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Training of a Competing Amateur?

Guys I’m posting this because I would like to get a real view of what you guys do to prepare for fights as well as year round if you take this sport seriously enough to compete. If you guys could help me out and give me an idea of what you do for skills training, sparing, running/cardio, weights…

Just some background on me and why I ask this question…I started training mma this past summer after needing a sense of competition that wasnt weights because lifting heavy got me injured once i got to decent numbers for a non competitior( 410 bench press, 450 squat, 550 dead lift). Now its been about 5 months and i am excelling due to my wrestling background and willingness to learn and work hard.

I have my first fight in January and right now the way my training center works is 4x a week sparring in the morning 5, 5 minute rounds with the competing amateurs and pros, 4x week instructional classes with two days striking and two grappling. I cant make everyone of those classes, but i try. I also run and get in the gym for my first love, lifting heavy weight, about 5 days a week.

[quote]dfresh333 wrote:
Guys I’m posting this because I would like to get a real view of what you guys do to prepare for fights as well as year round if you take this sport seriously enough to compete. If you guys could help me out and give me an idea of what you do for skills training, sparing, running/cardio, weights…

Just some background on me and why I ask this question…I started training mma this past summer after needing a sense of competition that wasnt weights because lifting heavy got me injured once i got to decent numbers for a non competitior( 410 bench press, 450 squat, 550 dead lift). Now its been about 5 months and i am excelling due to my wrestling background and willingness to learn and work hard.

I have my first fight in January and right now the way my training center works is 4x a week sparring in the morning 5, 5 minute rounds with the competing amateurs and pros, 4x week instructional classes with two days striking and two grappling. I cant make everyone of those classes, but i try. I also run and get in the gym for my first love, lifting heavy weight, about 5 days a week.[/quote]

Well bottom line is the way I approach training people is…every single case and person is different :).

It depends on your priority. If your first priority is lifting heavy shit, then just do what you are doing. If you want to throw everything in the fight cage, then you need to change what you are doing lifting wise.

The guys I’ve helped in the past are usually working fight game 5 days a week approximately 2-3 hours each day. They spar regularly–meaning anywhere from every day to a couple times a week depending on what they are working on improving the most and where they are in prep.

In terms of conditioning and strength I make sure people have a base of running ability and BJJ rolling/wrestling ability. Different methods of cardio that gas you differently. After I am sure that they have a base there, I don’t worry about road work very much unless they drop all of it or start to show signs of deteriorating endurance–as with most boxers and fighters the first thing they think of in training is “running”, so it is rare I have somebody just drop the cardio output.

In terms of lifting and conditioning specifically it depends on where they are in relation to their weight class limits, recovery ability, supplements/diet, and lifting abilities. You are plenty strong enough for fighting and if you put your first priority on fighting you should not worry about getting stronger. More strength will not likely help you enough to make the cost/benefit trade-off worth it.

That said, I would in your case focus on a) explosive strength b) reactive strength c) unilateral balance and strength in both arms and legs d) very difficult core work. I would make sure glutes/hips are firing, hamstrings are strong, then maintain them and work on the above. I would take 1 workout a week and create a conditioning workout, then a couple months prior to the fight I would do the conditioning circuit 2x a week.

If you are lifting 5 days a week already and handling it well then I can recommend 4 days lifting 1 day conditioning circuit. All days should be full body but with different emphasis on assistance work each day. When 5 days of lifting becomes too much to handle–IF it becomes too much because I know people that can handle that load–then back it off to 3 lifting and 1 conditioning day. Regardless you should take your heavy lifting days and start to decrease the rest periods between sets anyway.

So:

Full body strength workouts, prioritize explosion, reaction, unilateral assistance, and core.

1 conditioning circuit (I have a special set of hell days I work with that will completely end any doubts you have about conditioning when completed).

Second thought–I missed the fact that your first fight is in January!!

Apologies, I wrote out a general approach and didn’t look at the circumstances you are in.

Right now your approach needs to be heavy on sparring and fight work. Absolutely heavy on sparring and fight work. Any lifting you do needs to be focused 100% on conditioning. If you lift heavy, prioritize explosive strength, core, and unilateral balance and strength and make heavy days a) low volume and b) not frequent. It is enough to maintain what you have–right now you MUST, MUST plug any holes in your game and any holes in your conditioning. You have between 4 weeks and 7 weeks to prep depending on when your fight is.

I suggest conditioning lifting 2/3 times a week, heavy lifting 1x a week low volume. Bear in mind you need to tweak this workout if you feel like you are in danger of injury/tendons nagging–but that’s the only reason you should do it.

First, thorough, thorough stretching and mobility warm-up, soft tissue work, anything that needs fixed and get warm and ready to go. Then

Hell Hath No Fury:

Keg or Heavy bag carry 30 yards. QUICK FEET. Use the heaviest bag or the heaviest keg you can find. If inside, use laps on the mat to approximate distance.

