Training for the long term

By Benchmark Webmaster | on Jan 22, 2018

Training for the long term

By Benchmark Webmaster | on Jan 22, 2018

In Jujitsu the journey from white belt to black belt can take up to 10 plus years.

For each graduation, the student needs to show a regular commitment over a long period, a strong understanding of the movements and have the mobility and strength required to progress to more complex movements. Only when the instructor deems the students ready can the student progress to the next belt and subsequently begin to practice more advanced movements.

We should approach strength training with a similar mindset. You wouldn’t have a white belt (a beginner to training) training the same movements as a black belt (eg :a professional Olympic lifter). Individuals first need to be assessed in terms of movement quality, relative strength and training history to begin to understand their capabilities and weaknesses. Jumping straight into complex movements / high level training modalities will only breed dysfunctional movement without a strong foundation.

Keep the belt grading system in mind. A simple method to keep progression constant and injury risk down is to only introduce complexity when the body shows signs that it is ready for a new adaptation. Slowly layer complexity as the body adapts to new stimulus and eventually you’ll go from white belt training to blue belt training and so forth.

This brings forth 2 questions:

  1. What stage am I at with my training?
  2. How long does it take to become a black belt in strength training?

What stage am I at with my training? There are many assessment methods that are commonly used to identify training needs - some examples include: FMS, SFMA, Musculoskeletal system and so forth. These methods serve to highlight asymmetries, compensation patterns, control and stability in the individual through range of motion through basic movement drills.

This can outline issues for individuals who are just starting with training through to advanced athletes - identifying and addressing dysfunction in basic movement patterns. Outside of movement / postural assessments, a good coach will be constantly assessing movement quality and adjusting the session / program to improve movement. Just like a Jujitsu instructor will have requirements that the student must meet before they graduate to a new belt, a strength coach will have a movement quality standard / indicator exercise that must be achieved before layering complexity to the program.

In a more basic breakdown the goal is to achieve quality movement in a squat, hinge, lunge, push, pull, locomotion and resisted rotation and when it’s layered with strength we will have a more robust individual that will adapt more efficiently to more complex movements.

How long does it take to become a black belt with strength training? There is no definitive answer as to how long it will take for an individual to progress to more complex movements. The best advice is to stay under the watchful eye of an experienced coach that understands movement and can give appropriate progressions and regressions.

In any training program there should always be a focus on developing basic movement patterns, improving dynamic motor control and improving on a strong foundation. There are plenty of variables in play with each individual such as age, gender, height, weight, training age, genetics, recovery, injuries, lifestyle and access to training facilities/coaches. All these factors will have a hand in dictating the rate of progression for an individual.

Stages for training development: There is no exact way to start an individual off with their introduction into strength training and there is no exact definitive finish in the journey either. The spectrum is painted in shades of grey. (You may see a pattern here, in that bespoke tailoring of training to an individual is paramount to improvement and protection from injury – this is where quality coaches prove themselves essential).

However subjective, there are many methods to rank an individual’s current training level. From the Joe Defranco scale of “Shit, Bad, Good, Great” to the more conventional Beginner, Intermediate and Advanced categorisations - we can use these training ranks to get an understanding of an individual’s training requirements. The following are general descriptions of the various ranks and their contents in a training environment:


Introduction of general movements, hand eye coordination development, developing balance and COM (center of mass) control, develop breathing mechanics, development of relative strength, development of deceleration capabilities. Sessions should be fun and engaging for general populations.


GPP (general physical preparation), refine movement quality, improve ROM (range of motion), improve stability / control, improve DMC (dynamic motor control), improved deceleration capability, improve relative strength development, improve deep breathing mechanics, introduction to recovery methods.


Increase relative strength, increase ligament / tendon density, structured recovery, develop explosive power, develop explosive strength, increase fixed load in movement patterns, deep breathing and bracing mechanics, officiant DMC (dynamic motor control)


SPP (Special physical preparation) if training an athlete, absolute relative strength, improve explosive power, improve explosive strength, acceleration / deceleration proficiency, improve cognitive training,


Enjoy the journey that is strength training. It will be sporadically linear over time and will require effort, discipline and a humble approach. The journey from starting off with basic movement to highly complex training methods can take years to achieve, if done correctly. It is also wise to consider whether the individual even needs complexity in their program (even if they’re capable of additional complexity, we should always use the minimum effective dose of stimulus to achieve adaptation whilst minimising injury risk and improving performance).

Posted on Jan 22, 2018