What is Energy Production?
Before we get into more detail on the six components of conditioning listed in fig. 5, let’s briefly
talk about exactly what energy production really means in the first place. In the beginning of
this chapter, I told you that conditioning provides the fuel your muscles need to do the job of
punching, kicking, elbowing, etc. This is a pretty accurate and easy way to understand what
energy production is and how it works.
Your skeletal muscles are living tissue and just like the rest of your body, they require constant
energy to do their job of flexing and extending joints in a coordinated manner to move you
around. Your cardiac muscle also requires energy to pump blood throughout your body. The
more active you are, the more your muscles have to work, and thus the more fuel they require.
The fuel your muscles run on is a molecule called Adenosine Triphosphate, known as ATP for
short. Through a chemical reaction that breaks down ATP into two smaller molecules (ADP + P)
energy is released. It is this energy that is the fuel your muscles run on. In this way, ATP can be
thought of as the energy currency of your body.
All the food you eat goes through chemical reactions that break the food down into ATP
directly, or into sugars, fats, and proteins that are stored so they can later be turned into ATP as
needed. The entire process of taking the food you eat and turning it into the ATP molecules
that provide the biological energy your muscles run on is what energy production is all about.
Rate of Energy Production
As you can see in fig. 5, the energy production process can be broken down into three distinct
components that collectively make up this side of the equation. The first component we’ll
discuss is the rate of energy production, also known as the power component. In physics,
power is defined as “the rate of work being performed” but in the cage or ring power can be
more easily understood when you see someone get a powerful takedown or connect on a
vicious KO punch to end the fight.
In order to generate the kind of raw power it takes to hit someone so hard they barely
remember the fight, your muscles need to be able to contract and relax with lightning fast
speed. In order for them to do this, they need fuel to be provided at a very fast rate. The faster
your systems of energy production can generate the energy your muscles need, the faster they
can contract and relax and the more power they are able to generate.
Looking back at fig. 4, the rate of energy production can be seen by how steep the slope is
during rapid changes in energy expenditure. A steeper slope represents greater energy system
power and a greater necessity to rapidly generate the ATP your muscles need. Likewise, a more
gradual slope indicates a lower rate of energy production and thus less power. As a mixed
martial artist, it’s important that you have the ability to produce energy as rapidly as possible if
you want to be explosive and capable of getting the quick knockout or submission win.
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Beginning basic squat patterns After ensuring proper hip hinge mechanics, we would begin a basic squat progression with a “potty squat” (see figure 10.24). Sitting on the corner of a chair or a stool, the athlete positions the feet under the body to squat rise off the chair without using any momentum shifts. The lumbar spine is neutral and braced and this begins to groove a good two-legged squat position. Then progressing to a standing position, the arms are held out laterally and moved in front of the body as the athlete squats (see figure 10.25). Of course, emphasis is placed on maintaining a neutral lumbar spine and abdominal bracing. The “Goblet squat” from Dan John also has proved very effective in adding depth to the squat. The athlete can shift side to side while maintaining perfect spine posture working the hip joints . Progressing to a single-legged squat involves the same arm motion to assist balance. As the single legged squat performed, the free leg is is held in front as if the athlete were reaching with the toes to a distant object in front of them on the floor . The free leg is held behind and the knee is touched to the floor, or the toe is reached with an outstretched leg to a distant object behind Finally, the free leg . is reached out to a distant object placed laterally during the squat. Variations include working the free leg to different positions “around the clock” (see figure 10.26, while muscle activation levels are shown in figure 10 . 27) This challenges . the full hip extensor, flexor, and abduction torque generators together with keen motor control. Full integration with the pelvis and lumbar spine is achieved with emphasis on the appropriate motor and motion patterns. Specific focus is directed towards maintaining a neutral lumbar spine Focus on hip . motion and developing the extensor drive through the hips with a stiff torso.
This series of articles was inspired by posts from Zach Cooper, CSCS, a strength coach who often writes on the topic.
Lying on the back with the knees flexed and the feet on the floor, the athlete places the fingers on Glut Max to feel its activity. Image a coin placed in the gluteal fold which must not be dropped. Activate glut max by “squeezing” the buttocks, not by creating hip extension. Focus on the pelvis at this stage to ensure that no pelvic tilting occurs. The lumbar spine remains in neutral posture (see figure 10.21). Then, once the activation has been mastered, begin bridging the torso off the floor The clinician/coach at this stage feels the hamstrings . . Those who are hamstring dominant and gluteal deficient will immediately activate the hamstrings just prior to motion occurring. This pattern is very dominant in those who have the aberrant crossed-pelvic syndrome, but is also seen in some sport-specific athletes such as cyclists. Power athletes must override this hamstring pattern. The athlete must repeatedly try to begin the bridging action without hamstring activity (or at least only mild activity) . To override the hamstring dominant tendency in some athletes requires coaching and cueing from the coach/clinician. For these challenging cases we place our foot against the athlete’s toes, instructing them to continue with the preparatory gluteal activation and stimulating the quads by very mildly attempting to extend the knees. Buttressing their feet with the clinician’s foot assists this (see figure 10.22) A gentle stroke on the quads to . assist their imaging and perception also facilitates this pattern. Then repeat the attempt to bridge with gluteal dominance. Now maintain the pattern and try a one legged bridge (see figure 10 . 23) . This skill must be perfected prior to more challenging hip extensor strength and power training. Once mastered, squat performance will improve.
