Follow the link for a transcript of Gotch’s classic wrestling manual, Wrestling and How to Train.
Tag Archives: wrestling
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.
A topic that comes up frequently on the FSRI blog is “core training,” particularly as it relates to moderating the lower back/spinal stress that training in all fighting arts creates. I dialogue quite a bit with people from various fighting arts circles, and often someone will respond to a core-related topic with “I do x reps of sit-ups everyday.” Ostensibly this seems like a good way to train the core musculature, however it neglects many important elements of the core’s movement and stabilization systems at the favor of the most visible aspect, the rectus abdominis (the “6-pack” that people are unfortunately obsessed with). Due to their positioning in the spinal column and the muscular attachments of several muscles, notably the psoas, the lumbar vertebrae end up being exposed to kinematic demands and kinetic forces that are greater than one might think. Full sit-ups actually increase these forces, since hip flexion is required along with the desired rectus abdominis action, which places a combined compressive and shearing force on the lumbar vertebrae of the lower back:
Clinicians often recommend abdominal exercises as both a prophylactic and a treatment for low back pain…However, sit-up type exercises, even when performed with the knees in flexion, generate compressive loads on the lumbar spine well over 3000 N (ed: 675 lbs. force) . According to one clinical report, the use of sit-up type exercises appears to have actually contributed to low back pain development among a group of 29 exercisers. Partial crunches have been advocated as providing strong abdominal muscle challenge, with minimal spinal compression (Hall, 2007).
The action of a full sit-up creates several surprisingly high forces: compression on the anterior (front) facets, tension on the posterior (rear) facets and shear at the medial rotation point of the lumbar spine, particularly the lower vertebrae.
If the goal is to correct the stresses that training and conditioning place on our lower backs by strengthening the rest of the core, it should be clear that full sit-ups are not a good choice, and that the RA muscle is not the best target for “core training.” Don’t forget the image of the core as a tall tower with guy wires stabilizing it in all directions. The other core movers and stabilizers also need proper conditioning Although the RA is visible and easy to target, standard sit-ups and targeting it exclusively may actually increase the stress load to the lumbar spine, worsening existing muscular imbalances, performance deficits and increasing the risk of low back pain/chronic injuries.
The solution is to leave full sit ups out of your conditioning routines. Take a look at Bob’s Back Brief article for some suggestions and links to video demonstrations of many core exercises which can add balance and increased performance- as well as decreased stress on the lumbar spine- to your conditioning.
Feel free to contact one of us for consultation and more ideas.
Hall, S.J. (2007). Basic Biomechanics (5th ed.) (p.305). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.
About twelve years ago our karate group was doing a fair amount of partnered arm conditioning (ude tanren) and supplemental ground training (ne waza) when one of the students developed small acne sized bumps on his forearms. These eventually spread to his torso. He didn’t think much about them at the time because there weren’t that many of them and they didn’t bother him that much. Eventually though another student developed a similar rash. It wasn’t until this second student mentioned the rash that the matter was brought to my attention. Both students went to their respective doctors. The diagnosis was herpes gladiatorum – a virus spread through close skin-to-skin contact common among wrestlers
Of course this set off everyone’s alarms. The individuals with the infections were not allowed to partner with other people until their doctors cleared them for practice and the entire place received a thorough disinfecting. After that incident we were much more more tuned into signs of infection and extra diligent about making sure that the mats and other equipment weren’t just cleaned but also disinfected.
Heavy bags, makiwara, striking pads, bag gloves, face, fist, shin, and foot protectors, and flooring all can harbor a variety of disease causing pathogens. Usually it is not enough to just wipe them down with a detergent. Many antiseptic cleaners need to sit for a few minutes to work effectively, and some recommend more than one application, and most need to be allowed to dry thoroughly. The warm, sweaty, close environment of a dojo or other fight training space is ideal for the transmission of various communicable diseases.
Creating and habituating good cleaning practices helps protect everyone. Fostering an awareness of the types of infections that commonly trouble fight training athletes helps reduce the danger of transmission.
Below I have listed a few good resources for fight trainers and students. A few minutes reading through them may help you protect your group from these nasty infections.
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.
Stagnation: Too Much of a Good (?) Thing
Martial arts are often marketed and practiced as if they are a finished product with set training and methods. The entrenchment of this idea varies from circle to circle, but it is quite common. It’s very appealing to both new students and long-term students alike. Predictability and stability are things that we tend to gravitate towards in our choices of recreational activities, as can be seen by the guy who goes to the gym and does the exact same workout every visit, or the karate sensei who plans each class to be a further exposition on the basic techniques that the last year’s worth of classes were based on. Stagnation of training activities can take the form of:
- repetition of specific skill-based activities: techniques or drills, especially elementary techniques
- repetition of physical conditioning exercises past the point of useful adaptation
For new students the appeal of a set training format is very strong, as it minimizes the new material that they have to learn on a given night, which reduces anxieties and confusion in front of more experienced students. A handful of things can be learned, whether that be a drill, technique or conditioning exercise, and then repeated reliably in each successive class. This is a comfortable routine, and if it is tied to claims of efficacy or magical thinking, the new student may place an inflated value on whatever he or she has done the most, regardless of ability.
For the long term student, stagnation may be appealing due to one of two factors:
All throwing techniques, including trips and tackles, involve movement in the transverse plane. Initiation may involve sagittal or frontal plane movements, but the follow through and landing will occur around the thrower’s longitudinal axis to a greater or lesser degree.
For the person being thrown, this means that:
- Landings will involve rotational forces and increased risk of damaging the ankles, knees, shoulders and neck. Pursue isometric strength conditioning as well as concentric conditioning, especially for the neck.
- Falling skills should be thoroughly practiced in all three planes of motion, as well as from kneeling, standing and moving positions.
- Failed throws wherein a foot remains planted will pose a high risk for knee injury, particularly ACL damage. Agility training can help a student to recognize these conditions and react quickly to move an endangered leg.
- For students and fighters whose activity is throwing and takedown-intensive (Judo, wrestling), specific programming for muscle hypertrophy should also be included to protect bony surfaces and joints and to help diffuse impact forces.
For the person throwing, this means that:
- A throw will involve torsion on all joints involved in the technique. Specific strength and stability conditioning involving transverse plane movements can help to increase joint stability and ensure proper muscular activation around the ankles, knees, hips and core.
- Depending on the other person’s weight and velocity, a successful throw will involve accelerating and potentially decelerating several times more than one’s own weight and mass. Strength conditioning programs typically emphasize movements in the sagittal plane, while the frontal and transverse planes are less emphasized or neglected.
- Progressive balance and stability conditioning, comprehensive core conditioning, and agility/reactive training in all three planes are strategies that can reduce the chance of avoidable injury while improving a student or fighter’s performance.
- If a throw begins to fail at any phase, your body will be required to decelerate and stabilize the load while in non-optimal conditions, and several times your own weight and mass will pose a threat to your knees in particular. Condition the knees in all planes of motion, emphasize single leg balance and stability skills.
- Throwing and takedowns occur predominantly in the transverse plane. Most athletic injuries occur in the transverse plane. Do not neglect conditioning in the transverse plane (do I sound like a broken record yet?) .