Tournament Preparation - Part 1

This week's article is the first of a two-part article discussing how to get into condition and prepare for a tournament.
[ Part 1 ] [ Part 2 ]
This week's article is the first of a 2-part article discussing how to get into condition and prepare for a tournament.

When done "right" (i.e. - all the fights are in one night versus spread over multiple shows with only one fight at each show), a tournament can be one of, if not THE, most physically demanding contest a fighter can participate in.

To think of it in its most simple terms, think of all the preparation that a fighter goes through in order to prepare for one fight. Now, double or triple that amount of preparation (depending on whether the fighter will have to fight two or three times in one night).

Instead of being able to fight only one fight for (given three rounds of five minutes) 15 minutes, a fighter has to be prepared to fight 30 minutes - or even 45. Also, a fighter has to be able to deal with fighting an opponent who may be much less fatigued.

For example, during the IFC tournament a few months back, Renato "Babalu" Sobral had to endure two long fights before getting to the finals. He was tired, his eyes had swollen, and he had the fatigue of nearly 30 minutes of fighting to deal with.

His opponent in the finals, Jeremy Horn, conversely, had two relatively quick fights, little fatigue, and no injuries. Had Babalu not had phenomenal conditioning, there is no way he could have lasted until the finals, much less fight Horn to a decision win.

Work Capacity

If a fighter is preparing for a tournament, he/she can't, in my opinion, wait until his/her normal 6 or 8 week "training camp" starts. When preparing for a tournament, a fighter should start strength and conditioning work at least 10-12 weeks out. Intense conditioning doesn't need to be done this far out, but this is a good time for a fighter to work on some strength training and begin to increase work capacity.

In case you're unfamiliar with the concept of Work Capacity, here is an excerpt from my upcoming book, "Wiggy's Weight Dragging Manual."

Not sure what I mean by work capacity? Think about it this way - imagine that we measure all work performed by a person via a particular unit of measure. All the different types of work you do throughout the day (exercising, mowing the lawn, cleaning the garage, chopping firewood, bringing in the groceries, taking a shower, clearing the dinner table, etc.) would be added up as an overall total amount in this given unit of measure. This overall total would be this person's Work Capacity.

How Many Calories Are You Burning?
Have you ever wondered how many calories you burned while participating in some type of exercise or activity? Now you can know!
[ Click here to learn more. ]

However, the limits of one's work capacity (i.e. - how much work one person is absolutely capable of) aren't necessarily what you want to increase. While having a higher "maximum" work capacity is good, it isn't what will necessarily help you the most. What is beneficial is your work capacity that you can recover from.


Let's say that we measured two peoples' work capacity (in whatever unit of measure). Let's say that Person A had a Maximum Work Capacity of 10 units, while Person B had a Maximum Work Capacity of 12 units. Initially, it looks like Person B is better off, right?

Well, let's continue on to say that while Person A's Maximum is 10 units; he can routinely perform 8 units worth of work everyday, and fully recover. In other words, he can do 8 units worth of work day-in and day-out, and he won't suffer from injury, overtraining, de-compensation, muscle atrophy (shrinkage), etc. Now, let's say that Person B can routinely perform only 6 units of work everyday, and still fully recover. Who is better off?

You guessed it, Person A. By being able to do more work everyday, Person A can do more work overall, and, should he do so, will increase his Maximum Work Capacity much quicker and to much higher levels than Person B.

A high work capacity will allow a fighter to condition him/herself for fighting in a tournament. Think of work capacity like a gas tank, and conditioning like the gas you put in the tank. If you have a 10-gallon gas tank, then you want as much gas in there as possible.

If your conditioning is good enough to fill that 10-gallon tank with 10 gallons of gas, then you're good to go. You can either conserve that gas by going slowly, or you can put the "pedal to the metal." This will use your gas a little more inefficiently, but you'll get where you're going quicker.

What You Don't Know About Overtraining
The general definition of overtraining is this - a syndrome occurring in athletes who train too frequently/in excess OR who may not allow for adequate recovery from intensive exercise. Read on to find out about the basics of overtraining!
[ Click here to learn more. ]

To continue with the analogy, if you've only got a 10-gallon tank, I don't care what kind - or how much - conditioning you do, the most gas you're going to be able to cram in that tank is 10 gallons. That's it. So, if you're fighting in a tournament, you've got to be able to make that 10 gallons last 2-3 fights instead of just one.