The first stage involves isolating gluteus medius. Once again, the athlete needs to “feel” the muscle and perceive its activation. Lay on the side. Place the thumb on the ASIS and reach with the fingers posteriorly – the tips will be over the gluteus medius (see figure 10.19). With the hips and knees flexed, spread the knees apart with the feet remaining together acting as a hinge . Feel with the fingers the Glut Med activate. This manoeuvre is to simply activate the Glut Med and should not be considered a strengthening exercise There . is no need to offer resistance at this stage (resistance is imposed later during strength training); true isolation of the Glut Med is not possible and other muscles are active. In this posture, the external hip rotators are recruited. Extending the hips to a neutral posture and repeating the movement tends to activate the Glut Med with a greater integration with the Tensor Fascia Latae . An optional exercise that can be added to the progression is the lateral leg raise with the athlete maintaining finger contact with the Glut Med. This will add to the challenge and begin “strength” training (see figure 10.20). Finally, a weight bag can be added to the ankle for strength training This progression will enable the athlete to develop skill in conscious and . unconscious Glut Med activation during all activities. Those who do perform traditional barbell squats will now find that conscious external hip rotation and abduction will achieve higher Glut Med activation – and improved performance . Figure 10.19 Anchoring the thumb on the ASIS and reaching around with the finger tips should position them to land on gluteus medius Opening the knees like . a clam shell will allow the athlete to feel the glut medius activation.
A good back needs healthy gluteal muscle function, while performance demands balanced hip power about each axis. This section describes some hip motor patterns that inhibit performance and compromise back health, together with documenting several training progressions to address them. The crossed-pelvis syndrome was described in chapter 4, where the gluteal complex appears to be inhibited during squatting patterns and very common in those is with a history of back troubles (together with some others as well). Interestingly, we still do not know if the crossed-pelvis syndrome exists prior to back troubles or is a consequence of having them. Nonetheless, the syndrome noticeable in both athletes and normals referred to our is research clinic. This results in two concerns: First, those with aberrant gluteal patterns cannot spare their backs during squatting patterns since they use the hamstrings and erector spinae to drive the extension motion. Subsequently, the erector spinae loads up the lumbar spine. In this way, healthy gluteal patterns are needed to spare the back. Second, it is impossible to re-build optimal squat performance, either for strength or hip extensor power, without well integrated hip extensor patterns. In fact the reason why many athletes fail to properly rehabilitate is because of the emphasis on strengthening philosophies without addressing the aberrant gluteal patterns first. This failure by many strength coaches is one of the reasons for athletes to be sent to our research clinic.
We have learned many things from our work with intramuscular electrodes that have to be implanted in the abdominal wall to monitor deep muscle activity A valuable discovery . involved the muscle activation facilitation mechanism. For example, as the canula (large bore needle) penetrates the skin in the abdominal region and touches the fascia of the oblique muscles, it creates a characteristic pain The pain can be reproduced . by taking a long fingernail, digging it into the oblique muscle and “raked” . This produces a pain that can be referred to as “scratchy”. Typically it causes the individual to respond by contracting the muscle wall. To encourage complete activation of the abdominal wall, have the individual lie on their back Prepare by having . them place their hands under the lumbar region to prevent the spine from flattening to the floor (this results in spine flexion and an increase in the risk of injury – don’t allow it to happen). Instruct them to contract the abdominal wall. Facilitate this by taking your hand with a wide grip, placing the thumb lateral to the rectus abdominis and the fingertips lateral to the other rectus – you are gripping into the oblique muscles (see Figure 10.15). Do not grip the rectus abdominis. Now instruct them to initiate a slight flexion motion with the locus of rotation in the middle of the sternum (not in the lumbar spine). The head, neck and shoulders hardly move. Now “rake” the abdominals, asking the individual to “fight with your abdominal wall”, and “contract” . Irritate the obliques by squeezing your thumb towards your fingertips, raking the fascia. Encourage good effort while you are stimulating the abdominal wall. For the performance, athlete this procedure trains the abdominal wall for short range stiffness enhancement, forming the foundation for eventual plyometric training of the abdominal wall. Even accomplished athletes will report instant performance enhancement on tasks such as pull-ups with simultaneous fascial raking.
The brace produces a true muscular girdle around the spine with both the abdominals and the extensors being active to buttress against buckling and shear instability. In a most recent study we have found that there is a missing component to spine stability when we quantify the role of all the abdominal muscles. We suspect that activating the entire wall (rectus, the obliques, and transverse) creates a binding of the three layers to produce an augmented stiffness and stability – similar to the glue between layers of wood in plywood. Again, this super-stiffness is only achieved with the brace. Some individuals have difficulty in understanding the conscious abdominal contraction that constitutes the brace. For these people we do the following. Generally, to demonstrate abdominal bracing to the athlete, we stiffen one of our own joints, such as an elbow, by simultaneously activating the flexors and extensors. The athlete then palpates the joint both before and after we stiffen it. Then we ask the individual to attempt to stiffen her own joint through simultaneous activation of flexors and extensors. Once she can successfully stiffen various peripheral joints, we demonstrate (again on ourselves, with athlete palpation) the same technique in the torso, achieving abdominal bracing. Finally, we again ask her to replicate the technique in her own torso. Occasionally, we use a portable EMG monitor so the athlete can learn through biofeedback what 5%, 10%, or 80% of maximum contraction feels like (see figure 10.14). We use similar devices to teach patients how to maintain the contraction while on a wobble board and in functional situations such as when picking up a child, getting on and off the toilet, and getting in and out of cars. For athletes, we choose appropriate and familiar training tasks.