Strength Basics

Getting stronger, fitter, and healthier by sticking to the basics. It's not rocket science, it's doing the simple stuff the right way. Strength-Basics updates every Monday, plus extra posts during the week.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Supersetting Speed with Strength

I recently (re-)read an article by Joe DeFranco on EliteFTS called "Strength and Flexibility Exercises for Fighters."

This article is a bit old (I think it's from 2007) so it's not hot news. But it incorporates something very interesting - a superset of maximal effort with sports-specific speed training.

Here is the first workout's exercise superset:

A1. 14-inch barbell bench press with chains, six sets of three reps

A2. Heavy bag straight punches, six sets of 15 seconds: Throw straight punches (alternating between the right and left hand) for 15 seconds. Do three sets from a right-handed stance and three sets from a left-handed stance. Rest three minutes after each superset.


Generally, speed work is using a sub-maximal load to allow you to move it quickly. Westside Barbell calls this DE or "Dynamic Effort." Dr. Squat calls it CAT or Compensatory Acceleration Training. The load is light enough to allow you to move it fast but heavy enough to elicit a training effort.

In plain terms, it's heavy enough to get you stronger, and light enough to teach you to lift fast, which carries back over into your really heavy lifting. There is a minimum weight - baseball players don't have huge shoulders from throwing over-90 mph fastballs, because the ball is too light to elicit more gains.

But here, the idea is a bit different. To quote further:

After your heavy pressing movement [. . .] the motor units are still activated from the lifting. Throwing the punches while the motor units are still in a heightened state will help to “synchronize” them. This will help your strength from the lifting to become “specific” to the movement you’re trying to improve upon (in this case, punching).

So as I understand it, the idea is to prime the muscles (and get them stronger) with maximal pressing, and then immediately practice the sports-specific motion you're trying to strengthen to tie the movements together.

I haven't really had a chance to try this myself, or investigate it further. But just as a training idea for fighters, it's an interesting one. Combining a strength movement with a sports-specific contact drill (to ensure you aren't decelerating to avoid injury, you're striking a real target) seems like it can be a very useful tool in the toolbox.

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