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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)

Anna C

Level 9 Valued Member
Elite Certified Instructor
Sinister
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.
Alright, this is good... let's use this as a benchmark, for discussion purposes.

That's a question I don't know how to fully answer, and I'm not sure the best avenue to figure that out.
(That was replying to "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.")​

So, @BJJ Shawn , if you use the above description from @Alan Mackey as an assessment, how would you say you stack up against that?

This might give us an idea where you are in terms of building "enough" strength to have a "decent" strength base for this context.

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.
Well said. And this is the other part that will inform the approach, if more strength is needed, as to whether to periodize the training program to emphasize it during certain times even if it hurts performance on the mat in the short term, or whether to weave it in with other efforts, which might take longer and not be as effective, but wouldn't reduce performance in the short term.
 

Brett Jones

StrongFirst Director of Education
Master Certified Instructor
Beast Tamer
Who knew there would be strong opinions about this ;-]

Couple of things that stand out:
Weight loss (someone mentioned this)—and rolling with different weight individuals—when you are gassing out are you rolling with folks in your weight range or above?

You are not taking any BJJ classes?
I'm confused.
When are you rolling?
How many days a week?

You dropped all conditioning work and are finding that you are gassing out.
A + B still equals C
Get the conditioning work (KB swings etc...) back in the mix.

You do not need to be a powerlifter to be good in BJJ—be strong enough to do well in BJJ so your KB or barbell strength work is important but it is in combination with the conditioning work.

JMO YMMV
 

Starlord

Level 5 Valued Member
So I come from a wrestling background. Strength training definitely is not a waste of time.

When I tried BJJ for a little bit I was absolutely dominant in all positions bar being on my back. Which is apparently very common for all with a wrestling background.

Part of that was superior strength and conditioning levels.

You ultimately got to a level of muscular endurance that was a peaked state. Not one that you could maintain without specific conditioning work.

I would put good money down to bet if you maintained your current strength levels and acheived your previous muscular endurance levels that you would be even more dominant that previously.

But it ultimately depends on how much time you want to spend being the best BJJ practitioner you can be. Constraints like family, work etc will eat into that and you will be forced to prioritise.
 

Period

Level 6 Valued Member
And this is the other part that will inform the approach, if more strength is needed, as to whether to periodize the training program to emphasize it during certain times even if it hurts performance on the mat in the short term, or whether to weave it in with other efforts, which might take longer and not be as effective, but wouldn't reduce performance in the short term.
Speaking from the perspective of a former semi-pro competitor here: Your competition year will be periodized anyway based on the competition cycle(s). After competition season, most people will cut down on mat time to prevent burn-out, heal up etc., and if more strength work is needed, that is the best time to do it. Some people weight train also during the season and pre-season, but it is generally agreed that the best you can hope for in that time frame is maintaining strength, not gaining it, and reducing mat time in this time frame borders on suicide in regards to competition results.

Another thing I should mention: as I have stated before, not all systems acknowledge weight training as and ideal strategy, some even outright discourage it (my Dagestani coach is extremely critical in this regard). In his opinion, strength and skill are interwoven, and if you lack the strength to, say, pull in somebody's legs if they sprawl on your double-leg attempt, then that is what you need to train, since often, it's a problem of position and technique as well as strength, and strength disadvantages can be compensated. He'll either let your partner apply increasing resistance, and/or give you increasingly heavier partners. I know it may sound a bit strange, but I can attest that I have significantly benefitted from this strategy, even as a person who has met most of the East-German and Russian strength standards before I started working with him. Again, it is one thing not to weight train, it is an entirely different thing not to strength train. You can also do this type of thing in season.
 

Mirek

Level 6 Valued Member
"strong" does not seem to be well defined here I think. 10 to 25 kg increases in barbell lifts are nice but do not make anyone decisively overpowering the opponent on the mat. So what is strong?

Here's the article: http://library.crossfit.com/free/pdf/61_07_Strength_on_Mat.pdf It's about judo player with 500 lbs + bench press
who actually is overpowering opponents.

The other comment in this thread mentions 1000lbs squater and similar situation of dominance.

So if you go from paltry 230 to 250 bench press, no one really cares.
 

