There are times in a fighter’s career when dropping a weight class is vital to his success. It doesn’t usually happen right away, but hints start getting dropped during conversation between coaches and teammates. You start hearing things like “he’s a big 45er” or “ I think he can make 125.
Regardless of the reason behind a fighter dropping a weight class, things will need to change for him, but hopefully for a little bit. Once a fighter successfully moves down a weight class then you can start to tweak the program to improve strength and optimize muscle mass.
The initial drop can be daunting, but very doable with proper training and nutrition. So what needs to change for a fighter to drop a weight class? Initially, the biggest change will be diet. I’d argue that manipulating macros is a good place to start. Pair this with sufficient caloric intake in order to fuel continued training and good things should happen. I’m a not a nutritionist… I know that basics, but there are more qualified people to write about this topic so let’s leave it up to them.
If you need solid nutritional advice on how to safely and effectively drop a weight class, I would contact Perfecting Athletes by Michelle Ingels. I have seen her work first hand and she is incredibly knowledgeable.
There are several changes that need to happen from a programming standpoint, but let’s start with the biggest obstacle. We’ve just spent the last year training a fighter to be a certain weight class. He’s probably put on a little bit of size while decreasing his body fat. He’s dialed in with his programming and now we need to do the same, but he needs to be 10lbs lighter!
Here’s where it all changes!
Our goal with training a fighter dropping a weight class is not to have him gain muscle or size, it’s to get him stronger at the same body weight. The goal is raw strength. We want to teach him how to tense his muscles harder. I will dig deeper into this specific aspect of training in a later post.
Remember, the goal of the suggestions below is to give you some ideas on how to increase strength with minimal to no hypertrophy.
For today’s example, let’s assume we are working with an experienced athlete who knows his way around the weight rom. My suggestions below would actually be poor advice if we were working with a new athlete
So, again, assuming we’re working with a fighter who is already comfortable with training, what might change from a strength training standpoint?
Well, I’m glad you asked.
1. Keep it under 5 and around 15
Sounds like a bad title to a movie, right?
Most coaches (myself included) agree that true strength work is performed in the 1-5 rep range. Keep the reps 5 or under and the total volume of reps around 15. Can you go a bit higher? Sure, it really depends on how your athlete responds to volume. I would say that 15 reps total in a given exercise is perfect for strength gains.
So what does this look like in a program?
Here are a few 10-week set/rep schemes to consider for strength gains:
Weeks 1-4 3×5
Weeks 5-8 3×3
Weeks 9-10 2×2
Weeks 1-4 5,4,3,2,1
Weeks 5-8 3,3,2,1
Weeks 9-10 3,2,1
Weeks 1-4 5,5,3,2
Weeks 5-8 5,3,2
Weeks 9-10 3,2
You can get as creative as you’d like, but make sure you add in de-loads and taper volume as you get closer to a fight.
2. 2 lifts a day
I got this from Dan John. He’s really smart, really strong and kind of a big deal. So go ahead, do a little googlefu and look him up. Read everything he has ever written and buy all of his books. You can thank me later.
So its only 2 lift’s a day? Yes, that is correct.
It’s a minimalist program that will get you strong and rarely make you sore. If you don’t have much time to strength train for MMA (which is BS by the way) try this! Perform 2 lifts a day 3 days a week. Use the under 5 and around 15 rep scheme and you should be all set.
Here is an extremely complicated training template:
Simple and effective, what’s not to love?
3. Implement bodyweight training.
Sure, you can gain a bit of size with bodyweight training, but it is also pretty tough when done right and you will be forced to develop some serious skill. Add in 1-arm push-ups, pistols, hanging leg raises and gymnastic-based exercises. The bonus here is that you have a gym anywhere you go and you’ll learn a ton about your body along the way. A great place to start is purchasing The Naked Warrior by Pavel Tsatsouline. You won’t be disappointed!!
There are many ways to get strong while staying at the same bodyweight, but the ones listed above are very simple.
Give these ideas a try and let me know what you think!!