As a respected strength and conditioning coach, and mixed martial arts (MMA) trainer, Las Vegas's Fred George is a sticker for improving human performance at the elite level. Such is his success rate within the increasingly popular MMA game, George has been asked to oversee the training schedules of many of today's top athletes.
Top MMA fighter Kevin Randleman is one such athlete who is expected to thrive under Fred's guidance and expertise. No stranger to competitive fighting, Fred himself has had two sanctioned MMA fights - winning both by TKO. However, according to Fred, in terms of intensity these fights did not come close to the kind of training strategies he today routinely employs to get his charges into fighting fit shape.
Beating his fighters down mentally and physically with intensive sparring sessions, coupled with a scientific approach to diet and training work wonders for Fred's fighters. His goal is to be one step ahead of the pack so his school's record will remain an excellent one. I was fortunate to talk to Fred recently. He shared some of his winning insights with me as he gave an inside glimpse into the world of MMA.
[ Q ] Exactly what is your background in the martial arts Fred? What led to your involvement?
I was working as an actor and stuntman in Hollywood, where I met the likes of Chad Bannon, Mike O'Hearn, Christian Boeving and Guy Grundy. We were on the set of Battle Dome where we met pro MMA fighters Eddy Millis and Erik Paulson.
They were hired to teach the cast fighting techniques. When I saw Erik throwing these monsters around like little kids, I was hooked. Then, to add fuel to my fire, my house was robbed soon afterward. Now I had all of this anger and frustration that needed a place to go. The logical and positive decision was to learn the mixed martial arts game. This all happened around the year 2000.
[ Q ] And you have fought professionally as an MMA fighter.
Yes. I had two sanctioned pro fights where I was fortunate enough to win both. However, my training schedule is much tougher than any fight that I have had. We train with Ken Shamrock, Guy Mezger, Josh Barnett, Jay Martinez, Kevin Randleman, Tony Fryklund, Joe Stevenson, Jeff Munson, Jeff Newton and Quinton Jackson.
These guys are super tough and I teach and learn simultaneously. I am a partner in two schools, one with my coach Erik Paulson (Orange County Shoot Fighting), and the other with UFC veteran Tony Fryklund, Kenny Rayford (boxing coach from The Contender TV show), Scott Ence and Ed Rice. We call it Fight Club Las Vegas.
[ Q ] You also have a training company called Hollywood Bodies.
Yes, that is my personal training company. But I am actually more of a strength and conditioning coach now. I used to train celebrities because it paid well, but as of late I have followed my passion on college and professional athletes.
I focus my training toward football, hockey and fighting. You have to go with what you know. I am also the strength and conditioning editor of Tapout Magazine. If that isn't enough, I do executive protection for celebrities and corporate personnel in Vegas and Los Angeles.
[ Q ] When you competed in MMA you were a pretty big guy. Do you still train for size, or have your goals changed?
I used to be 260 pounds or more at 5-foot-10. All that weight was not healthy for me to be carrying around, and it slowed me way down. Now I stay between 215 and 225 - unfortunately I am still slow.
[ Q ] That's still respectable.
Yes, it is still pretty big for a fighter. I'm now built more like Ken Shamrock, whereas before I was more like Guy Grundy when he was competing. Now I think I have more of the fighter's physique.
I still look like I can do the business. 220 is big for a smaller bodybuilder like Shawn Ray, but it's not big compared to Dorian Yates or Ronnie (laughs).
[ Q ] You also have a background in writing I believe.
I used to write for a lot of the magazines. I have degrees in biology, exercise physiology and nutrition, and used to be the guru for a lot of the pros. I moved out here to be a pro bodybuilder. I don't widely advertise my services, but if the guys want help I will take care of them.
I would say I'm similar to Chad Nichols. Ask me what to take, how to take it, how to eat, when to eat, how to prep for a show. I can give all that information. With my academic background combined with all my bodybuilding knowledge I am better able to assist pro athletes. I have applied a lot of this to my fighters so they don't get dehydrated or cramp up.