BJJ Shawn

Level 6 Valued Member
Who knew there would be strong opinions about this ;-]

Couple of things that stand out:
Weight loss (someone mentioned this)—and rolling with different weight individuals—when you are gassing out are you rolling with folks in your weight range or above?
Yes, these are people in my weight range. I was fatter than them a year ago, now we're within 10 pounds of each other.

You are not taking any BJJ classes?
I'm confused.
When are you rolling?
How many days a week?

I know it's confusing, but I have been doing BJJ for about 15 years and since Feb 2020, I have been unable to go back to an actual facility to practice due to COVID. For the last 4 months, once a month we have been able to get some mats and roll in my garage, so the only BJJ practice I have done in the past 21 months is four sessions of rolling with friends.

You dropped all conditioning work and are finding that you are gassing out.
A + B still equals C
Get the conditioning work (KB swings etc...) back in the mix.

That was kind of my point from the beginning. I'm not just sucking wind and unable to continue, but my strength itself fades quickly. If that is the case, is there a benefit to working pure strength movements like barbell lifts as my main focus? Ever since I have joined this forum I have been told or seen other people be told that you can't focus on all qualities at the same time, and you should focus your effort on the goal. Keep the main dish the main dish, and keep the side dishes as extras but not the main focus. Is is necessary/wise/beneficial to keep base strength as a main dish for grappling? Again, this is an offseason thing, so not having the conditioning to compete in BJJ has zero effect on my life right now, so I wanted to take this time to increase my base of strength to reach "strength standards" such as double bodyweight deadlift.

You do not need to be a powerlifter to be good in BJJ—be strong enough to do well in BJJ so your KB or barbell strength work is important but it is in combination with the conditioning work.

JMO YMMV

I guess this is what it boils down to. Maybe I put TOO much emphasis on barbell work over the past few months, but my cycle is done in 9 days and I have planned to do Q&D starting after that. My hope was that have this 3 month cycle of strength and hypertrophy would give me a better base to work on power when I get back to kettlebell work since I have never spent time doing these movements. I was trying to gain weight, and I guess I was afraid of doing too much work and either getting burnt out or not seeing improvement as I have really taken to heart the ethic of getting my practice in but not leaving the gym like I got beat up, and feeling better when I leave than when I got there.
 

BJJ Shawn

Level 6 Valued Member
"strong" does not seem to be well defined here I think. 10 to 25 kg increases in barbell lifts are nice but do not make anyone decisively overpowering the opponent on the mat. So what is strong?

Here's the article: http://library.crossfit.com/free/pdf/61_07_Strength_on_Mat.pdf It's about judo player with 500 lbs + bench press
who actually is overpowering opponents.

The other comment in this thread mentions 1000lbs squater and similar situation of dominance.

So if you go from paltry 230 to 250 bench press, no one really cares.

My goal has never been to overpower people on the mat, but rather to not get overpowered. I don't know how much a bench press or deadlift will help my goal, but in three months of work I have added about 15% to my lifts and feel stronger all around. Maybe I needed that boost just to get to "average" for my size, I don't really know. I just don't want anyone to be able to push me around on the mat, cause there's no worse feeling than when you feel overpowered. I have no problem tapping to someone half my size that does some nice technique, but when you just get bullied and can't do anything about it, it's a way worse feeling.
 

Mirek

Level 6 Valued Member
My goal has never been to overpower people on the mat, but rather to not get overpowered. I don't know how much a bench press or deadlift will help my goal, but in three months of work I have added about 15% to my lifts and feel stronger all around. Maybe I needed that boost just to get to "average" for my size, I don't really know. I just don't want anyone to be able to push me around on the mat, cause there's no worse feeling than when you feel overpowered. I have no problem tapping to someone half my size that does some nice technique, but when you just get bullied and can't do anything about it, it's a way worse feeling.
Understand. It's proportional relationship. One has to be literally three times as strong to overpower the other one.
Still, stronger you are than your opponent, the chance of winning increases, all other things being equal.
My point was that relatively small increase in bench or deadlift will lead to relatively small difference on the mat,
once again, all other thing being equal (which is not you case actually, as you mentioned that you lost some conditioning).
 

BJJ Shawn

Level 6 Valued Member
Alright, this is good... let's use this as a benchmark, for discussion purposes.


