When it comes to various training modalities, there is often a clear categorization between powerlifter, bodybuilder, or CrossFitter. It is understandable how a trainee can get roped into singular training for the sake of competition, or for the purpose of self-betterment. After all, the thought of physically transforming the mind and body by acquiring strength, or to achieve some pleasing aesthetics, is quite a feat. It says a lot about an individual’s commitment to chosen craft and self-discipline to reach these physical and mental goals.
The Pursuit of Strength
Embracing the discipline of physical culture is something primal and unique. This journey is a pursuit of strength, and something that has been celebrated for ages—dating all the way back to the ancient Greeks. Visible strength is a characteristic that is often seen as attractive and respected, yet some may debate this in today’s society.
Aesthetics, performance, and attitude are all unique identifying qualities of strength. In order to acquire a true level of strength we must be willing to test ourselves by creating challenges that require more unique and dynamic athletic characteristics. The key to becoming more resilient is to step out from under the barbell from time to time. This type of change creates mental and physical challenges that demand a higher level of coordination, skill, and mental toughness.
You can call it getting out of your comfort zone, breaking the monotony, or even just trying to become more athletic. Call it what you want, but the point is that to move forward you’ve got to get comfortable with being uncomfortable, period.
Enter the Hybrid Protocol
So, how do we go about improving our physical capabilities in general? How do we bridge the gap between muscle strength and other types of performance? For instance, the traits that are associated with bodybuilding involve lean muscle and symmetry. For powerlifting, goals are set to measure strength and hit new lifting PRs. What is the best approach to improve our capabilities across the board?
This is where I like to apply what I call “hybrid” training. Hybrid training involves blending different styles of athletic conditioning drills with normal lifting and strength movements. The result is that we give our programming a blend of fitness elements that stress both strength and endurance, while fostering athleticism and coordination.
The point here is that if we happen to be powerlifters, we can strive to go beyond the bench, squat, and deadlift. If we’re bodybuilders, we need a bit more variety in our training besides mechanical drop sets and burn out sets.
Agility, Coordination, and Reaction Time
One way that we can implement this concept is by working to incorporate more movements such as jump rope and agility drills. Doing these types of movements help to increase coordination and skill. We become more mobile, conditioned, and resilient.
This hybrid approach essentially involves blending (within a program) the elements of strength combined with elements of conditioning that revolve around more athletically based movements and drills. I’m a big believer in this concept because I’ve personally practiced it for years, but as a strength coach it’s something that I apply to my students on a regular basis.
By implementing this drill, we can use several variations to build up to a higher level of skillful conditioning within the structure of our programming. We can also implement the jump rope to achieve greater endurance by skipping for several minutes on end, or we can invest in a heavy rope to emphasize more power development within the scope of our training. The possibilities are virtually endless.
Jump roping has some immediate benefits:
- Enhanced footwork
- Increased coordination
- Better reaction time
- Increased athleticism
- Enhanced cardiovascular conditioning
- Improved training variety
In addition to all the variation the jump rope offers, there is also the benefit of being able to train within a relatively small space. Cardio equipment has its place, but the point here is that we can utilize minimum equipment while maximizing our results.
A Challenge for the Nervous System
The application of agility and jump roping drills are great for keeping our nervous system sharp. Fundamental jump rope and agility drills provide low grade plyometrics that help to foster and maintain short bursts and forceful contractions in our muscles.
The short burst contractions derived from these low grade plyometric drills are a result of the stretch shortening cycle (SSC) within the muscle. The SSC is basically a muscle contraction that consists of three phases:
- The eccentric phase (the stretch)
- The amortization (the transition)
- The concentric phase (the shortening of muscle fibers)
This whole process triggers an immediate forceful contraction. This contraction is essential for building more coordinated and athletic qualities in our training.
Hybrid Training Works
After all, the key to intelligent programming is being able to address needs and to plug up the holes in our physical programming. If we neglect this, then we’re only limiting ourselves. Depending on what those limitations are, we are potentially setting ourselves up for either failure or injury.
Each of us have probably had more experience in one training category than another. It’s great to focus and hone our skills for a given type of training, but the introduction of a hybrid form of programming from time to time can elevate other areas of our physical abilities.
Conditioning doesn’t have to be boring: