Strength training, transfer and wearable resistance.

I bet that most of us will agree that strength levels are strongly related to performance in explosive sports. The discussion could be about what kind of strength has the strongest relation, maximal strength, explosive strength, power, or more specific forms of strength. It all boils down however, to the question of transfer. Quite a few books are written about this subject, most of them by Dr. Anatoli Bondartshuk. In my idea, this might be an individual issue.

Some athletes increase in maximal strength, let’s say, their 1RM, in a relevant exercise, and this transfers to a strong increase in explosive strength or speed as well, they are lucky. Other athletes might become a lot stronger in maximal strength as well, but they hardly increase their explosive performance, or at least not to the same extent as the others. Still, it’s the performance in the explosive events that counts in the end, unless you are weight lifter or powerlifter there are no medals to be won by having a high 1RM in itself.

An important issue in training is the balance in volume between general, or maximal strength training at one hand, and specific strength training at the other hand. Specific strength training is mainly about increasing your strength levels during the specific demands or dominant motor skills in competition. It’s not about getting stronger in the weight room, it’s about getting stronger in sprinting, jumping or throwing, generating higher forces often in the shortest possible time within that specific movement pattern!
There are quite a few ways to accomplish this, I hope you know about this, since I will skip this part.

In general, there are two important limitations to specific strength training.
-to increase the load in a SPECIFIC way, e.g. keeping in mind the force-time    characteristics of a movement
-to choose a load light enough in order to keep it specific, but still high enough to increase specific strength
Many exercises and lots of equipment have been developed for the purpose of making the strength training more specific. A well-known example is e.g. throwing with heavier implements in the shotput, like, 8 or 9 kg, instead of 7.25 kg. Or sprinting with resistance, here sled towing comes to mind.
Still, many of these change the kinematics and or dynamics of the movement to an less optimal level.

The second limitation is to find the optimal added load, whereas a shot of 8 or 9 kg might still look like shot putting, a shot of 12 kg definitely does not. Also pulling a very heavy sled, might increase maximal strength, but increase the contact time, or change stride kinematics and dynamics, to the extent that it no longer looks like sprinting. In those cases, in my opinion it’s better to go to the weight room. The more weight is added the less specific (read: slower) the movement becomes.

One solution, and I have been talking about it here before, is working with wearable resistance. Wearable resistance is applying variable weights, of 50, 100 or 200 grams on the trunk or extremities and loading the specific muscle groups you want to make stronger. This allows the athlete to execute specific drills and exercise, that are similar to competitions demands or movement patterns, or isolated exercises.
My aim is to see if wearable resistance, for the time being, can be an viable alternative to maximal strength training.

Wearable resistance training has many advantages:
-versatility in the choice of loads 50, 100 or 200 grams- total load (expressed in % of body weight)
-versatility of load placing (trunk and/or extremities, peripheral or distal, frontal or dorsal, lateral or medial)

Also, wearable resistance training can be used for:
-specific strength training: loading relevant and dominant muscle groups
-rehabilitation: loading specific muscle groups
-hypergravity training: wearing a load 16 hours a day during minimum 3 weeks)
-contrast-training: performing exercise with and without the load, e.g. each repetition or each set
-post-activation potentiation (PAP): prior to other exercise or even as a warming-up before

For pictures, see the post of May 11, Training camp

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