So You Wanna Be A Fighter?
Tips For Beginners Getting Into Mixed Martial Arts.
Mixed Martial Arts. It is the most explosive, fastest growing sport in the world and countless numbers of people are getting into it everyday. If you are one of those people, or have been thinking about joining the revolution, this is the article for you. I had the opportunity to sit down with MMA trainer and conditioning coach, Martin Rooney, author of the book, Training for Warriors, and get his insight into the right way to train and the mistakes he sees young fighters making.
[ Larry ] What advice would you give to young fighters - both generally and in terms of preparing for fights?
[ Martin ] The advice I would give goes along with some of the common mistakes many young martial artists getting into MMA make. First, you must build that physical, mental and nutritional base.
Don't tell me that you want to take creatine and also eat McDonald's. It just doesn't work this way. You can't just do the fancy stuff without building your base and to build that base takes years, not weeks or months.
[ Larry ] So would you say that patience is important here for a martial artist?
[ Martin ] Without a doubt Larry, patience is key. I always say that no matter what new fancy workout you see, you can't rush physiology. Not that these things can't help progress, but you still have to do the long, hard work.
Don't tell me you want to be an MMA fighter in a week. This is going to take years and years of development of your skills, and your physical body is no different. You must build that base and you must be patient enough to enjoy the constant plateaus.
[ Larry ] Aside from rushing into things, what else do you see young fighters doing incorrectly?
[ Martin ] The next most common mistake is overdoing them at the same time. That same kid that is diving headfirst into MMA is also usually doing too much, too soon without ample recovery.
One of the biggest mistakes in mindset that I see with these young fighters goes like this: "I'll train Jiu-Jitsu five days a week, and wrestling five days a week, and boxing five days a week, and then I'll do physical training five days a week, and I'll run myself into the ground, and then I'll be getting up at four in the morning to do road work." And then a month later they're banged up, they're injured, their adrenal system is shut down and they're wiped out.
Then they don't understand why their immune system is gone and they're sick. The first thing you've got to build into your training is your recovery. In my system outlined in the book, we have two to three days off, minimum, per week. Granted, on those other days, you might be training two to three time per day, but you're still making sure you get the recovery.
[ Larry ] So what would you tell an aspiring MMA athlete that shows you a packed, advanced training program with no recovery.
[ Martin ] Simple. I would say, "Don't tell me all of your training first, tell me when you're going to be recovering from the training", because that's where you actually get better.
All too often, kids think the training is where they get results and they are wrong. It is only after recovering from the training that the results happen! Skip that part and you are eventually setting yourself up for disaster.
[ Larry ] Any other advice you would suggest for the beginner?
[ Martin ] A final piece would be, guys, don't do what everybody else is doing, because it might not work for you. So, I caution everybody new to the sport not to say, "I just saw a top UFC fighter in his workout, with a snorkel taped to his mouth, so I am going to try it out on Monday too!"
Just like the mistake I always saw with football guys ... everybody wanted to do the NY Giants or Nebraska workout, but these were freshman in high school that weren't strong enough to clean their room, but they want to try to clean 315. The take home message is that you have to build your base over time and find what works for you.
What works for one guy is not going work for somebody else, and you must understand your individual strengths, weaknesses and differences. That is what training and martial arts are all about in the end - better understanding of yourself.
[ Larry ] Many people might think that current mixed martial artists are training 8 hours per day on physical training. Your Training for Warriors program suggests only four days of physical training in addition to all the technical work for MMA. Can you elaborate on that?
[ Martin ] The training program outlined in the book is a 4-day split that we use: one day is upper body and one day is lower body, then there are two Hurricane days, which are total body workouts for strength and endurance.
When people ask me about endless hours of training, I believe a lot of the fighters like to put on their tie before they've put on their shirt. What happens is that these guys go overboard, doing long sessions of advanced training, but they didn't build the base.
The end result is overtraining or glaring weaknesses that they never address. The two strength days are base-building days. For strength you must always be building that contractile strength. Then, there are two days that are full body, the Hurricane days, which are a form of running and lifting using the entire body.
I believe in what we call "Pendulum Training," where we don't just work on one attribute (strength, speed, flexibility, endurance) at a time for weeks. It's not like, hey, let's work strength for eight weeks, and now we'll work speed for eight weeks.
We're working it all every week, but we're focusing more on certain aspects on separate days. This 4-day split allows for recovery, which leads to progress. Only when the athlete has worked hard and has had proper rest can there be results. To all the athletes out there doing too much conditioning, remember, anything can get you tired, but that does not mean you are getting better.
[ Larry ] Is there an intended audience for Training for Warriors? The book has some high level stuff, but can beginners use it effectively or is it too advanced?
[ Martin ] Without a doubt, beginners will get a ton of value out of the book. While there are advanced techniques and concepts in there, the book starts with the basics, as any program should.
In fact, I would even go a step further and suggest that the book can be for anyone interested in taking their personal fitness to another level, whether they are interested in getting into combat sports or not.
So if you're into MMA at any level, without a doubt, this book is for you, but there is a ton of info in there that would benefit anyone interested in being in better shape. Think of the book as an advanced fitness text which uses mma as the vehicle to deliver the information.