Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Bodyweight = Natural?

So, reading a book on fighting technique over the weekend, the book had a section on physical training. In there Mondschein states, ". . . in general, body-weight exercises have several advantages over weight training: . . . they develop the body in a more natural way, [and] teach us to use ourselves more efficiently."(p. 87) The listed exercises include:
  • Planks
  • Side Planks
  • Bridges
  • A yoga Sun Salutation
  • Leg Push-down
  • Back-to-Back Squats

And my question is, "What's natural about these?" In my regular life, the only time I ever end up in a plank, side plank, downward dog etc. position is while working out. And I certainly don't end up in those positions in a fight. Since these positions are not in fact natural, and are non-specific to fighting we should not value them above other exercises. They can still be useful, but they can't be the only exercises we do.

As to the assertion that they teach us to use our bodies more efficiently, I find myself confused by Ken's words. Training adaptations are specific, so my plank will become more efficient, but what else will? And my squats may gain some strength at first, but I'm not going to gain power with just body-weight squats. As such when I need power from my quads I will not have improved the efficiency of that action.

I'm not picking on Ken. He's a friend and can bench more than me. And I've seen this kind of thing from lot's of sources and people. His book just reminded me.

Many traditional martial arts have a bias towards body-weight or minimal equipment physical training. Over the years folks become convinced that this was because of it's superiority. Modern sports science has demonstrated this to be false. And so we need to move on in our martial arts training.

Mondschein, K. (2012). The Art of the Two-Handed Sword. Staten Island, NY: Swordplay Books

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Sport Specific vs. General Fitness

One of the basic points of this blog is to describe a sport specific program for strength training for combat sports and martial arts. This is distinct from general fitness objectives, but not in a qualitative way. General fitness is a wonderful thing and anyone who does exercise to have good general fitness is doing a good thing.

But this blog isn't about general fitness, it's about performance in a specific endeavor. And a specific training program will produce better results than a general one in that endeavor.

This is why recommendations for non-specific exercises bug me. I see them plenty on people's descriptions of the exercise they do for their fighting. And it's not that they aren't getting fit. It's not they aren't strong. It's that the ability to hold a one-arm plank for 2 minutes has nothing to do with a sword fight. That's not disrespect for the ability to do that. I just object when they think that such does help with the fighting.

Non-specific training will carryover to fighting, but not as efficiently as specific training. Doing non-specific training and then winning a match doesn't prove it was the best route. Maybe you could do even better with a more specific program. Or maybe you don't care and you like the fitness you have - that's also wonderful.

Enjoy your exercise and enjoy your results, but please understand the difference between general fitness and sport specific fitness.