Category Archives: strength training

Shoulder Stabilziation for Striking: are you Focusing on the Right Muscles?

When considering upper body striking, martial artists tend to focus on the pectoral, triceps and deltoid muscle groups, and the glenohumeral (GH) joint, which is the most obvious shoulder joint. The GH joint consists of the humerus and the glenoid fossa of the scapula (the “socket” of the shoulder blade). Since this joint is essentially like a ball resting on a shallow dish, and not a deep socket like the hip joint, ligaments and the attached muscles provide most of the stability. There are also three other joints in the shoulder complex that play important roles in maintaining stability for the GH joint, with the scapulothoracic being most prone to abuse in combative training. This joint is formed by the fibrous connection of the scapula to the posterior torso wall, which allows the scapula to glide and rotate as the GH joint requires.

The serratus  anterior and the trapezius provide the ability to adduct (pull close to the ribcage), retract, depress, and upwardly or downwardly rotate the scapulae.  They maintain alignment of the glenoid fossa  with the head of the humerus.  A strong, reasonably flexible rotator cuff group is important, but the trapezius needs to be able to provide rotation and stabilization so that the GH joint stays centered and the rotator cuff isn’t impinged. The trapezius and serratus need to work synergistically with the GH joint movers. Striking in general requires the same coupling of scapular and humeral actions that has been reported for other overhand actions  (Kibler, et. al., 2007) such as the tennis serve.

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Specificity of Conditioning in Fight Activities: Basic Concepts & Application

Specificity of training is the basis on which all modern physical training rests. Briefly, to produce a desired physiological adaptation, a training program must place sufficient stress on the physiological systems in question (Willmore & Costill, 2004). In training environments this is commonly referred to as Specific Adaptations to Imposed Demands (SAID).  Adaptations to training are limited to the physiological system overloaded by the program. This includes neuromotor, morphological, hormonal and metabolic elements. Fighting activities (encompassing both combat sports and fighting/self protection scenarios) present a unique programming challenge, requiring a range of adaptations to all systems.

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Using the Overhead Squat Assessment to Identify Reductions in Punching Quality

The overhead squat assessment promoted by NASM (Clark & Lucett, 2011) provides a useful evaluation of the functional status of the latissimus dorsi during a common movement (video example here). The OHS requires that both trunk extension and shoulder flexion occur simultaneously, either or both of which may be altered if the muscle has become chronically shortened and tight. When the lats are hypertonic, shoulder range or motion (ROM) is altered due to excessive internal rotation and depression of the humerus, which further affects the actions of the scapula. This can be seen when an individual’s arms habitually fall forward past the line of the torso during the eccentric phase of the squat in an OHS evaluation, which is an indication of the arthrokinematic (joint movement) compensations needed to accommodate functional ROM as the muscle attempts to maintain a shorter distance between origin and insertion (for an excellent visual of how this occurs, take a look here).

Rear view of the latissimus dorsi. Note the broad connection to the pelvis, and the insertion on the humerus. An overactive (hypertonic) lat will cause alterations in shoulder and hip function, impairing good technique by reducing strength and mobility, while increasing the chances of an avoidable chronic injury.

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Random Training Notes 18

Regarding historical or traditional training practices:

Within physical culture, old practices or concepts aren’t necessarily good or better than modern ones just because they’ve been around awhile. There is belief in martial arts circles, especially in “traditional” groups, that something which has been passed down for decades is unquestionably valuable, or even superior to modern evidence-based understandings. A common defense is “do you think technique x would still be around it if it wasn’t battle tested?” Another is “look at practitioner x- if it worked for him, and he had no fancy research.”

The plain and unglamorous truth is that sometimes techniques or training practices got passed down simply because no one knew any better, or it fulfilled a cultural function (particularly in Confucian-influenced societies)  or because they maintained a certain personal prestige or power structure within a group. A technique may have never actually been used in a fight;  a conditioning activity may routinely cause joint damage that actually weakens a student over time, but the status of the originator serves to enshrine it. Old can be good; old is not automatically good.

Linked Resource: Customizing your Medicine Ball

I love using medicine balls with rope handles, but they can be expensive. Take a look at this excellent article by Ross Emamait, from the always interesting RossTraining.com Blog on how to make your own own rope handles.

Customizing Your Medicine Ball

Resource Links: Recommended Trainers and Recommended Fighting Arts

You may have noticed a few changes as we’ve revamped our blog. One of these is an expanded links section (see sidebar), which now includes categories for Recommended Trainers and Recommended Fighting Arts. The goal of these links is to put readers into contact with individuals and groups that can help them to put some of our conditioning/training topics and research into practice.

The Recommended Trainers category is a listing of fitness professionals that we recommend based on several factors:

  • they utilize up to date, evidence-based best training practices
  • they hold nationally accredited certifications, degrees & relevant credentials in the field (CSCS, NASM, NESTA, ACSM, ATSU HM MS, etc.)
  • they have trained extensively in a fighting art or sport, or have worked extensively with particular fighting arts and sports populations
  • they can provide high quality, activity-specific injury prevention and performance enhancement programming specific to the various fighting arts and sports

These Recommended Trainers are listed by the state that they work in so that readers from around the USA can find FSRI-recommended fitness professionals to help them to enhance their training. Rest assured that we will not endorse any trainer who does not meet our standards.

The Recommended Fighting Arts category contains links to groups, clubs and instructors that meet our criteria for high quality fighting arts practices:

  • the stated goals of training are realistic and achievable (relative to an athletic or self-protection context)
  • the stated methods for achieving those goals are based on sound concepts that are supported by anatomy & physiology, psychology, pedagogy, the nature of violence, and related fields
  • the goals can realistically be developed through the stated training methods
  • the group or instructor prioritize common sense, practical training, evidence-based practice and the development of the student over organizational hierarchies, unsubstantiated opinion, appeals to tradition or history or purely financial motivations

Feel free to recommend additions to this listing, although we will only link to groups that  meet these criteria. Want to be added to the list? Send us an email that describes how your practice meets the points listed above.


Spinal Overuse Injuries in the Fighting Arts: Risk Factors and Prevention Strategies

The modern understanding of “the core” and the need to properly condition it has become well known among athletic and active people, including martial artists (yes, the importance of the hips has been belabored for centuries, but the modern anatomically based concept is not necessarily the same thing). The core refers to the muscles, connective tissues and bones of the torso, yet to many it’s just the rectus abdominis (the “6-pack’).  However, the core can be more accurately thought of as the support, stabilization and movement system for the spinal column. This stack of 33 vertebrae (24 moving and 9 fixed) is connected by many ligaments and muscles, which provide oppositional tension akin to the guy wires on a tall tower.

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