T Nation

When and How Should Athletes Use Isolations?


#1

As a martial artist who practices all kinds of kicks and punches with striking pads and bags, I realize how important it is for someone like me to train the hands, wrists, feet, ankles, and neck during times when I am not practicing my kicks and punches. However, I am ambivalent about this because on one hand if I do train these body parts -which are usually overlooked by most other martial artists- then my striking will significantly improve and my entire body will become much more stable against high impact forces from hitting bags and pads thereby preventing injuries.

On the other hand, I am worried that if I do these isolation exercises for the hands, wrists, feet, ankles, ad neck then I might create faulty neural engrams which would lead to bad form and neuromuscular timing in a given compound exercise as well as muscle imbalances. For instance, what if I do the isolation exercises for those aboveforementioned body parts, and then when I do a compound exercise such as pullups wouldn't there be a good chance that the muscles of the forearm/hands end up being activated in absence of the prime movers (the lats) which would cause upper body muscle imbalances.

Another example, what if I did a lower body compound exercise such as squats and the muscles of the lower legs end firing too much even in proportion to the quads, glutes, and hams.

Also, it seems like all the exercises needed to properly train the hands, wrists, feet, ankles, and neck, together add up to a lot of volume and time during the week, so how I am supposed to arrange those exercise in my workout regime so that I don't end up being overly fatigued while having the available time to do such exercises.

Lastly, I thought that according to strength and conditioning experts such as Chris Colucci, Dave Tate, and Elliot Hulse, had all said that if you are training for athletic performance then you should rarely do isolation exercises. However, according to combat experts like Ross Enamait, Tom Kurz, Bill Wallace, as well as from what I explained to you, it seems that a martial artist like myself who practices a lot of striking may need to do a lot of isolation exercises.

I am very confused as to what to do and I have already looked all over the internet in trying to find the solution with no such luck. So what am I supposed to do?


#2

What have you been doing since April 2012? I've seen several questions, but what have you actually been doing? What kind of progress have you made?


#3

what the shit??

Buddy, stop making these threads and go train.

http://tnation.T-Nation.com/free_online_forum/sports_body_training_performance_bodybuilding_beginner/no_constant_tension_with_compound_movements

Chris Colluci told you this a month ago... "you're overthinking things to the extreme and absolutely nothing good can come of it."


#4

I think you're getting off on the wrong foot (pun intended) already. It is not always necessary to directly train the hands/feet outside of bag work.

Do you mean things like wrist curls, reverse wrist curls, calf raises, and toe raises? Or are there other isolation exercises you're using/thinking about using to directly train the hands, wrists, feet, and ankles? (Neck training is a different animal altogether and some well-programmed direct training can certainly be beneficial for martial artists who compete in contact matches.)

If isolation exercises negatively impact the performance of compound exercises and/or leads to muscle imbalances, then those isolation exercises are being misused either in exercise selection, volume, intensity, frequency, or some combination of those.

This would have more to do with general technique than the use of isolation lifts. If you're squatting and your calves are "firing too much" (whatever that means), then your form is almost certainly off.

In a word... prioritize.

I don't know if I've ever said they should rarely be done. It's more important that they're done within the context of an intelligently-designed program. Isolation exercises are essential for correcting muscle imbalances, preventing injuries before they happen, building strength as legit assistance exercises to improve strength in the bigger lifts, and building muscle in athletes who would benefit from increased lean muscle (and yeah, that's the majority of athletes).

I'm not entirely familiar with Kurz or Wallace's thoughts on training, but Enamait has said, in no uncertain terms, "You do not need to isolate specific body parts to gain size ... please note that I'm not completely opposed to isolation work, but rather reminding you to focus the bulk of your time towards compound movements. You can then fill in the blanks if and when necessary with isolation work."

Slow down, figure our your exact goals, and follow a well-designed program to get you there. The less an athlete trains "like a bodybuilder", the better, but that does not mean avoiding isolation exercises.


