Modern day MMA presents a particular problem for the strength coach simply because the skill set required at the high level is incredibly broad and so are the physical attributes required. Fighters need to work on their BJJ / grappling, wrestling, Muay Thai and other stand up styles along with a whole host of smaller skill sets from other arts. This leads to an incredibly busy training week with little time and recovery left over to devote to strength and conditioning. Yet, at the same time, they must have explosive strength, strength endurance, agility, high lactate tolerance, mobility and good cardiovascular fitness.
This often leads to fighters convincing themselves that the fitness attributes they gain during their skill training will be enough to see them through and this is true enough, right up until the moment they step into a cage with an opponent of equal skill. But, far greater speed, power, explosiveness and cardiovascular fitness. If you’ve ever sparred 5 rounds in training with a fresh opponent each round or come back to training after a layoff and rolled with guys who were in fighting shape, then you’ll know what I’m talking about. By that 5th round, your hands feel heavy, there’s no spring in your movements and you find yourself going for comfortable, familiar patterns of skill execution as you are just too exhausted to think. Your hearts pounding in your chest and there is vomit rising in your gut. You feel clammy and disoriented.
Meanwhile, your opponent is totally comfortable, relaxed even and mentally sharp. They always seem to be 2 steps ahead of you in exchanges. This quickly becomes demoralising and you fight with less and less skill as the rounds go by, getting more and more frantic until eventually, you’re tapping to a technique that would never have caught you when you were fresh in the first round.
That’s the difference that good quality Strength and Conditioning can make.
What I’m trying to build more than anything in a fighter is the right blend of physical attributes that will let them look across the cage and see that their opponent has no answer. It might be while you’re waiting for the bell for the final round, getting some instruction from your coach and you look over to see your opponent leaning into the cage, breathing like a train and struggling to keep their feet. It might be after the first prolonged exchanged in the first round, you both throw some shots and feel each other out at range. Their jab feels weak, you check a leg kick and notice there’s no real power in it. You reply and they feel the shots through their guard, nothing connects. But, they feel it and pull in close to clinch. You easily break their balance in the clinch and catch them with a knee as they step back out and as they circle away, you can see in their eyes, that they already know you have them physically beat.
That kind of physical dominance will not be built through skill training alone.
So, how can you go about getting the necessary work done whilst still being fresh for technical sessions?
With so many attributes to work on, how will you organise your strength and conditioning training such that each phase builds on the last?
How will you know what to focus on and when in training?
What are your relative strengths and weaknesses and how will you improve on them?
These topics will be the focus of the Combat Ready blog series.
Starting from an overview of what attributes a fighter needs and how to measure them. Followed by how to analyse strengths and weaknesses, laying out phases of training in the correct order and then working into the detail of each phase. I will cover movements, set and rep schemes, durations and intensities But, I won’t say a single thing about fighting skills or how to execute them.
Being skilled enough to win will be down to you. But, with the information provided here fortnightly, you WILL be able to set yourself on the path to being the physically dominant fighter.
Watch Gavin Laird speak about developing knock out power in your strength and conditioning sessions in the gym.