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Other/Mixed Is strong really important for combat sports?

Other strength modalities (e.g., Clubs), mixed strength modalities (e.g., combined kettlebell and barbell), other goals (flexibility)

kiwipete

Level 7 Valued Member
What makes you think strength negatively impacted his performance?

I'm sorry, but it makes no sense at all. Strength didn't hurt him. His lack of conditioning did.

Strength and conditioning are rarely at odds. You can have both. The worst problem is a case of time and means, and still, most of the time I would have a bit of strength training in there.

@BJJ Shawn did you specifically strength train for BJJ or did you train strength for other reasons and expected to see better results on the mat?
I never said that 'strength' negatively impacted the performance.

My observation was more about the cost of chasing absolute strength at the expense of what a sport requires - which is enough strength / aerobic capacity.

It seems that having the greatest absolute strength is not the deciding factor between two combatants in BJJ, where technique is equal.

On the face of it, strength endurance appears to have far greater value and applicability to BJJ due to it being more closely related to the demands of the sport. Do you do a 1 rep effort in a match...or do you do multiple 'high end' efforts?

Is the message behind Strong First really 'have greatest absolute strength first' or is it 'Be strong enough first' then pursue other physical qualities?
 

Antti

Level 9 Valued Member
I never said that 'strength' negatively impacted the performance.

My observation was more about the cost of chasing absolute strength at the expense of what a sport requires - which is enough strength / aerobic capacity.

It seems that having the greatest absolute strength is not the deciding factor between two combatants in BJJ, where technique is equal.

On the face of it, strength endurance appears to have far greater value and applicability to BJJ due to it being more closely related to the demands of the sport. Do you do a 1 rep effort in a match...or do you do multiple 'high end' efforts?

Is the message behind Strong First really 'have greatest absolute strength first' or is it 'Be strong enough first' then pursue other physical qualities?

Yes, but was it the cost of pursuing absolute strength that was the biggest negative factor? Or rather the difficulties in practising the sport itself? Or neglecting conditioning?

Second, there are so, so many ways to go about pursuing absolute strength that I fail to see them all as negative even in the context of martial arts prowess as the focus.

I can't speak for StrongFirst, only myself. I avoid blanket statements. But I believe a certain degree of absolute strength, in the context, is almost always beneficial. And in many situations, like for a beginner, training absolute strength may be the most effective route for training strength endurance and power.

We always talk about building the aerobic base. Let's also build a strength base.
 

Anna C

Level 9 Valued Member
Elite Certified Instructor
Sinister
Let's also build a strength base.

Hard to argue with that.... I agree.

And that's where I felt we have been missing the context for this whole conversation. Has @BJJ Shawn built a "decent" strength base for this context, whatever that may be? Is there still a lot of low-hanging fruit there to get in terms of building a strength base, or has he already got "enough" strength? I feel like there hasn't been any attempt to assess that, and it's certainly relevant in any context.
 

Antti

Level 9 Valued Member
Hard to argue with that.... I agree.

And that's where I felt we have been missing the context for this whole conversation. Has @BJJ Shawn built a "decent" strength base for this context, whatever that may be? Is there still a lot of low-hanging fruit there to get in terms of building a strength base, or has he already got "enough" strength? I feel like there hasn't been any attempt to assess that, and it's certainly relevant in any context.

I think calling it the low hanging fruit is key. I'd even separate it from the strength standards of each sport specific context but see it as a question of what it demands to progress in strength.

Strength undeniably helps most physical efforts. Earlier on I mentioned time, means etc. The reason to stop strength training isn't typically because strength doesn't help. In some endeavours it helps more, in some less. But... something else helps more. More specifically, something else helps more for the time/effort/recovery/means spent.

As long as strength remains the low hanging fruit, I see no reason to not continue picking it up.
 

BJJ Shawn

Level 6 Valued Member
Hard to argue with that.... I agree.

