By Matthew Palfrey
As a strength and conditioning coach, my programming always starts with the end in mind. I consider what will be happening during competition and adjust the programme to suit this. In this article, I’ll be discussing what you can do to ensure that your fitness training is preparing you effectively for competition. I’ll also be addressing one of my pet hates in MMA strength and conditioning – the exclusive use of five minute rounds.
Long gone are the days of slow, steady state cardio for athletic performance (or at least they should be). The vast majority of MMA athletes now realise that the type of training, its duration and intensity should be specific to the sport. Unfortunately this has led to the rise of the five minute round as the preferred method of conditioning for many MMA athletes. “But Coach, surely the five minute round makes the programme specific to MMA competition?” Yes and no.
To explain this, let me first talk about the work output profile of a typical five minute MMA round. In each round there will always be periods of higher work output. It’s important that the athlete includes elements of high intensity work output over a short period of time to cope with these demands and prepare for the realities of competition.
Whilst the five minute round is a sensible fight specific conditioning duration, it also causes lots of problems when used exclusively. As an athlete you need to have the physical attributes that allow you to change gear at a moments notice and also work effectively over a full five minute round (or multiple thereof). The key here is variety, particularly when it comes to the work periods during your fitness work.
Whilst the ability to pace yourself through a five minute round is important, you mustn’t overlook the value of training to increase your short duration power output.
How can I integrate these principles into my own strength and conditioning work?
Look at your existing strength and conditioning programme - are you working through a variety of different time periods? And are you applying maximum intensity during each of these sessions?
Try adding the following types of training: Single power movements e.g. Olympic lifts (snatch, jerk), heavy dummy slams/throws, vertical leap
Duration: 0-2 seconds Multiple power movements e.g. 2-5 repetitions of Olympic lifts, Plyometric hurdles, Box Jumps
Duration: 5-20 seconds Multiple short duration periods repeated e.g. Tabata Protocol, 20 seconds work/10 seconds rest repeated 8 times (or 10 times for a five minute round)
Duration: 20 seconds work/10 seconds rest repeated for duration of 4-5 minutes Fight Specific Conditioning (duration) e.g. five minute, constantly varied round
Duration: Five minutes.
What else do I need to consider?
The biggest problem when you ask people to reduce the length of training time is that the intensity evaporates. Athletes are often so conditioned to pace themselves that it is difficult to get a higher work output from them over shorter time periods.
As an example, consider the Tabata Protocol workout. Every 20 seconds of work should be at maximum intensity and that doesn’t just mean moving for twenty seconds. If you are doing a Tabata workout with Kettlebell swings you need to be getting the maximum number of repetitions in each and every twenty second work period. When I hear people tell me that Tabata work is easy I know two things – they’ve picked an easy exercise and that they aren’t working hard enough.
Remember to record your strength and conditioning performance. This is especially important during the shorter duration bursts of work. If possible record the following: Repetitions, if applicableLength of work period/speed of lift/movementLength of rest periodWeight lifted, if applicable
You can use this information to monitor improvements over the course of your programme. By adding these elements and making consistent improvements across a variety of different work durations you’ll be on your way to becoming a more effective athlete.
If you have any specific questions on Strength & Conditioning for MMA or you’d like to discuss workshops, professional fighter coaching or a review of your current programme feel free to get in touch.