Building A Robust Athlete

(my interpretation)

  1. “One which uses strength training to raise force production of the muscles as far as possible in hope that the submaximal (‘good enough’) level, as well as the robustness of the movement, will increase together with the maximal level. The maximal level raises the submaximal level along with it, as it were.”

  2. “One which primarily seeks to increase the robustness of the movement, so that the ‘good enough’ level then shifts towards maximal level without the maximal level needing to rise”

Quotes from- Frans Bosch (2010) Strength Training and Coordination: An Integrative Approach


What Does Robustness Have To Do With Force Production?

The idea of robustness revolves around the concepts of “sturdy”/”stable” movement patterns that can handle many different external and internal changes (perturbations). Essentially, Bosch is saying that unless a movement pattern is robust, the athlete will never be able to realize their fullest force producing potential. This is because something that is not stable or sturdy is more likely to be knocked off by greater perturbations (injured). The more force we express, the faster we move and the more internal and external changes we will experience (perturbations), which means the greater our threshold for perturbations has to be. By making our movement patterns stable, we will be able to express greater force in our movements. No longer will our ability to handle these perturbations be holding back our force producing capabilities.

What About Strength Training?

This question is referring to his first statement (1). Frans Bosch is suggesting that some coaches only focus on the force producing mechanisms of movement (muscles)  and no enough time on building the robustness of movement. If robustness is never built, then the athlete can only perform movements that are below the perturbation threshold (Bosch does not use this phrase ‘perturbation threshold’, but I think it helps explain what he is saying). What does this mean?’

Your perturbation threshold is basically an extension of your CNS. It limits the percentage of force you can produce in a movement. So, if you have a “good enough” level of robustness, you might only be able to produce 75% of your potential muscular force. Weight training will increase your muscular force, but without increasing your robustness and perturbation threshold, you will not be able to express all of your potential. However, if you build your robustness from “good enough” to “maximal”, then maybe you can express a muscular force closer to 100% of your potential. This way, you are becoming stronger not by having more force producing abilities in your muscles, but by allowing more of those abilities to be expressed.

Can Training Movements With Light Weights Increase Force Production?

Often you will see Bosch suggest training methods that are much different than “traditional” methods. The load might be much lighter and seem “pointless” to some people. However, the goal of these drills are not to build force, but instead designed to increase your robustness. By increasing your robustness, you can increase the amount of force you can express via increasing your perturbation threshold. Movement is about expressing muscular force in context. Building robustness designed to help the athlete increase the amount of force they can express by increasing their ability to express it in context. However, Bosch does not only advise training robustness. He does reference that a mixture of muscular force training (increase contractile properties) and robustness training might be optimal.

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