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Transitioning to MMA from Powerlifting/Strongman


#1

First, I think a little history is required. I have been thinking of transitioning to mma from powerlifting and strongman. I have done kyokushin karate, judo and bjj in the past and competed in all of them but that was 10 years ago. Since then I have been competing in powerlifting and strongman meets. During that time I have kept my striking skills somewhat from doing bag drills as a means of conditioning. I have never fought in MMA and, from what I understand, it is quite a different beast than standing or grappling alone. I have about 40-50lbs to shed before I am at a body composition suitable for stepping in the cage but I would like to maintain as much muscle mass and strength as possible. This would put me at around 250-260 fighting weight. I put together a training plan and would like some of you more experienced guys to critique it for me.

Sunday: Rest

Monday:
AM: Sprints (400 meters, I will periodize these)
PM: MMA Class

Tuesday:
PM: Deadlift and Overhead Press + some back work(I will keep the rep/set scheme similar to what a strongman would do. I will also cycle lift variations.)

Wednesday:
AM: Sprints (100 meters, I will periodize these)
PM: MMA Class

Thursday:
PM: Bodyweight workout (push ups, sit ups, pull ups for time)

Friday:
PM: Squat and Bench Press + some back work(Same as deadlift and ohp)

Saturday:
MMA Class

As for diet, I have recently lost 45lbs and managed to maintain all of my strength and actually PR a couple lifts so I'll probably just keep the diet the way it has been. I will modulate volume and intensity on all of the strength and conditioning work so that I train in 20 week blocks. I figure I'll be ready for my first match after 2 years of training this way (trying to be realistic here).

Sorry for such a long post but I wanted it to be detailed. Thanks in advance for your input.


#2

I don’t see a problem with lifting twice a week - what you’re doing is kind of similar to what I do, and you’ll get used to it (although you might have to back off in the first few weeks, especially as you transition to punching/grappling/sparring.)

Two things:

  1. Don’t mentally fixate on hitting PRs anymore. Lifting is now just a supplement to fighting, and you’re going to make way less progress and lose muscle mass.

  2. Incorporate at least one long run (2 miles or more) per week. If you’re getting ready to compete, I would do two each week. Your first concern is going to be conditioning. Your second concern is going to be conditioning. And your third concern … well, probably conditioning. After that is skill and speed and strength and all that other shit.


#3

Good to see a guy making the transition and taking it seriously - I wish you luck!

There are some great points in your plan.
I think the structure that you take from programming your lifting is evident and will prove useful, in a sport that can often leave a messy schedule.
I really like how you have set your lifting up. I’d go with that
(see how the body weight day suits you before squatting, you could always alternate Thursday and Friday.)

One negative (or limitation rather) I see is the quantity of combat training you have in there.
You spoke of competing a couple of times. I see 3 days a week MMA.
I feel if competition is your goal, you will need to immerse yourself in practical training - whether it be striking or grappling - on an almost daily basis.

I know you probably have time/gym/money constraints like most of us, but you can definitely allow some time for shadowboxing, katas or shrimping/rolling each day. There is plenty of information both here and elsewhere on the net that can help you accelerate your progress.

Will follow with interest.


#4

Agree completely with what Irish has posted.

Personally I’d remove a sprint session and change it for a run of a few miles, and find time to run once more for a similar distance (perhaps after your bodyweight work). Sprints are all the rage at the moment for conditioning combat athletes, and I think they probably have their place.

However, they are also quite taxing on the body, as is competitive sparring (particularly stand up striking - no diss on BJJ etc, but there’s no doubt that you accumulate more damage during a typical week in a boxing/muai thai etc gym than you do on the mat). I like running for distance/time as a means of building the aerobic base, conditioning the legs, and getting some low stress work in.

I’d also suggest you only train once a day for the first few weeks. Supplemental training is great, and I used to run almost every morning when I competed, but combat sports take a tremendous physical AND MENTAL toll on you, particularly in the beginning. It would be wise to build up to the schedule you propose over a few weeks or even months. MMA, Muai Thai, and boxing are, in my opinion, amongst the most demoralising sports in the initial stages.

