How MMA Training Works

Jan 27, 2014

Creating a legitimate MMA strength a conditioning program can be overwhelming. Majority of fighters tend to gravitate to conventional body building exercises such as bench, squat, and bb curls or exercises that they excel in. When you think of fighting there are punches, kicks, take downs, knees which conventional weight training will be unable to mimic. You need to think outside the box when it comes to fight training. Stability, mobility, strength, power, speed, reaction time and anaerobic endurance are key physiological factors of MMA training. So how do you know which skill related aspect needs work? The answer is test and re test again and again. Testing is crucial to strength and conditioning program because it exposes weaknesses, strengths, and performance improvements. I understand that a majority of fighters correlate the success of their strength programs with wins and loses but tracking performance enhancement provides valid evidence to success.

If a potential fighter comes to my gym for MMA training, I will initially test this individual and clarify their goals. We will start with a movement screening to identify any imbalance during certain exercises such as squatting, lunges, single squat, and jumping mechanics. During the screening if there are clear indications of hip weakness such as the knees tracking in, I know their will be extensive work with glutes and hamstrings. Once the movement screen is complete the next test on the agenda is stability and dynamic stability. Think about if you have a stable back, shoulder blades, and hips punching and kicking will improve. A static plank and dynamic plank test will show how long the athlete can sustain postures and move in rotational patterns with a stable hip and trunk. The next testing procedure will be upper and lower body power such as plyo push ups, double and single leg jumps on a jump pad. The jump pad provides vertical height and ground contact time. If ground contact time is not quick enough power is significantly reduced. We also know fighters punch so testing punching reaction time and speed provide valid evidence for exercise programming. Now that we finished the speed and power components, testing hip strength and anaerobic threshold will be next on the agenda. The strength component is simply using a hip dynameters which will provide lbs of force. Now the fun part, pro MMA is 3 x 5 or 5 x 5 minute rounds with 1 minute rest between each. Initially we test 1 round and during the 5 minutes their will be host of exercises comprising of band punches, knees on the heavy bag, sprawl to stand, heavy rope jumps, and diagonal pulling patterns. What we will do is use a polar heart rate monitor to track the fighter s heart rate before and after a minute rest. The goal is to test and then track how quickly the fighter is recovering.

Based on the results of the performance testing and movement analysis an exercise prescription is formulated. An effective exercise prescription would be based on the scientific concept of periodization. Periodization is term to describe cycles of varying intensities and volumes which is designed to have a fighter peak for an up coming fight. This is a very board explanation of this concept but for your understanding when intensity increases volume will decrease and when volume increases intensity will decrease.

Once the exercise prescription is created the athlete will be tested for their 1-10 repetition maximal. The RM will allow us to create percentages so we can progressively increase the load in a safe and effective manner. For example if the athlete has 10 weeks to become prepared for a fight, the initial strength cycle will start at 70% to 80% then eventually climb up to 90% to 100% of their 1 RM before the 2 week taper occurs. Tapering is concept implemented to allow the athlete to recovery from pervious hard training. During the 10 weeks the fighter will go through various progressions of plyometric exercises or power development and anaerobic threshold hold training. The anaerobic threshold training is an extension of the testing protocol so instead of doing one round we will perform 3 or 5 five minute rounds. The athlete will also be tested again mid way through the 10 weeks and by conclusion of the cycle to measure performance improvements or possible changes that need to be made in the current program and future prescriptions.