#5

[[My main goals are currently to gain muscle size, strength, and flexibility. My secondary goals would be to have stronger and more stable hands, wrists, neck, feet, ankles in order to enhance my striking abilities and protection against high-impact injuries.

Also, would you happen to know any excellent programs for a martial artist like myself. I have been training in Hapkido for over 6 years now yet I am still at the novice level in terms of strength and size. Any programs that you could recommend to me would be greatly appreciated.]]

Sorry for the way I formatted this response, but I don't know how to quote by parts like you did Chris (if you don't mind me calling you by your first name). In any case, I decided to put double brackets around my latest responses and increased the space between your responses and my questions to try to make it easier to identify my latest replies.


#6

ROFL


#7

Fingertip/knuckle push-ups, towel pull-ups, and farmer's walks aren't what I'd consider a way to primarily train the hands/wrists/feet/ankles. They're variations of basic exercises that emphasize the grip in addition to their regularly targeted muscles, comparable to using a fat barbell for any given barbell exercise. Farmer's walks are a different beast in that it's one of the few exercises that basically targets everything from the feet to the traps in a dynamic way.

The case could be made that hand/finger extension (rubber bands around fingertips) is more important for wrist health than training flexion (paper crumpling, rice digging, etc.) because a martial artist spends more time in a closed fist position already. Finger/wrist extension can also play a role in maintaining elbow health.

And even though it's popular with bodybuilders, when pointing the feet in or out during calf/toe raises, you run the risk of increased stress on the joint's support structures with minimal benefit to strength or muscle. Not worth it at all.

Anyhow, it's difficult to discuss/explain the use of any group of exercises without knowing the context they're being used in (what the rest of the weekly training plan looks like).

Them's the breaks, my man. It's why we train for decades, not months. Trial and error, and learning as you go, is a huge part of a lifter's life.

A hypertonic muscle could be a simple case of impaired mobility. I'd say some dedicated mobility work is essential for any athlete, which should cut off some problems before they get to be real problems. But again, it's hard to "correct" an issue without knowing the full context of the training program.

I appreciate the compliment, but I very much don't belong in the same sentence as those guys.

Checking post history to see what I've written previously? That's my trick. Ha. But um... ... that thread was from 2009. Show me a coach who trains people the exact same way after 4 years, and I'll either show you someone who's at the absolute pinnacle of their career because he's figured it all out or I'll show you someone who's an absolute doofus.

It's safe to say that my current professional opinion is that it's more important to consider every exercise as a potential ingredient and combine the appropriate ingredients in the appropriate amounts to achieve the desired result. Blanket statements like "athletes should rarely do isolation exercises" is as silly as saying "bodybuilders should always train to muscular failure to stimulate growth."

I'm not going to debate, counter, or concur with what another coach says because everyone has different methods.

A main goal would be, by literal definition, one thing and not three. Trying to prioritize three separate tasks will results in slow, inefficient overall progress at best, and a circular state of non-progress at worst.
http://www.T-Nation.com/free_online_article/most_recent/5_surefire_steps_to_setting_goals
Don't cave in to the urge to try achieving all things now-now-now-now.

Unless you have a history of small joint injuries, you should get plenty of "accidental" work with free weight-based training and bag/pad work. "Prehab" work (mobility drills, tissue quality work, and other joint health measures) will also work towards this.

Alwyn Cosgrove and Charles Staley have put out some great info on the topic. A few UFC fighters have trained at Mike Boyle's gym. I don't remember him putting out a fighter-specific program, but I'd bet it adheres to his general programming ideas.

Chad Waterbury is the S+C coach for a Gracie dojo and he had several articles about training fighters:
http://www.T-Nation.com/free_online_article/sports_body_training_performance/7_steps_to_a_balanced_fighter
http://www.T-Nation.com/free_online_article/sports_body_training_performance/hammer_down_strength
http://www.T-Nation.com/free_online_article/sports_body_training_performance/hammer_down_endurance

Dan John's "Armor Building" article is interesting and could be useful in the short-term:
http://www.T-Nation.com/free_online_article/most_recent/armor_building

Also, head over to the Combat forum right here. Tons of guys (a lot of them are competitors) have good info.

For sure no problem, Bull.


#8

[quote] Fingertip/knuckle push-ups, towel pull-ups, and farmer's walks aren't what I'd consider a way to primarily train the hands/wrists/feet/ankles. They're variations of basic exercises that emphasize the grip in addition to their regularly targeted muscles, comparable to using a fat barbell for any given barbell exercise. Farmer's walks are a different beast in that it's one of the few exercises that basically targets everything from the feet to the traps in a dynamic way.

The case could be made that hand/finger extension (rubber bands around fingertips) is more important for wrist health than training flexion (paper crumpling, rice digging, etc.) because a martial artist spends more time in a closed fist position already. Finger/wrist extension can also play a role in maintaining elbow health.

And even though it's popular with bodybuilders, when pointing the feet in or out during calf/toe raises, you run the risk of increased stress on the joint's support structures with minimal benefit to strength or muscle. Not worth it at all.

Anyhow, it's difficult to discuss/explain the use of any group of exercises without knowing the context they're being used in (what the rest of the weekly training plan looks like). [quote]

True. Fingertip/knuckle push-ups, towel pull-ups, and farmer's walks aren't exactly isolations exercises like wrist curls are. So, I see what you mean. However, what about incorporating the wrist rollers exercise into hand training? I mean I know that that's a really good exercise for the hands and wrists and yet I think that it would be more of an isolation compared to the aboveforementioned hand/wrist exercises. So I am not sure about doing a particular exercise like that.

Also, instead of pointing the feet in or out during calf/toe raises, what would be better exercises to work the muscles of the lower leg that evert and invert the feet?

[quote] Them's the breaks, my man. It's why we train for decades, not months. Trial and error, and learning as you go, is a huge part of a lifter's life. [quote]

Yeah...I suppose that's true. :confused:

[quote] A hypertonic muscle could be a simple case of impaired mobility. I'd say some dedicated mobility work is essential for any athlete, which should cut off some problems before they get to be real problems. But again, it's hard to "correct" an issue without knowing the full context of the training program. [quote]

I see.

[quote] I appreciate the compliment, but I very much don't belong in the same sentence as those guys. [quote]

lol. Well yeah that's true, Elliot Hulse and Dave Tate do train and coach differently compare to you. However, you do seem to know a hell of a lot with regard to strength and conditioning like Elliot and Tate.

[quote] Checking post history to see what I've written previously? That's my trick. Ha. But um... ... that thread was from 2009. Show me a coach who trains people the exact same way after 4 years, and I'll either show you someone who's at the absolute pinnacle of their career because he's figured it all out or I'll show you someone who's an absolute doofus.

It's safe to say that my current professional opinion is that it's more important to consider every exercise as a potential ingredient and combine the appropriate ingredients in the appropriate amounts to achieve the desired result. Blanket statements like "athletes should rarely do isolation exercises" is as silly as saying "bodybuilders should always train to muscular failure to stimulate growth." [quote]

Yeah, well I try to check whatever has been written previously on this site as much as can, whether it be articles, my posts, other member's posts, spills, etc. :slight_smile: Anyways, so all coaches end up changing some ideas all the time?

[quote] I'm not going to debate, counter, or concur with what another coach says because everyone has different methods. [quote]

okay.

[quote] A main goal would be, by literal definition, one thing and not three. Trying to prioritize three separate tasks will results in slow, inefficient overall progress at best, and a circular state of non-progress at worst.
http://www.T-Nation.com/...o_setting_goals
Don't cave in to the urge to try achieving all things now-now-now-now. [quote]

Yeah, but I thought that prioritizing two to three tasks could work for people who are novices in strength and/ conditioning due to having much less adaptation compared to intermediate and advanced trainees and I am still a novice in the areas strength, muscle mass, and flexibility.