Broad jumps 30 yards. Jump as far as you can landing on your feet, don’t slack that shit. Use your hamstrings not your quads.

Heavy bag body slams x 10. Slam the bag just like you would an opponent…as hard as possible every. single. rep. Heaviest bag you can find.

10 vertical jumps. High as possible.

KB squats–75 lbs x 10, 65 lbs x 10, 55 x 10 Each rep needs to be to depth. (or 30kg, 25 kg, 20kg bells. Can use dumbbells if no KB)

Sledgehammer tire strikes 20 reps x each side

Heavy bag or pad kicks 1 minute. STAY BUSY. Work combos and try to stay as sharp as possible on technique considering the fatigue. Snap kicks don’t push.

REST 1 minute. Repeat circuit. Your goal is to get the entire circuit done in 5 minutes or less every time without cutting sloppy form.

THERE IS NO REST until after you stop kicking. Circuit needs to be repeated 3-4 times, however it will probably not happen the first week or two. This will be the only thing you do that day as far as anything not sparring or fight skills goes–> No lifting, no running, no swimming.

If you can do that, you will be ready to go. Bags/kegs for carrying and slams need to be at least 100 lbs. Heavier is better. Body weight equivalent is best. Begin a taper the last 2 weeks before your fight, but keep the conditioning in there until the week of the fight.

Your one heavy day a week should be focused on contrasting heavy weights (not max weights!) with box jumps or very light jump squats for lower body and plyo push-ups/medicine ball throws for upper body. Low reps per set, including plyos/jump squats…like 3-4. Low total volume. If you know how to do olympic lifts properly then do them if not do not. Don’t try to learn new exercises now, wait til after the fight. All you are trying to do is maintain the strength and work on explosion/ab strength/unilateral strength. You will not make gains in 1 month while prepping for a fight. If you chase them you might hurt your fight prep. Simply don’t worry about it.

great post, Aragorn.

Aragon you get a A+ for effort. Nice circuit. Heed these words well Mr. Fresh and you will prevail.

A tangentially related question: is there a good solution for a person that just plain hates road work? I know I have decent endurance (I’ve scored 2790 in Cooper’s test, which is good for a normal guy and very bad for an experienced athlete) but running just pisses me off.

Most of the articles on Tabata sets, and Dr. Tabata’s original research seems to suggest that Tabatas would be the way to go, but I’d like to know if someone knows they hold up outside the lab, so to say.

Nice circuit as well.

[quote]Hertzyscowicz wrote:
A tangentially related question: is there a good solution for a person that just plain hates road work? I know I have decent endurance (I’ve scored 2790 in Cooper’s test, which is good for a normal guy and very bad for an experienced athlete) but running just pisses me off.

Most of the articles on Tabata sets, and Dr. Tabata’s original research seems to suggest that Tabatas would be the way to go, but I’d like to know if someone knows they hold up outside the lab, so to say.[/quote]

I have used Tabata based exercises with pretty good success in the past. Before my phone broke I had a tabata timer app that if found somewhere here on T nation. I have always ran, I ran in the Corps and I have continued it ever since, however my body doesn’t like it anymore. My back hurts after I run and that slows the rest of my training down considerably.
With that in mind I got an elliptical machine. I love that thing because I can adjust the resistance and really get the heart rate up and I can work on keeping a pace with varying difficulty levels much like you do in a fight. I think that is probably the best substitute for real running.

Also in terms of conditioning we do lots of live sparring type situations like the takedown game as we call it. One guy in the middle and two guys opposing each other in the cage. Guy in the middle moves in to do cage work and ultimately land a takedown. When you get one guy down you run across and do the other guy. The goal is to do this 25 times in succession. The “opponents” here are giving resistance by punching, sprawling, whizzers or whatever but no grappling on the ground. Now I don’t remember if you are doing MMA or Boxing or what exactly so this might not be applicable to you whatsoever. This would be at the core of one of my “hell days” as was mentioned before.

The point being that you condition by training to fight as much as possible.

[quote]Hertzyscowicz wrote:
A tangentially related question: is there a good solution for a person that just plain hates road work? I know I have decent endurance (I’ve scored 2790 in Cooper’s test, which is good for a normal guy and very bad for an experienced athlete) but running just pisses me off.
[/quote]

Not in my (limited) experience.

There literally seems to be nothing better at just building endurance than just jogging or walking really fast for long stretches for time.

Sure, you can bike for a long time. I’ve cycled for 10+ miles daily while at college, and those weren’t slow leisurely rides either. Did great for losing fat (given my diet of eating entire fucking pans of pizza + chicken wings/entire pans of lasagna/lots of fast food/etc, I still went from 158 to 148 over a period of a couple months without me even noticing it), but I still had a hard time even jogging a mile when I restarted doing that.

I think just standing and doing things on your feet does something for endurance that cycling or the elliptical cannot properly mimic.

