Strength & Conditioning with Mixed Martial Artists
Strength & Conditioning Coach
AAAI/ISMA, ISSA, NSCA, NPTI
There is a whole new market and awareness coming into play for Strength & Conditioning in the form of the most dynamic athletes on the planet, Mixed Martial Artists/ Cage Fighters.
Over the past decade or more Mixed Martial Arts has exploded and as it explodes the needs of the fighters to be better, stronger, smarter & more capable than their opponents grows and grows.
A good Mixed Martial Artist has a plethora of coaches on his or her team, Muay Thai, BJJ, Boxing, Wrestling, the list goes on and the need for Strength & Conditioning to be added to that list is becoming greater and greater with time.
There are so many ways for Strength &Conditioning to be implemented into a fighter’s routine… This article will discuss, in general terms, a few key ingredients to an amazing fighter’s regimen.
Let me explain “the seasons” of a Mixed Martial Artist.
- Off Season is any time during the year where we are without a fight coming up but continuing to grow and learn.
- Pre Season is the 8 to 12 weeks before a fight or event.
- On Season is the week of the fight or, in the cases where a Fighter has a few fights close together, the entire time involving the fights.
- Post Season is the day or weeks of recovery after a fight or event.
During Off Season, especially working with teenage fighters is a time to literally grow some mass, make some significant strength gains and physically change their body. After doing this we need to re-train the body to be as efficient at the new size as it was at the beginning size.
Mass gaining in any athlete is very basic, heavy weights, low reps, higher volume of sets, rest and good diet. I generally put My Fighters on a 6 week plan that incorporates 4 weeks of heavy training followed by 2 weeks of lighter training with higher reps and less sets. I usually have them complete that program twice before I decide to change anything and I get results anywhere from 5lbs of growth to over 20lbs of growth.
One of the best things about working with such dynamic athletes is that they literally use all of their muscles in their sport so their bodies react to the new style of training both quickly and efficiently.
During Off Season we also have the opportunity to do some sport specific training in which I tend to use a lot of isometric work to compliment BJJ (ground skills) and plyometric work to compliment their Muay Thai (stand up- striking skills). In all of this sports specific training I use very high rep range or a timer to enhance endurance. I’ll give you 1 basic example of how I work on their explosive striking capability. I will lay a fighter on their back and drop a 25lb med ball to them. They are to catch and throw back this med ball 10 times. Immediately after rep #10 I put them on a weight bench and have them do one-arm dumbbell bench presses at 20 reps per side. This is a perfect example of using power (explosive energy) then moving that right into strength (the weights) and endurance (the repetitions). This can be done with a number of exercises and body parts. Clearly this mimics how things can go inside The Cage.
Pre Season Strength & Conditioning consists of working the aforementioned sport specific training along side of twice a week interval sessions.
Interval sessions for a fighter are designed to increase both anaerobic as well as aerobic endurance. Also, by using an interval style, we can be sure to use all of the muscle groups not just the legs and core which so many fighters do by running, sprinting etc on their own to try and keep their cardio(s) up.
Another thing I address during interval training is different breathing styles depending upon the actions being done. If I have a fighter do explosive pull-ups (plyometric) and hold them at the top (isometric) they learn to breath out as they explode and to control their breath during the hold and inhale on the decline of the movement.
One other conditioning technique I use during intervals is oxygen deprivation. Since I am not wealthy enough to by regulating masks for every client I have, I implement a drill where they hold their breath for 20 seconds while still exercising. During this time I train them to exhale small amounts every 5 seconds. By exhaling they are actually delivering a small amount of oxygen to the muscles and they can actually feel that tiny boost. I then have them continue the exercise for another 10 seconds while breathing deep and then we repeat the 20 second interval with no breath and 5 second exhales and then they take a 10 second break. Ultimately what this does is increase the lung capacity of the fighter and train their muscles to work through a lack of oxygen while keeping their mind out of panic mode.
As we advance through the 8 to 12 week boot camp, at 3 weeks out I remove the strength and endurance weight training and just keep them with the 2 days of intervals for 2 more weeks. The entire time that this has been taking place they have still been training with their other coaches so we need to be weary of that fine line of over-training and we communicate between coaches and adjust all of our trainings to best fit our athlete.
The last week, the week of the fight, we do no intervals and their other coaches usually work them up to 2 or 3 days out from their fight then we let them rest the last days until the fight.
On Season is obviously the fights themselves but in the cases of multiple fights in a short time span we will put 2 days of intervals into their training as soon as they are healed and capable after their last fight and up to the one week before the next fight.
Finally, Post Season we let them rest and heal as long as they need it until we decide where we want to go or want to be for the next fight.
The rewards of Strength & Conditioning Training for everyone involved are insurmountable. For the fighter who comes to us with already amazing skills we add power to an already deadly kick or punch, we add endurance and strength to that guard or to that submission. For the various Coaches we add wins to their fighters cards and for us, the Strength & Conditioning Coaches ourselves, we get the opportunity to work with some of the most amazing athletes on the planet who, literally, when we say “jump” they say “how high?”
Thank you for taking the time to see into my world.
If you have questions or would like to train with me, please feel free to contact me at:
Powerhouse Gym, Plymouth, MA (508)833-7976