Wednesday, May 30, 2018

The Importance of Indicator Lifts for Combat Athletes.

One of the most important things in any strength and conditioning program is the proper use of indicator lifts. Indicator lifts are the testers that allow you to monitor an athlete's strength progress. I choose indicator lifts for my athletes based on both the sport and the individual.

For my combative athletes I generally track a variety of explosive movements, maximal or near maximal strength exercises and relative strength exercises as each are of great importance for their discipline.

For explosive strength and power I look at various jumps, usually a box jump or a broad jump done for a max height on box jumps or max distance on broad jumps. For lower body strength I use a parallel box squat performed in our belt squat machine usually for a 1 or 3 rep max. I like to use a block deadlift done with a sumo stance and the plates on 2", 4" or 5" blocks done for a 1 rep max. This is a great display of hip strength, something very important to all athletes not just fighters and grapplers. For upper body strength I use floor presses done for a 3 or 5 rep max. I also use pull-ups performed with body-weight for max reps as an indicator for relative strength. By tracking my athlete's progress with these indicator lifts I can ensure that they are progressing in all of the types of strength important to their performance.

Jumps can be done with body-weight or with added resistance by holding dumbbells, kettlebells or wearing a weight vest. Regardless, you should try to break a personal record in box height or broad jump distance about once every 4-6 weeks. It is important to note that if you are improving in your jumps and max effort strength work simultaneously, your training is on track. If your strength lifts are going up but your jumps are stalling or worse, regressing, you need to prioritize dynamic effort work in training.

BJJ athlete Chris Jones performing box jumps with a 40lb weighted vest.
Squats and deadlifts should be the cornerstone of any athlete's strength and conditioning program. These two compound exercises deliver the most "bang for your buck". For my combat athletes, particularly those who have mileage on, or injuries to, the shoulders I prefer squats with either a safety squat bar or belt squat machine as this keeps the stress off the shoulder joints unlike squatting with a regular barbell.

Chris Jones performing box squats in the belt squat machine at the Team EPTS training center. He has done 585 for a 3 rep max.
For the deadlift we tend to favor the sumo deadlift done with the plates resting on blocks (2"-5" blocks usually) as this minimizes leg drive and places a great emphasis on the hips and back.

Chris performing the sumo deadlift off 2" blocks, and has made 2.5 times his bodyweight for a 1 rep max. Notice he is sporting what the late Mel Siff referred to as the "best shoe for weightlifting".
I am not a big fan of regular bench presses, particularly for 1 rep maxes, for my combat athletes. The majority of our pressing is done with dumbbells or kettlebells, but we've found the barbell floor press done for a 5 rep max is a great indicator lift for our fighters and grapplers. Be sure to stick the legs out straight to take leg drive out of the exercise. This is very similar to how the combat athlete uses their upper body pushing strength in training and competition when working from guard.

Chris performing the floor press. He regularly does his body-weight - 205-225 - for sets of 5+ reps.
For upper body pulling strength nothing beats the pull-up. There is no better exercise for developing upper body strength. Pull-ups should be performed strictly with NO kipping. We use a variety of grips - underhand, overhand, parallel grip, staggered grip, fat grips, and one of our favorites gi pull-ups.
The gi pull-up is hands-down one of  the best upper body strength exercises a grappler can add to their training plan. Team EPTS athlete Chris Jones easily bangs out sets of 10+ reps at a body-weight of 205-220 lbs.
A final note about indicator lifts, just because the typical strength coach here in the US has some sort of fatal attraction to ass to grass front squats, bench press and power cleans doesn't mean that you have to. When working with athletes you have to consider the demands of their sport and their physical constitution when selecting their lifts. Athletes are not weightlifters or powerlifters, they are not being judged on their technical performance of the snatch, clean and jerk, squat, bench press and deadlift. Use exercise variations that allow them to get strong through the joint angles and positions they need to use in there sport. All that matters is their sporting result, not the lifts or numbers they do in the gym. Choose the exercises that best suit your individual athlete and focus on making them strong, explosive, and resilient. While this article focused only on the strength and power exercises I use with my combat athletes, aerobic capacity and other conditioning modalities need to be addressed, as does mobility and range of motion.

When an athlete develops a high level of physical preparedness and approaches their specific sport preparation with laser-focus, their results will be nothing short of impressive.

Chris Jones, Creighton BJJ brown belt and owner of Nucleus Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, won gold at the 2017 IBJJF Pans, Masters Worlds, Nogi Pans and Nogi Worlds and is currently the #1 ranked brown belt in his division in the IBJJF!
Stay Strong AND Healthy!


Tuesday, April 17, 2018

My Top 3 Exercise "Playlist".

I often get asked what my favorite exercises are, and while there are too many great exercises out there to choose from, if I had to narrow down my favorites, these would make the top 3 list!

