Fundamentals of Weight Training for Dodgeball
We’ve all been there. We’re in the gym or doing a home-workout and we knock out some bicep curls expecting it to help us throw a dodgeball harder, right? Or we spend an hour on a treadmill to help with cardio, but when it comes to playing a game we’re exhausted after the first few games.
Fitness in sport is all about knowledge. The more you know, the better prepared you are to exercise in a way that is beneficial to your performance. We’ll be explaining the fundamentals of weight training: Power, Max Strength, Hypertrophy and Muscular Endurance (including stabilisation), and how you can improve these.
Working out your 1 Rep Max
To explain the above, some maths is required. You’ll need to know what your 1 Rep Max is. Essentially, what is the maximum amount of weight you can do in one movement. And this can be applied to a number of exercises. You’ll see why this is important in the following sections.
To work this out, find the heaviest weight that you can lift safely 4-6 times, and add it into this equation:
(4-6RM X 1.1307) + 0.6998 for Upper Body and for Lower Body (4-6RM x 1.09703) + 14.2546
Now the long decimals are just to help work out progression and are different depending on which area you are working due to their everyday usage.
For example, for the upper body, if you can lift 50kg x 6 comfortably, then your 1 Rep Max would be 57kg.
((50x1.1307) + 0.6998)
Now that you have this, you can work out what weight you should be using for Power, Max Strength, Hypertrophy and Muscular Endurance exercises. Remember, the more you know, the better prepared you are.
What’s it good for? Throwing, Jumping and Sprinting
Basically, power means how fast can your muscles exert maximum force in the shortest time (force x velocity). For example, how quickly can your muscles move with force when throwing a dodgeball? We tend to think that bigger muscles mean that you can throw a ball with more force or faster. But it’s technique and better engagement from muscles that plays a more critical role.
For power weight training, you’re going to want to work at 30-40% of your 1 Rep Max. Now this seems low, however, what power relies on is explosive movement which you only get from these lighter weights. The lighter weights means you put more pressure on your fast twitch muscle fibres and improving them is key to progress.
Now how many should you do? Well, even if the weights are lighter, the explosive stress you're putting on your muscles needs to be limited within your reps and sets. For power, you want between 1-10 reps and no more than 3-6 sets. And ideally no more than 30 reps across all of your Power Sets. This will help ensure that you reduce the risk of injury and you aren’t over training your muscles. It will also ensure that you're focusing on power and not endurance. You should be taking 3 - 5 minutes rest between your sets, so that you can sufficiently replenish your energy.
What’s it good for? Stronger muscles and progression in all other areas.
We’ve all seen them in the gym. The people who lift a heavy weight once, high five their friends (maybe not since COVID) and then hit the showers. Lifting a heavy weight once won’t do much for you in dodgeball. However, you can easily increase your maximum strength over time and therefore increase your 1 Rep Max. By doing this all other areas, power, hypertrophy and muscular endurance, progress can be improved upon.
So, Max Strength, you can work at 100% of your 1 Rep Max. But you have a range of 85-100% to work with. Working at 85% will allow you to slightly increase the reps and sets you can perform and therefore make progress.
Now, for reps and sets, 1-5 reps is more than enough. You're not focusing on speed like mentioned above. You're focusing on a slower movement which is engaging all of the muscle fibres required. 4-6 sets is more than enough to engage all the muscles and cause improvement with a 2-3 minute break in between sets. And because this is a heavier workload, the cumulative maximum reps you should be doing is between 8-36. Be mindful here, as the % you are working at can determine your progress. Work too little and you won’t see improvement but work too much and you increase the risk of injury.
Hypertrophy (increase in bulk by thickening muscle fibres)
What’s it good for? Looking buff
Now do bigger muscles allow you to throw a dodgeball faster or sprint faster? You might assume yes but research shows that hypertrophy can be limiting in a sporting capacity. Hypertrophy means you have more muscle fibres to call on when you use those muscles, but it doesn’t say anything about the quality of those fibres.
To improve hypertrophy look to work at 70-85% of your 1 Rep Max. Now that’s borderline to Max Strength, but the difference here is your sets and reps. The focus is on breaking down those muscle fibres so that more are produced during rest to then deal with an increased workload. For reps, focus on between 8-12 per set, of which you don’t want to exceed 3 sets really. As before, an increase in reps means more stress on your muscles. But the lower sets means you reduce the risk of injury. To add enough stress to the muscles and get the most out of your workout, limit your breaks between sets to 1-2 minutes. This will allow the muscles to regain enough energy to perform more reps.
What’s it good for? Reliable continued high performance
Over time your muscles will get tired and sore. Game scenario: You're on your own against 5 players and you have to keep throwing and dodging for two full minutes. It’s every dodgeballer's nightmare to face those odds but it’s also a dream to walk off court the victor. Muscular endurance is key here, especially when matches are 30 minutes long.
Think of your muscles as elastic bands. How many times can they contract and retract without losing that elasticity and strength? Simple bodyweight exercises using the AMRAP (as many reps as possible) is great to begin with and can vastly improve endurance over time if you have a lack of equipment.
However, to get the most from Muscular Endurance training you'll want a % load to work with, namely between 50-70% of your 1 Rep Max. This allows for increased reps as continued force on the muscles allows them to adapt during rest and improve the strength of the fibres themselves. This means it takes longer for fatigue to set in. For your reps and sets, we’re working a much higher capacity, 12-24 Reps but only 2-3 sets.
With the added weight (compared to body weight exercises) it’s still important to limit the amount you do so you don’t over-train or injure yourself. Make sure you take either no break at all between sets (we call this a Super Set) or maximum 1-1.5 minute break. Again, for this, try to keep the total reps within the range of 36-75, as this will allow for progression and limit overtraining or risk of injury.
How often and what do I train?
When is too much?
Progress can come quickly initially or might be slow and steady. It depends on how much you train and specifically what you are training.
First, you need to identify what you want to improve. It could be muscular endurance in your legs or power in your arms. You won’t be able to improve all aspects of one area at the same time so you’ll need to pick.
Let’s take upper body power for example. If you're training this three times a week, you shouldn't be training upper body max strengths. Because it's the same muscle group, this is going to cause increased fatigue, slower progress and a greater risk of injury. You need to strike a delicate balance when exercising, have a heavy upper body session on Monday. Then on Tuesday, hit the lower body. Followed by more upper body again on Wednesday but make it a slightly lighter session.
It’s suggested that a minimum of 3 sessions a week for training to see improvement but ideally you want to be giving your muscles 48 hours to recover from a session. Sometimes muscle groups might overlap a little, especially with your core exercises. But you want to make sure you are maximising your rest periods so not to over-train or injure yourself.
Knowledge is Power
There is a lot of information to take in and process but hopefully you now have a better understanding of how to be more effective at weight training. We hope this aids your journey out of lockdown and preparing for the new season.
There are plenty of ‘experts’ online who can tell you the fastest way to get lean or improve your fitness. Just remember, progress can come quickly initially and then slow down but to really prepare yourself for performing at an elite level follow the fundamentals. Remember some progress is better than no progress and listen to your body. If it hurts stop, rest and re-engage with your programme.