(That was replying to "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.")​

So, @BJJ Shawn , if you use the above description from @Alan Mackey as an assessment, how would you say you stack up against that?

This might give us an idea where you are in terms of building "enough" strength to have a "decent" strength base for this context.
I believe that currently this is the low hanging fruit, as I have never plateaued on any lifts so I am still seeing the novice gains every workout. That would imply (I believe) that my strength is not where is should/could be without excessive focus.

Well said. And this is the other part that will inform the approach, if more strength is needed, as to whether to periodize the training program to emphasize it during certain times even if it hurts performance on the mat in the short term, or whether to weave it in with other efforts, which might take longer and not be as effective, but wouldn't reduce performance in the short term.
And this is another way of putting what I was trying to ask I believe, haha. I might not be the best at phrasing things, but that was my point. I have a lower performance on the mats RIGHT NOW because of how I chose to train, but in the end will strength be as much of a benefit as if I had just focused on conditioning instead? I think the StrongFirst answer is that strength is never bad, and if I can use that additional strength work in the future I will be better off in the end since I still have those low hanging fruits to grab?
 

Period

Level 6 Valued Member
"strong" does not seem to be well defined here I think. 10 to 25 kg increases in barbell lifts are nice but do not make anyone decisively overpowering the opponent on the mat. So what is strong?

Here's the article: http://library.crossfit.com/free/pdf/61_07_Strength_on_Mat.pdf It's about judo player with 500 lbs + bench press
who actually is overpowering opponents.

The other comment in this thread mentions 1000lbs squater and similar situation of dominance.

So if you go from paltry 230 to 250 bench press, no one really cares.
Let me counter this with another anecdote: I vividly recall the day I witnessed two national wrestling champions face off on the mat in our training room. One was still a kid (under 18, under 62 kg), the other was a grown superheavyweight (28 years, 110 kg, national champion under 120 kg). Both were my training partners later on, and while the heavyweight was not the strongest heavyweight out there, he was one of the quickest guys I ever met in that weight class, which is arguably worse at superheavy. The superheavyweight failed to get a single working hold on the lightweight for a full two minutes (back when we still had two-minute-rounds), then he got tired, had his back taken and was taken down. Does that now mean that weight isn’t important and we should cancel weight classes?

As for the anecdote about Brad Sanchez: It is recounted by a former rugby player and amateur powerlifter, who then did some Judo on the side and right in the beginning got manhandled by a bigger, stronger guy who apparently had enjoyed some success on a more or less regional level, at superheavyweight (the weight class with the fewest competitors that usually have the least varied technique). Please excuse my French, but duh. None of the guys mentioned seems to have gotten anywhere nationally, let alone internationally in their sport. Interestingly enough, there is a number of former wrestlers in sports like crossfit, but I have yet to meet a former crossfitter that made it to a serious level in judo or wrestling. I’ve heard of one former powerlifter that became a good wrestling coach – he was my coach’s coach – but interestingly enough, he never told his wrestlers to lift heavy weights, and so they didn't.

As for strength levels that overpower: the idea behind the strength standards for wrestlers was, as far as I understand them, exactly to get them to a level of strength where they shouldn’t lose based on a strength disadvantage. Of course, all standards may have to be updated at some point based on the competition.

And as I have said before – I am happy to set up a match between a powerlifter and a wrestler of the same weight class who doesn’t even train with weights, as long as somebody sponsors a nice car for the winner and flies the powerlifter over to Dagestan.
 

Alan Mackey

Level 6 Valued Member
Let me counter this with another anecdote: I vividly recall the day I witnessed two national wrestling champions face off on the mat in our training room. One was still a kid (under 18, under 62 kg), the other was a grown superheavyweight (28 years, 110 kg, national champion under 120 kg). Both were my training partners later on, and while the heavyweight was not the strongest heavyweight out there, he was one of the quickest guys I ever met in that weight class, which is arguably worse at superheavy. The superheavyweight failed to get a single working hold on the lightweight for a full two minutes (back when we still had two-minute-rounds), then he got tired, had his back taken and was taken down. Does that now mean that weight isn’t important and we should cancel weight classes?

