Mixed Strength and Conditioning (MSC)

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Right up front, I have to be honest, I can’t take credit for this idea. I read about it in the Results Fitness Ultimate Fat Loss Programming and Coaching Program by Alwyn and Rachel Cosgrove, and I liked it so much, I wanted to expand upon it. However, I did come up with the acronym MSC, to stand for Mixed Strength & Conditioning. So just what is MSC you say? Let’s start with a quick history lesson from the martial arts world.

Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) has a long history and appears to have originated in ancient Greece. From there it passed on to the ancient Roman civilization, and centuries later, 1993 to be exact, the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) was formed and MMA began it’s rise in popularity in modern America. Although, we really should give credit to Bruce Lee, who in the 1960′s and 70′s, created Jeet Kune Do, which is a mix of the most effective techniques from different martial arts from around the world. In those early days, there were many bumps in the road, and the UFC struggled to be accepted. Politicians attacked it for it’s brutality and looked to have it banned, with John McCain leading the charge. The rule book was very limited, and it resembled more of a gladiatorial event than a modern sport. Martial artists were pitted against each other in hopes of revealing which martial art was truly the most effective in combat. The early events were dominated by Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, specifically the Gracie Style, and a member of the Gracie family just happened to be one of the early organizers of the UFC.  Rules were eventually added to increase the safety for the fighters and for the acceptance as a mainstream sport by society. The early domination by grapplers eventually began to give way to athletes who grew up training in mixed martial arts, instead of only training in one discipline until later in life. From early on, this new breed of dominant fighter worked on all aspects of martial arts, kicking, punching, grappling, throwing, and wrestling. Ultimately, there isn’t just one dominant art, while wrestling and jiu-jitsu were the closest, they still needed the element of striking. Two fighters who come to mind as good examples of well rounded mixed martial artists are Georges St. Pierre and Ronda Rousey. Each fighter may have their strengths in one discipline over another, but they must be competent in all aspects to become a superstar now days. So this becomes an argument for becoming well balanced in your strength training. Not relying on just one kind of tool or training method, but becoming competent with many instruments and forms of exercise.

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People will forever advocate one style of training or exercise tool over another. They always have and always will. You should power lift, crossfit, train only kettlebells, calisthenics, just run, etc., and that’s all you need. We as people, are constantly looking for the magic bullet, that one perfect workout or piece of equipment. Here’s an idea, maybe there is value in many different ways of exercising, and with the use of different tools. Here are two important reasons why you should try different workout programs and a variety of exercise equipment.

  1. Train different movement patterns. I learned the importance of training different movement patterns the hard way. Many years ago, I became completely obsessed with long distance running. I loved to train and compete in races, and I didn’t have time for much else. Any semblance of a strength training program went out the door. I payed the price with a bad case of over-training and an achilles injury. I encourage you to learn from my mistakes and make sure to balance out your overall training program with lots of different movements. I get it, sometimes we find something that we are extremely passionate about and we jump in full-bore, but even if you want to focus on one type of training or fitness tool, please balance it out with some other form of training. It’s great to become an expert in something, but don’t become so single minded in your training that you throw out everything else. We can learn from youth athletes too. Research has shown that young athletes who start focusing on one sport at a very early age appear to have a higher risk of an overuse injury. I think it’s safe to say that the same will be true for adult athletes who only engage in a single form of exercise or only use one kind of tool. Here’s a recent quote I shared on Facebook from elite MMA fighter, Carlos Condit. “Working that ankle, knee, hip strength and stability with Erwan Le Corre. Before all the comments pour in… I’ve been wrestling, a lot. Balance and stability work complement that. I do heavy, conventional lifts as part of my program. Functional movement and mobility work make strength gains more applicable to my game. Just like I train different martial arts, training in a wide variety of fitness modalities is important for overall athleticism. Move better, Fight better. MovNat.”
  2. Keep the workouts mentally stimulating and avoid burnout. I don’t know about you, but doing the same form of exercise every day can become a bit tedious and mentally stale. Also, it can become frustrating in terms of achieving personal records (PR). In running, the faster I got and the longer I had been training, the more I began to plateau. It became much harder to reach a PR. In fact, I eventually peaked and then began to see my times get worse. It was most likely a combination of increasing age and the fact that I was headed down the path to over-training. This forced me to train much harder to see improvement which left me with feelings of dread when it was time to head out the door for an ultra hard workout. Engaging in some cross-training will help keep things interesting and decrease the chance of burnout. I would also like to add that you may actually see better improvement in your training because you are more balanced. Going back to the youth athlete research, a large portion of kids burnout by age 13 from focusing on a single sport at an early age. As we get older, performing the same workouts over and over can lead to the same burnout. Mix it up and have fun!

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Let me reiterate it again, if you’re passionate about a specific form of exercise or workout tool, then by all means, train it. It’s great to find something we are passionate about and there is a much greater chance we will do it. We also have an opportunity to become an expert and the world probably could use more legitimate experts. I have started to receive coaching from kettlebell instructor Nic Goebeler, and in one session, I’ve learned many valuable tips that I hadn’t learned over many years of working with kettlebells. It pays to learn from the best if you truly want to have a firm grasp of a fitness tool or workout philosophy. So to sum things up, even if you want to place the majority of your focus in one place, take the time to engage in different fitness activities beyond your favorite. For most people, becoming competent with many tools and many different types of training programs will keep their interest and be optimal for good health, mobility, strength, and endurance.

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