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The role of strength and conditioning has been emphasized in sports such as football, hockey and other sports for some time now. Until recently the martial arts community placed little emphasis on this element of sports preparation. As the MMA platform keeps on growing so has the need for effective strength and conditioning regimens.
At the present time there are hundreds of magazines and websites promoting conditioning programs for MMA athletes. This presents a good and bad scenario. The good part is athletes are beginning to recognize the vital role that strength and conditioning plays in their combat success. The bad part is most of these programs simply do not address the needs of the MMA athlete.
Contrary to popular belief doing tons of road work and bodyweight exercises do not constitute a comprehensive plan of attack. Roadwork and bodyweight exercises have their place in the athlete's program, but they are only part of the equation.
Combat athletes need to develop a wide array of qualities such as agility, quickness, body awareness, strength, power, dynamic range of motion, mental stability, etc.. Coach Davies often mentions the importance of stressing the complete wheel of conditioning.
The need for comprehensive conditioning can be no more evident than it is with the MMA athlete. To maximize the above-mentioned qualities you need to incorporate numerous drills and techniques.
In MaxCondition Training I take a Renegade style approach to developing my programs. The main emphasis is to work on weaknesses and develop the qualities that are most important to becoming a successful competitor. Programs vary for each individual. The law of individuality focuses on the specific attributes and weaknesses of each person. Training must be intense to prepare the combat athlete for war.
The goal is to make the fight easy in comparison to the training regimen. Training is performed in a progressive manner that focuses on specific weaknesses and motor qualities. Training also depends greatly on competition dates.
In the next few weeks we will take a comprehensive look at developing the needs of the warrior athlete. Before a proper program can be designed it is important to understand the specific needs required. The majority of MMA athletes have no idea of what they really need to do to enhance their sports performance.
Let me give you a few statements that I often hear when discussing training with martial artists ...
"I have been running 3 miles per day in preparation for my next fight!"
"My instructor does not let us weight train because it will make us slow."
Wrong, proper weight training makes you faster.
"I have very strong abs; I do
200 crunches every day!"
In reality you have good local muscular endurance, which has no correlation with
"Wow that guy looks awesome;
he is in great condition!"
There is no correlation between looking good
and being in great condition.
As you can see we have a great deal information to cover over the next few weeks.
Should athletes participating in other sports besides Olympic Weightlifting perform Olympic movements?
In my opinion this question is not debatable; yet many people in the sports industry endlessly pose this question. I would answer the above question with the following statements. Studies conducted in the 70s showed that weightlifters were second only to gymnasts in flexibility. They have been shown to beat Olympic sprinters in 10m races and have been shown to have the highest vertical leaps of all athletes as a whole.
As you can see, the Olympic lifts and their derivatives can be a great addition to any athlete's programs. I talk to coaches and athletes on a daily basis and I always ask them if they perform Olympic movements in their strength training programs. Most of the time the answer is no. The most common answer given for not incorporating the O-lifts is that the skillset is too hard to teach.
The technical aspect of Weightlifting is complex, but an athlete's technique does not have to be as sound as a competitive weightlifter's. If the athlete is receiving the numerous benefits that are possible with the lifts and not inducing injury he or she is probably fine. Do not get me wrong, I am not saying it will be easy, but it is not as difficult as some would lead you to believe.
It is not necessary that we always perform the Squat Snatch or Squat Clean version of the lift. Often I use the power versions of the Snatch, and Clean & Jerk. They are both great versions that afford much of the benefits that are offered by the Squat Snatch and Squat Clean. Below I have listed various benefits that can be expected with the incorporation of Weightlifting into your program ...
|  Teaches athletes how to explode (maximum motor unit recruitment)
 Proper kinetic linking is enhanced
 Teaches the athlete how to vary degrees of tension in the body
 Great for dynamic and static core strength
 Balance enhancement
 Dynamic balance
 Reactive strength
 Conditions the body to receive impact
 All of the above help to enhance proprioception
One of the key goals for O-lifts in the training of MMA athletes is power production. That means the bar speed needs to be fast. If the speed is minimal lower the weight.
Before I go any further let me make a distinction between Absolute Strength and Power or Speed Strength ...
- Absolute Strength - The ability to exert a maximal force against resistance with no respect to time.
- Power - Defined as the rate at which work is performed.
Power = Work (mass x distance) divided by time.
In other words to produce adequate power, both speed and strength are necessary.
For MMA athletes you can see the importance of power. This sport relies on developing force quickly. By incorporating power movements in your weight training regimen your body becomes programmed to function quickly in battle. Keep in mind, Absolute Strength Training plays its role as it can help to enhance power production. Vary the time spent on the two qualities accordingly.
When choosing movements to include into your workout programs there are endless choices. One of my favorite movements for MMA athletes is the Split Style Snatch. The movement requires a similar pulling motion as the Squat Snatch, but at the height of the movement the feet split.
Split Stlye Snatch
One foot moves forward and the other moves backward. The front foot will move a smaller distance than the back foot. This movement is more natural for most athletes than the Squat Snatch. It requires less time to develop the skill set. It is applicable to athletes involved in sports where their feet are often in a lunge position.
The lift requires you to move your feet quickly and is great for agility enhancement. To ensure against muscle imbalance I recommend you alter the foot positioning periodically when performing the movement. If you naturally split with the left foot forward sometimes you will need to split with the right foot forward. This may be difficult for some trainees and requires excessive amounts of time to develop this technique.
Split Stlye Squat
Performing Overhead Split Style Squats in the correct manner can also help to battle the problem of muscle imbalance that can occur from always splitting with the feet in the same position. If you perform the Split Snatch with the left foot forward, I recommend for every two reps you do in the Overhead Split Squat with left foot forward you perform five to six reps with the right foot forward.
In a recent conversation I had with Dan Bell of the Columbus Weightlifting Club he made the following suggestions concerning Weightlifting technique ...
[ One ]
Keep your arms straight all the way to the top of the pull. This is the technique point most often violated by beginners and the uncoached. It is your legs that put upward momentum on the bar, which transfers force through your back and arms. You use your arms to pull under the bar not to pull the bar higher.
[ Two ]
You should have a flat tight back in your starting position and use your legs to start the bar off of the floor. This will keep your hips and shoulders together and put you in a good position to complete the lift successfully.
[ Three ]
During the pull the feet should stay flat on the ground as long as possible. The heels should not come off of the floor until the very top of the pull.
[ Four ]
If an athlete can do the above, their technique shouldn't be far off the mark. They will be able to move bigger weights with the same strength level. It would be advisable to find a coach if possible.
These Olympic lifts and their derivatives can be a fun and beneficial addition to the MMA athletes program. It is a suprise that most of today's coaches do not incorporate these lifts into their athlete's programs!
In our next installment, we will discuss Dynamic and Static Range of Motion.