Warning: count(): Parameter must be an array or an object that implements Countable in /home/optimumm/public_html/theunknownstrength/wp-includes/media.php on line 1206

Periodisation for Structural Balance

Macgregor McNair Training Methodologies 0 Comments

If you have been following my writing, you will have noticed that I place a lot of importance on the development of structural balance for beginners to strength training. With regard to fight athletes, I maintain that the importance of adequate levels of structural balance cannot be understated.

For optimal performance in strength training for any athletic development, I would highly recommend ensuring you have first developed adequate levels of structural balance throughout your lower and upper body.

So for those eager to learn more about the mechanics of periodisation for structural balance, I have chosen to divulge some of my key fundamentals as applied to strength training for fight athletes.

Firstly, let us get an understanding of a couple of definitions. Periodisation: the organisation of an athlete or team’s training year into phases, each phase has a focussed and intentional outcome, each phase targets specific athletic demands of the sport, and generally each phase progresses and builds on the previous phase. For our intents and purposes, the outcome of our periodisation is structural balance.

Structural Balance: Structural balance is term popularised by the great Charles Poliquin in reference to the absence of strength and mobility discrepancies between the left and right limbs of the body, between the front and back sides of the body, between the upper and lower sides of the body, as well as between the prime mover muscles and their associated stabilising musculature.

Minimising strength discrepancies between the left and right limbs of the body is hugely important for fighters because it will ensure that you are able to both attack and defend sufficiently on both sides of your body. By developing structural balance between left and right limbs you are limiting any weakness in your defence, as well as strengthening your offence on your non-dominant side.

An obvious example of a strength discrepancy between left and right sides can be seen while performing the bench press; if there is any major strength discrepancy the bar will travel upward unevenly between left and right, and the lifter will instinctively recruit every available muscle group to compensate for the discrepancy. Things such as picking one foot up off the ground, bridging the hips up off the bench, or twisting the torso to compensate for a strength discrepancy between left and right are common examples of this.

Another benefit of limiting the strength discrepancy between left and right is limiting injuries or cumulative injury cycles caused by the uneven force output of one limb in relation to the other. The instinctive compensatory responses mentioned above are proven ways to develop cumulative injury cycles and decreased performances.

Minimising strength discrepancies between the anterior (front) and the posterior (back) sides of the body is another primary goal of any structural balance training cycle. An example of the benefits of decreasing this discrepancy can be found, again, in the bench press. When there is a major discrepancy between the anterior muscle groups involved in the bench press (pectorals and anterior deltoids) and the posterior musculature (latissimus dorsi, posterior deltoids, scapular retractors, trapezius and rotator cuff musculature), you will find an uneven amount of tension being transferred through the shoulder (glenohumeral) joint. This will cause the joint to track unevenly, which will inevitably result in a cumulative injury cycle and some form of shoulder injury.

Minimising strength discrepancies between the prime mover muscles and the stabilising muscles is also one of the main outcomes of structural balance training phases. The prime mover muscles are the dominant muscles involved in a particular lift. In the example of the bench press, the prime mover muscles are the pectorals (with additional help from the anterior deltoids and the triceps), and the stabilising muscles are the rotator cuff muscles (teres minor, infraspinatus, supraspinatus and subscapularis). The pecs do the majority of the work in the bench press movement, while the rotator cuff muscles stabilise the shoulder joint and arms while protecting the pectorals throughout the movement. In the words of Poliquin Group instructor, the great Jess Banda: “If the rotator cuff muscles detect a level of tension which exceeds their ability to stabilise, they will preemptively shut down the prime movers in order to prevent a possible injury. With the example of the bench press, if a client were to fail on finishing a rep with a specific resistance, and get pinned by the barbell, chances are that it wasn’t due to the pectorals not having sufficient strength to complete the rep, but rather due to the rotator cuff muscles not possessing the strength to stabilise the resistance lifted.”

Structural balance is best achieved by performing exercises unilaterally, one side at a time. Stay away from bilateral barbell compound exercises (eg. barbell back squat, barbell bench press) and opt for unilateral versions of the same movements using dumbbells (eg. dumbbell split squats, dumbbell bench press). Be sure to begin each unilateral exercise using your non-dominant side first, then mirror the same number of reps on your dominant side. If you fall short of your desired number of reps on your non-dominant side, repeat the same number on your dominant side. This will ensure your non-dominant side receives the same amount of stimulus as your dominant side to decrease the strength discrepancy, rather than increase the discrepancy by doing more reps on your dominant side.

When performing unilateral exercises, be sure to utilise full range of motion throughout each rep. One of the underlying outcomes of structural balance development is minimising lack of mobility, and eliminating discrepancies in mobility between the left and right sides of the body. By utilising a full range of motion, the associated muscles are fully lengthened and shortened throughout the movement, and any lack of mobility will be displayed. If the mobility issues are structural in nature, meaning there is some joint impingement, acute pain or other structural anomaly, forcing a full range of motion can do more harm than good. If this is the case, seek advice from a specialist before continuing.