And that's where I felt we have been missing the context for this whole conversation. Has @BJJ Shawn built a "decent" strength base for this context, whatever that may be? Is there still a lot of low-hanging fruit there to get in terms of building a strength base, or has he already got "enough" strength? I feel like there hasn't been any attempt to assess that, and it's certainly relevant in any context.

That's a question I don't know how to fully answer, and I'm not sure the best avenue to figure that out. I have seen 2x bodyweight deadlift being a common number to use as a base of strength, but as someone posted earlier in the thread the wrestlers don't use that number and instead have other lifts they use to gauge base strength. Since wrestling is very closely related to submission grappling, would those numbers be better to gauge progress? I don't know.

When I started doing S&S, I had no expectation that I would be off the mat this long, and it had previously been GREAT for my game even without reaching simple so I thought it would be perfect to help me get ready to go back to BJJ. However, with COIVC and my wife's uneasiness of me doing a sport where you are sweating on each other, I am unable to return so after hitting Timed Simple, I thought now would be the perfect time to try and widen my base of strength since I did not have to divide my physical resources. I have been lazy on the conditioning front, and instead dedicated all my available time (45-60 minutes before work) into barbell practice for the past 3 months. While that strength has gone up considerably, this thread came about because each time I DO get a chance to roll I am a little worse physically than the time prior (I have only rolled 4 times in the past 4 months).

When I talk about dominating people, I am not referring to beating them or being better at BJJ than them. I was simply referring to being able to move how I want, preventing them from moving me, and not having to relent because my muscles just gave out. IThe first time I rolled 4 months ago, I went almost 2 hours straight and was powerful the whole time. This last time I was spent about 10 minutes in and spent the next 40 minutes limping through it (which is not always bad as you can really focus on technique when all else fails since you have no choice).

My hypothesis was that if I build a bigger strength base, I can build more power and I have found that when I work on conditioning, I can often get "into shape" in a matter of weeks, so if I stack that conditioning back on top of a bigger base of strength and power, I will be a harder force to deal with. Mind you, these are all other people that ALSO have not been rolling , so skills wise we're on a level playing field.
 

Dayz

Level 6 Valued Member
That's a question I don't know how to fully answer, and I'm not sure the best avenue to figure that out. I have seen 2x bodyweight deadlift being a common number to use as a base of strength, but as someone posted earlier in the thread the wrestlers don't use that number and instead have other lifts they use to gauge base strength. Since wrestling is very closely related to submission grappling, would those numbers be better to gauge progress? I don't know.

When I started doing S&S, I had no expectation that I would be off the mat this long, and it had previously been GREAT for my game even without reaching simple so I thought it would be perfect to help me get ready to go back to BJJ. However, with COIVC and my wife's uneasiness of me doing a sport where you are sweating on each other, I am unable to return so after hitting Timed Simple, I thought now would be the perfect time to try and widen my base of strength since I did not have to divide my physical resources. I have been lazy on the conditioning front, and instead dedicated all my available time (45-60 minutes before work) into barbell practice for the past 3 months. While that strength has gone up considerably, this thread came about because each time I DO get a chance to roll I am a little worse physically than the time prior (I have only rolled 4 times in the past 4 months).

When I talk about dominating people, I am not referring to beating them or being better at BJJ than them. I was simply referring to being able to move how I want, preventing them from moving me, and not having to relent because my muscles just gave out. IThe first time I rolled 4 months ago, I went almost 2 hours straight and was powerful the whole time. This last time I was spent about 10 minutes in and spent the next 40 minutes limping through it (which is not always bad as you can really focus on technique when all else fails since you have no choice).

My hypothesis was that if I build a bigger strength base, I can build more power and I have found that when I work on conditioning, I can often get "into shape" in a matter of weeks, so if I stack that conditioning back on top of a bigger base of strength and power, I will be a harder force to deal with. Mind you, these are all other people that ALSO have not been rolling , so skills wise we're on a level playing field.
You've done no conditioning or much sport specific stuff for 3 months.... so of course your sport specific fitness fell off the cliff. Conditioning does come back quickly. I'd wager when it does, you'll be able to make better use of your strength gains. Ie you'll be able to realise them.
 

