Progressive Overload for Martial Arts

Damien

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There was a thread the other month about strength training in martial arts. After much discussion, I think (for the most part) the consensus was that strength training is good, so long as you train for speed and explosive power and avoid getting slow.

I've been an advocated for a long time of using what we've learned about the way the body responds to training to update how we train martial arts. Quite simply, we understand the body better in the 21st century than people did hundreds of years ago (or more).

One of my biggest bug bears (I have a lot...) is doing pretty much the same thing each class for conditioning. I've seen this a lot over the years. It can lead to stagnation as you move from beginner to intermediate. The solution; incorporating progressive overload into your training. I dive into what it is (in case any of you aren't familiar with the term) and how to apply it in this video:


Cue outrage, interest and comments of "well duh" :p
 

Gyakuto

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Looking back on my days in Karate, it surprises me that parts of the class were given over to doing press-ups, squats and sit-ups! It seems those were better done in ones own time and dojo time used for learning Karate在ut anywa

I assume doing the same thing will strengthen you to a point and then keeps you there. It depends where you desire to have that point, of course
 

Gyakuto

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Interestingly, I was doing single-legged squats today at the gym as part of my patella tendinitis rehab. I used a leg press machine though, as a barbell felt far too risky!
 

Monkey Turned Wolf

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I kind of agree with Gyakuto.

Doing any conditioning in class has two purposes (IMO). To warm up your body, and to ensure your students have a base level of fitness/strength needed to learn/use martial arts.

For the first, the goal isn't to improve, you're just trying to get the muscles hot. So there's no need to do that. For the second, as long as your conditioning will get the students to the level of fitness you need, it's a waste of class time to progress beyond that when that's something pretty easily done by yourself. And depending on what you have available (most schools don't have machines so it's mostly bodyweight and cardio stuff), to progress further would mean to either spend more time each class doing pushups, leg lifts, etc., or teaching students how to progress and do more challenging leg lifts, or helping them transition from squats to pistol squats, which also takes up more time.

That said, if I was teaching somewhere and someone wanted to start learning how to do a pistol squat rather than a regular squat, or v-sit ups, or knuckle/fingertip pushups, and they had the level of fitness for that I'd help them out. Just not during normal class time while I could be teaching them (and the rest of the class that isn't at that level of fitness) how to strike instead.
 

Gyakuto

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Yes宇hats interesting. Also, the initial gains in strength are down to better motor unit recruitment, so the conditioning in a class will improve the neuromuscular link which is useful for martial arts
 

Monkey Turned Wolf

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Also, to clarify it sounds like you are referring to (from your video) using it for muscle improvement, but as part of martial arts movements themselves. You have a contradiction that I don't think you realize.

Progressive overload works for building muscle/fitness, which you get. It doesn't work for learning specific skills/movements-if you're moving to a new movement, rather than the one the repetition is supposed to help with, you're now just learning that new movement instead.

So given what progressive overload does and doesn't do, including it in your martial arts and trying to practice, say, a roundhouse kick while at the same time musclebuilding and tiring yourself out, you're turning that into musclebuilding rather than skillbuilding. And actually detracting from the skillbuilding, as it means your muscles are getting tired and you're getting sloppy. There is absolutely a place for tiring yourself out before training, since in an actual fight that's how you'll be halfway through, but that shouldn't be the primary mode.
 
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Damien

Damien

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Interestingly, I was doing single-legged squats today at the gym as part of my patella tendinitis rehab. I used a leg press machine though, as a barbell felt far too risky!
Yeah I wouldn't recommend doing what I'm doing in the thumbnail! A kettlebell would be a good option, though that does affect the balance point somewhat. I thought holding a barbell in cat stance would make a striking image though.

Leg press machines are definitely a good shout for stability. I'm not generally a big fan of machines, but sometimes they are really useful.
 