[ Q ] So most of your attention on training MMA fighters now?
Yes, MMA fighting has just taken off now. It is huge, so that is where most of my attention is.
[ Q ] Do you have any big names fighting soon?
Kevin Randleman came to me last week and asked if I would be his coach. He will be the ultimate comeback kid.
[ Q ] How so?
Kevin Randleman is an unbelievable talent. He is built just like a pro bodybuilder. At 5-foot-10, he is a solid 230, shredded. And let me tell you, Kevin has had a rough year. He tore his labrum and rotator cuff of the right shoulder during a fight, while simultaneously having his ribs cracked, on his left side. He had to go into surgery.
If that was not enough, Kevin has also torn his right biceps tendon. So he ended up having surgery on both the bicep and shoulder. Due to the fracture and being intubated they found the crack in his ribs had punctured his left lung, and a type of fungus was growing.
He was having trouble breathing during training. No one could understand it because Kevin was an NCAA wrestler from Ohio State University so cardiovascular fitness was never a factor for him. The day of the surgery, they cut his thoracic cavity wide open from the sternum to the middle of his back, and pulled his ribs apart.
The doctors extracted a build up of fungus, bacteria and scar tissue the size of three human fists. This mass was literally strangling Kevin. Now he is recovering and preparing for a comeback.
[ Q ] So when will Kevin be back?
I am not going to pressure him too soon because he is an animal. He is the type of guy who will try to go in there now, and there is no reason to at this stage. He needs to come back smarter. We want to re-teach him an established game plan, so when he does return, he will do so with improved technique.
Kevin will be a much smarter fighter. We will get him fighting a different style. I promise you if he sticks with it Kevin will make some heads turn.
[ Q ] As a trainer, what kind of style do you teach?
I train and study under Erik Paulson who is the only American three times Shooto champion and arguably the best and most knowledgeable fight coach in America.
We cover stand-up and ground with the help of Erik. We specifically teach CSW, Combat Submission Wrestling. It is a hybrid of Shooto, Sambo, Jiu Jitsu and work in some JKD (Jeet Kune Do), as well as regular wrestling techniques. That's our ground game. For our stand-up game we teach what Erik calls STX.
It is part Savate, Kickboxing, Muay Thai, Western boxing, Kali, Silat and JKD all put together. That covers the gamut of fighting. We train an hour of stand up followed by an hour of ground training. There are seven ways to counter a jab for example, so we teach all of them. We do the complete offensive and defensive series of techniques. It is a bit more technical than anything that is out there.
[ Q ] What else is good about your system of fighting?
Today if you look at the good fighters like George St. Pierre, they are hybrid fighters. They don't have a technique. Bruce Lee used to say that the best technique is no technique. These new fighters don't marry themselves to any one specific art.
They have learned to adapt and open their minds, and are willing to try new things. For example, a small guy can't move like a big guy and a big guy can't move like a small guy. So, you don't have a small guy using his muscles to bully his way into a move, and you do not have a big guy practice rubber guard if he does not have flexibility.
It is no longer just strikers versus grapplers. The game is highly evolved, and if you have not made the adjustments then you do not belong in the game any more.
[ Q ] What do you focus on primarily for your athletes in the weeks leading up to a fight?
Believe it or not, I beat them down mentally and physically, all the way up to two weeks before the start of the fight.
[ Q ] Could you elaborate on that?
I will put them in what we call a meat grinder. I'll put them in the middle of the ring and send in a new fighter after two or three minutes so they don't get a break. They might have to go through five to ten of those guys, and by the time they get to the eighth or ninth guy they are getting beat up a bit. They have to mentally tough it out and stay in there, without quitting.
[ Q ] What purpose does this serve?
