Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Stronger Structure Training

I have been focusing my training on fundamental skills recently.
  • Range
  • Structure
  • Movement

I have come to realize that the most juice comes from structure (Ligaments lining up bones the right way) being driven by power, generated by movement (motion defeats strength).  Force (F) = mass x speed.

So I want my mass to be made of as much muscle as possible to explode with speed.

I also want my ligaments to be strong to make the structure (bone weld) of the technique as solid as possible.  Especially if I’m in motion and using that structure to impact a larger opponent who is also in motion.  The cow catcher on a train tearing through a large bull if you will.

So I started investigating ligament strengthening programs and came across this

I’m much more interested in functional strength than body building so I took out what I felt was relevant from that article:

Why The Importance Of Tendons & Ligaments
Tendons and ligaments are essential in terms of weight training. They are very similar in composition, serve different functions and significantly assist with the process of muscular extension and contraction. Both are designed to passively stabilize joints. A tendon connects the ends of a muscle belly to bone tissue and can be likened to a tough strap-like cord.
When properly developed, a tendon has good elasticity and is strong and capable of great power. Tendons essentially cause the bone to move as they transmit tensile load produced by the muscles. A tendon will strengthen concurrently with the muscle usually but if great increases in weight are desired they need to be targeted separately. Tendon injuries are relatively common in those who use anabolic steroids and increase muscle, but not tendon, strength at a phenomenal rate.

A look at the glenohumeral joint (Shoulder).

This illustrates the need to train them independent of muscle under these circumstances. On the other hand, tendons can become stronger than muscles and muscle ruptures can result. This is why it is important, when looking to increase weight lifted, to incorporate specific tendon training power assistance exercises) into an established muscle training routine rather than training exclusively with heavy weights or with power assistance exercises or weights that can be handled with ease.
With either approach tendon or muscle ruptures could occur and, besides, massive increases in weight will not be realized if these approaches are not used concurrently. Tendon ruptures are very serious, with a 50 week full recovery rate being about average.
Ligaments are tougher cord-like fibers with greater flexibility. They tie, or bind, bones together at joints and allow for movement in a specific direction.
Tendons & Ligaments Are Composed Of Two Fibre Types:
  • Collagen
  • Elastin
Collagen provides strength and stiffness while elastin allows the joint to extend. Given the vitalness of tendons and ligaments in terms of training with maximal weights, it is important to strengthen them in preparation for unprecedentedly heavy weight training sessions - the kind of sessions that take muscle-building to the next level.

I sent this article to Van and Clint to get their expert opinions.  Both are exceptionally strong guys, and both are experienced in the practical applications of using force (euphemism for bad mutha fukkas)

This is the advice they gave me:

Van -
The Ruskies found that the best way to develop this [ligament strength] was through isometric exercises. Tendon/Ligament development occurs most rapidly when the muscles flex but do not move. So, in my program, I use isometric tension at the various 'sticking' and power points of every lift. Simply enough, using a deadlift movement, try to lift your car or truck. Change lifting position for the range of the movement at least thrice. Abs and ass tight, entire body rigid and flexed hold each exertion for three seconds. Progress to five seconds within the month. Do this for military pressing, curls, and leg-pressing or squats. If you do this with your weight-lifting, it is best to do it afterward. For best results, three times a week or more.

One of my training clients is on the road for about three weeks out of every five. For the past year, we've been playing the 'three steps forward two backward' when he comes home and continues his strength training. Recently, before he last went on the road, I developed an isometric program for him, to be done at least three times a week and hopefully every day. It takes a total of 15 minutes with the few calisthenics I threw in, too. Today, he returned home after 24 days of absence. We did a combined push-pull workout. Bench Press, Corner Rows, and Barbell Curls. He had increased in each lift! Whereas before he would come back and be weaker, this time, he was actually stronger than when he left. His bench press had increased by 3 reps, the corner reps by 9, and the bar bell curls by 3. That's an incredible gain, no matter what methodology! As well, his posture was more crisp and he had actually lost some body fat. What that means, essentially, is that the isometric program initiated anabolic activity. You can bet your ass I'm starting a daily isometric program on Monday!