BJJ Shawn

Level 6 Valued Member
You've done no conditioning or much sport specific stuff for 3 months.... so of course your sport specific fitness fell off the cliff. Conditioning does come back quickly. I'd wager when it does, you'll be able to make better use of your strength gains. Ie you'll be able to realise them.

While this is true, I did no sport specific training for 16-17 months prior to this either since I've been out since COVID hit here in February 2020.

Besides, how does the powerlifting saying go? Anything over 5 reps is cardio, right?
 
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Pete L

Level 5 Valued Member
I agree, and I have come to see certain training discussions in that light. For example, when it comes to roadwork, the "long, slow distance" vs "high intensity intervals" discussion has been raging on for a couple decades now, with proponents of the latter approach being especially vocal and claiming that the former approach was "pure tradition", "antiquated" etc., while a lot of the powerhouse programs in all full contact combat sports (e.g. Russia and Cuba in boxing and wrestling, Mongolia, Korea, Japan in Judo...) have notably stuck with the former approach for the large part. I am not bashing intervals, but I should point out that intervals have a significantly higher impact on recovery compared to a leisurely 3-5 k jog followed by a few submaximal sets of rubber bands and BW work. What's more, intervals have to be done all-out in order to have the desired effect.
I think people tend to argue way too much using the Tabata study and whatnot, rather than considering that an athlete who has burned himself out in the morning session will not be able to go all-out again in the evening, let alone at noon. S&C is important for an extra edge, but it should support the mat work - not the other way around. I have also argued before that we are not only "training for competition" but also "training for training", meaning that we need to maximize our ability to train productively for 90, 120 or 150 minutes at a time (2-3 times per day at pro level), not just our ability to go fast for six minutes, once per week, every few months (or whatever the competition format calls for).
The SF-KB (BJJ) LCCJ programme is based on only two days strength training a week.
Perhaps the minimum effective dose to allow time to recover from rolling and the strength training.
 

Dayz

Level 6 Valued Member
While this is true, I did no sport specific training for 16-17 months prior to this either since I've been out since COVID hit here in February 2020.

Besides, how does the powerlifting saying go? Anything over 5 reps is cardio, right?
Yes but you did some conditioning right, through SS and 10k Swing challenge, and you said these benefited you BJJ.

I bet you can do either of those programs with a much heavier bell now, building more strength endurance while also maintaining the top end.

You'll have a higher "one rep max" explosive ability AND more strength endurance than you otherwise would have.

A great book on MMA conditioning is 8 weeks out by Joel Jamison. Takes you through every aspect of training, with general strength, general endurance, v02, alactic repeats etc etc. How to progress them and run various blocks etc. Worth a read.
 

BJJ Shawn

Level 6 Valued Member
Yes but you did some conditioning right, through SS and 10k Swing challenge, and you said these benefited you BJJ.

I bet you can do either of those programs with a much heavier bell now, building more strength endurance while also maintaining the top end.

You'll have a higher "one rep max" explosive ability AND more strength endurance than you otherwise would have.

A great book on MMA conditioning is 8 weeks out by Joel Jamison. Takes you through every aspect of training, with general strength, general endurance, v02, alactic repeats etc etc. How to progress them and run various blocks etc. Worth a read.

I'll have to check that out. It looks like his coaching program is called 8 weeks out, did you mean the book "Ultimate MMA Conditioning?"
 

NormanOsborn

Level 5 Valued Member
For most sports, when it comes to weight room strength, there's "strong enough." Strong enough is the point of diminishing returns, where more might be better, but only marginally, and perhaps not worth the opportunity cost in terms of other training and recovery capacity.

