At this point in my career, I can confidently say that I’ve worked with some pretty high level athletes. It seems that 11 years of working 60+ hours a week will get you some experience!
Over the last 2.5 years, I have worked with more than 20 professional mixed martial artists. I have attended numerous live events and probably experienced 200+ live matches. In addition to that, I have sat on my butt, (while drinking some beer) and watched another couple hundred televised fights. When I watch the fights, I am constantly analyzing how the athletes move, their fluidity, footwork, head movement, and overall conditioning.
Time and time again, I see fighter’s gas out. Why is this happening? I’m not completely sure, but I do have some ideas on why many of these fighters are gassing out.
In this blog, I ‘m going to cover the top 5 reasons I believe fighters gas out during matches.
And away, we go!
1. Poor Aerobic Foundation
If you think MMA is only an anaerobic sport, you are wrong. The aerobic system is your cardiovascular foundation. Without a good aerobic base, the two other energy systems cannot function optimally. Unfortunately, this system is vastly overlooked in the fight game. Aerobic conditioning might not be as sexy as high intensity interval training (HIIT) or tabatas, but without a good aerobic base, those types of training will leave you tired and overtrained.
When you train your aerobic system, your heart becomes more efficient. The heart stretches out, allowing it to pump more blood with each beat. This results in a lower resting heart rate and improved cardiovascular efficiency. If you have a resting HR under 55 beats per minute (bpm), you most likely already have a good aerobic base.
If you are in the 70 bpm range aerobic training should be your starting point. Again, this is where having a HR monitor is key. Traditionally, the aerobic system was trained via long distance running. Running is great in theory, but I have seen far too many overuse injuries resulting from running long distances so it’s not something I recommend.
For some idea’s on how to train the aerobic system, check out my previous post: Developing an Aerobic Base.
2. Too Much Emphasis on High Intensity Circuit Training
Let me start off by saying this, I have no problem with circuit training at all. If it’s designed correctly, it can be very beneficial. If the goal is to destroy your athletes via circuit training, you are heading down a pretty nasty path.
Pro fights consist of three 5-minute rounds with a 1-minute break in between each round.
Since this is the actual time spent fighting, designing circuits that are 5 minutes long seems to makes sense right?
Yes and no!
I understand that you need to mimic energy expenditure that may occur in a fight, but high rep/high intensity work will just leave you sore, tired, and never fully developing specific qualities. If you know that you have to survive three, 5-minute body-destroying circuits, you will do pretty much anything to finish, even if it means poor technique and putting your body at risk for injury.
Getting injured during circuit training, sweet!
Here’s a killer circuit that will leave you destroyed for 3-4 days! I tell ya what, lets throw on an elevation mask and a 30lb weight vest while we are at it!
- :30 push ups
- :30 jump squats
- :30 pull-ups
- :30 burpees
- :30 walking lunges
Repeat for 5 minutes!
Rest for 1 minutes and do it 2 more times!
Ok cool, now you can’t lift you arms over your head, you avoid stairs at all costs and you are dreading team training.
Sick session bro!
3. You Can Spar All Night
This is a good and bad!
When we develop a skill in a given area, drill, and/or exercise, we eventually get more efficient at it. This is a good thing! Do you want to get better at BJJ? Start rolling!
This is essentially the SAID principle. The SAID principle states that the human body adapts specifically to imposed demands. In other words, when the body is placed under some form of stress, it starts to make adaptations that will allow the body to get better at withstanding that specific form of stress in the future. Simply put, we get better at the things we do often.
This is great for skill development, but can sometimes provide a false sense of reality when it comes to being in “fight shape.”
Here is an example.
You hit mitts and do some light sparring 2-4 times a week. You feel great training this way. You are comfortable with the pace and you feel like you can go all night. You train with the same guys most of the time and you know their tendencies, strengths, weaknesses, and overall conditioning.
So what’s the problem?
For the most part, you are comfortable. You haven’t been truly tested. You have never performed any drills at maximum speed and/or exertion. You aren’t putting yourself in scenarios where you are inefficient and are forced to expend more energy than you are accustomed to. You are great at conserving energy, but when you are forced to get out of your comfort zone, you gas out!
There’s a good chance that you’ll be forced out of your comfort zone in your matches.
4. You are the best at your gym
There is nothing wrong with being the best fighter at your gym. Most likely, you have earned your way there by putting in the time and effort required. However, at a certain point, being the best at your gym might become an issue.
If you are always sparring with the same teammates and consistently have your way with them, it can give you a false sense of security as to how good you really are. Sure, it can be a great confidence builder, but eventually you need to train with people that are on a higher-level than you. If you are competitive, you’ll rise to the occasion and learn from the experience.
My advice is simple, train with the best people you have access to!
This might mean cross training a bit more and certainly moving out of your comfort zone, but I promise you, it will be an excellent learning experience. If you want to be the best, you need to train with the best. It will be a humbling experience at the beginning, but you will only get better.
5. You never fully recover within the training session.
I prefer that all of my fighters train with a heart rate monitor. When you have specific training goals, it’s vital to understand how to recover adequately for that goal.
To make it very simple…
- If your goal is power work, you pretty much need full recovery.
- If your goal is capacity, you will train with incomplete recovery.
It’s also important to use any type of metrics possible to track performance…
- For power work, pay attention to maximum wattage if possible.
- For capacity work, I like to use distance covered.
Are these two metrics perfect? No, but they at least give targets to shoot for.
Here are some basic recovery numbers to work with:
- For power work recover heart rate to 110-125bpm.
- For capacity work recover heart rate to 130-145bpm.
Hopefully this helps you understand some reasons an athlete gasses out in a fight. There are many more possible reasons, but this is a good place to start!
As always, train smart, train hard!!!