[quote] Unless you have a history of small joint injuries, you should get plenty of "accidental" work with free weight-based training and bag/pad work. "Prehab" work (mobility drills, tissue quality work, and other joint health measures) will also work towards this. [quote]

Alright.

[quote] Alwyn Cosgrove and Charles Staley have put out some great info on the topic. A few UFC fighters have trained at Mike Boyle's gym. I don't remember him putting out a fighter-specific program, but I'd bet it adheres to his general programming ideas.

Chad Waterbury is the S+C coach for a Gracie dojo and he had several articles about training fighters:
http://www.T-Nation.com/...alanced_fighter
http://www.T-Nation.com/...r_down_strength
http://www.T-Nation.com/..._down_endurance

Dan John's "Armor Building" article is interesting and could be useful in the short-term:
http://www.T-Nation.com/.../armor_building

Also, head over to the Combat forum right here. Tons of guys (a lot of them are competitors) have good info. [quote]

Thanks Chris.


#9


#10

Wrist rollers are a pretty good old school grip/forearm exercise. Wrist flexion, extension, dynamic grip strength and endurance, good stuff if you can do them with decent form.

I wouldn't train eversion or inversion against much resistance, if any. Too much risk to too little reward. Ankle need mobility. Going barefoot whenever possible will wake them up. If you have to address them specifically, this article has some good tips.
http://www.T-Nation.com/free_online_article/sports_body_training_performance_repair/the_ankle_paradox_building_indestructible_ankles

Ha, I totally have no problem with people checking post histories. I do it often enough. And yes, I be;eive it's safe to say that the most successful coaches are the ones who are constantly learning and trying to improve. As I said, if a coach is stagnant in his advice, he's probably on one far end of the spectrum - top of the food chain with a proven trail of success or dumb as a stump who does his clients a disservice.

To an extent that might be true. But even then, it's not that you're necessarily "prioritizing" a few different goals. It's that, while working your way towards your number one goal, a beginner will "accidentally" see improvements in many of those other areas, presuming the training is well-designed. But again, there's no need to try achieving all things as soon as possible.


#11

Oh, so you're saying that wrist rollers work not just flexion but also extension, dynamic grip strength and grip endurance. Correct? Also, I forgot to ask about doing supinators and pronators with a dumbbell as well as ulnar deviation and radial deviations with a dumbbell. Would those exercises be also be a good idea to do for improving overall hand strength and conditioning or are those unnecessary since I could already be getting enough work done on the muscles that deviate and rotate the hands by doing wrist rollers, farmer's walk, Rice Gripping, Knuckle Pushups, fingertip Pushups, Towel Pull-up, weight plate grabbing, etc.?

Why would working foot eversion and inversion against much resistance likely lead to foot/ankle injuries compared to working foot dorsiflexion and plantarflexion against much resistance? Just wondering.

I agree.

So, to some extent a beginner can get away with working a couple of goals at a time, but you're saying that it's still best to take your time with one main goal at a time regardless of your training level. Right?


#12

Well, it looks like I finally figured out how to quote in multiple parts like Chris has been doing on this thread. After I clicked on quote at the bottom of a post, I decided to make sure that the name of the person who wrote the post that I am quoting from is already automatically typed. Then all I had to do was type

and not

like I did for my first part of the quote that I selected.

Also Chris, I already tried looking at all the articles you suggested for me to look at and I wasn't able to find any well-designed weightlifting programs for a martial artist like myself who is still a novice in weight training. I even tried looking all over the internet for MMA programs designed either by Mike Boyle, Charles Staley, or Alwyn Cosgrove that incorporate hand and foot training as well as being suited for novices weight trainees like myself. Sorry for the constant questions, but I am still confused and frustrated on what kind of weight training program would be most appropriate for me. Any feedback would be greatly appreciate.