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Damien

Damien

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Also, to clarify it sounds like you are referring to (from your video) using it for muscle improvement, but as part of martial arts movements themselves. You have a contradiction that I don't think you realize.

Progressive overload works for building muscle/fitness, which you get. It doesn't work for learning specific skills/movements-if you're moving to a new movement, rather than the one the repetition is supposed to help with, you're now just learning that new movement instead.

So given what progressive overload does and doesn't do, including it in your martial arts and trying to practice, say, a roundhouse kick while at the same time musclebuilding and tiring yourself out, you're turning that into musclebuilding rather than skillbuilding. And actually detracting from the skillbuilding, as it means your muscles are getting tired and you're getting sloppy. There is absolutely a place for tiring yourself out before training, since in an actual fight that's how you'll be halfway through, but that shouldn't be the primary mode.
There's no contradiction, the key point I'm making is that you need a body capable of supporting the skills that you are trying to do. You need strong legs, strong hips etc to throw a powerful kick, or a high kick (flexibility too of course, but you'll never kick high without the hip strength to get the leg up there). Strength and skill need to go hand in hand. Sometimes that means training the technique more than you have been. Sometimes that means supplementary training. Whatever the method, it is the muscles which you are progressively overloading.

Of course you do not want to train a roundhouse so much that your technique gets super sloppy and you ingrain bad practice, that's why I mention that there is a limit in how far volume can take you. You also need to do complimentary exercises to build those muscles and overload them in a different way. On occasion you do need to practice pushing through being tired to keep at a technique though; you can train technique when fresh and endurance when tired. Of course if you only ever train tired on a technique, you will be bad at it. There is always a balance to be had.

It's important to remember that muscle building is a skill too. When someone first starts doing deadlifts most of the initial improvements are entirely neurological. Very little happens to the muscles, but they'll make big strength increases from an increase in skill. No one tells you not to deadlift when tired though, because then you would stop well before you could.

What people really need to understand is tired vs too tired. If my legs are tired I can still kick, but am I so tired that I don't have the adequate control to do the movement? This line gets pushed further back the more intricate the movement becomes. If we've created and continue to practice the right neurological pathways when fresh, we don't have to worry too much about degrading technique long term when tired.

If you only ever practice a movement a handful of times each session because you get tired and don't want to train sloppy you will plateau before you reach your true potential, unless you are also doing supplementary work to build that strength and endurance.

The key takeaway really is that you don't have to train a technique with that technique, e.g. horse stance training by doing weighted squats. To get better, you need to progressively overload in one way or another.
 

Anarax

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There was a thread the other month about strength training in martial arts. After much discussion, I think (for the most part) the consensus was that strength training is good, so long as you train for speed and explosive power and avoid getting slow.

I've been an advocated for a long time of using what we've learned about the way the body responds to training to update how we train martial arts. Quite simply, we understand the body better in the 21st century than people did hundreds of years ago (or more).

One of my biggest bug bears (I have a lot...) is doing pretty much the same thing each class for conditioning. I've seen this a lot over the years. It can lead to stagnation as you move from beginner to intermediate. The solution; incorporating progressive overload into your training. I dive into what it is (in case any of you aren't familiar with the term) and how to apply it in this video:


Cue outrage, interest and comments of "well duh" :p
Interesting video. There are different approaches to training and conditioning, results vary from people to people as well. Personally, I'm of the simple mindset of do more of that you wish to get better at. I could do various isolated exercises that will strengthen the muscles used for kicking, or I could just practice kicking with a different emphasis. If I want to practice improving my footwork, I'll do more footwork drills with a partner.

I agree with Monkey Turned Wolf. There should be a "theme" for each session/workout; power, speed, footwork, technique(new or old), etc. Knowing what you're trying to accomplish/build beforehand will help dictate the length, pace and drills for the class. I've met people with amazing physical abilities like thunderous kicks but didn't know how to setup a kick to land on an opponent. There should be a balance between skill and physical ability.
 
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