T Nation

Specificity in Fighting


How many fucking arguments have we had over this one? Cressey settles it in today's article. Wanna fight good, FIGHT MORE!

  1. People Really Don't Understand Work Capacity
    I often see people implementing measures in their programs geared toward enhancing work capacity.

Most of the time, this training simply consists of a bunch of cardio or lower-intensity resistance training exercises done with little to no rest. My question is, what happens if you're a powerlifter, sprinter, or jumper?

In other words, does teaching yourself to not get out of breath really mean that you'll be able to perform more quality work at a high percentage of your 1-rep max? Or does it mean that you'll be able to increase the number of faster sprints or higher jumps in the same amount of training time and with less imposed fatigue?

I'd argue that for the more strength/speed oriented athletes, teaching yourself to not get out of breath may enhance the density of your program, but you aren't necessarily enhancing the quality of work.

If I deadlift 660 pounds, doing a bunch of lighter-weight circuits might mean that I won't get out of breath as much with regular training, but that doesn't necessarily mean that I'll be able to get in more reps over 595 (about 90% of 660) during a deadlifting session. In fact, I'd argue that it would actually lead me to get in fewer reps due to the deleterious effects on maximal strength.

Lots of folks in professional baseball try to convince pitchers that just going out and "running poles" will help to build up pitching endurance. They improve aerobic capacity, no doubt, and then go out there and throw with less velocity than they'd had before.

However, when they just go out and throw â?? gradually building up their pitch count along the way â?? they maintain their velocity (or even improve it, based on the additional opportunities to become more neutrally "comfortable" with their mechanics without the presence of fatigue).

What's the point? Even when it comes to work capacity, specificity wins. You didn't learn how to read faster by playing checkers. You simply kept reading.

Want to stop getting so gassed while playing soccer? Play soccer.

Want to be able to squat a lot of heavy weights in a training session? Start squatting a lot of heavy weights in a training session.

The more non-specific you get, the more likely you are to be enhancing work capacity for a different task than you'd intended.


Not sure exactly what point you're trying to make by quoting Cressey here.

Are you saying that supplementary training (such as resistance training to bring up maximal strength, explosiveness, or strength endurance) is not useful, or will not improve combative effectiveness because it isn't exactly what you do during combat/combat sports?

Or are you just trying to say that you should gear your supplementary training towards addressing specific attributes which you feel like you need to bring up?


That you get the required endurance needed for fighting from fighting. And doing sport-specific drills like padwork, bagwork, etc. are where your primary strength-endurance are going to come from, and absolutely nothing, not lifting, not running, not barbell complexes, nothing, should interfere with those.

Too many people come here asking 1) if running 10 miles a day will give them needed enruance in the ring (or cage or whatever) 2) if running 38 40-yard sprints will give them the endurance to fight 3) if doing barbell complexes until they puke will give them endurance to fight, etc.

I truly believe too many people take the supplementary training way too seriously and way too heavy.


Yep. You can improve your general strength and conditioning base through lifting and running and such, but nothing is sport specific other than doing the sport specifically.


I haven't decided whether I agree or not, but I read once that it is a bad idea to engage in lots of skill work when you're extremely fatigued. The idea was that your technique would inevitably get sloppy and then you'd be practicing bad technique (neuro-muscular facilitation/muscle memory blah blah blah). The suggestion was to do skill work (sparring, drills, whatever) when your relatively fresh then work more gross motor conditioning type movements (circuits, hill sprints, callisthenics) to exhaustion for training effect. Like I said, I'm not sure if I 100% agree, but the logic somewhat tracks for me.

In my current training we do something similar. Classes start with 1 hour skill work until fatigue just starts to really set in then we do 15-20min. of anaerobic conditioning then a few minutes of drills/stress inoculation to get the feel of fighting while maxxed out. However we don't spend much time doing actual techniques while exhausted.

So while I agree that specificity is king I'm not sure if it's ideal to try to get all or even most of your conditioning from fighting alone. The Spartans, who knew something about the subject IMO, did plenty of skill work but the evidence indicates that they spent at least as much time/effort on what we would now call GPP in the form of gymnastics, track and field, callisthenics etc. which seemed to work OK for them. Just my $.02


Agree with that. Doesn't mean that additional running, lifting, etc... isn't also beneficial (time/energy permitting) though.