As for the anecdote about Brad Sanchez: It is recounted by a former rugby player and amateur powerlifter, who then did some Judo on the side and right in the beginning got manhandled by a bigger, stronger guy who apparently had enjoyed some success on a more or less regional level, at superheavyweight (the weight class with the fewest competitors that usually have the least varied technique). Please excuse my French, but duh. None of the guys mentioned seems to have gotten anywhere nationally, let alone internationally in their sport. Interestingly enough, there is a number of former wrestlers in sports like crossfit, but I have yet to meet a former crossfitter that made it to a serious level in judo or wrestling. I’ve heard of one former powerlifter that became a good wrestling coach – he was my coach’s coach – but interestingly enough, he never told his wrestlers to lift heavy weights, and so they didn't.

As for strength levels that overpower: the idea behind the strength standards for wrestlers was, as far as I understand them, exactly to get them to a level of strength where they shouldn’t lose based on a strength disadvantage. Of course, all standards may have to be updated at some point based on the competition.

And as I have said before – I am happy to set up a match between a powerlifter and a wrestler of the same weight class who doesn’t even train with weights, as long as somebody sponsors a nice car for the winner and flies the powerlifter over to Dagestan.

Wrestlers are, in my opinion, the most well-rounded athletes in the whole world. They are super quick, unbelievably strong for their size and won’t run out of gas, no matter what you throw at them.

Simply put, they already are what Crossfit is trying to sell.
 
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Anna C

Level 9 Valued Member
Elite Certified Instructor
Sinister
but in the end will strength be as much of a benefit as if I had just focused on conditioning instead? I think the StrongFirst answer is that strength is never bad, and if I can use that additional strength work in the future I will be better off in the end since I still have those low hanging fruits to grab?

You said your bodyweight is currently 180
I have since been on a calorie surplus and am back up to 180,

So relative to @Alan Mackey 's standard, "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" , which in his assessment, is "enough" strength.... Based on that, are you within being able to do these with a moderate to moderately hard effort?
  • Front Squat 225-270 lbs for a set of 5
  • Snatch grip RDL 225-270 lbs for a set of 5
  • Incline press 225-270 lbs for a set of 5
  • Bent over rows 225-270 lbs for a set of 5
  • Weighted dips 225-270 lbs for a set of 5
  • Weighted pull-ups 225-270 lbs for a set of 5
If you're not in this ballpark, then, going by this standard at least, there are still strength gains to be made which should benefit you.

Apologies and please correct if I've misconstrued any info.... like I said, I'm no marital arts expert... I'm just trying to apply an objective assessment to provide actual context in this conversation that seems to weigh heavily into philosophy.
 

BJJ Shawn

Level 6 Valued Member
You said your bodyweight is currently 180


So relative to @Alan Mackey 's standard, "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" , which in his assessment, is "enough" strength.... Based on that, are you within being able to do these with a moderate to moderately hard effort?
  • Front Squat 225-270 lbs for a set of 5
  • Snatch grip RDL 225-270 lbs for a set of 5
  • Incline press 225-270 lbs for a set of 5
  • Bent over rows 225-270 lbs for a set of 5
  • Weighted dips 225-270 lbs for a set of 5
  • Weighted pull-ups 225-270 lbs for a set of 5
If you're not in this ballpark, then, going by this standard at least, there are still strength gains to be made which should benefit you.

Apologies and please correct if I've misconstrued any info.... like I said, I'm no marital arts expert... I'm just trying to apply an objective assessment to provide actual context in this conversation that seems to weigh heavily into philosophy.

No, I don't believe I can personally meet a single one of those standards.
 

Starlord

Level 5 Valued Member
Right... and what I've been suggesting is getting that ASSESSMENT of where his current strength levels are, so that these statements can be put in a meaningful context....
100%.

Performing a needs analysis so OP can measure performance metrics, prioritise what needs to be improved and put a plan in place to acheive your goals.

Without it the OP would just be taking stabs in the dark.
 

Alan Mackey

Level 6 Valued Member
No, I don't believe I can personally meet a single one of those standards.

Yeah they do seem pretty "strong" once I typed them out! Would like to hear if I got that right from @Alan Mackey, and what his thoughts are.

I don’t think it’s necessary to meet any of my standards to become a well-rounded martial artist. Those numbers, semi-arbitrarily chosen, simply mean that, mat performance-wise, strength is not a problem anymore for you. They are supposed to be the high end of a spectrum, not a minimum requirement.

