Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Power Lifting, Strength and Sport?

Last weekend marked the return of UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones. It was his first fight (in the octagon, not with the law) in over a year. Jones won, regaining his title in a five round unanimous decision. After the fight the social media world blew up with chatter of how Jones did not look dominant or like himself. People said he must be washed up or that his extra-curricular activities must be catching up with him.
I looked at it a little differently; maybe he felt he needed the work. As good as practice and sparring are (and are needed) nothing is quite like the actual event. It was a lunch-pail kind of fight, work on some things and retrain what five rounds of fighting feels like.
What does fighting have to do with this fitness/motivation blog? A friend sent me an article posted on Mmajunkie.com posing an interesting question whether power lifting played a role in Jones' "lack of dominance".  During the fight, Jones’ head coach Greg Jackson was overheard saying “power lifting’s a problem.” And that he’s gassed referring to Jones.  This may have been referring to Jones’ overall conditioning or just simple ring rust.
I've never worked with an elite mixed martial arts fighter, so my opinion is coming from my almost twenty years of training athletes of various levels.  I feel MMA fighters might be the most difficult type of athlete to work with.  I’m not talking personality, but training capacity.  Fighters today must be experts in a number of fighting styles, from boxing, to BJJ to wrestling.  This would be the equivalent of an NFL player going both ways and also performing the kicking for their team.  Fighters also have a different coach for each fighting style.  And these coaches need to communicate with one another.  Each coach needs to be aware of what the others are doing; the athlete will need some restorative/mobility/technique work to aid recovery.  Being crushed by three coaches in one day may lead to overtraining or injury. 
Let me get back to the issue of the power lifting being Jones’ problem.  I do not think (nor do I feel Jackson really thinks) power lifting is the problem.  Jackson probably does not feel the strength gained from lifting was actually the problem, but maybe power lifting was prioritized over his fight training.  Increasing strength will make any athlete (or human) better at their activity.  A stronger Jon Jones will be a better Jon Jones.  But, did the time he spent acquiring that new strength take away from his primary training as a fighter.  I feel many athletes should follow the 80/10/10 rule (I learned this from Dan John) for training time. 80% of training time should be devoted to your sport, 10% on strength, 10% on correctives and movement.  I bet Tom Brady spends most of his dedicated training time to throwing mechanics and the nuances of foot work that allow him to move so well around the pocket.   
On a final thought, I do feel strength is king.  Strength makes athletes better, and non-athletes better humans.  Everyone should work on increasing strength, but not at the sacrifice of your sport.  Keep working on strength acquisition, strength is a skill.  Keep working on getting stronger.

Till next time.