The people who participate in Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) are some of the most well-trained and physically fit individuals in the world. Many of them are on par with Olympic athletes, pushing themselves to the limits of their willpower and endurance to get better every day.
Those who become the best in MMA organizations are those who train the hardest to become masters of their sport. No detail of training gets overlooked when trying to achieve the well-honed body of an MMA champion.
Workout routines and exercises designed to achieve MMA-level fitness focus on different aspects that are tried and tested. Endurance, raw power, flexibility, striking power, speed and agility are just a few of the important needs of an MMA fighter.
Coaches often talk about how competition is 90% mental and 10% physical. Yet many focus completely on the physical side before fights or competitions. This could be because fighters believe that they don't need to prepare mentally, don't know how to prepare mentally, or sometimes let egos get in the way and and think that to prepare mentally makes them weak. Yet, most high level athletes have enlisted the help of sports psychologist to assist with mental hurdles, including UFC Champion Georges St. Pierre.
Zar Horton, a twenty-three year veteran of the Albuquerque Fire Department, and his team of fitness specialists have brought Russian Kettlebell training to denizens of the Duke City. Working out of their studio aptly named Firebellz, Horton and crew put elite athletes and everyday folks through the paces of efficient, functional workouts by way of the kettlebell.
Proper nutrition is important for everyone, but especially professional MMA fighters who train six to eight hours a day. Nutrients foster everything in the body from adequate energy levels in muscles to healthy skin and muscle growth. Unfortunately, many fighters face the pressure of dropping 10, 20, 30 or more pounds to make a weight class and choose to malnourish and dehydrate their body before a fight.
Ringworm, or tinea as it’s known medically, is an infectious skin disease caused by mold like fungi called Dermatophytes. These Dermatophytes thrive on dead tissues on skin surface and follow a circular path to spread its infection outward. Combative sports participants need to take an active measure to prevent this condition, and here’s how.
At some point in the sport's development, coaches and fighters decided that because mixed martial arts is “extreme” or “crazy,” the workouts should be, too. But, looking at the facts, mixed martial arts strength and conditioning shouldn't be any different from other sports.
I’m willing to bet that almost every mixed martial arts fan out there can think of at least three fights in 2010, in shows as big as the UFC, that were decided by conditioning. And it doesn’t take a genius to understand that to make it to that level, one does not ignore preparation.
So why, then, can an athlete not go for 15-25 minutes of competition with all that he has. Is it will and determination? While mental toughness obviously has its benefits, probably not.
We see it on behind the scenes footage all the time. Fighter “x” is going through a crazy non-stop workout full of the latest fitness trends and gadgets. His heart rate is through the roof, he can hardly lift himself off of the floor when it finally finishes, and he swears that is what you need to put in to get to the top.
Stop by your local gym for an MMA conditioning class, and you’ll probably see similar techniques being applied daily. This approach is wrong.
Fighter “x” is being filmed for television. The footage needs to be entertaining for the fans and play mind games with his opponent all at once. This fighter probably only trains at that pace for the cameras, or, on occasion, to develop the mental edge to push through stressful, unknown situations.
There are two categories of training an athlete's camp addresses: General physical preparation, or GPP for short, makes up the general, physical, basic abilities to perform in almost any sport. GPP includes, but is not limited to, endurance, strength, speed, and flexibility. There's also, specific physical preparation, or SPP, which makes up the specific exercises that address the sport directly. There is no cut and dry distinction between GPP and SPP for every exercise. It merely depends on the period of training and demands of the sport.
That crazy workout for the cameras is going to fit into the GPP category. But remember, GPP involves endurance, strength, speed, and flexibility. These “run them into the ground” programs only address some form of endurance, at best. The other stuff just isn’t that entertaining for television, because it is what most other athletes are already doing.
A properly designed strength and conditioning program for MMA needs to address all of the facets of GPP, as well as SPP. Following the workout on TV, no matter what it was, is going to be too narrow a focus to bring competitive success.
Let’s look at a very basic layout for a proper week’s training:
Monday- Upper/lower strength split: This workout should flow from dynamic warm-ups, including corrective work, to core lifts (speed-strength before strength), assistance lifts, and finally cool-down with corrective work and stretches.
Tuesday- Conditioning: See Martin Rooney’s "Hurricane Training" (Men's Fitness- Hurricane Training). Not to say that this is all that there is for conditioning, but Martin has some great ideas and a solid, laid-out plan to work off of.
Wednesday- Upper/lower strength split. See above.*
Thursday- Conditioning. See above.*
Friday- Upper/lower strength split. See above.*
*Workouts will not necessarily be the same from day to day.
This layout does not include any skill training. Ultimately, the above routine is a supplement and skill training is the most important part of preparation. In all reality, the best conditioning for any sport is to play the sport. Nothing else can emulate the adrenaline, energy, or dynamics of a fight.
So before you run into your next “MMA conditioning class,” take a look at the overall picture and make sure that you’ve got all of the bases covered.
For more on this philosophy of conditioning, check out Eric Cressey’s article, “What I learned in 2010,” #8 (What I Learned in 2010). Nor does this layout include an obscene amount of cardio on a daily basis. To understand a little more about the need for strength training over conditioning, see USCS writer Tyler Welch’s “Strength vs. Conditioning” article (Strength vs. Conditioning).
Chris Merritt is the co-founder of Beyond Strength Performance, received his B.S. in Kinesiology from the Pennsylvania State University, and has a multitude of certifications that say he can regurgitate information to pass a test. The important thing: Chris Merritt gets results. He has countless mixed martial arts athletes whom he coaches and consults with to help make weight and turn right around to perform optimally when it matters. If you or any of your athletes have questions, feel free to contact Chris through his website (www.beyondstrengthperformance.com).
Alright, so I know it gets boring to hear me go on and on about esoteric work out stuff. I know I spend more time bitching and moaning, climbing up on my soap box and ranting at you about “the influence of ego on training,” “misplaced priorities” and my general pissy-ness about the fitness industry than giving you want you want.
Water. Two-thirds of the planet is covered in the stuff. It’s everywhere – plants, animals, oceans, lakes, rivers, diet coke – no wonder it’s considered essential to our lives.
Although this series of articles is technically entitled “Strength and Conditioning for Combat Sports,” I’m going to spend some time this week discussing outside factors that affect both performance and body composition.
The combat sports community has made great strides in regards to embracing the world of "functional" training, and shedding the ineffective shackles of bodybuilding-style training. In that transition, though, the value of training for strength has become neglected. It is almost as though an aversion to basic, practical weight training has been cultivated in pursuit of ultimate functionality.
Page 1 of 2