In order to achieve superior athletic performance you need to be efficient with your movements. In other words you need to perform the same movements as your opponent, but spending a lot less energy. This is not only true for athletes, but for first responders as well. Saving energy is the key to survival.
So how do can you become more efficient in your movements?
The key to efficiency is of course perfect technique. Haven’t you ever noticed during your workouts that reps are a lot tougher when your technique breaks down? Maintaining perfect technique during high stress situations should be the goal of every athlete. Perfect technique will make you biomechanically more efficient and injury free, both vital for athletic performance (Scott Sonnon has deciphered a great training system that includes this principal, but I will get to that later).
Now perfect technique may not sound like a great revelation, but if you join it with movement complexity it will boost your athleticism by the hundreds (not sure how that works, but it sounds awesome). Tudor O. Bompa in his book Periodization: Theory and Methodology of Training defines complexity as the degree of sophistication and biomechanical difficulty of a skill. Training intensity cannot only be increased through reps, weight, density or volume, but also through complexity. Learning a complex skill, like the tennis swing, golf swing or basketball lay up, may require extra work, in comparison to more basic skills, especially if the athlete possesses inferior neuromuscular coordination.
When you carry out a simple task only a small portion of your brain is used. This is why you can walk and talk on the phone at the same time, but when you carry out a complex task doing more than one thing can be overwhelming, especially if it is new to you.
According to Eniseler (2005) complexity of previously learned skills may impose physiological stress even though the skills have been mastered. This gives you or your athletes a whole new concept or variable to introduce in your training.
How to Introduce Complex Movement into Your Training
There are various ways in which you can add complexity to your training. For beginners I would go with some Hip Hop dance movements (if you like dancing), some step exercises, or any silly exercise that requires coordination (you will find a few of these on youtube).
This is how I introduce movement complexity to enhance my athleticisim. I usually training using Scott Sonnon’s 4 day wave. With this protocol you have a no, low, moderate, and high intensity days. I like to do some silly coordination exercises (magic and juggling fall into this category) on my no intensity days; on low intensity days I like to incorporate some hip hop (which I’m really bad at) movements, stuff that makes me have to move more than one joint at the time and that gets my heart pumping a bit; moderate days I go with some parkour or freerunning vaults and jumps, I also do TACFIT and clubbells, this obviously depends on how I’m feeling; finally high intensity days are TACFIT and maybe (big maybe) clubbells.
A bit on TACFIT if you haven’t heard of it.
Improvement is most programs is defined as an increase in variables like intensity, speed, volume, duration, etc. Tactical fitness, on the other hand, “intends to develop the motor patterns and energy systems directly impacting your ability to respond to a crisis”. Tactical fitness not only works on the three dimensions, as I mentioned above, but it also adds to them the rotational aspects of pitching, yawing and rolling.
One of the aspects that separates Tactical Fitness from Functional Fitness is that the first “…emphasizes the ability to efficiently transition between movements. In other words, Tactical fitness works on sophisticating movement. A good tactical fitness program begins with basic movements that work along the whole range of motion of each joint. It then increases the difficulty by incorporating compound movements which combine two skills, and finally ends with “complex” movements that involve three or more skills. These are the three levels (e.g Recruit, Grunt, Commando) that are found in all TACFIT programs except in the TACFIT 26.
This added “complexity” allows you, the tactical operator, to navigate unexpected obstacles with ease and imagination. How? Well, because you have already practiced to perfection every movement there is to be made in a crisis situation. Your body won’t have to do anything it hasn’t done before. Your fine motor skills become more accurate, gross motor skills more efficient, and you feel less stress.
As you progress through each level, you will not only increase the number of reps, but also through complexity, and this is what separates TACFIT from every other program out there. Your body as well as your mind get one hell of a workout.
The sophistication used in all TACFIT programs come from utilizing a Russian biomechanical principle called “Component learning” which demands that each movement be a building block to the next. This allows “back-shaping” or “reverse engineering” of high level sports skills.
Carry Over into other Sports
If you take a look at some of the movements done in TACFIT you might not think there is much carry over into your sport. ”Yes, it might be good for martial arts but I not one of them.” Actually, in my opinion, it is better for other sports than it is for martial arts… let me explain why. Martial artists are used to doing some of these exercises while basketball, football, tennis, ping pong, and other players aren’t. TACFIT will help rewire your brain and setup new and more neuron connections. This means you neurons will communicate faster between them, and your body will be able to do what your brain asks with more precision and coordination. Awesome, right? This automatically leads to faster decision making, faster movements, more focus and mental acuity I can’t begin to explain how this will enhance your athletic performance.