I grew up in a fairly small town. My friends and I played outside every day until our parents yelled our names across the neighborhood to get home for dinner. We pretty much all did cub scouts and boy scouts. I couldn’t tell you exactly who was in my den, but I do remember having a positive experience.
I’ll be honest, I don’t remember many details from my boy scout days, but I’ll always remember the scout’s motto, “Be prepared.” It didn’t mean all that much to me back then, but it makes perfect sense now.
Regardless of your situation, stay alert, aware and be prepared.
So how does this relate to MMA?
If you work with local fighters, either amateur or pro, you know how much BS they may experience acquiring fights. Between fighters dropping out, athletes not making weight, injuries, etc., things can and will happen. It’s a bit of a mess, but often times one man’s misfortune is another man’s gain.
If you want to be successful in MMA, you need to be prepared. As Jack Youngblood would say:
Good luck is a residue of preparation.
Recently one of my fighters, Tateki Matsuda, took his first fight in the UFC on 9 days notice. Yup, 9 days. Some would call this nuts, others, the opportunity of a lifetime. He was very prepared and got the opportunity of a lifetime, the chance to fight in the UFC.
I have been training Tateki Matsuda for his last 3 fights and he is a machine! I’d argue that no one trains as hard as he does. He’s consistent as hell and if anything, I need to slow him down. His work ethic played a huge role breaking into the UFC. In his first fight, he went 3 rounds, never gassed and put on a show. He lost via decision, but it was pretty damn close and some of my peers would even argue that he won that fight. Keep an eye out for Tateki, he’ll be back soon and ready to put on a show.
Now, before I give you my opinions on how to stay in “fight shape,” I need to state the obvious. You should never really let yourself get out of shape. I understand if you want to take a week off, drink a few beers and crush some pizza after your camp. That’s fairly normal. I wouldn’t suggest taking a month off, gaining 30 lbs and start smoking Marlboro reds.
It’s common sense really. 🙂
Here are some ways to stay in excellent shape all year round!
1. Preventative maintenance.
I love this quote from Kelly Starrett- “ All human beings should be able to perform basic maintenance on themselves.”
I agree 100%. Invest the time to take care of yourself. Learn to manage your soft tissue through skillfully using foam rollers, tiger tails and other self-massage like the Rogue supernova. The cost of these 3 items is the same as one 90-minute massage and will bring you months, if not years of use.
Here are a couple videos I put together on some basic foam rolling techniques:
2. Maintain your strength
When it comes to strength training, the magic happens when your train around the 80% mark. This percentage is very manageable in a trained athlete and should keep you strong throughout the year. When you can always hit these numbers, moving up slightly in weight should be a viable option without having to worry about DOMS and neural fatigue.
3. Focus on compound movements
I am convinced that you can get a fighter really damn strong by focusing on the basics.
Train the deadlift, pull-up, barbell bridge, horizontal press and loaded carries on a weekly basis. It’s up to the coach to determine volume, load and intensity but these exercises will get the job done. Keep the reps around 5 on most of these and you should be set.
Remember, no one ever dominated someone in the cage by training with bosu balls, ellipticals and p90x. Stick to what has worked for the last 50 years and eliminate the BS.
4. Train at fight speed
You don’t get explosive through slow movements, circuit training and long distance work. Sure, the aerobic system plays a role behind the scenes, but you need to train explosively to be explosive.
The mistake coaches make is when every form of conditioning is HIIT based. You cannot develop power in a fatigued state. They key is to perform some type of alactic work in each session. We have had great success at Skill of Strength/mmafightprep.com by performing alactic capacity work at the end of the lift and beginning of conditioning.
There are several ways to train this way including plyos, sprints, sled work, medball throws and battling ropes are just a few options that work very well.
5. Hire a strength coach that works with fighters.
Perhaps this is a shameless plug, but it’s important. For some, it’s the missing piece of the puzzle. I say this all the time, but fighters have no problem hiring a striking coach, BJJ coach and wrestling coach. Then they go out and get their strength and conditioning from the internet.
Just the other day I met with a local fighter. He has been ranked #1 in his weight class for the last couple years and has never worked with a strength and conditioning coach. That’s right, never.
While he can always make improvements in his skill work, he won’t make large jumps. I guarantee that if he trains with us for the next 6 months, he will destroy people in the cage. The impact we can make will be much greater since he’s never done anything for strength and conditioning.
It’s important to analyze scenarios like this and put the fighter in an environment where you can improve as quickly as possible.
Listen, what I do with my fighters is not magic. It’s just smart training.
If our fighters are stronger, faster and better conditioned then their opponents, we have an advantage. You can be the most technical fighter in the world but if that technique goes to hell after 1 minute, it’s useless.
As always, train smart and train hard.