Heavy Complexes: The Solution for Strength & Endurance
by Josh Henkin
All sports seem to fight the battle.
How much time do you devote to strength?
How much do you devote to endurance?
The even greater challenge is what those terms “strength and endurance” mean to the combative athlete.
While most would assume strength reflects simply how much you are able to lift, that is probably an oversimplification for most athletes, especially for those in fighting sports. Why? Let’s look at strength, fighting sports have athletes developing force at all sorts of different angles and positions, most that are not reproduced by classic gym exercises. Just as important though, fighters need to learn to resist force.
In our Dynamic Variable Resistance Training (DVRT) program, we discuss how strength is not just what you lift, but what you can resist. This can be especially true when we look at core strength. In the book, “Mechanical Low Back Pain” the authors state, “Rather than considering the abdominals as flexors and rotators of the trunk- for which they certainly have the capacity- their function might be better viewed as antirotators and antilateral flexors of the trunk." (Porterfield and Derosa, WB Saunders 1998, p99)
This means we need to train beyond just the sagital plane and the classic barbell lifts. Even leading spine specialist, Dr. Stuart McGill, has stated, “In contrast, spending less time under a bar squatting and redirecting some of this activity with asymmetric carries such as the farmers’ walk (or bottoms- up kettlebell carry (53) builds the athleticism needed forhigher performance in these activities in a much more ‘‘spine friendly’’ way. The core is never a power generator as measuring the great athletes always shows that the power is generated in the hips and transmitted through the stiffened core.”
Carries shouldn’t be where your training ends or even really begins with asymmetrical training and dynamic strength training. However, this does show that strength is A LOT more than what we traditionally think in training.
Teaching what we call “movement strength” actually does a lot more to improve performance and resiliency to injury than just “strength” itself. Dr. David Frost, who is an expert in the area of performance training for firefighters, performed an interesting study finding that movement based protocols, not conventional strength training was found to increase resiliency to injury. That means we need to learn how to move and lift, but do so with specific purpose.
Endurance falls into a complex category as well. We often think about endurance is just about how much fatigue we can tolerate. The truth is that is neither the most efficient or best way to go about endurance training. Especially when you think about fighting athletes and the amount of time they need to devote to skill development as well.
Strength and endurance do have a relationship.
How so? Let’s look at a simple example. If I have two athletes, one can lift 400 pounds and the other can lift 200 pounds, if I ask them to compete to see who can lift 180 pounds more times, who do you think would win? While this is not a perfect example, you should be able to see the point I am trying to illustrate. Strength can help your endurance, of course if you do it right.
The pure strength enthusiast will try to get your max weight lifting numbers up, but that usually means you require long rest times that do very little for your endurance. Of course some will say completely separate strength and endurance training, but for athletes I don’t believe this to be positive.
Athletes need to know how to develop force under levels of fatigue, if pure strength was all that it took then powerlifters would be phenomenal endurance athletes, which we know isn’t the case! That is why I recommend using Strength Complexes with kettlebells and Ultimate Sandbags to solve this dilemma.
Why these two implements?
Both really speak to athletic based training. They have unique movement to them, they can move in a wide array of patterns and directions, they challenge the core as it is meant to be trained, they teach real high quality movement strength drills. Lastly, the variety and progressions available make them an ideal coaching tool and resource for any coach or athlete. Here are some of my favorite combinations that will unleash a whole new level of strength and endurance to your performance. Try them out!
Josh Henkin, CSCS is the creator of the DVRT Ultimate Sandbag Training System. DVRT has become a go to functional fitness program for military, police, fire departments and top fitness facilities in over 80 countries worldwide. You can learn more at DVRTFitness.com.
Josh also just released a NEW Online DVRT Certification Course.