Combat Ready: What makes an MMA fighter? Part 3

In the last installment, I covered the different kinds of Endurance, relating them to particular energy systems (alactic, lactic and aerobic) and time frames (up to 12 seconds, up to 90 seconds, up to several hours).  Understanding that gives us a platform to move into actual performance analysis and find out what we should be focusing on; so, here we go!

When I talk to fighters they tend to discuss their performance in terms of simplified versions of what’s really occurring. For instance, they will say that they are “strong” but lack “speed”, or that they are “powerful” in the early stages but “gas out” if the fight goes on too long. Relating that to what we’ve covered, we can see that either the Power or the capacity, of an energy system can be lacking and lead to a poor performance. Here are a few simple examples…


What Happens

What’s Wrong


I’m knackered right away!

Poor general fitness

Active Fighter

Gassed after first long exchange, can’t recover

Aerobic system power, Aerobic system Capacity

Active Fighter

Fine in Round 1, steadily worse after that

Aerobic system capacity

Active Fighter

Nothing happens when I hit my opponent!

Alactic system Power

Active Fighter

I get drained when locked up in the clinch / on the ground then gas out straight after

Lactic system capacity, aerobic system power

Active Fighter

I get bullied / overpowered in clinch / wrestling / ground

Alactic system power, lactic system power.

Active Fighter

Striking power drops off in longer combinations

Alactic system capacity, aerobic system power

Active Fighters

Legs and shoulders get “heavy” early on, then I’m slow for the rest of fight

Lactic system capacity, aerobic system power, aerobic system capacity

Now, obviously no fighter I going to have just 1 thing they need to work on, but the above should give you some idea of what to spend the most time working on.

To improve as a Fighter you must always be analysing both your technical and physical performance.

In the same way, you might devote more time to BJJ if you know you are poor on the ground, you would also preferentially devote fitness training time to the energy system power or capacity that you are worst in. Too often, a fighter will spend their S and C time doing either irrelevant work (building physique for instance) or continuing to improve what they are already good at (AKA showing off). Instead, in order to improve at the fastest rate possible, we need to look at what is weak and attack it

By eliminating glaring weaknesses, and constantly re-assessing where we are relatively weak and preferentially addressing those areas, a fighter has a good chance of improving from one fight to the next.  Remember, this doesn’t mean that you should forgo working on other abilities! Just that whatever is weakest will be the overall priority and receive the most training input in a given cycle. This idea of choosing what qualities to emphasise and to which degree, then planning out systematic phases of training to reflect this, is the basis of “Periodisation”, which I will discuss in detail as this series goes on. First though, let’s cover why we wouldn’t try and train ALL the required qualities, ALL the time.

The Training Economy.

The “Training Economy” is a simple concept whereby Fatigue is traded off against the acquisition of improvement. In the Training Economy, the athlete is both producer and consumer!

You “Spend” fatigue on improving performance by training.

If the training means selected does not train the correct bio-motor qualities then the training effect on performance will not be nil, it will be negative, as adaptation in one direction does not occur abstract and separate from all other adaptation. Every training input will be expressed in the athlete’s performance, and every training input will create fatigue that cannot be “spent” twice.

Consider an extreme example of applying the wrong bio-motor qualities in the wrong skills in the wrong environment – let us take a fighter and make their whole training program consist of repeatedly swimming 800 meters breaststroke.

Will their striking technique improve? Will they increase acceleration strength on land? Will she increase rate of force development or starting strength? Of course not.  On the contrary, they will reduce their fighting abilities by interfering with the motor patterns and abilities required by building those needed for something else entirely, whilst at the same time building great fatigue that will prevent a performance increase even if the training stimulus had been correct.

That point is extremely important. Fatigue is the enemy of skill acquisition and performance, so it must be minimised; it must be “spent” extremely wisely!

Often when a Fighter is doing his own S+C they will use fatigue as a measuring stick for performance gain, working on the premise that if the training is tiring, it must be good.

Let me make this very clear; any fool can fatigue an athlete. Your goal in S and C sessions is to improve performance. High levels of fatigue and performance improvement are not only completely independent of one another;  they are usually in opposition.

Too much fatigue lowers short-term preparedness, reduces skill acquisition, reduces motivation and increases injury risk, so if you have to induce fatigue, then at least make sure it will have a worthwhile effect on long-term fitness. Never use fatigue (or any markers of exhaustion!) as a measuring stick for performance gain!!

This is the underlying principle of Periodisation in S and C; getting the greatest possible improvement in sports performance from the least possible input of additional training time and / or subsequent fatigue and it leads us to Periodisation simply because the amount of training required to train ALL the abilities a Fighter needs, ALL the time, would result in too much fatigue being generated.

In the next installment, I’ll introduce basic Periodisation terminology and discuss how I lay out training cycles for my athletes. In the meantime, if you have any questions pop over to the Facebook page at Gavin Laird and drop me a PM.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s