Getting smoked in BJJ in training is no big deal - you basically just went from a tussle to a particularly disadvantaged position that forces you to reset. In Boxing, MMA etc, you come out of your sparring sessions in pain, humiliated, frustrated, and these things tire you out. Until you build the skills to perform confidently, you will be extremely drained from your sessions.


#5

[quote]donnydarkoirl wrote:
Good to see a guy making the transition and taking it seriously - I wish you luck!

There are some great points in your plan.
I think the structure that you take from programming your lifting is evident and will prove useful, in a sport that can often leave a messy schedule.
I really like how you have set your lifting up. I’d go with that
(see how the body weight day suits you before squatting, you could always alternate Thursday and Friday.)

One negative (or limitation rather) I see is the quantity of combat training you have in there.
You spoke of competing a couple of times. I see 3 days a week MMA.
I feel if competition is your goal, you will need to immerse yourself in practical training - whether it be striking or grappling - on an almost daily basis.

I know you probably have time/gym/money constraints like most of us, but you can definitely allow some time for shadowboxing, katas or shrimping/rolling each day. There is plenty of information both here and elsewhere on the net that can help you accelerate your progress.

Will follow with interest.[/quote]

I do agree with this.

At my gym, there’s (at the minimum) two days of skillwork and two days of sparring.

That’s not counting other work done with my coach, or the shit the guys are doing on their own, i.e. shadowboxing, etc.

There probably should be more actual fighting in there … maybe one more day’s worth. And I agree with London - one day of sprints, and one day of long runs. Don’t overload on the sprints … fighting is much more a marathon than a sprint…


#6

This is very cool, I’m excited to follow your progress.


#7

Wow, thanks for all of the input. I really appreciate it. So, taking what everyone has said into consideration, how does this look?

Sunday: Rest

Monday: MMA Class
(Add a LISS session in the AM after a month or two of training. Start small and work up in distance/intensity)

Tuesday: Deadlift/OHP/Accessory lifts and maybe a little heavy bag work or shadow boxing if I’m feeling good

Wednesday: MMA Class
(Add 400 meter sprints after a month or two of training. Start with lower volume and work up)

Thursday: MMA Class Calisthenics

Friday: Squat/Bench Press/Accessory lifts and maybe a little heavy bag work or shadow boxing if I’m feeling good

Saturday: MMA Class

Someone mentioned katas. In Kyokushin Karate we do all of the Shotokan katas so I half-ass remember all 26 of them. I’m sure I could sharpen them up with some help from youtube but do y’all really think this would make me a better fighter in the ring? I always thought doing katas was a little asinine when I fought before. It seems like there is always a better way to train for all the benefits that katas have to offer, I could be wrong here though.


#8

[quote]Loftearmen wrote:
Wow, thanks for all of the input. I really appreciate it. So, taking what everyone has said into consideration, how does this look?

Sunday: Rest

Monday: MMA Class
(Add a LISS session in the AM after a month or two of training. Start small and work up in distance/intensity)

Tuesday: Deadlift/OHP/Accessory lifts and maybe a little heavy bag work or shadow boxing if I’m feeling good

Wednesday: MMA Class
(Add 400 meter sprints after a month or two of training. Start with lower volume and work up)

Thursday: MMA Class Calisthenics

Friday: Squat/Bench Press/Accessory lifts and maybe a little heavy bag work or shadow boxing if I’m feeling good

Saturday: MMA Class

Someone mentioned katas. In Kyokushin Karate we do all of the Shotokan katas so I half-ass remember all 26 of them. I’m sure I could sharpen them up with some help from youtube but do y’all really think this would make me a better fighter in the ring? I always thought doing katas was a little asinine when I fought before. It seems like there is always a better way to train for all the benefits that katas have to offer, I could be wrong here though.[/quote]

Personally, and Donny & Irish may be able to offer better programing advice here, I think that looks like a better program for someone starting out in a new MA. As you know from your lifting success, consistency is king, and sometimes doing less in the short term allows you to do more in the long run. That is how I always approached my boxing training, and I was able to develop quite a high workload.