1. Deadlift:

In my opinion this is hands down the best exercise you can do. It requires a lot of coordinated muscular effort to perform properly, is fantastic for strengthening the entire backside of the body and torso and requires no special equipment – just a bar and a bunch of iron plates. In addition, the deadlift is a very safe lift to perform as missing a deadlift has far fewer potential dangers than missing a squat or bench press. Plus, there is just something raw and awesome about ripping a heavy barbell off the ground!

2. Pull-Up:

The pull-up is king of the upper body exercises as far as I’m concerned. I see way more people opting for the easier to perform pulldown. Pulldowns will not give you the same mid- and upper-back development as the pull-up. If you want to jack up your pull-up numbers here’s a simple plan. Test your max number of reps. Now do a set of half your max in-between sets of all your other exercises in your workout. If you can only do 4 pull-ups in a row, do a set of 2 between sets of all your other exercises. If you have 20 sets of exercises in your training session, you will end up knocking out 40 pull-ups throughout your workout. Do this for a few weeks then retest your max, you’ll be pleasantly surprised!

3. Kettlebell Clean and Press:

The kettlebell clean and press can be performed with 1 or 2 kettlebells and is one of the biggest “bang for your buck” kettlebell exercises you can do, as it works almost every muscle in the entire body. Kettlebells are a great addition to any strength and conditioning or fitness program and can be used almost anywhere. Sometimes I drag a kettlebell or two to the park and do a lighter weight conditioning workout outside if I want to get out of the gym for a bit. Kettlebells are great to keep at your house too in case you can’t get to the gym and need an efficient and effective full-body workout.

While these are the exercises that made my top 3 list, I certainly wouldn’t neglect exercises like squats, various presses and pulls, and direct abdominal work; but putting a lot of hard work into my top 3 favorites will provide huge improvements in your strength overall.

Stay Strong AND Healthy!


Wednesday, April 11, 2018

My Appearance on the Grappling Central Podcast.

Huge thanks to my buddy Ryan for having me as a guest on his show the Grappling Central Podcast!
Ryan’s Strength & Conditioning coach Scott Shetler joins the show to talk about catering your lifting to meet your grappling needs, the impact of time limits on athletes, cardio vs muscular endurance and nutrition.
Click here to listen now:

-Changes in strength training over time
-Why he enjoys working with Jiu-Jitsu athletes
-Formulating sport specific training for Jiu-Jitsu
-Why strength training is so valuable for grapplers
-Strength IS a factor
-The impact of time limits on athletes
-Cardio vs muscular endurance
-Why he doesn’t believe in static stretching or prolonged warm ups
-Building physical preparedness
-The Pummel
-Being a Vegan athlete
-Kettlebells for grapplers
-His books and consultations
-Books mentioned in the interview: The 5 Rings and Dokkodo by Miyamoto Musashi

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Indian Club Training Tips for Grapplers & Fighters.

In this video I present some of the Indian club training exercises I have found to be beneficial for shoulder strength and health for the combative athletes I work with at my gym. I incorporate both light and heavy clubs into our training program as both offer great benefits to the combat athlete. These exercises are a must for shoulder health, strength, and mobility. I hope you enjoy this video and please leave any questions or suggestions for future video topics in the comments section below.
Click video below to watch now:

Be sure to subscribe to my YouTube channel for updates on future videos. Stay Strong AND Healthy! -Scott

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Neck Training Tips for Grapplers & Fighters.

Creighton BJJ athlete, Noah Wilson, training his neck as part of his strength & conditioning program at EPTS Gym.

In this video I talk about some of the various neck training exercises the grapplers and combat athletes I train utilize in their strength and conditioning programs. Neck strength is essential for combat athletes and should be developed through a combination of both static and dynamic exercises. Hopefully you enjoyed this video and if you have any questions or suggestions for future video topics please leave them in the comments section below.

Stay Strong AND Healthy! -Scott

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Grip Training Tips for Grapplers & Fighters.

Creighton BJJ athlete, Chris Jones, building a strong grip with gi pull-ups.
In this video I talk about, and demonstrate, some of the grip training exercises I utilize with my grapplers and fighters at the EPTS Gym in Atlanta.
We break our grip exercises up into two categories. 1. Compound exercises that stress the grip. Here we take compound pulling movements like pull-ups, pulldowns, and rows and add a Jiu Jitsu gi or something similar to challenge the grip on these movements and perform them as part of the regular training session. 2. Direct grip exercises. Here we use mostly static grip exercises that isolate the grip. Exercises such as plate pinches, hub lifts and Rolling Thunder lifts are some of our favorites. In addition I talk about some basic hand health strategies to implement as part of your grip training as well. I hope you enjoy this week's video and if you have any questions or topic suggestions for future videos please leave them in the comments section below. Be sure to subscribe to my YouTube Channel to receive updates on future videos.