Clint -
I agree with Van and would also say that in Strongman training you also try and get the body ready for the kind of weight that explodes muscles and bone not just tears it. On of my favorite type of exercises is slow dynamic effort. Take a squat rack Load it with as much weight as you can lower slowly . , have a spotter or two help you lift it of and slowly lower your self to the pins . 1 or 2 reps per set.  Same as Deadlift set your waist high lift off then lower to the ground as slow as you can. Don’t be afraid to drop it if needed. , Overhead press same, bench same, slow lower to make the ligament and tendon as strong as possible
I have done squats like this with 1200 lbs and deads with 900 . Bench is kinda scary as you are lowering an extreme amount of weight onto your heart cavity, I highly recommend doing it in a safety rack with the pins set above your chest for safety, done this with 600 lbs

Like I said extremely strong guys -
So how does this apply to the practical application of martial arts? 
Especially when I drone on about fighting outside your weight class, and not being dependant on size and strength.

The point of the blog is to take training advice from experts and apply it to training methods that increase your performance in your specific art.

As I mentioned previously here

I like to incorporate skill specific training into strength training.
  • Uke Waza – Evasion techniques with running - road work
  • Nage Waza – Throws with pushing motions
  • Kansetsu Waza – Joint locks with pulling motions

So how can Van and Clint’s advice be applied to the skill specific training?
Kansetsu Waza – Joint locks with pulling motions.  Look at the video of Wim from the previous blog.  Instead of tying the belt to a heavy bag, tie it or something similar to something that doesn’t move like a tree.  Or if you are inside tie a knot in the end of a belt and shut it on the top of a door. 

Remember van suggested:

Tendon/Ligament development occurs most rapidly when the muscles flex but do not move.  You can apply that principle to this type of joint lock training.  Isometric tension at the various 'sticking' and power points.  For example if the joint lock consists of three motions (it should NOT consist of more than that) hold isometric tension as hard as you can for 3-5 seconds at each motion of the technique.  This strengthens tendons and ligaments, shows you / helps you correct any flaws in your structure, and increases your heart rate.  This is why I think Van’s client lost body fat.  It is extremely taxing to try to move something as hard as you can that simply won’t budge.  Don’t believe me?  Go out side and try to push your house off its foundation.  Don’t be a pussy, push like your life depended on it – as hard as you can.  How long did you last? 

Added benefits? - Trying as hard as you can also adds a mental toughness aspect to the training.  Also, you are not just generally strengthening your ligaments but you are specifically strengthening the ligaments you needed to ensure the correct structure of your techniques.  At the same time you are ingraining neurological pathways for correct form.  The better the neurological pathways (sometimes called muscle memory) the easier it is to perform under stress.
Meaning you become better at delivering force under pressure.

Clint suggested using slow dynamic effort.  You can apply that principle to doing throws against resistance.  As illustrated in other articles on this blog I like to practice throw against 6 of the strongest plyo bands available woven into two “arms”

Again I stress over in three motions.  Do the motions of the throw as slowly as you can do the motions perfectly (almost like Tai Chi) against as much resistance as you can possibly handle -  slow dynamic effort.

Like the isometric training this shows you / helps you correct any flaws in your structure, ingrains neurological pathways for correct form, and increases your heart rate.

But because the resistance bands stretch and move you are developing power specific to your techniques while you strengthen the ligaments.

With both of these training methods be sure to focus on your breathing.  Again ingraining good habits, and because if you don’t you will pass out, and or crap you pants.  Funny buy not necessarily beneficial to your training efforts.

Take these principles, apply them to your skill set, and incorporate them into your own training.

From my own experience this training yield results and it is a lot of fun.

Mas Oyama said the power of Karate doesn’t come from any mystical secret.  The power of Karate comes from training hard every day.  So find a way to incorporate skill specific training every day and watch your functional strength and power increase dramatically

Train Hard, Train Smart, Be Safe  


  1. You should also look into doing more plyometrics.

    Often, tendon is tougher than bone, and putting a large load on the tendon very quickly can result in an avulsion fracture.

    This is actually better than getting a ruptured tendon, because bone heals better than tendon.

    Given how much you train, your bones can probably already handle plyometrics, but plyo stuff is great for a lot of things, especially strengthening the muscle/tendon - bone insertion.

    Thanks for consistently posting excellent stuff I can read =D

  2. Interesting to read from our perspective. Normally I do not concern myself with any kind of structure strength.

    Good blog here