It's about mental toughness. It makes things automatic. The moves that you can pull off when you are tired, when your eyes are closed and you are generally in a bad situation - perhaps half unconscious - these are the moves that become automatic.
Those are the tools you are going to need to survive and win your fight. You have to be able to pull those off without question, to intelligently defend yourself.
[ Q ] This seems like an extreme approach, but I bet it works.
Actually when I worked with Frank Mir, I watched his coach Ricardo Perez give him two to three minutes of pad work to get him exhausted, then he would drop onto the ground in the cage and I would jump on him and press him into the cage, trying to hold him in place.
Frank would repeat this process five or more times, and his goal was to stand up, sweep or submit me. So a lot of the guys are doing similar things. Your opponent is coming at you with 100-percent of his ability and you have to learn to conserve your energy, to perform at say 80 percent all the way through.
Every once and a while when you have an opening, then throw 110 percent for three or four seconds - then shut it down again, relax and look for another opening.
[ Q ] How would you go about replicating the conditions of a big fight, when training one of your athletes to face someone of say Ken Shamrock's caliber?
Erik Paulson actually trains Ken Shamrock, so in his case I am the one who gets put in there as the guinea pig for Ken to face. The last time I worked with him was the Kimo fight. For this fight I played Kimo's role and had to learn all Kimo's moves.
So I had to fight like Kimo, although sometimes I would fight like Ken, so it was like Ken fighting Ken. So, I often act as the opponent. If a specific fighter is a ground guy we will work on trying to take them down any way we can, and use whatever techniques that opponent is known for.
[ Q ] In the Kimo Shamrock fight, what strategy did Ken use?
Kimo specifically likes to shoot. He likes to throw a jab and then shoot a double leg. He wants to take you down because his stand up game has never been his strong suit. He has a big powerful punch, but you can weather the storm with him, because he will get tired quickly.
He will strike you and go to the ground. Ken's game was to defend the shot and stand up and try to underhook him, hold him in place, with inside body hooks, and then throw knees constantly from either the clinch of the head or body. Knees would be thrown to Kimo's opposite legs, body or head. Ken threw 20 to 30 knees and the game was over.
[ Q ] How do you develop speed in your fighters?
I use a wide variety of plyometrics, core work, powerbuilding and kettlebells. Also we do band training with a guy named Lou Smith, at Lou's private training in Fullerton - phone (714) 322 - 8432. This is where Ken Shamrock and Josh Barnett go when they are in town.
The band-training program is amazing. Lou uses it for Olympic athletes to improve their strength and speed. These are literally gigantic rubber bands.
They can be used for all muscle groups. We do one move called the Human Slingshot where an 8-9-foot band with 200 to 300 pounds of tensile strength goes around two of your partner's waists.
The athlete that is being trained will run through the middle of the band and try to touch the floor farther and farther away each time. So he accelerates, decelerates, and accelerates again as many times as he can in one minute.
[ Q ] What are the advantages of doing this?
You are not working in one plane. With weightlifting you work in a linear plane, like with a Smith machine for example. With the squat you are working in a linear plane because gravity drops you 90 degrees to the ground even though you do use secondary movers.
The bands make you work your proprioception muscles and secondary movers. If you are off line anywhere and your core is not centered, the stress will be pushed to that side. If you move to the left, you will get stressed to the left. So you have stress throughout the full range of motion all the way around the body.
[ Q ] And this would more closely resemble the motions of a fight?
I would say it is a more realistic approach to training, as are kettlebells.
[ Q ] Do you use kettle bells to train your athletes?
I do, but not exclusively by any means. I still believe in the bodybuilding lifestyle and make the guy's weight train with what I call powerbuilding.
[ Q ] Please explain your powerbuilding method?
Let's say you are doing chest. I would do a power movement like incline (I always start chest with incline first) and work up to a heavy weight, say 405 pounds, and rep out for 5 to 8 reps. From there I would focus on drop sets. I believe that fighters don't need to bench five or 600 pounds - they don't really need to go higher than 405 or 315.
