"Sixty years ago I knew everything; now I know nothing; education is a progressive discovery of our own ignorance" - Will Durant
I officially encountered and studied strength as one of the basic motor properties about 15 years ago during my studies at university. It has served me for quite a long time and offered me a clear understanding of how to approach it in terms of muscular training. At least, it has been a “safe” place to be for a long time.
The traditional training models have been highly influenced by pure physiology, bodybuilding and physical therapy. Pure physiology has contributed by offering measurable physiological parameters although these cannot be used to predict adaptations to the training. The idea of working on isolated body parts has been borrowed from bodybuilding concepts, but coordination can be negatively affected by segmentary work especially if done in the “hypertrophy zone”. The highly regarded training of proprioception has been highlighted by physical therapy, however within a proprioceptive exercise the feedback occurring is still much slower compared to what is often required in complex sporting movements.
Keeping in mind that we are always relying on theories (also in the case of traditional training), I currently try to offer the most integrative approach I can. The reductionist assumption of basic motor properties as separate entities and their automatic transferability seems to be very inaccurate especially if we think of athletic movement. For example, to produce a contextual movement pattern (like in sports), muscles have to produce strength in cooperation, therefore the pivotal point is the timing of the production of force. Isolation unlikely contributes to the complexity-based dynamics of contextual movement patterns.
You can find more about complexity on this previous post.
In the book “Strength Training and Coordination: an Integrative Approach” by Frans Bosch, the author writes [..] Just as in an orchestra the point is not who plays loudest but how to coordinate the tempo and volume of all the instruments, in contextual movements the point is to make force production by each muscle group a perfect part of the whole. In other words, the more complex and contextual a movement pattern becomes, the less strength can be seen as a separate phenomenon. The more contextual a movement pattern becomes, the more strength and coordination become a single entity [..].
I find the orchestra image a wonderful example of how strength can be seen as a consequential result of coordination and timing. This means that if we refine the communication within our organism, it will perform better also in terms of strength expression.
Jozef Frucek and Linda Kapetanea’s 15 and more years of movement research highlights the importance of coordination and rhythm as foundation of movement qualities. In my experience with their material, I found that every step gets nourished, if not generated, by the previous one:
You can now experience their concepts in workshops and intensive programs under the name Fighting Monkey Rootlessroot. Their research is one of a kind and their integrative approach is vast, you may hear them talking about movement, performance and rehabilitation as well as neuroscience, chronobiology and philosophy.
I have found in the Vegetative Training (VGT) by Inge Jarl Clausen another amazing model of complementary approach to human performance. Its aim is to re-tune the vegetative system which consists of hormone balance, immune system and the autonomous nervous system. The idea is that any disturbance in the vegetative system affects the performance of the organism therefore restoring the normal vegetative functions optimises the organism’s functionality.
The VGT helps the organism to return to a state that allows a new performance, in other words it improves someone’s capacity of returning to a homeostatic or balanced state. It is like regularly cleaning the ground on which the organism’s functions are built upon.
I find that those propositions look at underlying processes, especially neurological and experiential, something not so common in the traditional reductionistic training model. We are complex biological organisms and sticking to a reductionist paradigm may be limiting our development as athletes and human beings. Therefore, nowadays I opt for what I believe to be a more realistic and integrated view.
Without negating the value of specific strength training, I would rather optimise the prerequisites for the performance first and foremost. This means that I try to restore the organism’s functionality optimising the vegetative system and work as much as possible on complex movement that reproduce similar situations of the sporting movement, including coordination, rhythm and interaction.