Your time is limited. Spend your time wisely.
Fighters need it all.
- Strength Endurance
- Alactic conditioning
- Lactic Conditioning
- Aerobic conditioning
- Grip strength
- Core work
On top of everything listed above, you CANNOT forget about all of the skill work fighters should/need to be doing at their MMA gyms!
Before, I continue, lets get a few things straight…
- Fighters aren’t olympic lifters.
- Fighters aren’t powerlifters.
- Fighters aren’t sprinters.
- Fighters aren’t gymnasts.
Don’t get me wrong, you can take components of each sport above to develop certain skills, but aiming for a snatch PR, a 1RM in the back squat, and owning the iron cross might not be the best uses of time for fighters preparing to step into the cage.
Here’s a thought for ya though.
Fighters are, well, fighters. So it makes sense to train them like a fighters right?
I’m going to break down each sport listed above to hopefully get you thinking a bit. Or, you might just think I’m a jackass. I’m ok with that because it’s the internet, and everyone is right!
Olympic lifts require a high degree of skill. Good Olympic lifters have excellent strength and mobility, and they’ve spent years working on their technique. They have broken the lifts down, practiced their weaknesses and ironed out technique flaws. To be a good Olympic lifter, you need to spend years with the bar and complete thousands of reps.
If you want to add in some hang cleans or even power cleans to your regimen, have at it. Just remember that a crappy clean w/185 isn’t going to improve your explosiveness. Find a good coach and slowly chip away at these.
Before you decide to add Olympic lifting into your program, build yourself up to a respectable deadlift, front squat and overhead squat first.
Oh ya, the Olympics lifts used as a conditioning tool is just plain dumb!
Honestly, if I see another video of a fighter performing high rep Olympic lifts, I might throw up in my mouth.
I love the barbell lifts. I think every athlete can benefit from the deadlift, squat and bench press. These lifts are also very technical, but not as technical as the O-lifts mentioned above.
If you are going to deadlift, shooting for a 2x bodyweight pull is a great goal. This is very attainable and I have yet to see any contraindications from pulling that type of weight. Just be sure that you are using a stance that works for you and does not leave you with any back pain, movement deficiencies, or ridiculous DOMS.
The two deadlift stances I usually prescribe to fighters are conventional and narrow stance sumo. If an athlete moves well, he’ll pick these up pretty quickly. From my experience, teaching athletes how to utilize tension early is a vital skill and sets them up nicely to achieve that 2x bodyweight deadlift. The ability to generate tension will allow you to lift more, and in a safe manner.
I love the back squat. I have seen drastic changes in my athletes once they back squat consistently for 3 months. When athletes wrestle and train BJJ a lot, it’s important to be careful how much you load them up with the barbell. I’m not saying they cannot train heavy, but you need to understand that their spine in general takes a beating and some athletes may not be able to tolerate compression in certain parts of their spine. This my friends, is why we perform a thorough evaluation!
I’ve found that squatting 1.5x bodyweight for 3-5 reps seems to be the sweet spot for most of my athletes. Some go heavier and others stay lighter, but at MMA Fight Prep and Skill of Strength we always focus on quality of movement and never chase numbers. If you can prove to me that a true 1RM on the back squat will help a fighter win, I’m all ears. Until then, I’ll keep doing what I’ve always done!
The bench press is probably the lift I use the least when it comes to the power lifts. There is nothing wrong with it at all, but I have always found myself choosing dumbells over the barbell. The barbell doesn’t give you as many options on how to press, and it may piss off some shoulders. I prefer pressing with dumbbells, kettlebells and the swiss bar as those options seem to be a bit more “shoulder friendly” than the bench press.
I actually prefer to program more pulling than pushing into my programs. I generally have my athletes training a horizontal press 1-2 times a week. They will perform vertical pulls and horizontal pulls 3-5 times a week.
When choosing sprinting for conditioning athletes, ask yourself these questions:
- Do they move well?
- Have they sprinted in the past?
- When is the last time they sprinted?
- What does their technique look like?
Then, if it makes sense, add some sprints in!
I would suggest some tempo runs prior to all-out sprint work. This gets athletes used to “opening up” their hips and will also give you a good idea of how the athletes are respond to sprinting.
Once it’s clear my athletes can sprint, I love using sprints to train alactic capacity. For example, I’ll have an athlete sprint for :10 to :12, rest for :70 to :90 and perform some repeats.
You can also perform some lactic power work via sprints. Have your athlete sprint for :25 to :35, rest for 2 to 2.5 minutes and perform repeats.
There is no denying that sprinting is incredible. However, when you do add it in, be smart. The last thing you need is an athlete with a torn hamstring because you implemented sprints too early.
Gymnasts are probably the strongest athletes on the planet pound for pound. I recently had a Cirque Du Soleil performer train at my gym, and his skill was literally jaw-dropping. He mentioned that he grew up in gymnastics, competed in high school and college and now makes a living with his skill set. He’s spent years practicing and clearly knows what he’s doing.
There are some videos of GSP training gymnastics floating around the internet these days and people will question whether or not they should add this type of training into their program. I won’t even answer that. If you want to compare yourself with GSP, Rousey, Michael Jordan or Pele, have at it. Let me know how it goes!!
Drills like front levers, handstands and basic ring work can be excellent for fighters, as long these skills are taught correctly. I would use these drills as fun and exploratory. There is nothing wrong with implementing basic drills into the program, just remember to keep the goal the goal.
I really don’t care what you add into training programs for fighters. Just remember that the goal is to become a better fighter and win. There are many ways to skin a cat and I’m not saying one is better than the other.
Here’s how I see it. I want my athletes to get the fastest results possible. This usually means practicing the basics and keeping it VERY simple. If my athlete has 2-4 extra hours a week to train, I’d prefer him to work on his MMA weakness versus trying to add 10 more pounds to his snatch.
Honestly, the best thing to do if you’re training for a fight or you train fighters, is to surround yourself with a good team. If the team knows what they are doing, they will be honest with you and tell you what to focus on.
As always, train smart and train hard!!