Plenty of guys burned out though, doing too much too soon, or trying to train like a pro when they were still a rank amateur. Just like you had to earn the ability to go out and lift weights that most of us can only imagine, you will have to spend a lot of time and earn your dues to reach the level of conditioning I take for granted, or beyond that, the kind of incredible rounded conditioning Donny is able to produce week after week. In the same way that I would get stapled, and injured, if I tried to bench 400lbs, you would probably get knocked for six if you tried to jump straight into a high level amateur/pro style conditioning routine.

I have no idea about Katas, but I would say shadowboxing is one of the most critical aspects of becoming a quality fighter.

As I mentioned, and I’m sure you know, striking arts are very hard on the body/mind. Shadowboxing, much like long distance running, gives time for your muscles to relax, whilst still doing work. Shadow boxing done properly allows you to do thousands of extra repetitions of a technique, without detracting from the rest of your training. It can be done while you’re waiting for the bath to run, or the kettle to boil, or someone to turn up.

I used to reckon I’d find about an hour a day, on top of my regular training, just by doing it when I had nothing else to do. Consequently, despite my many other shortcomings as a fighter, I almost never made technical mistakes that created vulnerabilities.


#9

[quote]LondonBoxer123 wrote:

[quote]Loftearmen wrote:
Wow, thanks for all of the input. I really appreciate it. So, taking what everyone has said into consideration, how does this look?

Sunday: Rest

Monday: MMA Class
(Add a LISS session in the AM after a month or two of training. Start small and work up in distance/intensity)

Tuesday: Deadlift/OHP/Accessory lifts and maybe a little heavy bag work or shadow boxing if I’m feeling good

Wednesday: MMA Class
(Add 400 meter sprints after a month or two of training. Start with lower volume and work up)

Thursday: MMA Class Calisthenics

Friday: Squat/Bench Press/Accessory lifts and maybe a little heavy bag work or shadow boxing if I’m feeling good

Saturday: MMA Class

Someone mentioned katas. In Kyokushin Karate we do all of the Shotokan katas so I half-ass remember all 26 of them. I’m sure I could sharpen them up with some help from youtube but do y’all really think this would make me a better fighter in the ring? I always thought doing katas was a little asinine when I fought before. It seems like there is always a better way to train for all the benefits that katas have to offer, I could be wrong here though.[/quote]

Personally, and Donny & Irish may be able to offer better programing advice here, I think that looks like a better program for someone starting out in a new MA. As you know from your lifting success, consistency is king, and sometimes doing less in the short term allows you to do more in the long run. That is how I always approached my boxing training, and I was able to develop quite a high workload.

Plenty of guys burned out though, doing too much too soon, or trying to train like a pro when they were still a rank amateur. Just like you had to earn the ability to go out and lift weights that most of us can only imagine, you will have to spend a lot of time and earn your dues to reach the level of conditioning I take for granted, or beyond that, the kind of incredible rounded conditioning Donny is able to produce week after week. In the same way that I would get stapled, and injured, if I tried to bench 400lbs, you would probably get knocked for six if you tried to jump straight into a high level amateur/pro style conditioning routine.

I have no idea about Katas, but I would say shadowboxing is one of the most critical aspects of becoming a quality fighter.

As I mentioned, and I’m sure you know, striking arts are very hard on the body/mind. Shadowboxing, much like long distance running, gives time for your muscles to relax, whilst still doing work. Shadow boxing done properly allows you to do thousands of extra repetitions of a technique, without detracting from the rest of your training. It can be done while you’re waiting for the bath to run, or the kettle to boil, or someone to turn up.

I used to reckon I’d find about an hour a day, on top of my regular training, just by doing it when I had nothing else to do. Consequently, despite my many other shortcomings as a fighter, I almost never made technical mistakes that created vulnerabilities. [/quote]

I did quite a bit of conditioning work as a lifter. After my lifting, I would push a heavy prowler, pull a sled, hit a heavy bag, do kettlebell swings until I puked, etc… 4-5 days a week. I just did a lot of eating along with it haha.

I don’t really think that this will be too much for me to handle. It is a lot of training but I am coming from a lot of training. Training as a strongman is a lot different but it is equally as challenging.

