Strength & Conditioning: German Judo National Team (part 1)

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Simon Schnell, Dr. Daniel Jacko, Dr. Oliver Heine, Ralf Lippmann and Dr. Ruben Göbel

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1- Background of the DJB athletics concept

The DJB athletics concept offers concrete implementation steps for the athletic training of young athletes in German judo. On the basis of concrete objectives, training methods and content, we provide all trainers with a systematic training kit for long-term, athletic performance development. Its implementation ensures that all judoka meet the conditions necessary to achieve success at the international level at peak performance. The present concept starts with the age group U15 and accompanies the judoka until the transition to the adult area. It should be emphasized that the health promotion and maintenance of athletes are always superior to the idea of performance.
On the one hand, the athletic concept is based on the requirements of the sport of judo and athleticism. At the same time, targeted attention is paid to age- and development-appropriate content and focal points in athletic training. The basis for the creation of this concept are national and international sports science research results as well as the many years of practical experience of the authors.

1.1. Requirements of the sport of judo for athletics

Overall, physical performance plays a decisive role in current competition events. The high level of competitors on international campuses as well as the tactical use of competition rules mean that many fights are only decided in extra time (Golden Score). In order to be able to throw, hold or tactic decisively even after more than four minutes of fighting, the athletes must achieve an above-average physical level of performance.
The sport of judo is extremely complex in its athletic requirement profile: A maximum resistance by the opponent must be repeated and overcome over longer periods of time, always under the requirement to act or react quickly. A fight can be decided within seconds with the highest rating Ippon. Accordingly, the tolerance for errors in judo is extremely low. In stark contrast to this is that a fight can also drag on over an active fight time of ten minutes or more, since the time-unlimited extra time only ends with one rating or three penalties. In order to bring about a decision at international competition level, regardless of the duration of the fight, the basic fitness skills of strength, speed and endurance must be correspondingly pronounced at the highest level (Franchini et al., 2011). Mobility is also considered a performance-limiting factor in certain techniques and movement skills.
Fighting while standing (Tachi-waza) is primarily characterized by bending, lifting, pulling, pushing, rotation and gripping movements. This multitude of movement patterns is not carried out in isolation in the regulation. In almost all actions, force is transferred via a kinematic. Chain set up, starting from the legs (contact point foot to ground) via the trunk (stabilizing / supporting function) into the arms (contact point hand to the opponent). This process of power generation in judo clearly specifies with which priority which movement forms in the athletic field should be trained. At the same time, it must be taken into account that in different partial sequences of the fight, the local strength and endurance are also heavily stressed. An apt example of this is the grip fight (Kumi-kata) with high demands on the forearm muscles (grip strength). Also in ground combat (Ne-waza) pulling, pushing, rotation and gripping patterns belong to the basic movements. Compared to tachi-waza, the techniques and movements in ground combat are visibly less dynamic, but much more characterized by continuous, holding and repetitive high force efforts.
Although the sport of judo basically places the same athletic demands on all athletes, there are slight differences in the different weight classes. Thus, heavyweight athletes (+78kg for women, +100kg for men) stand out from the other weight classes in their anthropometric requirements (Franchini, Sterkowicz & Takito, 2014). Lighter athletes, on the other hand, have a higher sport-specific speed force (Almansba et al., 2008) and a higher relative force (Detanico et al., 2012). Extensive competition analyses show that the fighting behaviour of light and heavyweight athletes differs significantly from the other weight classes (Sterkowicz, Miarka & Fukuda, 2017). Regardless of the weight class, the athletes also train their own fighting style, which creates individually different requirements for athletics. Factors such as these must be taken into account in the individual planning of athletic training. In addition to the performance profile of the sport, the risk profile also plays an important role in relation to the planning and content of athletic training. Unfortunately, injuries are not an unknown phenomenon due to the duel and strain character of the sport of judo. The knees and shoulders are most frequently affected, with severe injuries occurring most frequently ruptures of the cruciate ligaments (Akoto et al., 2018; Frey et al., 2019). Targeted athletic training with appropriate content can make a significant contribution to preventing injuries prophylactically (Nessler, Denney & Sampley, 2017; Faigenbaum et al., 2015).

1.2. Long-term performance development

The framework training concept of the German Judo Federation, the primary goals of long-term performance development are defined on the one hand as the mediation of a long-term interest in competitive sports as well as the preparation of top sporting performances at peak performance age. Accordingly, in the area of young talent, priority is given to the fulfilment of content-related goals and tasks. The achievement of sporting excellence in younger age classes is therefore not strived for! In fact, the literature even points out that an early increase in volume and intensity, as well as early specialization, do not lead to athletic success in adulthood (Lloyd et al., 2016; Moesch et al., 2011). Rather, lower probabilities of success and an increased risk of injury were found (Jayanthi et al., 2013). Positive correlations, on the other hand, were discovered between later specialization and athletic performance in adulthood (Moesch et al., 2011). Accordingly, athletic training in junior (performance) sports pursues the clear goal of training the athletes in a versatile and varied way in order to form a broad basis for the subsequent stages of development.

With regard to the question of which content should be trained at what age, there is a lively discussion. Despite comprehensive scientific support, strength training in childhood in particular is discredited. Here it should be noted that strength training is not to be equated with the lifting of heavy, free loads. Strength training, which is adapted in its form and stress design to the age, gender and biological maturity of the athletes, demonstrably leads to positive effects on athletic and everyday military performance and promotes health and psycho-social well-being (bush et al., 2017; Drenowatz & Greier, 2018; Granacher et al., 2018). In addition, young, trained athletes are better able to withstand the demands of athletic training and competitions and therefore show a lower risk of injury (Faigenbaum et al., 2016). For this reason, it is of paramount importance to develop the conditional performance requirements in the athletic field in the long-term performance development in order to be able to apply the following sport-specific requirements with little injury.

Figure 1: Holistic motor development model in childhood and adolescence (adapted according to Büsch et al., 2017; Lloyd et al., 2015)

The contents and focal points of athletic training in childhood and adolescence depend on the biological maturity of the athletes (Lloyd et al., 2016; Bergeron et al., 2015). The biological maturity level must be taken into account insofar as e.B female athletes enter puberty earlier and react differently to training stimuli and contents than male athletes despite identical age. Figure 1 summarizes the age and development range in which the various contents of athletic training can be trained more intensively. It should be emphasized that all content can be trained at any time. In order to enhance the effect of the training stimuli, however, age- and development-based priorities should be set. In addition, certain athletic content requires competences, which must be taken into account. Here, strength training competence is particularly relevant, i.e. the “ability to realize strength training exercises independently of the load with high movement quality” (Groeger et al., 2019). This is especially important for barbell training with young athletes. An increase in the intensity in barbell training only makes sense if the athletes have developed adequate skills to perform the exercise technically flawlessly (Lesinski, Prieske & Granacher, 2016).

1.3. Classification in the DJB framework training concept

The Framework Training Concept (RTK) of the German Judo Federation sees itself as a guideline for the development of young judoka into top athletes and describes the complex long-term performance development in the sport of judo. The present athletics concept specifies the contents in the field of athletic training and specifies the implementation steps. It is seamlessly integrated into the training levels of the RTK. Its long-term training and performance development provides for three stages: basic training (GLT), advanced training (ABT) and follow-up training (AST).

Basic training (12 – 14 years):
Creation of basic and sport-specific performance requirements and formation of a high, versatile load tolerance.

Advanced training (15 – 17 years):
Versatile, more sport-related training. Increasing the level of general and special performance requirements and continuing to ensure resilience for future training requirements.

Follow-up training (18 – 20 years):
Transition stage from junior to high-performance training (HLT). Connection to the national and international performance level while at the same time expanding the foundations for further performance improvements.

The long-term training and performance development is usually preceded by a general basic training (AGA). This area includes, among other things, children’s training from the white belt. With regard to athletics, the goal is to gather a variety of sporting experiences and arouse interests. Depending on the biological maturity of the athletes, individual contents can also be brought forward or postponed.
The sport of judo is so complex in its requirement profile that to date no semi- or non-specific training or load mode is able to simulate the load of a fight. For this reason, it should be emphasized at this point that athletic training, despite its high priority, is always a feeder service for the development of judo-specific performance. Taking this fact into account, the athletic concept makes it its task to concretize and expand the framework training concept in the field of condition development.

2-Structure of the DJB-Athletics concept

To perform sports specific is symbolically the summit of a pyramid. In order to achieve it, numerous conditions must be met. For this reason, the structure of the Athletics concept is based on a hierarchical structure, which is illustrated in Figure 2. Health and psyche as general performance requirements form the foundation (yellow). Based on this, the athletic abilities (red) are found. The top of the pyramid are the judo-specific performance requirements (black).

