest total. This test gives you both fantastic objective and subjective data.
This is a video of me discussing fitness testing
Here is a video of a GAA player doing a modified spider test…probably the most appropriate fitness test for martial arts.
Here is a video of some Camogie players doing a traditional spider test
Here is a full description of the test….this is a pretty exciting video…you might want to get some popcorn
Strength, Power and Muscular Endurance
Here is a video description of basic testing.
Then below you will find a video outlining my thoughts and rationales for testing and testing methodologies.
Standing Broad Jump – I think this test is easier to administer and more reliable than a vertical jump.
Bodyweight Squat – Your body weight rounded up to the nearest 5kg and done to a depth below parallel for repetitions.
1RM or 3RM – Squat, Deadlift or TrapBar Deadlift – I’ve traditionally done 2 different tests. A 1RM trapbar deadlift at the beginning and end of each training cycle and a 3RM squat test mid cycle.
Push Ups – Repetitions in 60 seconds.
Inverted Rows – Repetitions in 60 seconds.
Bench Press – Your body weight rounded up to the nearest 5kg and done for repetitions.
Pull Ups – Done for repetitions.
1RM Bench Press – Everyone wants to know….how much do you bench.
3RM Pull Ups – Weighted pull ups.
So that’s Fitness Assessment outlined. Firstly, you need to assess your mobility and stability and look for any areas of weakness or imbalance. Secondly, I think you need to assess your speed, agility and endurance and a modified 30/30 test is a great way to do that. Thirdly, you need to assess your power, strength and muscular endurance and again look for areas of weakness and imbalance.