What constitutes "strong enough" varies by sport and individual. Several years ago Steph Curry reportedly was pulling 400lb trap bar DLs. That's strong for a tall (relative to average) skinny basketball player, but not for an American football player or powerlifter. For him, that's strong enough and being able to DL 500lbs would not make him a better basketball player.

It also varies by the needs of the sport. For my lifelong sport of basketball, I've gotten a lot of carryover from barbell training.

I started strength training long before I'd heard of a kettlebell. I'm very glad I developed that base of strength and found it carried over a lot to my performance on the court. I can root and wedge and use leverage to hold position against bigger players, and often move them, while staying on balance and not having to lean my bodyweight on opponents. Opposing player often comment on how strong I am, how strong I am for my size, and how much stronger I am than I look. That's due to strength skills that I developed from barbell training -- not necessarily because I can lift x pounds on a bar, but because the skill developed by lifting that weight on the bar carries over to the court.

That being said, if all I did was PTTP for a few months and then tried to play a game, I'd be (to quote Charles Barkley) "sucking wind through every hole I could get it in." Also, having put in the time over a number of years to get baseline strong (425lb DL/465lb trap bar DL at 180lbs BW at the time) and develop the strength skill from that, I haven't done much barbell lifting for a long time and haven't noticed any obvious decrease in my effective playing strength.

Long story short, barbell training can be very helpful for sports, but isn't necessarily a complete or sufficient way to prepare for competition.

Excellent post.

Chad Wesley Smith was one of the best Powerlifters in the US, if not the entire world. He Squatted 900lbs in a belt and knee wraps. After his Powerlifting career was over, Smith took up BJJ. I believe he's now a Blue Belt.

Smith has a number of videos on strength and conditioning for BJJ. One of the points he makes is that his strength has greatly decreased since his Powerlifting days, although of course he's still a behemoth compared to normal men. As he pointed out, in preparation for his 900lb competition Squat, he was doing multiple sets of five reps and above with over 700lb in training. He doesn't Squat anything like that now. That level of strength would be complete overkill for BJJ. And the time spent in the gym, and recovering from such heavy lifting sessions, would be far better spent on the mats, developing his skill.

Strength for a BJJ fighter is like money: it's great to have a lot of it, but you shouldn't be obsessed with gaining it at the expense of more important things,
 

Period

Level 6 Valued Member
In regards to the past few comments (sorry that I’m not quoting them all): In my experience, there are a number of things that matter:

1. Athletic history: your average wrestler starts out as a kid, and spends his teenage years hauling people in his weight class around, doing calisthenics, tumbling etc. He will build a pretty reasonable all-round athletic base that way. Now, if somebody starts out in a combat sport in their twenties, thirties or later after a much less active youth, things are definitely different, and you will definitely have to build an athletic base while learning the new activity. A number of approaches can be suitable for this. What I personally have found is that most people tend to focus a bit much on purely “fitness” type activities and neglect others. I especially recommend learning simple tumbling (not necessarily fancy stuff, but being able to roll in a variety of ways is extremely helpful to the learning process; I usually recommend working through levels 1-10 of L.L. McClow’s Tumbling Illustrated or taking a tumbling class for adults).

2. Carry-over between various athletic qualities: Athletic qualities are not isolated, they interact. I would especially like to point out the reciprocal relation of strength endurance and strength. It has been stated often that maximal strength carries over to strength endurance, but the reverse is also true. Most people will increase their strength also through mat work, which is arguably more strength-endurance than pure strength. Depending on a number of factors (fiber distribution etc.), some people may have a bigger carry-over in one way than in the other. I personally usually had more success increasing my maximum strength through strength endurance work than vice-versa, which meant I was increasing my work capacity at the same time as my strength, and I also found it easier on my joints. However, your mileage may vary.

3. Style: Wrestling is more focused on stand-up work, and generally a more athletic activity compared to BJJ. Therefore, the requirements for both leg strength and tumbling ability are higher. However, pulling strength is required universally, although the ideal choice of pulling exercises may vary from style to style (gi, no gi, favored attacks…).