#13

It's simple. Train the compound lifts 2-3 days a week, as much as you can recover from. Be very picky with your assistance choices. Going to a MA class a few times a week does not make you a special breed; you do not need boatloads of strengthening exercises. Don't use straps for your deadlifts and do fingertip press ups as often as possible; that's hand strength covered. Again, keep it simple. Most of your specific needs should be adressed in the dojo, not in the weight room.


#14

If it's done correctly, sure.

They're "necessary" if you're training primarily for grip strength. They're not "necessary" for the average lifter or even the average martial artist because, yep, the other "standard" lifting (plus bag work, sparring, and other training for martial artists) is sufficient.

Again, it's risk-reward. The ankle wasn't built to move against significant load in those directions.

Pretty much, yep.

Maybe that's a sign that there's no serious, impending need to incorporate specific hand/foot training, huh? If no experienced professional seems to give it much attention, that says something.

Like nighthawkz just summarized pretty well, keeping it simple it almost always the best bet. And again, go take a look around the Combat forum at what the guys are doing. Lots of dudes who train all sorts of martial arts, even some who compete regularly, and their training is pretty straightforward.


#15

Wait, what do you mean by correctly? Aren't wrist rollers supposed to easy to perform correctly since seems like such a natural movement to do?

Alright, then I won't do the dumbbell deviation exercises since I don't need much grip as much grip strength as someone who competes or practices in something like powerlifting, strongman competitions, olympic weightlifting, brazilian jiu-jitsu, or judo. Also I realize that the dumbbell deviation exercises only focus on working the same forearm muscles as the wrist rollers do. Though, if you are a martial artist who practices throwing a lot of hand strikes where the hands and forearms are usually rotated in someway through supination and pronation of the forearm, then wouldn't it be necessary to train the supinator and pronator muscles in someway?

Could you elaborate as to why that is? It seems like it's okay to a lot of times use moderate to heavy weight on calf raises. I don't mean to argue with you, I am confused and perhaps you could enlighten me as to the reason why our ankles weren't designed to invert or evert with significant load compare to plantarflexion or dorsiflexion? I mean, I am worried that I might end up with muscles imbalances on the feet/ankles if I had added external resistance to calf raises and toe raises, but no added external resistance to ankle inversion and eversion exercises.

I see.

Really? I thought that training the hands, wrists, feet, and ankles, were important for prevent future injuries to those areas as well as improving the force of your strikes.

I've tried looking in the combat forum, but haven't really found anything pertaining to training the hands, wrists, feet, ankles, or neck. It's also hard to sift through so much info. on forums like this to find what info. you need or want. Furthermore, I haven't found a program on the internet that incorporates neck exercises in as well without having too much total workout volume added to my strength training routines. Although, what if my weekly workout schedule was like this:

Monday: 45 min. Hapkido class. After class, I would perform a few forearms exercises in a
circuit including wrist rollers, knuckle pushups, and fingertip pushups. I would do
one set for each exercise per circuit without going to failure and then repeat the
entire again 1-2 more times.
a few hours before or after my Hapkido class I would do:
Neck Extension, 1 x 15, progressing to 3 x 25
Neck Flexion, 1 x 15, progressing to 3 x 25
Neck Lateral Flexion (each way), 1 x 15, progressing to 3 x 25
Then Maybe 2x25 supination
Afterwards maybe 2x25 pronation
Tuesday: My first main resistance training workout of the day would include:
4x12 (total of 24 reps on both legs) Dynamic Barbell Lunges
3x12 Barbell Good Mornings (with slightly bent legs)
3x5 Wide-grip pullups. On this exercise I do about 5 reps with good form
and then do another 2-3 reps with the assistance of a giant rubber band.
3x12 dumbbell bent-over rows
3x12 dumbbell pullovers
3x12 standingdumbbell shoulder press
After being done with all those exercises I would right afterwards do
3x12 standing calf raises with no added weight
3x12 standing toe raises with no added weight