I will definitely try to add in some shadow boxing when I don’t have a lot to do. It sounds like it would fit in between sets on my lifting days as well. When you shadowbox, what kind of intensity do you try to achieve? Are you throwing punches and kicks as fast and hard as possible or are you just rehearsing your form with a moderate tempo?


#10

[quote]Loftearmen wrote:

[quote]LondonBoxer123 wrote:

[quote]Loftearmen wrote:
Wow, thanks for all of the input. I really appreciate it. So, taking what everyone has said into consideration, how does this look?

Sunday: Rest

Monday: MMA Class
(Add a LISS session in the AM after a month or two of training. Start small and work up in distance/intensity)

Tuesday: Deadlift/OHP/Accessory lifts and maybe a little heavy bag work or shadow boxing if I’m feeling good

Wednesday: MMA Class
(Add 400 meter sprints after a month or two of training. Start with lower volume and work up)

Thursday: MMA Class Calisthenics

Friday: Squat/Bench Press/Accessory lifts and maybe a little heavy bag work or shadow boxing if I’m feeling good

Saturday: MMA Class

Someone mentioned katas. In Kyokushin Karate we do all of the Shotokan katas so I half-ass remember all 26 of them. I’m sure I could sharpen them up with some help from youtube but do y’all really think this would make me a better fighter in the ring? I always thought doing katas was a little asinine when I fought before. It seems like there is always a better way to train for all the benefits that katas have to offer, I could be wrong here though.[/quote]

Personally, and Donny & Irish may be able to offer better programing advice here, I think that looks like a better program for someone starting out in a new MA. As you know from your lifting success, consistency is king, and sometimes doing less in the short term allows you to do more in the long run. That is how I always approached my boxing training, and I was able to develop quite a high workload.

Plenty of guys burned out though, doing too much too soon, or trying to train like a pro when they were still a rank amateur. Just like you had to earn the ability to go out and lift weights that most of us can only imagine, you will have to spend a lot of time and earn your dues to reach the level of conditioning I take for granted, or beyond that, the kind of incredible rounded conditioning Donny is able to produce week after week. In the same way that I would get stapled, and injured, if I tried to bench 400lbs, you would probably get knocked for six if you tried to jump straight into a high level amateur/pro style conditioning routine.

I have no idea about Katas, but I would say shadowboxing is one of the most critical aspects of becoming a quality fighter.

As I mentioned, and I’m sure you know, striking arts are very hard on the body/mind. Shadowboxing, much like long distance running, gives time for your muscles to relax, whilst still doing work. Shadow boxing done properly allows you to do thousands of extra repetitions of a technique, without detracting from the rest of your training. It can be done while you’re waiting for the bath to run, or the kettle to boil, or someone to turn up.

I used to reckon I’d find about an hour a day, on top of my regular training, just by doing it when I had nothing else to do. Consequently, despite my many other shortcomings as a fighter, I almost never made technical mistakes that created vulnerabilities. [/quote]

I did quite a bit of conditioning work as a lifter. After my lifting, I would push a heavy prowler, pull a sled, hit a heavy bag, do kettlebell swings until I puked, etc… 4-5 days a week. I just did a lot of eating along with it haha.

I don’t really think that this will be too much for me to handle. It is a lot of training but I am coming from a lot of training. Training as a strongman is a lot different but it is equally as challenging.

I will definitely try to add in some shadow boxing when I don’t have a lot to do. It sounds like it would fit in between sets on my lifting days as well. When you shadowbox, what kind of intensity do you try to achieve? Are you throwing punches and kicks as fast and hard as possible or are you just rehearsing your form with a moderate tempo?[/quote]

Good to hear that you kept your conditioning up. I’d simply add more as you feel able. It sounds like you have enough experience to know what you’re ready for and when.

I vary it. I don’t ever throw hard enough to strain myself, which is a danger if you fire hard into thin air. If I go fast, I tend to stop just short of full extension, if I slow the pace, I try to focus on perfect technique and crispness.

