Explosive Calf Training for Martial Power

Calf Training

We all know that explosive calves are vital for combat sports, so I won’t
bore you with the details of why. If you didn’t already know that just
please take my word and I’ll explain why in another post.

Some important things to remember are;

1. High density muscle groups such as the calf muscle must be trained very
intensively to get good results because they are used to virtually
continuous usage. In a combat sport where there will be a mix of hopping or
skipping lightly from foot to foot, maximal force explosion for strikes and
gradual resistance up to maximum strength contractions (as in wrestling or
clinch), there must be a corresponding mixture of exercises that will
reflect these needs.

2. This sort of training is a supplement to your combat class. You should
never pass up the chance to train with another fighter, padman or even just
practise in front of your coach, so only do these when all your other
training and sparring has been done. Alternatively, make time for some power
training when class isn’t on.

How does it work?

Most of the strength gains come from the landing. Fast, negative loading
caused by the impact of landing triggers a muscle contraction which prevents
the leg from buckling. The corresponding resistance is what develops the
ability to generate great power in small timeframes. If you go too heavy you
won’t maintain the fast tempo required to develop acceleration, which makes
it pointless.

Put all of your effort into height, not weight. Remember we are developing
power not beach bodies. Jump as high as you can but always remember to keep
the legs almost straight. Don’t jump so high you can’t handle the landing,
as the training is only useful at a pretty fast pace.

As athletes, it’s usually necessary to remain at a certain weight so once
you get your weighted jumps to 25% of bodyweight don’t add any more. You
will not gain more muscle than you are eating protein for, so unless your
calf training is linked to a sizeable increase in your protein intake, you
will remain at the same weight.

The Exercises

Bodyweight Jump Squat

Dip the legs and explode upwards, keeping the body vertical. Drive through
the balls of the feet, really pushing through the toes, making sure to keep
your legs almost straight when landing. Try to minimise the time between
reps for best effect.

Concentric- Only Jump Squat

As with all variations of the jump squat, allow your heels touch the floor
for the least amount of time, always go for max height, minimising quad
involvement. To get the most from this one make sure to keep your legs
almost straight when landing, do not let the legs bend and like the
weighted version, go for airtime with the heels barely kissing the ground
before the next rep.

Weighted Jump Squat

Place a weight across your back that represents 25% of your bodyweight. Your
options are basically; a barbell across the trapezius muscle (as in back
squat), a kettllebell held behind the head and resting on the flexed traps,
a sandbag or a rucksack filled with something heavy. Make sure you have the
rucksack well secured to your person so nothing heavy hits your spine. Stay
away from holding single weights in each hand as this might place
unnecessary stress on the shoulder, particularly the rotator cuff. Time in
the air is the only goal, so don’t use weight that reduces that.

Isometric Power Contraction

Stand facing a solid, exterior wall with your hands flat against it like you
mean to push it over. Then lean in at as low an angle as you can manage,
with one leg forward for balance and the other leg behind you to push from
the calf. Now push the wall over, it should take about 10 seconds. If you
can’t push the house down, swap legs and try for another 10 seconds. Both
legs count as one rep!

The Workout

Below I’ll outline an 8 week program for developing explosive power in the
calves. Workouts should take about 10-15 minutes, four times a week. Do a
maximum of two days in a row. For ease of explanation, I have used the
example of Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday.

First two weeks

Monday and Thursday

Weighted Jump squats 5 x 12 reps around 20% of fighting weight (FW). 2 mins
rest between sets.

Tuesday and Friday

10 minutes of skipping followed by 3 x 3 Isometric Power Contraction

Second two weeks

Monday and Thursday

Weighted Jump Squats 5 x 6 (25% FW) superset with concentric- only jump
squats. 2 mins rest.

Tuesday and Friday

12 minutes of skipping followed by 6 x 2 Isometric Power Contraction

Third two weeks

Monday and Thursday

Weighted Jump Squats 3 x 6 (25% FW), 2 x 4, 2×2, 2×1 (as reps go down,
weight goes up) 2 mins rest

Tuesday and Friday

15 minutes of skipping followed by 4 x 4 Isometric Power Contraction

Fourth two weeks

Monday and Thursday

Weighted Jump Squats 3 x 6 (25% FW), 2 x 4, 2×2, 2×1 after each set, do 4
deep jump squats. 2 Mins

Tuesday and Friday

Set a timer (or look at a clock) and perform 20 seconds of skipping with 10
seconds of double jumps. 4 rounds of 3 minutes with a 30 second break. This
one is mega-tough!

Additional training

Other exercises that can help develop power from the calves include; hill
sprints (particularly on sand), tire pulling, harness pulling and prowler
pushing. If your gym has any of these consider yourself lucky and take full
advantage by adding some to your calf workout, when you are ready for a
greater challenge.

As a final word, I should warn you to avoid body building exercises like
standing or seated calf raises as there is nothing to be gained by a combat
athlete but unwanted weight.

Regards

Dave Gordon
Wild Geese Muay Thai
Dave teaches Muay Thai during the afternoons at WGMA, check out our
timetable for more details.
www.wildgeesema.com <http://www.wildgeesema.com/>
www.wg-fit.com <http://www.wg-fit.com/>

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