[quote]magick wrote:

[quote]Hertzyscowicz wrote:
A tangentially related question: is there a good solution for a person that just plain hates road work? I know I have decent endurance (I’ve scored 2790 in Cooper’s test, which is good for a normal guy and very bad for an experienced athlete) but running just pisses me off.
[/quote]

Not in my (limited) experience.

There literally seems to be nothing better at just building endurance than just jogging or walking really fast for long stretches for time.

Sure, you can bike for a long time. I’ve cycled for 10+ miles daily while at college, and those weren’t slow leisurely rides either. Did great for losing fat (given my diet of eating entire fucking pans of pizza + chicken wings/entire pans of lasagna/lots of fast food/etc, I still went from 158 to 148 over a period of a couple months without me even noticing it), but I still had a hard time even jogging a mile when I restarted doing that.

I think just standing and doing things on your feet does something for endurance that cycling or the elliptical cannot properly mimic.[/quote]

i agree.

Joel Jamieson talks a lot about heart rate training, and why it’s still important for fighters (and not just doing 5x5 workouts exclusively).

side note: Tabatas are great, but the athletes that did them did them in addition to their other training as speed skaters… a lot of folks think that the study was done on people who were only exercising that brief period of time per day, and that’s not accurate.

[quote]Hertzyscowicz wrote:
A tangentially related question: is there a good solution for a person that just plain hates road work? I know I have decent endurance (I’ve scored 2790 in Cooper’s test, which is good for a normal guy and very bad for an experienced athlete) but running just pisses me off.

Most of the articles on Tabata sets, and Dr. Tabata’s original research seems to suggest that Tabatas would be the way to go, but I’d like to know if someone knows they hold up outside the lab, so to say.[/quote]
If the Tabata protocol works it works on individuals who are already in very good shape as that is who it was tested on. Most of the people who write about or come up with “Tabata” workouts don’t really know what it is and who it was intended for. If you are not in very good aerobic and anaerobic shape then not only should you not do it but you will be unable to do it. All of these supposed experts who push “Tabatas” on people who want to get into shape should be punched in their big mouths.

Having said that, I didn’t have a stationary bike but wanted to try the Tabata method so I chose sprints on foot. Big mistake. It just can’t be done with sprints although you can pull a hamstring without any difficulty. I tried kettlebell swings but the problem is that you can’t go fast. On a bike you can pedal as hard as you can from the start. With kettlebells you spend effort and time decelerating as you reach the top of the movement. It does not replicate sprinting. The same with burpees. You can’t go all out like you can with sprinting (on a bike or on foot). Again, you can’t do it with sprinting on foot because you spend most of the rest interval decelerating and it’s also physically more demanding than using a bike. Usain Bolt runs 200 meters in just under 20 seconds. He would not be able to duplicate that after 10 seconds of rest.

Hey guys thanks for the compliments gentlemen!

[quote]Hertzyscowicz wrote:
A tangentially related question: is there a good solution for a person that just plain hates road work? I know I have decent endurance (I’ve scored 2790 in Cooper’s test, which is good for a normal guy and very bad for an experienced athlete) but running just pisses me off.

Most of the articles on Tabata sets, and Dr. Tabata’s original research seems to suggest that Tabatas would be the way to go, but I’d like to know if someone knows they hold up outside the lab, so to say.[/quote]

It depends on where your weakness is. If you can push hard for 3 rounds but can’t run a 6 minute mile for 2-3 miles, then it doesn’t matter. If you can’t push hard for short intervals repeatedly then jogging isn’t going to do shit.

The same goes for kicking, punching, and rolling. Different cardio fatigues you in different ways so if you can roll all day but have trouble kicking for 2 minutes then you probably ought to work on your kicking, ya dig? Same goes in reverse.

As a pure conditioning mechanism, Tabata is meant for lactate threshold work (and, um, way beyond). But there is also a skill component to the fight game, and these above reasons are why I have people kick and punch and/or spar at the END of the circuit when their legs are jelly. Your skills are only as good as they appear when you are sucking wind and exhausted.

Obviously that is not the best way to work on improving said skills :). But your technique needs to be resilient, not just available when you’re fresh. If you can snap leg kicks after murdering them with a circuit then you’re going to hold up just fine in the ring.

So long answer is Tabata’s work if they address your weakness and if the exercises chosen for them address your weaknesses. Weak legs? “Tabata sledgehammer strikes” aren’t going to do shit for your legs.

Agree with zecarlo and the other’s comments on Tabata so far though. Far better options are there if you are doing only one kind of conditioning training. If you have the work capacity of high level cyclists or speed skaters, then Tabatas can be used in combination with your regular conditioning–because that’s how they were originally programmed in the study. That’s where they shine IMO, as a combination used sparingly. The advice about plyometrics being done for lower volume and only for a few weeks at a time as a “shock” impulse to the body applies here IMO. It’s something you add for a SHORT time to your training to spike your work capacity. It’s not something to always do, or to do very often in a week.