So we will do the 405, go to failure, drop a plate to 315, fail again, drop another plate to 225 pounds and rep out again. Finally we drop to 135 and fail again. Also, I do the drop set on the last set. If we were doing four sets of incline we would drop set on the forth set.
[ Q ] So this method would for the fighter, specifically develop what?
It would develop endurance and the ability to retain that type of energy and strength throughout a 5-minute round.
[ Q ] Do you incorporate other power movements such as the deadlift.
My guys don't specifically deadlift too much although it is a great lower back developer.
They normally perform snatches and power cleans. They also lift 80-to-100 pound body bags from the floor and then slam them over and over again. Because I have such a crazy core-training regimen, they don't need to do deadlifts so often.
They don't spend as much time in the weight room as I do, so I just get them to focus on specific body parts. Chest one day, back one day, shoulders, arms, quads and hamstrings on other days. This is done in the morning so for the mid afternoon training they can fight train. If we want to do band training, that is an added bonus. I don't want to tear their bodies down too much.
[ Q ] What do you have your athletes do to recover?
[ Q ] This seems an excessive amount.
I am a true believer in liquid colloidal trace minerals, a good multi-vitamin, and glutamine supplementation. My main focus is protein ingestion. I keep everyone in a positive nitrogen balance and change the amino acid profiles of their diets quite often.
This also introduces different enzymatic functions to their digestive system. Just like changing our workouts we also change our protein sources. I use different protein powders together in the same drink in order to have a fast, midrange and slow digesting protein in the body at all times.
I like the Dorian Yates products because they were invented by two protein geniuses, Brian Batcheldor and Phil Connelly. Brian also worked with me at GEN Nutrition with Craig Tapscott to develop our line. We made a product that contained colostrum, lactoferrin and growth factors.
Dorian's product is the next best thing. Since I also have a sponsorship with Max Muscle I mix in an extra scoop of either Max Gourmet or Max Lean to change the amino acid profile. For all of you readers who think more is better and spend 25 dollars on a big jug of crappy powder I would say you are wasting your money - bigger is not always better.
[ Q ] How would you achieve a good balance of enzymes?
I usually get the enzymes through foods, but you can supplement those also. Important ones include pepsin, bromelain and amylase. The right way to achieve a good balance would be to combine two complete animal proteins in one meal. For example, you could eat one chicken breast and supplement this with one scoop of a powder.
This way they don't get the chicken breast as the only protein source, they get to add something to it. You don't really know exactly what your body's needs are if you are training heavy. I'm not saying that more is better, but if I were going to get fat, I would prefer to get fat from excess protein ingestion than from excess carbohydrate ingestion.
[ Q ] What do you have your guys eating? I am assuming they don't become overweight from eating too much protein.
My guys usually don't have any problems because I have them eating pretty clean. They eat carbohydrates like yams, brown rice, small red-skinned potatoes and oatmeal. The bodybuilding lifestyle is all based on that, but I try to take it to another level.
For example, the biggest trick I teach, which is a trade secret within bodybuilding, is before a contest (to make weight) or show, have your fighter sit in a hot bath - the hottest water they can handle - with approximately one gallon of Epsom Salt and five to eight bottles of Winter Green rubbing alcohol, (which is poured on the body).
They lay in there and it sucks out all the subcutaneous water, while allowing the body to retain its intramuscular water. For bodybuilding purposes, if you sit in that for 30 to 45 minutes, pad dry it off, and go straight to sleep. When you wake up in the morning you will be shredded.
[ Q ] This sounds effective. Why have I never heard of it?
I don't teach that to anybody. It is something I would only give to Jay Cutler or Ronnie if they asked for help (laughs).
[ Q ] How exactly does this work.
