Regrettably, recently it’s been all work and no play for me. I don’t seem to be able to get more than a couple of hours here or there on the mat thanks to work and a sick little boy in my house. Hopefully my little guy gets well soon and I can start to train a bit more. In the meantime I can just hope to keep things ticking over I suppose. So it seems a good time to refer back to the subject of time management. I’ve written on this before. In this post however, I want to stick to the topic of strength training and time spent conditioning, accompanied this week by Creedence
As you’re probably aware if you at all follow the blog, I’m not a huge fan of spending massive amounts of time in the weight room or on the road running, particularly if it takes time away from your primary sport whatever that may be. Remember, and this should be your creed when you start lifting weights, your primary goal is to contribute to the sport you’re playing, not detract from it. So if you’re too sore to train with high quality because you lifted too hard or too heavy, or you have no energy to train properly after running or rowing or pushing sleds, then you are screwing up- you are either failing to recover properly, are overworking yourself in the gym or you haven’t scheduled your training cycle properly.
So what to do? I think I get asked more questions about scheduling and planning than on any other topic. People are both busy and ambitious, ie. they have little time but plenty of plans! People want to know how much to train, when to lift, when to diet, what to eat before training, how much to run or row or cycle, and how it all comes together in the end. So the short answer, and this is the answer to all good questions, is “it depends”. You have to have an external, trusted source to tell you what it actually is you need, because everyone wants to be stronger, fitter and better at their sport- but we can’t improve everything at once. We have to pick the quality to improve that will offer us the most value.
Let’s examine three recent cases that I think illustrate this. Names have been changed to protect the guilty.
Bulgey Von Craphouse is a strong and athletic 20 something. He can easily outlift 90% of people and is powerful and fit enough to train for a hard 90 minute session. He is training BJJ less than 1 year. He perceives his exhaustion at the end of training to be conditioning related, and as such wants to do more conditioning. He is wrong, and any fitness and strength test against his peers would prove this. The exhaustion he feels during training is because he is training in a relatively new sport against superior players, and as such spends time “chasing the game” to use a field sports term. His solution shouldn’t be to spend more time conditioning, but to spend more time training and coming up to speed in the skills and techniques of the sport
Cuddly Ven Der Monkey is about 15kg overweight, but experienced in grappling to the tune of 4 years. He can last a class quite easily due to superior technique and guile, but struggles when a conditioning element is involved. For this guy, additional time spent on conditioning will assist in his game as he may be too comfortable training and have adapted to the demands of training enough to be not gaining additional fitness from sport training itself. Additional conditioning may be the way forward for this guy.
Ape Van Winkle (what’s with the fáux Dutch names this evening? I dunno) is an older guy who struggles with minor niggles and injuries that keep him from full participation. Now this is a prime case for additional, mobility based strength training, done with the gial of making him more injury resistant. You’d be surprised how many people benefit from the simplest of things and feel 10 years younger once proper training methods are applied.
Does that mean all of these guys should only do what I’ve suggested there? No, of course not. But these should be the priority since they are the qualities that can be most improved in the near term.
So once we’ve prioritised what we’re trying to improve, when and how long should we be spending doing it? Let’s use the base Kyuzo schedule as a template. If you’re a regular (ie. non-beginner) athlete in our BJJ programme, then you are training 3 times per week on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, with a team conditioning session on Saturdays. That means you have 3 big sessions that you would like to be hitting at as close to 100% as possible. So training directly before these has to be classed as a no-go. If you are lucky enough to be able to train in the mornings, I would ensure at least 4 hours of rest between each which should include hydration and food. How well you can recover will depend on a number of factors, most notably the type of session (conditioning, strength, power etc.) and your own level of fitness.
Our preference though, should be for our S&C sessions to be on our off days- Tuesday and Thursday. I know what some of you are thinking already- that’s now 6 days straight training when you are struggling to make the 3 days or even 2 days per week already with work, family and the missus giving you grief. Good news, I have another point to make that might help you out there. If you use your noodle, you should be able to wrangle 45 minutes on those off days, either after work, in the morning, on your lunch break or late at night. Used correctly, 45 minutes is more than enough to achieve whatever it is you’re aiming for in the gym. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that if you’re in there longer than that, then you’re either being counterproductive or are spending a lot of time doing nothing while you’re there.
In fact, I just spent 20 minutes in my garage with 60kgs of weight and a barbell doing this:
- 5 sets of 5 reps across of 60kg front squats (no rack so I cleaned this to the rack position) with 30 seconds recovery
- 5 sets of 10 reps across of 40kg barbell row with 30 seconds recovery
- 5 sets of 20 halos with 20kg
It was looking like I would have no time to train so I wanted a quick session to keep the progress from stalling as I’m in a hypertrophy phase in my training at the minute. Short, sharp and to the point!
If I train in a commercial gym (which is rarely these days) I write down what I want to do, set my watch for the time it should take me, time my rest periods and account only a little for queues to use equipment. Then I basically pull of a Navy SEAL assault on the place. In and out in 45. I am useless otherwise and will probably leave halfway through my training or end up spending hours there. It’s incredible the amount of time people spend in the gym, piling exercise on exercise as though quantity makes you better. 20-45 minutes of high quality work should be your goal, then get to the choppah and get out of there.
So there you go. Now if you do that you will have more time and be fitter, stronger and better able to roll! Once I get this hectic work week out of the way, I’ll be back on the mats.