Strength and Conditioning 101: The Hypertrophy Phase
In the previous article, I introduced the basic training concepts that submission fighters and/or their trainers can use in designing a program. We've established periodization as a means of improving strength and sport-specific movements, as well as reducing injuries and overtraining. Now let's talk specifics…
Periodization allows us to "plug and play", that is, we have the duration, intensities, and volume set up. All we have to do now is insert the proper exercises. This becomes much more involved for the submission fighter. Rather than dwell on certain styles or disciplines, let's assume our fighter is your basic, grappler/striker, with a solid background in both fields and with the baseline fitness level of a Division II athlete. As I mentioned before, phase one is our hypertrophy phase, which should last for four weeks. This is one of the few instances where bodybuilding is relevant. Ninety-nine percent of the exercises prescribed in most gyms are applicable to Phase One, with a crucial exception: Now is the time to address weaknesses. Let's assume our fighter is right-handed, and after strength testing with dumbbells we discover he is twenty percent weaker in his left arm than his right. We perform one-legged leg press, and discover our fighter is thirty percent weaker in his left leg than his right, and after testing his hamstrings/quadriceps strength, we find a strength ratio of 1:3. This is, of course, unacceptable. Our fighter must achieve a more balanced physique, not in the aesthetic sense, but athletically. This will undoubtedly not only make him a better competitor, but will reduce the chance of injury.
Our fighter is therefore prescribed dumbbell-based exercises, with each arm working independently (one-armed shoulder press, one-armed dumbbell bench, etc.). His left side is given twenty percent more work than his right. Any supplemental exercises are done during Phase One, such as exercises for biceps, triceps, calves, etc., with the beginning of extensive work dedicated to the body's "core" - abdominals, lower back, and legs. As before, any weakness is now addressed, thus if our fighter has a strong bench (very common) but shows comparatively weak back and leg strength (also common), more volume is prescribed for his back. The general sets/reps scheme (not including the twenty percent more work for our fighter's left side) is as follows:
Phase One Hypertrophy: Four Weeks
Intensity: 60-65% of student's one-rep max for all exercises
Frequency: 4 days/week Mon/Tue/Thu/Fri
Volume: 5 sets/10 reps
Tuesday: Shoulders/Back (including lower back)
Friday: Legs/Abs (including lower back)/Calves
As you can see, the amount of volume is tremendous because the relative weight is low. Keep in mind we are prescribing mostly dumbbell exercises, forcing each side to work independently, and doing more leg work for our fighter's hamstrings than his quadriceps, to balance his leg strength. We can include multi-joint movements such as squats and deadlifts (and we will!), but in addition we are also including single-joint movements, the "bodybuilding" exercises, with more hamstring than quadriceps work, more left side volume than right side. It is only during this phase that we are working for that "burn", which indicates we're increasing our anaerobic lactate threshold. The muscles need to be shocked into growth.
Wednesday, Saturday, and Sunday are very important rest days, which can also be used for any aerobic work. But no weight training should be allowed - joint health is, and always should be, a main priority. Additionally, I'll repeat a rule that is too often ignored: you get stronger when you're not in the gym. Only with adequate rest can muscle growth result. Weight training is a significant stressor, and without giving the body enough time to heal, gains are slowed and injury results. After four weeks, assuming our fighter has had adequate dietary intake, he finds himself having gained size and strength, as well as feeling and performing in a more balanced manner. He is now ready for the next phase, which we'll cover in my next article.
obsession is just a word the lazy use to describe the DEDICATED