Over the last couple of years I have become a big fan of Martin Rooney. I have most of his books, subscribe to his newsletter, frequently visit his Training for Warriors website and enjoy his blog posts on T-Nation. My brother-in-law recently forwarded me an older post of Rooney’s co-authored by Bryan Krahn entitled “11 Myths of Warrior Training”. This piece, as well as Rooney’s “Train Like a Man” series of posts on T-Nation, have made me realize that for far too long I have neglected good old-fashioned strength training in favor of metabolic conditioning and circuit training.

I pride myself on not getting sucked into fads, on doing my own thing rather than subscribing to particular programs such as CrossFit, Insanity, P90X, etc. However, I do confess to being influenced by the general trend toward the methodologies inherent in these types of high-intensity, functional training workouts, and I became hooked on hard-core circuits, interval training and other conditioning workouts after being introduced to them when I trained in mixed martial arts a couple of years ago. There is nothing wrong with these training methods, but my problem is that I have relied on them almost exclusively, to the exclusion of any traditional strength training.

When I refer to “strength training” in this context, I am speaking about “maximal strength” as Ross Enamait defines it in his excellent 2006 article, “Strength Training for Fighters.” As described in this piece, there are other strength attributes, many of which can be improved by metabolic circuits. But I have clearly neglected the attribute of maximal strength, which is the foundation for all other types of strength. While this is in no small part due to chronic shoulder problems that prevent me from doing heavy pushing exercises or overhead pressing of any kind – and a deadlift-induced groin strain that left me concerned about a hernia – I have allowed the pendulum to swing too far away from strength training. It is time to swing the pendulum back in the other direction.

BJJ is my primary focus, and I try to make class three times per week. The gym is just cross-training for me, maybe two sessions per week. Those sessions will now be focused on maximal strength training. If I can squeeze in a third gym session, it will be metabolic. If I am preparing for competition, I will shift the mix back toward metabolic conditioning. But the rest of the time, BJJ sparring itself should provide enough conditioning.

It is all about goals. Swimmers, runners, and people focused on general fitness might do fine sticking with circuits. But right now I feel the need to improve maximal strength, and it is strength that can help my BJJ and prevent injury. And I’m not afraid to admit that there’s an element of vanity too – I wouldn’t mind spending some time putting on a little more lean muscle mass.