MMA Fitness, Personal Training, Strength and Conditioning Coaching
How to Increase Strength, Power, Endurance, Flexibility and Peak Performance for Mixed Martial Arts
We have all seen it on TV, whether it is boxing, wrestling, or MMA, the great match-up with two fighters going toe-to-toe, a back and forth battle with both athletes giving it their all. It looks as if the fight could go either way. Then suddenly the tables turn, one fighter completely takes the over. It almost looks as if the losing fighter has just totally given up.
As a fighter, I can tell you that no one who has enough guts to step into that ring or cage is going to just “give up”. What you just witnessed was a fight with two fighters of very similar talent and skill, but one fighter was stronger and/or better conditioned than his opponent, and in today’s fight world that can make all the difference. That's why you need a world-class MMA fitness and conditioning program.
Elite MMA fighters today have to be so well versed in many different martial arts styles. It used to be that you could get away with just being a boxer, kick-boxer, wrestler or ground guy. But as the sport of MMA is evolving; fighters are realizing that you cannot just be one-dimensional anymore. You have to be able to go wherever the fight takes you. What many fighters are still lacking is a sound strength and conditioning program to go along with this. Being able to go wherever the fight takes you also means if that fight takes you into the third, fourth, or - God forbid - the fifth round; you still need to be able to perform at that elite level. More and more, we are seeing that many MMA fights come down to who is the stronger, and more conditioned fighter, and because of this trainers are scrambling to find out just what is the best method for training fighters to become stronger, faster and better conditioned athletes.
A few years ago circuit-training for martial arts was all the rage and many fighters jumped on the band-wagon, using circuits to simulate the common time and rounds of an actual fight. The problem was that athletes were being burned out. They were expelling so much energy in these circuits that not much was left when it came time for fight training. Also circuit training largely neglects the strength aspect, when doing a single lift for a full minute at a fast pace you can only go but so heavy.
For strength training in recent years many trainers have had their athletes doing just power-lifting movements. While I love bench press, dead-lifts and squats (probably more than I should) these movements by themselves may make you stronger but their practicality into the fight game is very limited. At no time in a fight have I yet to see a guy in full mount be bench pressed off of his opponent.
I am by no means bashing circuit-training or power-lifting, I firmly believe that every trainer and athlete should add both of these to their arsenal but to only use one training method you will limit what your athlete is capable of. Much like we would no longer send a boxer into the UFC cage without any ground training or vice-versa, I would never send one of my fighters into the cage if he was not physically strong enough or in good enough shape to compete at that level.
I have been in competitive combat sports for the last 14 years. I have been a National level competitive martial artist, Division I wrestler, and now a professional MMA fighter and Kick boxer, and the one thing I have learned in this sport is to never stop learning and never stop evolving. Most recently I have added Olympic lifting into my training. I have found that the complex movements and core explosiveness that is used in Olympic lifting is the most comparable to the movements used by fighters. For the last year and a half I personally have had the best improvements to my fight game by mainly Olympic lifting.
That being said I still use power-lifting and circuit-training. When I have no fights scheduled and my weight can fluctuate I still use a more power-lifting saturated routine and try to add just raw strength. And when a fight date is approaching I switch to more fight specific circuit training with light weight to avoid injuries, get that extra cardio boost, and keep my weight down.
There are so many theories on what is the best strength and conditioning program for a fighter. The fact is there is no concrete answer. For every single athlete what is “best” is going to be different. The number one thing to remember is that they are a fighter first. While strength and conditioning is important it is not a fighters number one priority. Finding a “happy-medium” between fight training and strength and conditioning routines should be a trainers number one priority and when planned and executed correctly you will quickly see the difference in an athletes performance come fight time.