A good test, in my view, of whether you are as fit as you think you are is to shadowbox for 30 minutes. That means moving around up on your toes, pivoting, slipping etc, as well as shooting for a high output of punches. You ought to be able to do this nonstop for 30 minutes without any real fatigue in any of your muscles. It should feel like a warmup. If you’re out of breath or aching in your muscles, you probably aren’t in condition to do 3x3 minute rounds of a stand up striking art.


#11

Gotcha, thanks for the response.

I am sure I would have a somewhat elevated heart rate if I were to shadowbox for 30 min. I’m guessing between 100 and 120 depending on how many kicks I was throwing. I definitely have a lot of conditioning work (and technique work) to do before I’m ready to compete in anything other than strength sports since the metabolic demands are so different and because I’ve grown so tight in my shoulders and hips from all the lifting.

I will use that 30 min shadow boxing session as a gauge though. That should help to quantify my progress.

Thanks again to everyone who responded. I currently keep a log in the strongman section but I guess I’ll have to start a new one in the combat section.


#12

[quote]Loftearmen wrote:
Gotcha, thanks for the response.

I am sure I would have a somewhat elevated heart rate if I were to shadowbox for 30 min. I’m guessing between 100 and 120 depending on how many kicks I was throwing. I definitely have a lot of conditioning work (and technique work) to do before I’m ready to compete in anything other than strength sports since the metabolic demands are so different and because I’ve grown so tight in my shoulders and hips from all the lifting.

I will use that 30 min shadow boxing session as a gauge though. That should help to quantify my progress.

Thanks again to everyone who responded. I currently keep a log in the strongman section but I guess I’ll have to start a new one in the combat section. [/quote]

I’d recommend that. There are some great and knowledgeable people here, with excellent, constructive attitudes and a wealth of experience across a variety of arts. Sento is an encyclopedia of fighting knowledge, Donny thrives at the highest levels and keeps a very constructive log, Robert A knows his stuff, particularly with regards to the stupid things we do to injure ourselves, and there’s a whole host of others like Irish, Idaho, Aussie Davo etc who are very experienced.

You seem to have a good attitude, you’d be a welcome addition I’m sure!


#13

[quote]LondonBoxer123 wrote:

[quote]Loftearmen wrote:
Gotcha, thanks for the response.

I am sure I would have a somewhat elevated heart rate if I were to shadowbox for 30 min. I’m guessing between 100 and 120 depending on how many kicks I was throwing. I definitely have a lot of conditioning work (and technique work) to do before I’m ready to compete in anything other than strength sports since the metabolic demands are so different and because I’ve grown so tight in my shoulders and hips from all the lifting.

I will use that 30 min shadow boxing session as a gauge though. That should help to quantify my progress.

Thanks again to everyone who responded. I currently keep a log in the strongman section but I guess I’ll have to start a new one in the combat section. [/quote]

I’d recommend that. There are some great and knowledgeable people here, with excellent, constructive attitudes and a wealth of experience across a variety of arts. Sento is an encyclopedia of fighting knowledge, Donny thrives at the highest levels and keeps a very constructive log, Robert A knows his stuff, particularly with regards to the stupid things we do to injure ourselves, and there’s a whole host of others like Irish, Idaho, Aussie Davo etc who are very experienced.

You seem to have a good attitude, you’d be a welcome addition I’m sure![/quote]

Thanks for the help and the compliment. No one does well in any sport with a bad attitude. Even the best still have a lot they could learn!


#14

All good advise above. It sounds like you are very aware of the task ahead, I look forward to your posts.


#15

Whew!!! I just did my 30 min of shadow boxing and it was a bitch! I got bored punching the air so I did really light bag work off and on throughout the session. I really didn’t think it would be that hard though. By 17 min I felt cold and shaky. I quit sweating and felt a little nauseous after 22 min. After that my punches looked horrible. I did all 30 min but it took some heart.


#16

Turns out I had low blood sugar haha. Next time I’ll eat more carbs with dinner.


#17

Are you going to train in different disciplines? I only see MMA classes. I would make sure to train all of the core martial arts such as muay thai, boxing, wrestling, judo, and bjj.