4. Specific strength: If we are talking about strength standards for grappling, it stands to reason that the reality of the sport should be taken into account. If we leave out the specific requirements of parterre in wrestling, it comes down more to bent-arm pulling variations and squat variations (more so if takedowns are prominent in the style). These are the exercises listed in the wrestling strength standards above. Now, the level there is admittedly quite high (pull-ups with 70 kg additional weight for a middleweight, half squats with triple bodyweight…), but they can be scaled down. In particular, the seal row is a very useful exercise for all grapplers. I should also point out that the standard includes strength endurance as well, using the same exercises for the most part.

If I had to give a very simplistic approach to testing grappling strength / strength endurance, I would refer to two standards of the Russian Sambo team: rope climbing and squats with a partner of the same weight class (held in fireman’s carry) for reps. According to Alexander Iatskevich, the pulling standard of the Soviet Judo team consisted in climbing a five meter rope five times in a row without using the legs regardless of the weight class. I like this standard for a number of reasons. First off, the direction of pulling in rope climbing is to the center of gravity (the navel), which is the most common direction of pulling in most grappling styles. Plus, you have instability, unilateral pulling and the sequence of reaching, gripping tightly and pulling, both of which happen all the time in grappling. I would argue that in order to meet the standard, a person will develop a maximum of at least 20-30 pull-ups in a row on the side, and will be able to do at least ten reps with some weight (15-20 kg) added, which will translate to a one-rep max of 35-50 kg added weight. As for the partner squats, the standard I found is ideally 40 (!) full reps in a row. What that will mean for your one-rep maximum will again depend, but I would argue it should at least be in the ballpark of double bodyweight. As it has been written before, that will mean that the athlete should also be able to deadlift at least double bodyweight.

These standards may seem challenging both in terms of intensity and logistics, but again they can be scaled down. As for logistics, a standard wrestling or judo hall should offer all the required things, including a variety of partners to lift. In fact, some of the schools I have trained in recommend training strength right at the end of a mat session. That way, you will be the most recovered from strength work when you step on the mat the next time. A very simple way of doing some extra strength work is simply 1-2 sets of partner squats and 1-2 sets of rope climbing, peg board climbing or pull-ups at the end of your mat session, possibly also 1-2 sets of push-ups (simple push-ups, divebombers or one-arm push-ups). That only takes 5-10 minutes of time (as you are already warmed up) but can yield significant gains over time. I personally made a habit of arriving half an hour early for some extra solo drills, and staying fifteen minutes longer for some more strength work. If that is feasible in the academy you guys are training in, I highly recommend giving it a try. Add some easy roadwork in the morning or on off-days, and your conditioning base should be set.
 

Period

Level 6 Valued Member
I'll have to check that out. It looks like his coaching program is called 8 weeks out, did you mean the book "Ultimate MMA Conditioning?"
Joel's book is pretty good, especially if you want to look into advanced options for conditioning. Not all that easy to find though, at least the last time I checked.
 

kiwipete

Level 7 Valued Member
Yes, but was it the cost of pursuing absolute strength that was the biggest negative factor? Or rather the difficulties in practising the sport itself? Or neglecting conditioning?

Second, there are so, so many ways to go about pursuing absolute strength that I fail to see them all as negative even in the context of martial arts prowess as the focus.

I can't speak for StrongFirst, only myself. I avoid blanket statements. But I believe a certain degree of absolute strength, in the context, is almost always beneficial. And in many situations, like for a beginner, training absolute strength may be the most effective route for training strength endurance and power.

We always talk about building the aerobic base. Let's also build a strength base.
I think we always talk about build the aerobic base because, I'm guessing, because most people who love the iron don't have the same relationship with the pavement / bike / skipping rope etc. And therefore, that is where there best return for investment may lay, at this moment in time.