Guess what? Now you only have so much gas you can use in each fight. If you don't monitor your "mileage," you're going to run out of gas before the Finish Line.

Now, let's say that you could upgrade from a 10-gallon tank to a 15-gallon tank? Or better yet, what about a 20-gallon tank? If you had a 20-gallon tank, you could fill it up to as high as 20 gallons of gas instead of just 10.

Now, you tell me - which will better suit a fighter: having 10 gallons to spread over 2-3 fights or having 20 gallons to spread over 2-3 fights? You guessed it.

While a fighter (depending on the situation) can increase his/her conditioning somewhat rapidly, it takes longer to increase work capacity. With conditioning, you're training the body to work harder during a given set of time.

With work capacity, you're training to force the body to adapt to (and recover from) a much greater volume of work. That's why you start training work capacity so much earlier. If you can get that built up, then you can switch your focus from work capacity to conditioning as the fight nears. And, in reality, you'll now have to spend more time on conditioning (it takes longer to fill a 20-gallon tank than it does a 10-gallon tank).


The easiest (and best) way to increase work capacity is via the use of GPP (General Physical Preparedness). In case you're unfamiliar with the term GPP, it is a method of exercise that, while taxing strength and endurance reserves, teaches the body to act as one cohesive unit to perform a task.

Examples Of Weighted GPP (WGPP) Would Include:

Examples Of Non-Weighted GPP (NWGPP) Would Include:

The best way to integrate GPP into your strength and conditioning program is to throw 3-5 GPP workouts into you schedule per week. Again, this should be done early in training so you spend little to no time in skills training. As the fight nears, GPP training will decrease as skills work increases.

While you can do both WGPP and NWGPP on the same day, I've always preferred performing one or the other, and alternating between the two each workout. For example, if you did 3 GPP workouts per week, do 2 WGPP + 1 NWGPP one week and 1 WGPP + 2 NWGPP the next.

Your GPP workouts don't need to be long at first - say only 10-20 minutes. They also don't have to be ultra-intense (i.e. - you don't have to be giving maximal or near-maximal effort). The idea behind these workouts is to keep busy and get more work done (overall).

The more work you do now, the more work (and more intense work) you'll be able to do later. Remember, you're not trying to fill that tank with more gas, you're trying to make the tank itself bigger. (It will also be conditioning that "refills" the tank between fights.)

Wheelbarrow GPP
A great series of articles about different wheelbarrow GPP that expands GPP to the next level.
[ Click here to learn more. ]

Sample Routines:

Non-Weighted GPP:

* Repeat the above 5x for 10 minutes of non-stop work

Weighted GPP:

  • Drag 100-125 pounds in a Constant Fashion (if possible) for 20 minutes. Switch between different types of Dragging throughout the 20 minutes.
    • Harness Pulls
    • Crawls
    • Twists
    • Constant Overhead Presses
    • Ankle Dragging
    • Crunches, etc.

  • During the 20 minutes, you are allotted 4 minutes (240 seconds) total to rest. You can rest whenever you want and as long as you want. However, your total rest can't exceed 240 seconds.

  • So, at the end of your 20-minute workout, you will have Drug for 16 minutes, and rest for 4 minutes.
  • Click here to view some samples of weighted GPP.
Click here for a printable version.

Tune in next week for Part 2 of this article, which will cover the switch form Work Capacity Training to Conditioning Training.

About The Author

A strength athlete for 11+ years and moderator of the Strength and Conditioning forum at, Matt "Wiggy" Wiggins lives in Cameron, NC.

He runs the strength, conditioning, and fitness website, authors strength training manuals, and designs personalized training programs (for mixed martial artists as well as other athletes and non-athletes) online.

ATTENTION: Physical exercise can sometimes lead to injury. The information contained above is NOT intended to constitute an explanation of any exercise, material, or product (or how to use/perform them). Neither nor is responsible in any way, shape, or form for any injury that may result from any person's attempt at exercise as a result of the provided information. Please consult a physician before starting any exercise program, and never substitute the information on or for any professional medical advice or treatment you may receive.

[ Part 1 ] [ Part 2 ]