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Strength endurance as a foundation for muscle strengthening

This is an excerpt from Training and Conditioning for Judo by Aurelien Broussal-Derval.

In muscle strengthening, the work is primarily focused on the following:

  • Technique and acquisition (or recovery) of automatic reflexes
  • Hypertrophy work (increase in muscle mass) building up a judoka's armor, and strength workouts with long, numerous sets with a reasonable load, prior to any intense work during the season

Example (note that the recovery time between stages is less than 1 min 30 sec)

Phase 1: resistance band pull 2 × 10

Phase 2: loaded pull

2 × 10 repetitions at 40 percent of your load capacity. Alternate pulling between the right and left arms

2 × 8 reps at 50 percent. Pull quickly and release slowly

2 × 6 reps at 60 percent. Hold halfway through as you release the load

4 reps at 65 to 70 percent. You can add holds, change the tempo, and so on.

More than ever, the notion of progressiveness is key, whether during a session (from the warm-up onward) or the season (the pursuit of progress from one session to another, or from one cycle to another, is essential). The work must also be specific, both in terms of the exercises and the working angles, contraction methods, and strength attributes.

Nevertheless, this type of training can quickly become long and tedious, forcing us to be creative and break with the routines originating from bodybuilding and athletic strength. Varied work will therefore aim to provide a range of different contractions (see previous glossary), as well as different strength-development methods, types of muscle engagement (voluntary or via electrostimulation), and types of movement, enabling you to prepare the muscle for the different scenarios it will face.

Resumption Cycle FAQ

Should you wait before resuming judo and just start with a general physical training workout?

No. Judo is a sufficiently varied and adjustable discipline that the difficulty, quantity, and intensity can be adapted to the more limited resources of the fighter at that particular moment. Put plainly, you should start back with judo as soon as possible, modifying the physical and technical demands accordingly. The pursuit of quality doesn't mean you should be looking to reproduce “the” move of the Olympics immediately, though!

I'm really overwhelmed physically. To get my spark back, I was thinking about doing some basic running work. Is that appropriate?

No, not if you have previously been training normally. Basic running work and other basic activities are most often associated with aerobic capacity effort, which is only useful for learning to appreciate and manage effort, weight regulation, adaptations of the central nervous system, or even recovery. In the case of a judoka who is resuming training, having previously trained seriously, it is best to opt for work that is divided into portions. It's certainly more difficult, but it's so much more effective! It's also more fun if you pick an activity other than running, like one of the racket sports. Once again, progression is the priority.

Yes, if you've not trained seriously for quite some time. In this case, you will need to try to recover the main adaptations of the cardiopulmonary system that you've lost with the passage of time. Without those, short-term effectiveness is not achievable in intensity-focused training sessions. Here, resuming via a gradual cycle of continuous, low-intensity effort is an excellent idea.

Should the competitive judo squad consider a serious military-style resumption training camp?

It depends. When judokas get back from vacation, two scenarios may emerge: competitors who kept up with their training, even moderately, over the summer, and others who stopped all activities for several weeks. In both cases, an intense resumption camp would serve the dual purpose of team building and getting the group back into a training rhythm right away.

In the first instance, where fighters are not deconditioned, a development cycle with an increasing load (gradually increasing each week) would be particularly suitable.

In the second example, the technical focus of the camp should be on the basics, and it should be physically varied and very progressive. The idea is for the athletes to get their appetite back for the rhythm and intensity of effort, and to regain their fitness within one week.

I'm stiff as a board. Do you have any particular advice about stretching?

Yes, indeed. Stretching should be an integral part of the resumption program, from the first training session onward, first through passive flexibility exercises done on your own, and then through prolonged postural work. Pairs exercises and more advanced methods combining contractions and stretching should be scheduled for later in the season.

I feel as though I have fragile joints and muscles. Which exercises should I choose to strengthen and protect my body during bouts?

Recovering strength levels is a secondary concern. The priority during this period is to rebuild the fighter's armor. This means strengthening structures locally that are traditionally fragile and susceptible to injury during the resumption period, such as the following:

  • The rotator cuff, especially through lateral raises (and arm rotations once the arm is raised to 90 degrees) with dumbbells or resistance bands. Forward lunges, side lunges, and squats for the hamstrings, quadriceps, and adductors.
  • The dorsal-lumbar structure, the abdominal muscles, and the postural muscles can be worked through static core-strengthening exercises. For example: facing the floor, balanced on your elbows and feet, with your legs straight, or on your back, with your hips raised, supported by your shoulders and feet, in a bridge position. You can devote one or two sessions during the week to this type of work in the weight room or fit it into a circuit at the end of a warm-up or the end of a session.