This seems like quite a bit of information to understand. Frankly effective fight training is based on a good solid structure and a planned progression which I provided a peak of. Poor planning for fighters will lead to overtraining and injury, so do not take the initiative and create your own program because it will not work. Leave the science to the professionals. If you would like to be a pro MMA fighter and make tons of money then investing in strength and conditioning coach will impact your performance and life. Body Solutions offers effective and safe strength and conditioning programs for fighters which will prove performance enhancement and especially WINS.
Rich Pohler BS, ACSM, CSCS

Creating a legitimate MMA strength a conditioning program can be overwhelming. Majority of fighters tend to gravitate to conventional body building exercises such as bench, squat, and bb curls or exercises that they excel in. When you think of fighting there are punches, kicks, take downs, knees which conventional weight training will be unable to mimic. You need to think outside the box when it comes to fight training. Stability, mobility, strength, power, speed, reaction time and anaerobic endurance are key physiological factors of MMA training. So how do youknow which skill related aspect needs work? The answer is test and re test again and again. Testing is crucial to strength and conditioning program because it exposes weaknesses, strengths, and performance improvements. I understand that a majority of fighters correlate the success of their strength programs with wins and loses but tracking performance enhancement provides valid evidence to success. If a potential fighter comes to my gym for MMA training, I will initially test this individual and clarify their goals. We will start with a movement screening to identify any imbalance during certain exercises such as squatting, lunges, single squat, and jumping mechanics. During the screening if there are clear indications of hip weakness such as the knees tracking in, I know their will be extensive work with glutes and hamstrings. Once the movement screen is complete the next test on the agenda is stability and dynamic stability. Think about if you have a stable back, shoulder blades, and hips punching and kicking will improve. A static plank and dynamic plank test will show how long the athlete can sustain postures and move in rotational patterns with a stable hip and trunk. The next testing procedure will be upper and lower body power such as plyo push ups, double and single leg jumps on a jump pad. The jump pad provides vertical height and ground contact time. If ground contact time is not quick enough power is significantly reduced. We also know fighters punch so testing punching reaction time and speed provide valid evidence for exercise programming. Now that we finished the speed and power components, testing hip strength and anaerobic threshold will be next on the agenda. The strength component is simply using a hip dynameters which will provide lbs of force. Now the fun part, pro MMA is 3 x 5 or 5 x 5 minute rounds with 1 minute rest between each. Initially we test 1 round and during the 5 minutes their will be host of exercises comprising of band punches, knees on the heavy bag, sprawl to stand, heavy rope jumps, and diagonal pulling patterns. What we will do is use a polar heart rate monitor to track the fighter’s heart rate before and after a minute rest. The goal is to test and then track how quickly the fighter is recovering. Based on the results of the performance testing and movement analysis an exercise prescription is formulated. An effective exercise prescription would be based on the scientific concept of periodization. Periodization is term to describe cycles of varying intensities and volumes which is designed to have a fighter peak for an up coming fight. This is a very board explanation of this concept but for your understanding when intensity increases volume will decrease and when volume increases intensity will decrease. Once the exercise prescription is created the athlete will be tested for their 1-10 repetition maximal. The RM will allow us to create percentages so we can progressively increase the load in a safe and effective manner. For example if the athlete has 10 weeks to become prepared for a fight, the initial strength cycle will start at 70% to 80% then eventually climb up to 90% to 100% of their 1 RM before the 2 week taper occurs. Tapering is concept implemented to allow the athlete to recovery from pervious hard training. During the 10 weeks the fighter will go through various progressions of plyometric exercises or power development and anaerobic threshold hold training. The anaerobic threshold training is an extension of the testing protocol so instead of doing one round we will perform 3 or 5 five minute rounds. The athlete will also be tested again mid way through the 10 weeks and by conclusion of the cycle to measure performance improvements or possible changes that need to be made in the current program and future prescriptions. This seems like quite a bit of information to understand. Frankly effective fight training is based on a good solid structure and a planned progression which I provided a peak of. Poor planning for fighters will lead to overtraining and injury, so do not take the initiative and create your own program because it will not work. Leave the science to the professionals. If you would like to be a pro MMA fighter and make tons of money then investing in strength and conditioning coach will impact your performance and life. Body Solutions offers effective and safe strength and conditioning programs for fighters which will prove performance enhancement and especially WINS.

Rich Pohler BS, ACSM, CSCS

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