If a clear limiting factor is conditioning (or whatever), why would you not develop it - when strength is probably not the issue?

Rolling for more than 90s is probably going to be derived from aerobic pathways, so why ignore it and expect to last?

My take is that I don't think it's helpful to be seduced by absolute strength, as the answer to all questions.
 

Antti

Level 9 Valued Member
I think we always talk about build the aerobic base because, I'm guessing, because most people who love the iron don't have the same relationship with the pavement / bike / skipping rope etc. And therefore, that is where there best return for investment may lay, at this moment in time.

If a clear limiting factor is conditioning (or whatever), why would you not develop it - when strength is probably not the issue?

Rolling for more than 90s is probably going to be derived from aerobic pathways, so why ignore it and expect to last?

My take is that I don't think it's helpful to be seduced by absolute strength, as the answer to all questions.

I think everyone sees there's a big need for conditioning.

My personal issue in this thread is seeing conditioning and strength at odds which each other.

Why not build absolute strength, strength endurance, aerobic capacity, skill, etc all at the same time?
 

Alan Mackey

Level 6 Valued Member
Yes, but was it the cost of pursuing absolute strength that was the biggest negative factor? Or rather the difficulties in practising the sport itself? Or neglecting conditioning?

In my particular case, getting to 565/470/375/210 was NOT worthy. At all.

This was many, many, many moons ago, but I remember feeling spent and awful all the time. And not only my mat game didn’t improve, but it got to the point where I hated the mere thought of having to practice.

These days my approach is quite different: as long as I can move between 125% and 150% of my bodyweight for a bunch of reps, doing front squats, snatch grip RDLs, incline presses, bent over rows, weighted dips and weighted pull ups I will be content.

That’s more than strong enough for whatever life throws at me and allows me to chase multiple and more important rabbits: trail running, hiking and martial arts.
 

Antti

Level 9 Valued Member
In my particular case, getting to 565/470/375/210 was NOT worthy. At all.

This was many, many, many moons ago, but I remember feeling spent and awful all the time. And not only my mat game didn’t improve, but it got to the point where I hated the mere thought of having to practice.

These days my approach is quite different: as long as I can move between 125% and 150% of my bodyweight for a bunch of reps, doing front squats, snatch grip RDLs, incline presses, bent over rows, weighted dips and weighted pull ups I will be content.

That’s more than strong enough for whatever life throws at me and allows me to chase multiple and more important rabbits: trail running, hiking and martial arts.

That's great that you have found what works for you.

I'll nitpick a bit and wager that the numbers themselves weren't what didn't work for you, but what you needed to do to keep them there while developing and maintaining other qualities.

In some previous posts we mentioned low hanging fruit and those numbers obviously weren't it for you. We also touched on specific strength standards and you've obviously found them too. Luckily they're such standards that you're able to sustain them without too much time and effort.

Your approach is what I recommend to everyone. Train the abilities concurrently. When you notice that time or recovery or whatever runs out, spend less on what has the worst cost to benefit ratio.
 

Alan Mackey

Level 6 Valued Member
I'll nitpick a bit and wager that the numbers themselves weren't what didn't work for you, but what you needed to do to keep them there while developing and maintaining other qualities.

Agreed. Strength in itself was never a problem.

Also, there really is strong enough for martial arts. Leaving aside the high cost of getting past the novice status in the strength game, I never noticed any benefit once I could pull double bodyweight from the floor (or running more than a 10K, for that matter).
 
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Period

Level 6 Valued Member
I'll nitpick a bit and wager that the numbers themselves weren't what didn't work for you, but what you needed to do to keep them there while developing and maintaining other qualities.
I would add "develop" here - approaching a high level of max strength requires you to significantly cut down on other things, and if these other things include mat work, it will hurt your performance in combat sports. Of course, if someone is a hobbyist, they can decide on their own priorities more freely than someone who competes at a high level and has his priorities set on his performance on the mat.
 
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