Get Out Of The Box – Nontraditional Training For MMA/Combat Sports
By CJ Murpy, MFS Total Performance Sports©
I can’t tell you how many times I have had the same conversation with athletes and coaches regarding weight training for MMA. It usually goes something like this:
Coach: Hey, won’t weight training bulk my fighters up and slow them down?
Me: No, not if done properly.
Coach: I don’t want my guys lifting weights.
Me: Nothing said in reply and usually I walk away in disgust!
Let’s explore this for a moment. Martial arts have a strong history of tradition. That’s great – I’m all for tradition but what if tradition isn’t always best? Historically, martial artists have stayed away from weight training, boxing is included in this, but thankfully the tide is slowly changing for the better.
Many coaches fear weight training will lead to useless bulk, becoming slower and less flexible. This is not entirely untrue. If your athlete follows a muscle magazine, bodybuilding style routine of isolation movements, feeling the ‘pump & burn’, there might be some validity to this!
No one here is saying to train athletes in this fashion. I want you to think on your own, think outside the box. Think about what attributes MMA athletes need.
MMA athletes need a high anaerobic threshold, the ability to deliver multiple bursts of power, anaerobic strength endurance, dynamic flexibility and more. So with this in mind, will traditional bodybuilding exercises accomplish this? I don’t think so, although some form of weight training is better than none. It’s like pizza: bad pizza is better than no pizza.
What you need is to implement a training program that addresses the needs of your athlete.
Another factor to consider is: Does your athlete fight in 1, 2, 3, or 5 minute rounds or longer? If they fight in rounds we need to condition them to get their heart rate back to normal in the allotted rest period. If your fighter has a 3 minute round and a 1 minute rest period, their heart rate needs to return to normal within that time so they can start the next round fresh. Many coaches often overlook this.
The best way to accomplish this is with a mixture of nontraditional strength and conditioning methods, paired with some traditional methods. Implementation of strongman style training, odd-object lifting, circuit and interval training, sprinting, agility, and bodyweight training will accomplish this.
In this article we will look at strongman/odd-object lifting for MMA.
Strongman events use the whole body dynamically, focusing on torso, grip, and posterior chain strength for the most part. They can be loaded/implemented in countless ways to ensure success for your athlete.
As far as strongman goes, a few events stand out as best for MMA. They are: Tire Flipping, Atlas Stones, Farmer’s Walk, Sled Sprinting, Log Clean and Press and Sandbag (odd-object lifting). These events can be paired with traditional lifts like squats, pulls, rows, dips, overhead pressing, and more, to come up with a well rounded plan.
I’ll list a sample 3-day per week program for MMA that is geared towards increasing strength, speed, and anaerobic threshold.
Log Clean & Press
Dips with weight
Barbell Rows & Shrugs
No Ab Training
Sit-ups w/ Weight
Hanging Leg Raises
Twisting Medicine Ball Throws
A 5-10 minute warm-up, Agility Ladder work or dynamic style warm-up, should be done before beginning the working out.
Note: No sets or reps are listed because it will vary depending on the strength/skill level and proximity to a competition. In later articles, I’ll give you templates that are more specific.
The most important thing is to work hard! These sessions should take 40-50 minutes. It’ll also help to set up the strongman equipment before the workout begins so you don’t waste time during the session. Breaking the equipment down and putting it all away is a great cool-down when paired with stretching.
If you need the best Strongman equipment made in the USA, check out my website.
C.J. Murphy, MFS
Total Performance Sports©