If you plan on fighting in two years, all of notions of preserving muscle mass and strength in the weight room shouldn’t be entertained. I’d focus all of my attention at improving my striking, grappling, and conditioning. Most amateur fighters that I’ve spoken to state that conditioning is the most important thing to concentrate especially when there isn’t a big disparity in skill set between two fighters. Realistically, you should be training at least 5 days per week.

I would even go so far as to tell you that you should stop weight lifting for a while until your body adjust to the demands of martial arts training. Once your recovery and endurance improves, I’d add in some weight training (at most twice per week).

Make sure to include neck and grip work in your training regimen. Both are often overlooked and neglected aspects of training that can only serve to improve your MMA.

There are a lot of knowledgeable posters on here especially some of the guys who posted on this thread who are very helpful. See if you can create a training log on here. It certainty helps. Best wishes as you prepare for combat.


#18

[quote]Loftearmen wrote:
Whew!!! I just did my 30 min of shadow boxing and it was a bitch! I got bored punching the air so I did really light bag work off and on throughout the session. I really didn’t think it would be that hard though. By 17 min I felt cold and shaky. I quit sweating and felt a little nauseous after 22 min. After that my punches looked horrible. I did all 30 min but it took some heart. [/quote]

Good on you for putting yourself out there and giving it a go

That’s why I like it as a test of where you are. I’ve not come across a fighter, ready for competition, who couldn’t breeze through that before doing a full session including sparring. It’s partly a relaxation thing that will come with good smooth technique, and partly a muscular fitness thing. But it’s also a helpful measure for guys who are itching to fight. When I’ve coached guys who were just burning to fight all the time, who just wanted to hurt people, I made them do that exercise with me. At the end, you point out that if they struggled to do it with no resistance, what makes them think they are ready to double the tempo and go against full resistance?

In time, you’ll find it’s a wonderful way to meditate.


#19

[quote]fearnloathingnyc wrote:
Are you going to train in different disciplines? I only see MMA classes. I would make sure to train all of the core martial arts such as muay thai, boxing, wrestling, judo, and bjj.

If you plan on fighting in two years, all of notions of preserving muscle mass and strength in the weight room shouldn’t be entertained. I’d focus all of my attention at improving my striking, grappling, and conditioning. Most amateur fighters that I’ve spoken to state that conditioning is the most important thing to concentrate especially when there isn’t a big disparity in skill set between two fighters. Realistically, you should be training at least 5 days per week.

I would even go so far as to tell you that you should stop weight lifting for a while until your body adjust to the demands of martial arts training. Once your recovery and endurance improves, I’d add in some weight training (at most twice per week).

Make sure to include neck and grip work in your training regimen. Both are often overlooked and neglected aspects of training that can only serve to improve your MMA.

There are a lot of knowledgeable posters on here especially some of the guys who posted on this thread who are very helpful. See if you can create a training log on here. It certainty helps. Best wishes as you prepare for combat. [/quote]
When I wrote “MMA” I just meant “Classes at the MMA studio”. They have judo, jiu jitsu, muay thaj, wrestling and MMA classes. As far as quitting lifting altogether: I can’t do that lol. I can cut it down to 2 days a week but I have to lift. I couldn’t handle it mentally. Plus, my superior strength is an advantage I would like to keep. Maintaining strength is a lot easier than lowing it and then trying to gain it back.


#20

A good thread that should be bumped, but, you may find some useful information:

http://tnation.T-Nation.com/free_online_forum/sports_boxing_fighting_mma_combat/your_typical_workout?id=5557771&pageNo=0

You asked about the worth of Katas: Since you have expressed a desire to fight MMA, I would certainly follow LB, Donny, and Irish on the vast important of shadowboxing. As someone who was originally trained in TMA, I have always used them as a mobility and flexibility tool, especially recovering from minor/major injuries. However, for me, its more of a meditative state (as LB stated about shadowboxing), and allows a “escape” from the rigiors of boxing/ Muay Thai.

Donny and Irish have excellent boxing training logs and Fear has a great MT log. Welcome to the forum. I would also like to suggest you start a training log, very interested in your tranistion, especially how you are going to train for endurance since as WSM you certainly have a lot of muscle mass to oxygenate.