Well, when you think about it, alcohol is a muscle soak that has been used for years. When you add Epsom Salt to this, it makes a gradient in the water, and through passive diffusion the salt concentration in the water is higher than the salt concentration in the body, so water passes from the body out into the water in the bathtub.
[ Q ] So you take a more scientific approach to preparing your guys?
That is why we beat up most of the goons in the sport, because they don't really think the game. Our approach is to use science rather than your fists to beat your opponent.
[ Q ] Why is the approach you have just explained better than a sauna, for example?
A sauna will burn the athlete out and dehydrate them, which will affect their performance the following day. We just want to make weight. We want them to be on top of their game. This way will help them to rest, as it will put them to sleep immediately.
They can go to their weigh-in in the morning, and immediately start re-hydrating. Just like a bodybuilder: they will add 30 grams of complex carbohydrates every hour, on the hour, up until fight time. To take it a step further, and really fill the glycogen stores, I would have them 15 minutes out, as a bodybuilder would, take a fast-acting carbohydrate like dextrose - slam this in their muscles to help them out.
[ Q ] What are your views on creatine?
To tell you the truth, I am not a huge creatine fan. I have seen nothing but diarrhea and acidic problems. When you mix it with an acidic juices like orange juice and grape juice like most guys do, because they don't think outside the box, it could causes more damage than good.
[ Q ] So you don't have your athletes on creatine?
No. I have become gun shy due to my past experiences with creatine monohydrate, so I have not experimented with the new products like cre-alkaline. If one of my own guys cramped up before a fight due to creatine use, I would only blame myself.
[ Q ] What other supplements do you recommend?
Most people think you cramp from potassium loss, but I totally disagree with that. That is usually never the problem. It is usually calcium and magnesium (cal/mag). The sodium/potassium pump runs your nervous system and the cal/mag is responsible for the muscle contraction once the nerve inervation has reached its target.
When you have enough stimulation to cause an action potential, then acetylcholine is released and a muscle contraction begins.
[ Q ] What would you advise your fighters against when they are away from the gym environment?
Well, I can't tell an adult how to live his life, but if you look at star athletes in this sport like Rich Franklin you can see the difference a clean life makes. I don't believe he has ever had a drink in his life. However, I am not one to advocate not drinking because I enjoy going out and drinking with guys like Chuck Liddell after a fight, he is the funniest f*&%$#@ guy in the business.
|Chuck Lidell Stats|
None of us are perfect, but when you are training for a fight - say over two or three months - you are a different animal. I think Randy Couture and Rich Franklin are good role models if you want to see a really clean lifestyle.
[ Q ] So the last months before a fight a fighter would completely change their lifestyle?
Yes, you absolutely would. You would change your sleeping patterns - you would sleep 8-to-10 hours a day. In the off-season you would only train once a day plus weight training, usually to keep the skills up, but prior to a fight you would really turn it up.
As you get older you need to train smarter though. Some of the older fighters like Ken Shamrock you can't push like you would a 23-year-old kid. At that stage you have to learn how to fight smart, not necessarily harder.
[ Q ] I guess for guys like Ken Shamrock experience would be a big factor and at their stage they would have learned exactly what to avoid and what to do.
Yes, you hit it right on the head. It is exactly the same thing with bodybuilding. The more you do it, the more you learn what works for you and what doesn't. Why would you train a specific modality that does not work for your body type? You don't have to waste time anymore. You are more efficient and can get your training done at a much faster rate of speed. You are a regular human; even have enough time for a wife and kids.
[ Q ] What are some of the problems with the younger guys, that haven't gained this experience?
They are often so eager and don't think through the situation well enough. They react instead of act. I would much rather see a guy think through a situation and be a smarter fighter. If you could learn those good habits earlier, you would be a champion much faster. You wouldn't make the mistakes in the fight.
[ Q ] Well that wraps it up Fred. Thank you for your time. We will have to talk again.
I would like that. Thank you David.
Note: Fred George can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.