     My second main resistance training workout of the day (few hours after the first
     main and assistance workouts of the day would include:
      2x30 hindu push-ups
      2x30 hindu squats
      2x 3-4 min. planks
     After being done with all those exercises I would right afterwards do
      towel grip pullups (with as many as I can without going to failure)
      Neck Extension, 1 x 10, progressing to 3 x 6-8
      Neck Flexion, 1 x 10, progressing to 3 x 6-8
      Neck Lateral Flexion (each way), 1 x 10, progressing to 3 x 6-8
      3 sets of farmer's walk for almost as long as I can
      3 sets of finger band extensions
      3 sets of plate pinch extensions

Wednesday: Day off

Thursday: Same as on Monday

Friday: Same as on Tuesday

Saturday: Running for approx. 30 min. with vibram five finger shoes on

Sunday: Day off

Would a weekly schedule such as this work fine or is there too much volume being done within each day I workout?


#16

should work

It also doesn't seem to work when you are trying to quote your own post. Nevertheless, I meant to give an example of how quoting in parts is supposed to work.


#17

First of all, concerning your question concerning calf raises versus inversion/eversion - calves are pretty strong muscles. They can take a lot of load if, say, you jump down from a height. The same goes for their antagonists, albeit to a lesser degree. The joints are meant to absorb such forces safely. Training foot rotation with weights, however? that would mean torque on your ankles and knees. Unhealthy as hell. Not even bodybuilders - who will train any muscle they have - will do it.

Second: Stop overthinking it. Seriously. You keep saying "I need to do this, I need to do that" - there is NOTHING you need to do for Hapkido apart from, well, doing Hapkido. Look at your classmates, look at your senseis. How many of them even touch weights? The answer will be something in between "not all of them" and "none of them". If you want to lift weights, fine. Do it and follow the general recommendations laid out for athletes in general. but stop analysing the function of every bone, joint and muscle in your body.


#18

Bull, don't take this the wrong way, but I think it's time to push you away from the teat. We've been going back and forth for almost two weeks on this topic. Not that that's a bad thing necessarily, I'm all for clarifying and addressing questions, but I think we've gotten to the point where your instinctive overthinking is slowing down everything.

I think I've answered most of the issues at hand. If you want help figuring out a program to complement your hapkido, start a new thread about your current training in the Combat forum and the guys there will give you their input.

I will say though, the training routine you laid out is not going to build strength, power, or muscle size. It's poorly designed in terms of exercise choice, training frequency, bodypart imbalance, and set/rep scheme. It's a textbook case of "majoring in the minors." And sorry, but no, I'm not going to explain what changes to make. Good luck with it all.


#19

You can look at this in a couple of ways:

  • Muscular. Look at the size of the muscles that perform inversion/eversion vs those that do plantarflexion/dorsiflexion. Plantarflexion in particular has these huge ass muscles commonly known as the calves. Conversely the muscles for inversion/eversion are puny. That should tell you enough about which directions the ankle is supposed to move in. Similarly, look at the tendon/ligament sizes as well, the Achilles tendon is huge because it's designed to support large forces produced by the calves. There is no tendon of a similar size on the side of your foot/ankle.
  • Function. When in day to day life do you plantarflex your foot? Every time you walk (or at least you should be). When in day to day life do you invert/evert your foot? Barely unless you make a living walking over broken ground, and even then you'll still plantarflex/dorsiflex your foot a lot more. If the foot was meant to invert/evert that often then the design for it would be very different.

Seriously though, listen to Chris. You're overanalysing this to the point where it's very unhelpful to your training.


#20

Sorry to bump this thread, but I have another question pertaining to this topic. My question is, why does a program such as Starting Strength not have prehab isolation exercises such as biceps curls, tricep extensions, dumbbell power cleans, etc. implemented into its workout template, while a program such as W4SB does?