The current thinking in the Strength & Conditioning world is that Maximal Strength is the key to all success.
Is it really the be all and end all?
Not in my opinion.
It certainly isn’t the best place to start in your journey to awesomness.
My personal background is in martial arts, as are many of my athletes. From listening to the stories from my teachers, their teachers and the books that have been handed down by teacher s past is that strength must first be built in the tendons, the ligaments and the mind. Strength must be developed in tandem with coordination, balance and will.
For me, this means bodyweight training.
There is an ever growing trend coming from some of the top strength coaches, especially those that are dealing more and more with MMA athletes, that bodyweight training is vitally important. Yes, it must be augmented with the addition of external resistance, but for the large part, simple bodyweight is simply enough.
The foundation must be developed with the learning and execution of good movement patterns. The absolute basics of Pull Ups, Push Ups and Bodyweight Squats must be mastered. Each athlete should be rocking out full range, perfect reps with each of these drills.
Push Ups should be in the region of 50, the last of which should look exactly the same as the first. Pull Ups should be 10 minimum. I prefer many to start out with and often return to the Chin Up grip (palms facing you) as this is a little easier on the shoulders and balances out the internal rotation from many other daily and training activities. Squats should be full range, which means the hamstrings touch the calves on every rep for literally hundreds of reps. A single set of 500 reps should not be out of the question.
Once a respectable volume has been achieved, build the intensity of each exercise. A simple method is to do them in reverse. Instead of starting the push up at the top and taking breaks there, start and finish each one on the deck. Same with pull ups, start and finish with the chin over the bar rather than from the hang. Gradually make the pauses in between each rep longer…..
Add hand placement variations. I love mixed grip chins, bring your head up to the supinated hand. Maybe even change grip on every rep. Same with push ups, try various hand placements, try moving the hands on every rep.
Develop your ability with body weight then add load later.
If you are looking for maximal strength development, then thats cool. Prioritise the barbell, but still keep the bodyweight drills for assistance work.
If you’re looking to learn more about adding bodyweight training into your routines, I’ll be giving a Bodyweight Training Workshop the Galway Kettlebells studio this November. The last one in Tramore was exceptionally well received, we dissected the Push Up and the Squat, taking each one from absolute beginner to their advanced unilateral versions before moving to more exotic animal and agility based callisthenics.
I’ll announce dates shortly, but I’ll tell you now, there will be a 20 person limit, so be ready to book when details are announced.