Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Mixed Martial Arts and Distance Running

I see it all the time, preparing for the demands of the Boston marathon instead of an MMA fight.

This is the single most common mistake that I see in the sport of mixed martial arts. Not only do you see this in probably every athlete at the amateur level but it is a viral infection among professional MMA fighters. Just turn on an episode of the ultimate fighter and you will see guys taking heavy hits of LSD (Long Slow Distance). In other words, these guys are going jogging along with other types of slow endurance type conditioning. This is the kiss of death for the sport of MMA. First you must realize that MMA is NOT an aerobic sport. I’m sure that’s not a shocker. But it is absolutely jaw dropping how many guys are literally conditioning for a marathon type event before a fight! MMA is an anaerobic sport with repetitive bouts of power output, hence why we will use an oxymoron “Power Endurance”, for lack of a better term. Georges St. Pierre is a perfect example of an MMA athlete training correctly for the sport. Georges’ strength coach, Jon Chaimberg, is the best in the sport and I will guarantee that you won’t see Jon giving his athletes doses of LSD.

Second, our body adapts to the demands that we place on it. Plain and simple: Train slow, Perform slow. High intensity interval training with progressions toward negative rest to work ratios (ex: tabatas) should be the staple of an MMA conditioning program.

"For the last time, training like this for MMA will DESTROY your performance!!"

Here is an example of a common interval progression we use (note that you can use various equipment for this, sprinting, airdyne, slideboard, etc.):

2-3 weeks – work = :30/ rest = 1:30 (start with 5 sets and add one per week)
2-3 weeks – work = :30/ rest = :60
2-3 weeks – work = :30/ rest = :30
2 weeks (modified tabatas)– work = :10 / rest = :20 x 4 minutes (that’s one set)
2 weeks (modified tabatas)– work = :15 / rest = :15 x 4 minutes (that’s one set)
2 weeks (tabatas) – work = :20 / rest = :10 x 4 minutes (that’s one set)

This can be modified to whatever is right for the athlete. Some athletes may spend more time in a specific progression than others, depending on their current conditioning, age, goals, fight notice, etc. It should be of the most importance that the athlete gets to negative work to rest ratios as soon as possible (without overtraining). So again, this is just an example.

For an MMA athlete, classic endurance work like jogging, etc, makes about as much sense as punching yourself in the zipper for an hour. Next time you watch a fight and see the fighter gas out quick, its more than likely he has been having heavy doses of LSD. In fact, see if you can get a look at his strength and condition program online and have a look for yourself.

Some athletes and coaches may make the argument of using classic endurance work for weight management. Again, interval training reigns supreme here. But this brings up a very important component called “Nutrition”. Do yourself a favor and pick up a copy of John Berardi’s book “The Grapplers Guide to Sports Nutrition”.