I’m just finishing up Joel Jamieson‘s book Ultimate MMA Conditioning, and as I’ve mentioned in a previous post, it’s definitely an eye opener for me. There are many things about conditioning that I thought I understood well, and now I’m just starting to rethink everything. And to be honest, it goes far beyond just the conditioning part of training. I’m starting to rethink some of the strength stuff as well.
Ever since I read the Ultimate Off-Season Training Manual from Eric Cressey and after I interned at Robert Morris University a few years ago, I was seeing max strength as the answer to pretty much everything; if athletes just got stronger, everything else would just fall into place. I still think that max strength is a very important part of an athlete’s training program, and has profound effects on speed, power and agility. But I’m starting to realize that it’s not all…
With that focus on max strength, the emphasis is mostly on improving the efficiency of the nervous system, increasing the activation of the fast-twitch muscle fibers and recruiting more motor units. All of these effects are very important for any athlete if they want to improve their performance. And this is mostly how we usually see strength training; it’s all about the nervous system, the muscle fibers and everything in between.
What we, myself included, too often fail to consider is the energy systems part of the equation. And I’m not talking about how we condition our athletes. I’m talking about the implication of the energy systems in strength training. There is indeed a big neural and muscle fiber effect that comes from strength training, but there is also a energy system effect. Even if it’s not conditioning in it’s traditional form, your body still need to produce the energy necessary to lift the weights. When we lift weights and train for max strength, the anaerobic alactic system is going to be the one that is used primarily, which also means that we don’t have to worry too much about oxygen utilization, the number of mitochondrias in the muscle and that kind of stuff…..but that’s for one set of one exercise.
What happens when we run out of stored ATP after one set in the anaerobic alactic system? Your body needs to recover and regenerate that source of energy while you rest. And how does that happen? Because you’re resting and the demands on your body are fairly low until you start your following set, this recovery process will happen through the aerobic system. Now can you see where I’m going with this?
This is just one example to show you that your energy systems, and especially your aerobic system are involved in strength training even if you don’t think about it. Not because we’re using weights means no energy system work is happening. There is not a clear line between strength work and conditioning. There is some overlap, just like there is some overlap between each energy system when you condition AND when you strength train.
Think about the implication this can have on your max strength and ensuing effect it’s gonna have in the practice of your sport. Training for max strength is going to improve the efficiency of your nervous system and increase the percentage of fast twitch muscle fibers activation. But if you don’t realize the importance of the aerobic system in the recovery process after short bouts of intense activity (a.k.a the use of the anaerobic alactic system), chances are you’ll be performing your first shift (or your first play, your first punch, first set, etc) at a very high intensity and you’ll have an edge over your opponents…..and then it’s gonna go downhill from there until the end of your game, match, etc. because your body will not have been trained to recover quickly. If your body can’t recover as fast as possible every time, your performance will only get worse and worse as your game goes on. Nobody wants that!
This is why understanding the importance and the implication of ALL the energy systems is crucial for your performance or the one of your athletes. And that includes being aware of the implications of the energy systems on strength training and how to maximize the performance and recovery of each one of them.
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