There's a smorgasbord of different set/rep schemes, tempo's, techniques and TUT (Time Under Tension) targets we can use for a variety of different end goals in mind. Plus tiny nuances for each general theme can be found within different disciplines such as the body building scope or the sports performance scope.
I'd like to share my top 2 tempo schemes which I find complement martial arts performance rather nicely. But first, my case for using full range of motion, plus a little diatribe about looking after your joints and less than ideal training pairings.
Full ROM stuff.
Using a full range of motion during strength training is a must in the world of martial arts. More specifically, developing strength and control throughout the largest range of motion available, is crucial. Martial arts requires us to get into some pretty funky positions throughout typically large ranges of motion.
Body building for example, is different. Shorter ranges of motion are rather beneficial here as it typically promotes muscle growth by way of increasing the diameter of the muscle fibres, as opposed to the fascicle length. Longer ranges of motion with a big emphasis on the eccentric (lowering) portion of the lift will typically promote gains by way of length.
There's obviously a whole bunch of other ingredients which can promote one adaptation over the other, but you get the basic premise. Important quote coming up.
Strength is joint angle specific.
I cannot stress this truth enough in order to convey the importance of training effectively for optimised performance and a decreased injury risk. Let me give you a prime example for why strength throughout full ranges of motion matters for you.
Launching out a side kick or a turning kick at full reach puts your standing leg knee joint in a compromised and vulnerable position. I know since I ruptured my ACL in exactly this position, interestingly, it happened because I was
too relaxed. Why was I relaxed? I was completely and absolutely knackered.
With 'joint angle specific strength' in mind, your external hip rotators under the glutes, your glute max, hamstrings, quads, plus the muscles of the shin compartment need to be bat shit strong to maintain structural integrity of the knee joint. Especially, at these specific joint angles.
In the case of my knee injury, my muscles just didn't fire and hold my joints stable. Which shows being strong enough isn't the full house. We also need to have excellent endurance and supreme discipline to make sure we fire even when we are tired. It's the same bad habit as allowing your technique to falter during a lift just because it starts to burn.
But if you're not even as strong as you should be? Well damn, what's the point? You're not maximising your potential and you're at risk.
You could potentially justify a shorter range of motion within this scope. I can't think of an example, but you can bet your cotton socks a scenario can present itself. By and large though, full ROM makes the most sense. I just like to remind myself to avoid dealing in absolutes.
If Martial Arts & Joint Health is the goal, Olympic/Power lifting specific technique is not a good pairing.
I'd also stress that full ROM shouldn't mean going way over the top. To put yourself into really silly positions under significant load isn't somehow better.
Equally, squatting as low as humanely possible because "That's what they do" is not always a good ticket. Depending on your build, you'll be ramming your hip sockets against your femurs until they, or your lower back, hurts. How long can that take to develop? Oh, heck.. could be years. Could be never! Could be 6-9 months. It depends.
One thing's for sure. You don't want it.
The low back can become agitated because running out of structural range of motion at the hip means the motion has to come from somewhere. Which is from your hips tilting backward. With your hips shifting posteriorly you'll get Butt-Wink. This means your lower vertebrae are moving under load.
The degree of Butt-Wink can vary from person to person since we're all built differently. Though it is definitely worth avoiding. I wrote more about Butt-Wink's here.
The same principle is true for deadlifts. There's zero requirement that it must come from the floor. Unless you're a competitor where the rules stipulate so. Keep in mind, your structure may not allow you to get your hands all the way down to the bar. So why force it?
I might have two different people at the exact same height, only one persons hips come up to a higher point than the other. This absolutely affects hip range of motion making it harder for one to get down to the bar than the other. To get round this you've got two options, raise the bar off the ground, or use the higher handle on a trap bar.
Forcing your body into ultra specific, rule dictated positions. That's Power/Olympic lifting stuff, which I feel is not a great pairing for martial arts endeavours. Can you understand the requirement for flexibility in your training approach? Rule books don't do this, rule books say it's this way or the high way.
Let's be clear. I'm not against barbell work, heavy squats/deadlifts and loud grunting noises. I am against forcing square pegs into round holes. You really do need to be genetically built to suit the rule books for these disciplines. If you're not and you're trying to fit this rule book? Stuff is going to go wrong. Stuff is going to hurt.
I'm going to provide a quote and hyperlink to a great article which would expound further on why you should avoid getting stuck in technical absolutes. To quote Mr Gentilcore -
"The reason many powerlifters adopt a hard arch when they
squat is more out of necessity than because it’s better."
So, is it better for you?
Heck, I have nearly 100% of my clients squatting serious load, deadlifting barbells and trap bars. I love this stuff for developing strength along our strongest plane of motion. It's just that, we don't need Olympic/Power lifting nuances injected into our technique. Because the goal is not to be able to lift the most amount of weight per KG of body weight.
The goal - Last I checked - is to promote healthy, athletic, super strong and long lasting martial artists.
Ok I'm done now, I promise. We segue into Tempos.
The Tempo Schemes
The first is Eccentric Isometrics. This protocol comes from Dr Joel Seedman. It looks more or less like this - 3:2:0:1
Or in other words - 1, 2, 3. pause..... BOOM EXPLODE.
Yeah, it's fun.
Yeah, it makes you hate life.
It's very good for developing high levels of force, very quickly, with minimal momentum. It's kinda the point of the pause. Oh, and to develop immense mechanical tension. You can employ this tempo scheme with pretty well any exercise. My favourite has got to be squats.
If your goal is to pack the maximum amount of strength and power into the smallest space, this is a sweet tempo to utilise. My next favourite is more advanced and as such, is not something everyone should just dive right into.
Rapid Eccentric Isometrics
This protocol was also created and coined by Dr Joel Seedman, this is where it really steps up and it's the bees knees. Check it.
You're doing pretty much exactly the same as the previous tempo as far as pauses and exploding is concerned. However, the eccentric portion of the lift happens extremely fast. It's quite literally a plummet. Let's think about the transfer for a moment. What do we do a lot of?
All of which require a rapid deceleration under control. Normally with just one leg, never mind two. Decelerating your mass is one of the single biggest overlooked elements of human performance in martial arts.
We get really good at extension based patterns like jumping and kicking. But hardly any attention is paid to landing, and deceleration.
Talk about a low hanging fruit.
The goal is to be able to correctly 'catch' the drop just before you run out of range of motion, the force demands on the muscles involved are immense. Which is why it is not a beginners protocol. You can really damage yourself if you get this wrong. The goal is for your muscles to decelerate the load, not your joints.
Transfer to martial arts is good huh? Eh? Eh? Yeah boi.
I'd far rather you dither around with the first protocol, build some context and confidence and then graduate towards more technically challenging tempos like the Rapid Eccentric Isometrics. I'd encourage you to drop me a message if you want to evaluate the option for yourself.
If you're fairly swish in the weights room? Let's get you adding some Turbo-Sauce to your strength and conditioning shenanigans.
Those are my two favourites. Run with em.