Sunday, 8 February 2015

You don't need a bigger cannon!

Hey Guys,

Today we continue the Strength and Conditioning (S&C) article by coach Mal Fitzgerald.

Take a look and let me know what you think!


Athletes want to win.  No matter what the sport, you take part to win – either as part of a team or as an individual.  In every sport there are winners and losers; but at the end of a fight – it’s your hand you want in the air. 

Strength & conditioning enables you to express your technical skills (punching, kicking, sprinting, jumping, etc) with more power, speed and energy – it’s that simple.  I have seen very talented and technically brilliant fighters lose because they ran out of power or energy in the crucial stage of a fight. Although developing a strength & conditioning programme can be a complex process, even without access to a specialist, there is a   LOT you can do to structure your training to improve those vital physical qualities.  So, let’s start with the basics.

In strength & conditioning, there is a phrase that get used a lot – ‘You can’t shoot a canon from a canoe!’.   It’s pretty simple really – you could have a bigger canon than everyone else, but if you don’t have a solid base to fire it from, then you just making a big noise!  (plus, you end up being very wet!) So a solid foundation is vital and in this case; that foundation is strength. 

There are very few sports that don’t require an appropriate level of strength (darts and snooker being the only ones I can think of, if you can think of some more, please let me know) to perform them effectively.  If you are a runner and you can exert more force with each foot strike you are going to travel faster and need fewer steps.  If you’re a fighter and you can punch faster and harder, you significantly increase your chances of inflicting more damage to your opponent.  Strength is the foundation that every other physical quality is built on: Force, Power, Speed.  Think of what happens if you replace your canoe with a concrete island!

My experience is that far too many athletes focus on conditioning in their training, probably because their greatest fear is ‘gassing out’; running out of energy in a game or a competition.  Developing your energy systems is important for any sport and I will cover this in later articles, but for right now – start with the foundation.  Without strength you cannot have power.  Force x Velocity = Power (or put another way, Strength x Speed = Power).  One thing I do need to point out is that I am not talking about getting bigger.  If your sport is bodybuilding (yes, it’s classed as a sport) then size is your goal, so ‘crack on’ – but for the majority of athletes (with the exception of Rugby) you want to be stronger, not bigger. 

A lot people compete in specific weight categories so adding size and weight is the last thing they want.  Being stronger doesn’t mean being bigger.  Strength is developed by making your muscles more effective at moving a load, not by making them bigger.  To develop strength you have to put your body under load and you have to increase the load progressively over time. So how can YOU do this for yourself? 
  • 1.     Build a foundation of strength, particularly if your sport has an ‘Off Season’.  Spend at least 8-12 weeks developing your strength at least three times per week. 
  • 2.     Do a proper warm up! I don’t mean have a quick five minutes on the treadmill either.  A good warm up should take the majority of your joints through a good range of motion, get some blood flow to the muscles, raise your body temperature and prepare you for the movements your about to tackle. 
  • 3.     Use compound movements.  Compound movements use a combination of different muscle groups; Squat, Deadlift, Full Body dips, Pull Ups (my opinion is that ALL athletes should be able to do at least 10 bodyweight pull ups).  If your sport has some kind of overhead limb movement you can include some shoulder press movements in there, if you have no shoulder mobility or injury issues.
  • 4.     Do whole body sessions, include movements for lower body, upper body and trunk stability.
  • 5.     Perform 3-5 reps for between four to five sets of each movement.  If you are using heavy loads, take longer rests of 2-3 minutes between each set to let your energy systems catch up with the demand.
  • 6.     Limit the number of movements/exercises you do – stick to between four or six per session; quality over quantity!
  • 7.     Keep a training log.  This is probably the most important thing to do.  Make a note of your exercises, how many sets you did, how many reps you did and what weight you used.  Did you hit your target for that set or session?  What weight will you use next time?  Think about progression – increase the load you move over time. 
  • 8.     De-load!  Every four to six weeks, reduce the load you are lifting.  Stick to the weight, just do less sets or reps to give yourself (and your body) time to adapt.  Some people will need to de-load sooner, some later – everyone will adapt at a different pace.

That gives you the basics.  Don’t forget, they are not called ‘Basics’ because they are easy or for beginners.  They are the foundations to build a better athlete.


You can find more from Mal HERE

Stay healthy,


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