The hierarchical structure is intended to make it clear that a faculty always requires the most obvious. Here is an example: by training the basic duration, the regeneration efficiency is improved. This is crucial in order to be able to train the other athletic abilities effectively. Of course, a lack of basic endurance does not preclude the training of the other athletic skills. However, the foundation is missing, to get the most out of the training sessions, This reduces long-term performance.

Figure 2: Performance pyramid in judo (adapted from Adler (2016) & Groeger et al. (2019)

Health and general performance requirements
Any provision of athletic performance is based on the health of the athletes. For this reason, health also forms the basis of the pyramid. Since it influences all other areas of athletic and judo-specific performance, it always has the highest priority. Sleep and nutrition also fall into this area. The division into weight classes often leads to athletes reducing their body weight at a young age in the short term in order to start in a lower weight class and thus supposedly increase the chances of victory. We strongly advise against this strategy! Poor nutrient intake in childhood and adolescence endangers health and has a lasting impact on physiological development and growth (Berkovich et al., 2015). Accordingly, an optimal level of performance is never achieved at peak performance age. The coaches and parents of the athletes are considered to be the most influential people in the decision to reduce the weight in the short term. They are required to inform their athletes about the possible consequences of short-term weighting and to act responsibly.

Psychological performance requirements
With regard to athletic training, the willingness to perform is particularly important here. Numerous components such as motivation, discipline and willpower are indispensable to undergo intensive athletic training.

Agility and stability
Ideally, these two basic competencies are already developed in childhood and maintained and improved in long-term performance development. A high level of these abilities results in increased movement efficiency and quality. In addition to improved movement execution, mobility and stability also have a positive effect on the prevention of injuries (McGill, 2010). In order to remain physically and psychologically active under stress, the sufficient energy supply of the body or its organ systems is elementary. This awareness is commonly described by the concept of stamina and is also often understood as a resistance to tolerance. The term & quot; endurance & quot; is the term & quot; perseverance & quot; and & quot; perseverance & quot;. A well-pronounced endurance performance not only allows for the preservation of the acute failure to act, but also accelerates the recovery of consumed / damaged energy reserves. In particular, the aerobic components of stamina are strongly associated with recovery efficiency (Hottenrott & quot; Neumann, 2008). The anaerobic performance factor is equally important, as highly intensive, interval-like efforts with short-term recovery phases are characteristic of the course of a struggle.In the same sense, the expression of a sport-specific strength endurance is also of great importance, since every action takes place during a fight against the weight of an opponent.

Maximum force
The maximum force is of paramount importance among all strength abilities, as its expression exerts a direct influence on all other strength abilities. Here is a simple example:
Athlete A increases his one-repetition maximum (1RM) at the squat from 100kg to 120kg. While it previously managed only 15 repetitions with 60kg additional load (60% of the old 1RM), it can now bend the same weight (50% of the new 1RM) 20 times. Ergo, his strength endurance has improved.
The higher the maximum force, the easier a constant resistance becomes in relation to the initial state. For this reason, as well as the fact that high and highest resistances have to be overcome in combat, the development of maximum strength plays a central role in long-term performance development.

Explosive force
The often quoted “maximum resistance of the opponent” in combat does not necessarily have to be maxi-times strong: By technical-tactical approach or simply by an action that is fast enough to not offer the opponent sufficient reaction time, he is not able to generate a maximum strength resistance. For this reason, explosive power plays a crucial role in the development of a judoka.

Technique and tactics
Technical and tactical actions are closely linked in judo training. Technical solutions are always based on a previous tactical action. This can already be the pushing of the partner, as he will react to it in some form. In order to be able to apply techniques correctly depending on the situation, athletic skills play an important role. A concrete example: If a judoka is not able to lift an additional load in the amount of his own body weight, he will hardly be able to realize the lifting technique Ura-nage. Therefore, athletic training in the sense of a technique prerequisite training is referred to as the fourth level of technique training.

Competition tactics
In contrast to the training struggle (Randori), the competition is based on the evaluation by judges, the clear limitation of the fighting aircraft, as well as emergency or emergency situations in addition to interesting strategic actions. The complex framework can also be exploited in a targeted way for strategic advantages. Some of these strategies have a clear degree of independence from the exercise of athletic and technical skills. If these are not sufficiently pronounced (e.g. grip force), the tactical action technique is also limited (e.g. grip strategies).

Combined exercises kneeling
Throwing dummy – Utsuri-goshi


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