All of those things will improve general physical preparedness (which can spill into sport specific endurance to a degree), but it's true that they won't be as beneficial as actually practicing your chosen activity.

I think it depends on the individual, what their weaknesses are, and how advanced technically they are.


I think we need a 'you need to be this tall to post here sign'

ps its not sento I say this half in jest.


Why do you say that?


Not to single you out and don't take this personally.

But I'm not going to be rude and say because I have the chops and you don't.

I read allot here across all the training forums and I have seen some of
your pots, you are a 'young' training age
You asked about things in other threads, like help doing more then 9 pull-ups
and things like fasted cardio.

Those kind of questions would make me question your training age history etc.

but discussion is good- I should learn from everyone

I think Irish quoted Cressey to help the theory that many here uphold that specificity
is what makes you goood not the other shit.
that actual wrestling , judo , boxing what have you is what will make you better.

not the other shit that however hard it might be is easier to get better at.

which is harder getting a bigger deadlift or learning proper head movement and footwork.

Problem is this is a weight lifting/bodybuilding/powerlifting site, with lots of armchair coaches.

doing your sport makes you better at your sport.
getting stronger faster etc can help
in combat its not that cut and dry.

Your point about the spartans - very little is actually known about their actual regimen
so Im not sure how that applies.

I will say for lots of sports like javelin and yes even judo
there are allot of gymnastics present.
Javalin is a very unique sport with allot of different kinds of training.

what I found is that things change slowy in sports
its just like medicine.
or computers.
hardware always predates software.
Medical research always is ahead of practice.

and new S&C techniques are often proved superior to older methods.

Yet those very same methods - of how a camp or lets make this easy a wrestling practice
is laid out has not changed allot.


KMC - Not only what will make you BETTER, but will make you able to work HARDER, what will expand your work capacity, at Cressey said.

I've fallen into this trap myself, maybe we all have, being as this is a lifting site primarily- where I think that doing extra volume, extra sprints, extra whatever, is going to mean that I'm not going to gas so badly in the ring.

Man, one thing I been learning over the past few weeks is that NOTHING helps you not gas aside from doing MORE of what you're doing.

Doing a few extra rounds on the bag, one more round of pads, two more rounds shadowboxing, is going to do more for you than all the bench presses in the world.

It's like wrestling or rolling. People often ask what will make them not exhaust so quickly, but I'll be that the guy who rolls three hours a day is going to be better off than the guy who rolls two or three times a week but runs 20 miles a week.


Or you could just train with better people :))))


Apple Valley, the number one high school for wrestling in the nation, sometimes does conditioning first to make their kids tired before the actual wrestling practice. If you can train good technique when you are tired, then you will be able to use it during the match. The whole "training while fatigued will ruin your technique" is bullshit, in my opinion, and only lets people avoid being tired. Plus, when you are tired, you have to have BETTER technique in order to perform well. I may only be drawing on my wrestling experience, but I have noticed that I need to pay much more attention to technique, especially for takedowns, when I am fatigued in order to finish a move.


that is every wrestling practice.

HS and College particularly college follows this formula few a few reasons
though they train 5 or 6 days a weak they have a finite number of practices.
for college it is something like 181 practices and its monitored. (NCAA)

In HS it weeds out the bullshit kids quick.

who wants to wrestle after
running 3 miles doing a bunch of hills or sprints, or stairs
and a shit ton of push-ups.
In that same vein it gets the bullshit stuff out of the way first,
gets everyone warm and coach can say that , that kind of work is being done.


there is a basic level of fitness required for every sport sometimes training simply does not cover all the bases


Thanks for the frank, courteous response, I appreciate it. It does seem to me, however, rather like you are singling me out and stating that you have the chops and I don't, despite your claims to the contrary. I don't take it personally at all and readily admit that many on this site have more knowledge/experience than myself. I do train and have, off and on for a while, and read a bit myself, so while I am far from the team captain I don't believe that I'm quite the armchair QB/coach either. People I know often ask my opinion about this stuff so I am perhaps a little too quick to volunteer it where it may not be as welcome or helpful.

