Grappling is a dynamic, high-intensity combative sport that requires complex skills and tactical excellence for success. To be successful on the world stage grapplers need very high levels of physical fitness. Grappling demands all qualities of fitness. To be effective, grappling techniques must also be executed with high velocity. The most important aspect of strength and conditioning for grappling is to train optimally, not maximally.
Every program you follow should underpin the physical components needed for your sport. As you mature and grow, your body will change and so should your off mat program. There are many, many solutions out there and some are much better than others. The better ones are based on sound scientific enquiry and have produced measurable results in world-class grapplers.
There are many misconceptions regarding training practices for the wrestler. When witnessing new exercises or modes of training in the gym, you must think very critically in order to understand whether or not it is beneficial for you to utilize in your training. Similarly, articles on blogs and Youtube videos do not require properly certified or experienced strength and conditioning coaches to write for them. Because of this, there are many myths that have been created that need to be addressed.
Many grapplers, and martial artists in general, believe that they will bulk up with too much muscle if they perform weight training. In order to bulk up, you must have the following ingredients: the optimal hormonal/nutritional balance, massive caloric intake, no cardiovascular training, huge amounts of strength training volume and some genetic potential. Strength training correctly, with the appropriate dose and will lead to gains in strength and power, possible loss of body fat, and absolutely no unnecessary bulk. Strength training through a full range of motion will improve flexibility. Strength training with appropriate exercise and loads will improve your speed.
In order for the body to adapt to training, you actually need to repeat many of the same exercises over and over. The body cannot adapt to an ever-changing program. This is especially important for beginners, who need to master the primary lifts. The variation that is needed is that of your training variables (sets and reps). Do you need 101 moves as a grappler? No, but you do need to be exceptionally good at a handful. The same goes for the weight room. Master the basics!
Soreness is not related to productivity. Feeling sore simply means you are not used to the training stimulus. It has no relationship to being in shape or out of shape… It is normal to be sore during phases of training where there is added volume or intensity, but it is not the sign of a ‘good workout.’ And it is not necessary to feel sore, to make gains in muscular strength and endurance. In fact, many of the athletes that train right feel little soreness because they are adopting to the loads in a progressive manner versus shocking themselves into shape. Being sore all the time mean you are not adapting. You body is likely in a state of confusion as to what you want it to get better at.
Sure, there are times when you need to work at maximal intensities, but when we look at your entire plan, this is only a small percentage of time. The best athletes in the world, do a lot of their off mat training at submaximal intensities in order to develop their body at a cellular level. Exhaustive exercise robs the body of valuable recovery time where hormones are at their peak. Plus, if you are ‘going hard everyday’ the amount of fatigue you accumulate will actually make you slower and less conditioned. The receptors that help us gain speed, power and stamina need a break in order to get the right signals to teach the body to be elite. Don’t crush them.
Many grapplers think in order to condition themselves, they need to do 5 – 10 minutes of hard work, with a minute or two recovery intervals over and over to build stamina specifically for their sport. Well, without boring you with a bunch of science – this type of training, if done too frequently actually competes with the development of your conditioning! Now, by all means, there’s no need to stop doing live drills. Just focus your off-mat training more on developing the system of your body that supports high intensity work. This system is called the aerobic system and to train it, you need to simply allow more time to recover between reps of hard intervals. It might sound completely counterintuitive, but 5 min on, 60 seconds off creates a very acidic environment for your muscles and your heart and in order to build more blood vessels and powerhouse organelles in your muscle cells we cannot drive acid in. Acid creates poor technique, poor muscle function and takes days to recover.
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