Stay Strong AND Healthy! -Scott

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Recovery-Based Training for Athletic Performance.

I recently received a question regarding a video I posted concerning the strength training plan of my combat athletes. The question was about the fact that I have them max out every week during their regular training sessions. They generally have two intense strength training sessions per week, one being devoted to the maximal effort method and one being devoted to the dynamic effort method. I have always built my training around the information and work Louie Simmons has presented over the years, what he refers to as the Conjugate Method. Basically the dynamic effort training session is focused on lifting submaximal weights with maximal acceleration and the max effort training session focuses on lifting maximal loads. We do exercises for reps, power, endurance, etc. as well, but these are the main focuses of these two primary training sessions.
Proper training and restoration allows my BJJ athletes like Logan Santos, 2017 IBJJF Nogi Worlds silver medalist, to train at maximal intensities on a weekly basis. Weighing 155lbs he is deadlifting 405lbs with 115lbs of band tension and 40lbs of chain.
The question concerned the athlete's ability to recovery from the high degree of stress associated with the maximal effort method. I decided this would be a great topic for a blog article because his question was very valid, especially since this trainer utilizes a very similar approach to training that I do and found frequent max effort training sessions to be detrimental to his athletes. Thus he made adjustments to keep his athletes progressing. This is a trait of an excellent trainer and coach as the most important factor in the training process is progress. If athletes cannot recover from their training sessions they will not progress and have to deal with over-training and potential injuries.
BJJ athlete Chris Jones, gold medalist in the 2017 IBJJF Pans, Masters Worlds, Nogi Pans & Nogi Worlds, utilizes a variety of high rep band exercises for joint health and injury prevention.
This brings up the point that training must be recovery-based. This is why static training programs do not work in the long term or for highly qualified athletes. It is also a theme I see reiterated between two people I consider my mentors in the strength and conditioning industry. Louie Simmons is constantly saying that the body adapts to the demands placed upon it - the principle of specificity / specific adaptation to imposed demands. To get stronger we have to do more work. Joel Jamieson is someone I credit for many things, mostly that conditioning - particularly development of the aerobic energy system - is a massively overlooked component in the training of athletes, and that training must be recovery-based in order to provide results.

There are many factors that go into properly recovering from training, including but not limited to:
  • Nutrition
  • Rest / Sleep
  • Conditioning
  • General Physical Preparation (GPP)
  • Restoration Measures (massage, ice, heat, contrast, etc.)
  • Recovery Workouts
  • Technology (HRV monitoring systems, heart rate monitors, etc.)
Through properly implementing the recovery strategies listed above and staying consistent with their training, I have never had an issue with any of the athletes I train being unable to recovery from the work they do in my gym. That's not to say people don't have off days. Injuries, poor sleep, poor nutrition, external stress, etc. can all impact one's physical readiness. That is a reason I am a huge fan of using heart rate monitors in training as well as something that monitors and tracks daily readiness. For a while now I've used Joel Jamieson's Bioforce HRV and recently switched to his new product, Morpheus. In addition to monitoring HRV (heart rate variability) Morpheus factors in daily training, sleep and activity when calculating your daily readiness. Having this type of information allows you to make adjustments to your training each day to ensure that you are training optimally.
Joel Jamieson's Morpheus system is a game changer when it comes to recovery-based training.
One of the greatest impacts on my athlete's ability to recover from training and competition has been placing a great deal of emphasis on aerobic energy system development. Cardiovascular training has gotten such a bad rap in the fitness industry and it's a shame. Many people act like doing aerobic work will make your muscles atrophy and your strength disappear, but this is far from true. Granted if you are an olympic lifter or powerlifter there is no need for extreme aerobic capacity, although having some aerobic development is important to facilitate recovery. However if you participate in sports like MMA, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, and practically every other sport outside of the pure strength sports, aerobic capacity is extremely important. Shockingly many of the combat athletes I've worked with have had relatively poor levels of aerobic capacity, something I feel is due to the negative press aerobic training gets. The fact is combat athletes need high levels of aerobic conditioning in addition to appropriate levels of strength, power and anaerobic energy systems development. The more conditioned my combat athletes get, the better their recovery and ability to tolerate high intensity and volume in training.
Grappling Central Podcast host and BJJ player Ryan Ford uses sled dragging as a means of building aerobic capacity.
Keep in mind when you are developing your training plan, or training plan for your athletes, one size does not fit all. First understand the physical requirements of the sport, then assess where you, or your athletes, are at in relation to those requirements. When you understand these things, it is very easy to build an optimal training plan. Constantly reassess and work to raise volume and intensity over time and most importantly ensure that you, or your athletes are recovering from the demands of the training program.
BJJ athlete Braulio Galvao has no problem getting plenty of restoration and recovery in his training!
Stay Strong AND Healthy!