As for my own level of fitness, I find that I am generally able to hang in the front portion of the pack in most activities and fitness tests among sub-elite competitors. This is not particularly impressive, but it's not couch potato either. I'm not dick measuring here, I'm just saying that I don't just sit at the keyboard all day.

Regarding ancient training methods I absolutely agree that hard information is very difficult to come by and old does not necessarily mean good, as methods go. However I have been around long enough to have seen a few different ideas come and then go and then come again, so while older isn't necessarily better, neither is newer in all cases. This is part of the reason why I no longer work as hard to stay abreast of the latest and the greatest and why I tend to look at the broad strokes more than the details. If that makes me sound even more ignorant than I am, well so be it.

Thanks again for the feedback, I learn a fair bit around here and appreciate the resource immensely.


That line of thinking makes sense too. Like I said, I'm not sold on the whole training tired=bad technique concept myself. I expect that this works on the mental aspect as well which is key. Thanks for the input.


For what little it is worth, as I am sure I do not meet the height requirements alluded to above, I am firmly in the don't try to learn new things when you are exhausted camp.
I will also add that whether or not training skill in a severely fatigued state is a good idea depends largely on skill level.

When someone is just learning to do something, fatigue greatly retards the learning process. The amount of detriment is dependent on the student, the level and type of fatigue, and the danger/risk of the activity. So, I am happy to teach basic exercises to moderately tired people, but there is no fucking way I want you breathing heavy on your first trip to the shooting range.

I am fond of the saying "Practice does not make perfect. Practice makes permanent. Perfect practice makes perfect." The corollary to this is "You will not rise to the occasion; you will default to your level of training." So after a sufficient level of proficiency in a skill has been developed, i.e. you can do it "close enough for jazz", then add difficulty/perturbations. I am sure the argument about the perfect being the enemy of the good goes here. Once someone has the ability to perform a skill well, then practicing it when they are not at their best builds confidence and efficiency.

The basic model is 1. Practice towards perfection. 2. Drill until failure of skills 3. Practice what failed. 3. Repeat. I wish I could remember who told me "Amateurâ??s practice until they get it right, pros practice until they get it wrong."

Everyone can pick examples where this is not followed and techniques were â??learnedâ?? in a seriously fatigued state, but these examples usually reveal that:
A. The subject at hand knew how to do the thing in the first place

B. The subject adapted to the fatigue/perturbation and then began learning at normal efficiency

C. Worst of all, the subject never really developed outstanding skill.

With the wrestling examples given in previous posts I would argue that A and B are in full force.

None of this means I disagree with FightinIrish about sport-specific drills. I would just respectfully point out that if you are going to be hitting pads for cardio/boxing carryover you should have the skill to look more like this guy

Than this gal


Robert A


Oh, as for the Spartan history what do we know thing. We know they trained hard. They trained really hard. They had gay sex with each other and felt it raised morale. I have never been that tired. I have thought I was exhausted, but I have never trained so hard that I started looking at being on the receiving end of a train as being a pick me up. I have prayed for death because of exhaustion/discomfort, but I have NEVER been Spartan tired.


Trying to learn new skills is not a great idea when you are completely exhausted, but then again, if you are in good shape, it doesn't take you very long to recover from the conditioning work and downshift to technical practice mode. As long as the training partners don't turn technical excellence work into sparring (before either one truly has a grasp on the technique) it shouldn't be a problem.

It's of course going to be somewhat dependent on the individual (as I said earlier) though. That girl in the video you posted would need to devote a lot more time to actually learning how to perform the techniques properly (more technical excellence work). Someone who has lots of technical skill, but gases often, probably needs to spend more time doing conditioning work. Someone who has lots of technique and lots of gas, but often gets physically overpowered might need to spend more time getting their strength levels up. etc...etc...etc...

However, that's different than performing conditioning work (drilling, padwork, etc...). Doing conditioning work teaches you to be more efficient with how you perform your techniques (you'll figure out pretty quickly that throwing everything you've got into your strikes, or trying to use a lot of muscle/tension while grappling don't lend too well to endurance), how to conserve energy, and actually in many cases to be more technically sound (especially if you're working with a bigger, stronger opponent).

Both technical excellence work and conditioning work are important and as long as you doing turn one into the other, then there shouldn't be any problems.


This made me laugh out loud. haha I never been that tired either.