Examples of full range of motion are:
* Front foot elevated split squat - whilst keeping your torso upright and hips facing forward, drive your front knee directly over and beyond the toes on the front foot. This will help to fully lengthen the quadriceps on the working leg, as well as the hip flexors on the non-working leg. This will also help improve dorsiflexion mobility in the ankle of the working leg. Developing full range of motion in this exercise will transfer into the mobility required to meet the bottom position in an Olympic style, ass-to-grass squat.

* Dumbbell Bench Press - on a flat bench, keeping the scapulae fully retracted and picking the chest up toward the ceiling, bring the dumbbells downward fully until they touch your chest. By supinating (rotating the hands until the palms are facing your head) the dumbbells on the way down to the chest, you may be able to achieve a greater range of motion - be sure to pronate (rotate the hands until the palms are facing away from your head) the dumbbells on the way up though. Developing this full range of motion will serve strikers and grapplers alike, by developing strength through the entire strength curve which will translate to expression of force through the planes, postures and angles demanded by the combat sports.

To develop strength in the stabilising muscles, use targeted isolation exercises to strengthen them. These are commonly known as ‘remedial’ exercises. For a basic example, to strengthen the stabilising musculature of the bench press movement, utilise the dumbbell Trap 3, dumbbell external rotation, and dumbbell powell raise exercises to develop the scapula retractors, the lower trapezius and the rotator cuff musculature. For the lower body, consider developing the strength of the vastus medialis oblique (VMO) by using the Poliquin step-up and the Petersen step-up exercises, and the hamstrings using the single leg curl and the single leg Romanian deadlift exercises.

The goal for developing strength in stabilising musculature as mentioned above, is generally to reach certain strength requirements or standards as they relate to what is known as an ‘indicator lift’. A very basic upper body example of this is to aim to achieve 9-10% of your 1RM in the Close Grip Bench Press (the classic upper body indicator lift), for each of your upper body remedials for 8 reps per side, at a 4010 tempo. So, if your 1RM on the Close Grip Bench Press is 100kg, you should be aiming to hit 10kg per side (left and right) for 8 reps in all of your upper body remedial lifts, however the most important remedial exercise to demonstrate adequate structural balance for this indicator lift is the dumbbell external rotation.

An example of lower body remedial/indicator lift strength ratio from my own experimentation is the Lying Single Leg Curl (remedial exercise) @ 12-15% of 1RM Deadlift (indicator lift) for 8 reps at 4010 tempo on each leg. So, if your 1RM on the Deadlift is 200kg, you should aim to hit 24-30kg on each leg of the Lying Single Leg Curl for 8 reps at 4010 tempo.

Programming for structural balance, I have found the best results come from using ‘linear’ periodisation, or starting with high-rep ranges (10-15 reps) at light-moderate weight and low number of sets (2-4 sets) per exercise, working your way down to lower-rep ranges (6-8 reps) with moderate weight and a moderate number of sets (4-6 sets) per exercise.

Practical example of a basic structural balance periodisation plan:
The following is an outline for a basic structural balance training cycle, which contains 3 phases (A, B, and C). This consists of 2 strength sessions per week, but could very easily be repeated for 3 or even 4 sessions per week if necessary. This example training cycle might be best suited to an athlete with a small amount (1-2 years) of strength training experience under their belt. While this example is certainly not intended for everybody, it clearly demonstrates all of the principles I have laid out. Note the progression in volume per exercise from phase to phase, as well as the linear progression of reps from start to finish. It is also important to vary the exercise and/or loading parameters from phase to phase, this will ensure a new stimulus for the body’s adaptive processes to overcome.

You will notice that the “A” phase is prescribed for 4 weeks, while the “B” and “C” phases are designed for only 3 weeks each. This is because inevitably there will be a “feeling out” process for the trainee to get to know the exercises, and the weight they need to be lifting - I have allowed for the first week of the “A” phase to be a “feeling out” week.

Be mindful of the tempo prescriptions, and tricky rep schemes (i.e: 1 ¼ reps at 3020 tempo, and pause reps at 3012 tempo). Most importantly, the weight you use for each exercise should be just challenging enough to make you fight for the last rep of the last set, without forcing you to failure, and without compromising strict execution. As you progress from phase to phase, so too should you increase the weight you are lifting to compensate for the decreased rep-ranges.

Enjoy!

