The owner of MeisterMMA shared a Jump Science facebook post about the value of strength training. He got a response to that post questioning if heavy lifting has sport-specific adaptations, claiming strength training is slow-twitch activity, and saying there is no recent research demonstrating it’s effectiveness for explosive movements. He asked me how I would respond to that.

“It’s really simple. When you jump, sprint, shoot for a take-down, kick, punch, or throw a flying knee, the movement is driven by the contraction of muscle fibers. If those muscle fibers get stronger, then those movements have more force behind them. The best way to make those fibers stronger is with strength training. It is so so simple.

Is that a “sport-specific adaptation?” No. It’s an all-movement adaptation. It’s makes an athlete better at EVERYTHING, because every movement is driven by muscle contraction.

Regarding fast-twitch vs slow-twitch… Strength training IS NOT slow-twitch. It actually uses more fast-twitch fibers than anything else. The body recruits motor units (groups of muscle fibers) starting with the slow, weak ones and progressing toward the fast, strong ones as the movement requires. As more muscle tension is required, more fast-twitch motor units are recruited. So in a jump, all the slow-twitch fibers are recruited and then some of the fast-twitch as well. Unfortunately no one can recruit all their fast-twitch fibers before the jump is over. It takes too long. In a heavy deadlift the same thing happens. All the slow-twitch fibers are recruited. Then the fast-twitch. And in this case, the movement is actually long enough for all the motor units to fire. (Or nearly all. I don’t know if anyone truly recruits 100%) But the point is the same muscle fibers used in a jump or any other explosive movement are used in strength training. That’s why strength training does wonders for athleticism.”

“Is there any recent research that shows that increasing strength leads to improvement in explosive movements? Probably not, because we already know the answer. It is SOOOOO BLATANTLY APPARENT from the millions of athletes who have improved their athleticism by increasing strength. People don’t even bother to research that any more. You might as well research whether or not 1+1=2. Instead people research specific strength training methods, periodization models, how to combine strength training and explosive training, stuff like that. There’s an assumption that strength training is useful. The research is on the best way to do it.

Strength training is certainly not the only thing athletes should do. Obviously they need to play/practice their sport. That’s the most important thing. They also need good flexibility, proper mechanics, and explosive training needs to be included. But training strength is an important piece of the puzzle. There is no doubt about that.”