In fact, since strength is just GPP for martial arts, I think chasing any type of numbers is counterproductive. As recreational athletes, we should treat strength training as practice. Beautiful practice, pursuing “effortless” repetitions and perfect, crisp technique. Inching our way up instead of forcing it through.

Easy strength, modified PttP, 5x5x5, modified 5/3/1, Tactical barbell… that’s the way to go in my opinion.
 
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Anna C

Level 9 Valued Member
Elite Certified Instructor
Sinister
I don’t think it’s necessary to meet any of my standards to become a well-rounded martial artist. Those numbers, semi-arbitrarily chosen, simply mean that, mat performance-wise, strength is not a problem anymore for you. They are supposed to be the high end of a spectrum, not a minimum requirement.

In fact, since strength is just GPP for martial arts, I think chasing any type of numbers is counterproductive. As recreational athletes, we should treat strength training as practice. Beautiful practice, pursuing “effortless” repetitions and perfect, crisp technique. Inching our way up instead of forcing it through.

Easy strength, modified PttP, 5x5x5, modified 5/3/1, Tactical barbell… that’s the way to go in my opinion

Well said, and I do feel like this provides the context that I was looking for... thanks for indulging my pursuit of it.

This thread could apply to many sports and even jobs/lifestyles. Some of what I hear that seems overall applicable:

Strength is important in itself. Strength helps develop other qualities and has many other benefits. However, developing strength won't necessarily result in a direct improvement in sport. It needs to be consolidated into other qualities - skill, conditioning, strength-endurance, etc. Also, there may be some short-term cost to spending a training block on developing strength. But don't view a short-term cost as a reason to stop trying to get stronger. Just consider whether a more integrated (and perhaps slower to develop strength - but at a lower cost to short-term performance) is better for you.

Past a certain point, strength isn't likely to help sport any further. But that point may be a lot farther than you think. No one knows where that point will be for themselves until they surpass it and find that, in the current context of life and training, the overall cost is too high in terms of recovery, impacting performance, or taking away from other qualities that are important.

And yes, technique is always a better thing to chase than numbers. But numbers can provide some important context to assessments, and can certainly inform strategies.

I think this is a great thread, even though I still know nothing about combat sports! :)
 

Justin_M

Level 5 Valued Member
but when you just get bullied and can't do anything about it, it's a way worse feeling.
Perhaps you're simply too nice of a person. I think that's normal as the people we train with are our friends and we become so comfortable being in danger that we lose that "spaziness".

I have a hard time being aggressive which translates into being slow and not explosive - or not as powerful as I actually am.

You should be more proud of not having an ego. That said, if continuing to train with a barbell, I would almost exclusively focus on cleans and jerks. Perhaps you can also identify a partner that's comfortable with drilling a few things that help build that controlled explosive aggression.
 

Pantrolyx

Level 5 Valued Member
(Disclaimer: I am only a blue belt in BJJ (albeit with three stripes) and no advanced lifter).

I think you will have to be slighly more patient regarding the benefits of your increased strength.
You describe a long periode of time without any BJJ training, followed by a period with a little (a lot less than you were used to) rolling with friends. Furthermore, you descrice that you have neglected the endurance training whilst focusing on barbell training. Followingly, it is expected that you:
  • Have significantly less sport specific endurance in BJJ than before the lockdown at the moment
  • Have a lot more "rust" when it comes to technique and flow than before the lockdown
When your strength on the mat does not feel as formidable as you hoped from the measured strength increase, I think the above mentioned factors play important parts. When you gradually start rolling more, your added barbell strength is more likely to be "converted" into grappling strength. Given your massive amounts of hours on the mat previously, I am sure it will be a quick process as well. :)

I recall the debate about whether or not boxers shuld lift, where critics were ponting to the time where an obese Riddick Bowe beat a ripped and buff Evander Holyfield, with endurance playing no small part. Adding strength was hardly Holyfields downfall, though, but more the fact that he got so obsessed with lifting iron (together with Fred Hatfield) that he started neglecting his pad and bag hitting sessions during training camp (according to Manny Steward, his boxing trainer at the time). His transition from cruiserweight to heavyweight did work very well over time, though.
 
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