Structural Balance “A” phase - 4 weeks
2 x Strength sessions per week
Workout #1
A1) DB Trap 3 Raise - 2 x 10-12 reps, 4010 tempo, 15-30sec rest
A2) DB External Rotation - 2 x 10-12 reps, 4010 tempo, 15-30sec rest
A3) DB Poliquin Step Up - 2 x 27-30 reps, 20X0 tempo, 15-30sec rest
B1) DB Front Foot Elevated Split Squat - 2 x 12-15 reps, 3010 tempo, 30sec rest
B2) Single Arm Cable Row - 2 x 12-15 reps, 3010 tempo, 30sec rest
C1) BB Hip Bridge - 2 x 12-15 reps, 3010 tempo, 30sec rest
C2) Decline DB Bench Press (supinating grip) - 2 x 12-15 reps, 3010 tempo, 30sec rest

Structural Balance “A” phase - 4 weeks
2 x Strength sessions per week
Workout #2
A1) DB Trap 3 Raise - 2 x 10-12 reps, 4010 tempo, 15-30sec rest
A2) DB Lying Powell Raise - 2 x 10-12 reps, 4010 tempo, 15-30sec rest
A3) Single Lying Leg Curl - 2 x 10-12 reps, 4010 tempo, 15-30sec rest
B1) DB Split Squat (both feet on floor) 1 ¼ reps - 2 x 10-12 reps, 3020 tempo, 30sec rest
B2) Single Arm Cable Pulldown - 2 x 12-15 reps, 3010 tempo, 30sec rest
C1) DB Single Leg Romanian Deadlift - 2 x 12-15 reps, 3010 tempo, 30sec rest
C2) DB 30° Incline Bench Press (supinating grip) - 2 x 12-15 reps, 3010 tempo, 30sec rest

Structural Balance “B” phase - 3 weeks
2 x Strength sessions per week
Workout #1
A1) DB Trap 3 Raise - 3 x 8-10 reps, 4010 tempo, 15-30sec rest
A2) DB External Rotation- 3 x 8-10 reps, 4010 tempo, 15-30sec rest
A3) DB Poliquin Step Up - 3 x 20-25 reps, 20X0 tempo, 15-30sec rest
B1) DB Split Squat (both feet on floor) - 3 x 10-12 reps, 3010 tempo, 45sec rest
B2) Single Arm Cable Row (thick grip) - 3 x 10-12 reps, 3010 tempo, 45sec rest
C1) DB 45° Back Extension - 3 x 10-12 reps, 3010 tempo, 45sec rest
C2) DB Flat Bench Press - 3 x 10-12 reps, 3010 tempo, 45sec rest

Structural Balance “B” phase - 3 weeks
2 x Strength sessions per week
Workout #2
A1) DB Trap 3 Raise - 3 x 8-10 reps, 4010 tempo, 15-30sec rest
A2) DB Lying Powell Raise - 3 x 8-10 reps, 4010 tempo, 15-30sec rest
A3) Single Lying Leg Curl - 3 x 8-10 reps, 4010 tempo, 15-30sec rest
B1) BB Front Foot Elevated Split Squat - 3 x 10-12 reps, 3010 tempo, 45sec rest
B2) Single Arm Cable Pulldown (thick grip) - 3 x 10-12 reps, 3010 tempo, 45sec rest
C1) BB Hip Bridge (pause at top) - 3 x 8-10 reps, 3012 tempo, 45sec rest
C2) DB 45° Incline Bench Press - 3 x 10-12 reps, 3010 tempo, 45sec rest

Structural Balance “C” phase - 3 weeks
2 x Strength sessions per week
Workout #1
A1) DB Trap 3 Raise - 3 x 6-8 reps, 4010 tempo, 30-60sec rest
A2) DB External Rotation- 3 x 6-8 reps, 4010 tempo, 30-60sec rest
A3) DB Poliquin Step Up - 3 x 17-20 reps, 20X0 tempo, 30-60sec rest
B1) DB Walking Lunge - 4 x 8-10 reps, 3010 tempo, 60-90 rest
B2) BB Hip Thruster - 4 x 8-10 reps, 3010 tempo, 90-120 rest
C1) DB 75° Incline Bench Press (thick grip) - 3 x 8-10 reps, 3010 tempo, 60-90 rest
C2) Neutral Grip (bilateral) Cable Pulldown - 3 x 8-10 reps, 3010 tempo, 60-90 rest

Structural Balance “C” phase - 3 weeks
2 x Strength sessions per week
Workout #2
A1) DB Trap 3 Raise - 3 x 6-8 reps, 4010 tempo, 30-60sec rest
A2) DB Lying Powell Raise - 3 x 6-8 reps, 4010 tempo, 30-60sec rest
A3) Single Lying Leg Curl - 3 x 6-8 reps, 4010 tempo, 30-60sec rest
B1) Neutral Grip (bilateral) Cable Row - 4 x 8-10 reps, 3010 tempo, 60-90 rest
B2) DB Flat Bench Press (thick grip) - 4 x 8-10 reps, 3010 tempo, 90-120 rest
C1) DB Rear Foot Elevated Split Squat - 3 x 8-10 reps, 3010 tempo, 60-90 rest
C2) DB Glute Ham Developer (GHD) - 3 x 8-10 reps, 3010 tempo, 60-90 rest

If you are interested in knowing more about what we do at The Unknown, have any questions or feedback - please don’t hesitate to contact us at mac@theunknownstrength.com or leave a comment below.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *