How do we separate ourselves and our athletes?Have we overlooked areas that can take our athletes to the next level? The answer is, "yes." The "NX Level Speed" warm-up will unlock an athlete's speed potential simply by improving his structural alignment, mobility, and stability. The fastest athletes in sport make things look easy, and some even say they "glide." This is due to great joint ranges of motion, great core stability, and great mass-specific power. To dummy it down: first teach proper posture, arm action, and leg action. Then, work on the direction of force application. The athlete's readiness and performance potential will be improved through maximizing soft tissue quality and mobility, and by activating the correct musculature to enhance force production and core stability.Warm-up Check List
A1 Starret Band Split Squat with Iso Hold (8 reps per leg)
The training of MMA athletes entails many performance qualities, exercises, and methods. Sprint training is a physical preparation method that every MMA athlete can use to effectively enhance their performance.
1. Striking Speed and Power- Sprinting at a maximal speed excites the central nervous system and improves its global ability to quickly activate large amounts of motor units that are needed in the abruptness and snap of striking. Sprint science validates the "fast twitch" similarities of speed athletes in track and field and boxing. While sprinting at maximal velocity, an athlete like Usain Bolt can reach a top speed of 27 m.p.h and travel at 12.4 meters per second. When Bolt broke the world record by sprinting 9.58 in the 100m dash he reached ground reaction force of roughly 1000 lbs. Comparatively, former British boxer Ricky Hatton's punching performance was measured at a speed of 25-30 m.p.h. with a peak force of roughly 900 lbs. Sprinting serves as a great general transference exercise in developing fast and powerful punches. Use it as a warm up or workout to realize your potential. Sprint to strike fast and powerfully!
UFC star Anthony Pettis
2. Hip extension and push - I tend to over emphasize hip extension when coaching sprint speed work with field sport and track & field athletes. Quite simply, the act of accelerating from a neutral stance involves pushing the ground, extending the hips and keeping a braced and stable core. Can't the same be said for throwing punches? Bruce Lee once spoke of power transfer in striking saying, "use it from the ground up." In breaking down a thunderous strike, the dominant push leg or grounded leg has to utilize the same extension principals that are involved with accelerating and sprinting. Famed sprint guru Charlie Francis once described the anatomy of speed in an easy way to relate to striking, "Legs are for power, the core transfers that power to the arms which dictate speed." Furthermore, watching a linebacker accelerate through his opponent or an athlete push out of their athletic stance looks very similar to shooting on a take down attempt.
Energy Production Chart
3. Alactic energy systems development- Sprinting is a very cost effective way to use the alactic an-aerobic energy system that many fighters use in a fifteen to twenty five minute fight. Striking, hard wrestling clinches, and quick explosive jits attacks utilize some of the same metabolic pathways one gets when sprint training or cross training in a football or basketball game. However, I should use the disclaimer that training the aerobic energy system is also of high priority for the MMA athlete. Athletes need to be powerful while also having the aerobic capacity and work capacity to do so repetitively.
UFC #1 Contender Tyron Woodley
4. Physical and Mental efficiency- To sprint fast an athlete must understand how to harness a lion's fierce attacking mentality and yet be as smooth the gazelle that is trying to escape it. Sprinting is a highly aggressive physical task. However, to move fast one must learn to relax to allow for better speed of movement and also sustainability. We've all seen the athlete that gets caught or ties up. The exact same thing goes for striking.Precision striking is about staying relaxed and using the most efficient technique! Contract and relax for optimal power!
5. Leptin and Fat Loss - Sprinting increases the bodies mitochondrial production and jump starts metabolic pathways. Leptin regulates the amount of stored fat in the body and is a satiety hormone. When one sprints fast, most notably on an empty/ fasted stomach, leptin production increases lead to fat loss. Sprinting fast for duration's up to thirty seconds may be a great way to shed body fat and control weight. Practice this skill year round for performance and weight management alike.
Many athletes never reach their potential due to a lack of mental discipline. Producing empowered "mini-me" coaches or "mini-me" leaders shows ones true leadership efforts. The easiest way to hold others accountable is to lead from the front. To be your teams most reliable point guard or quarterback, you must have congruence with principals, dialogue and actions. Your value is reflected in what you leave behind in others. Your value starts with being accountable to you!
Here are my top five ways to produce great accountability in you the coach or you the athlete:
1. "Love Yourself"- Believe in self-efficacy. Self-confidence is analogous with a champion mindset. Before the whole world can believe you are a successful athlete or person you have to believe first.Positive self dialogue starts first thing in the morning. Even if you have to lie to yourself, eventually the chemistry in your brain will match. The body is run by those same cells, chemicals, and neurotransmitters that are all affected by your words. "I am (fill in the blank) " and "I will (fill in the blank)" are my two favorites.
2. "Compete against yourself" - Often we are so worried about social or personal accomplishment that we live by comparison and judgement. So it is no surprise that your biggest critic is often times you! "The other guy" should serve as a reference point for attributes and skills to work on. Times always change and the person you are comparing yourself to is of course a result of their very own unique process and road. When our goals become strictly competitive based we tend to lose the enjoyment we ultimately need to attain true fulfillment. View your journey as a challenge and not a competition!
3."Tee off with the putter" - When golfing the goal is simple, take the fewest shots to get the ball in the hole. Now that we defined this journey as a challenge and not a competition, lets start simply by getting the ball rolling and worry less about taking the fewest shots. Actions, small actions, eventually yield astonishing results. Whatever your first move is, repeat that move consistently for 21 days and a habit is formed. If you've ever pushed a car as an athlete or a stranded pedestrian you can understand that it does take a lot of effort to accelerate that load. However, once you are rolling a special thing called momentum helps that process become more efficient.
4. "Hard Work Amplifiers" - Persistence andrelentlessness are a part of a successfulworkmen mentality. We all understand that you have to get off your butt. However, get more out of what you’re doing by educating yourself, listening more than you talk, monitoring your efforts, and stopping every once in awhile to admire your view as you climb. If you really want to be remembered live a few moments in remembrance of those infamous 80's metal bands. Sometimes you have to forgo the risk of blowing out the amp and be bold enough to make some loud noise.
5. "Carry your 5 as you climb" - A "climber" is someone who aspires to be more, who takes action in moving towards that destination, and inevitably is persistent in getting there. Who you spend your time with plays a gargantuan role in how you spend your time . Surround yourself with both the climbers who've already been to where you want to go and those who have the same vision... but make sure they want you to get there too (don’t under estimate that last point). I love the old Jim Rohn quote, "You become the five people you spend most of your time with."
My name is Matt Gifford. I am an almost 27 year old coach who trains athletes of all makes and models out of NX Level, a performance center in Waukesha, WI. I train the UFC Light Weight Champion of the World, his brother and many of his friends and teammates. Their accolades don’t make me an expert, rather they give me experience and a little personal validation. This is my introduction to the world of MMA and Strength Blogging. I am grateful for you to read this today and hopefully my attempt to describe my system will validate many or create change. This article reflects some of my thinking on May 1st of 2014. Much of the credit of my thinking goes to a list of thinkers too long to acknowledge. If I never write another article again I hope at the very least my opinions go on to “rinse your eyes” and inspire you to improve in some facet. Learn, reject/retain, apply, and please share!
What’s in a system ?
Every great business, organization, or school of thought is reliant on a well established system. The most successful of practices all have a thorough set of interacting components that integrate to make a whole. These systems have boundaries, are influenced by environmental make up, can be aptly described by its structure and purpose and can be expressed in its fluidity. A system of thought should represent a system of action and more importantly in the strength world its application should result in adaptation.
In a results driven business like training, a comprehensive system is a must. Structure and inter-connectivity are the two necessities of any MMA strength and conditioning program. Structure starts with principles and leadership. I always refer back to esteemed author Stephen Covey, “correct principles are like compasses: they are always pointing the way.” Many of our methods are ever evolving and discrepancies will always exist from one coach to the next. However, scientific or time tested principals and truths are the unchanging guides that give foundation, order and accurate direction to where we want to go.
Interconnectivity relates to the overall mesh of your strength system with the outside world. Interconnectivity in my system relates to my NX Level Fight Crew’s True North philosophy: “Never Stop Moving Up!” The training goal should aim at progressive improvement of the athletes physical and mental capacities resulting in an improved fighter and person. One should always look at their programs, exercises, and personal interactions and be able to connect the dots. In any situation a coach should start with why? If that why cant move the athlete forward towards a goal than one is simply filibustering. Inter-connectivity is also important from a lifestyle standpoint. I spend six hours a week with my athletes and hope to see a bleed from the weight room to the mat and eventually to their non-sporting lives as well.
The System Drivers
A system is nothing with out the talent and discipline to execute. I believe I have a quality system based on the people that represent it. I would like to think that I lead from the front by practicing what I preach and seeking out my very own mentors/teachers. A coaches reputation and integrity is founded in this and reputation brings clients/athletes into ones facility. Fitness and coaching are “R and R” businesses- Relationships and Results. I am blessed to always meet hungry, driven people. At NX Level, we are "Lombardi-ists" in that we believe the success one has in life is attributed to attitude and effort. I believe that motivating athletes starts with you as the coach. If I want my athletes to be disciplined and consistent- I must be that. If I want my athletes to be on time- I must be early. If I want my athletes to make sacrifices- I should probably make an attempt to eat clean, get up a little earlier or learn a little more on my own time. If I seek intimacy and ask someone to share their lives- I must share mine. If I want my athletes to be humble and grateful- I must thank them and appreciate them. If I want my athletes to be intense and aggressive- I must show that passion and enthusiasm first.Most all athletes arrive to us with a belly full of firewood- its up to you to be the spark that ignites the fire. Great leaders build trust and empower others to progress and become leaders. Win the heart and mind and the body will follow. Educate, inspire and always remember the line, “It is mindset that separates the best from the next best.”
UFC Lightweight Erik "NewBreed" Koch
Eliciting Adaptation and Results
The NX Level system is built on coaching and teaching mindset and movement. My three thousand foot fly by in regards to my physical training philosophy involves creating the most resilient, efficient, strong and explosive athletes that finish a fight with their hand raised. We operate off of a progressive training paradigm: alignment, soft tissue quality, mobility, stability, movement pattern efficiency, strength, power, speed and finally work capacity improvements will bring the athlete one step closer to a “W.” If Anderson Silva, were to walk into NX Level’s facility tomorrow he’d use that very same system. My training system starts with a general assessment to identify alignment, mobility, and general strength issues that may have or will continue to lead to injury or lack of adaptation. Truth be told we are always assessing our athletes physically and mentally with every interaction. Ankle, hip and thoracic spine immobility’s lead to injury or lack of stability and strength in the knee, lower back and shoulders/neck. If one is not mobile they can’t be optimally efficient with technique in the gym or in the octagon. Once ample mobility and stability has been established the athlete can now hit desired movement patterns and hold positions. Once technique is sound we simply add a stimulus. Starting with general strength exercises that incorporate mastery of the athletes body weight and progressing to maximal or absolute methods later will benefit most all. After the engine is built, give them the coding to change gears at a faster rate and you get an improved amount of power. Convert that power to speed and you have a fast, explosive athlete. Get that athlete to sustain that ability over a period of time through aerobic and an-aerobic means and you have a resilient athlete with great stamina who can recover over the course of a set, a match, a season and hopefully this gives them a long career and a better chance at living a healthy life after sport.
I monitor my systems success by intrinsic and extrinsic means. I occasionally test and am a firm believer that we should always question ourselves :“Has the athlete improved their power? Have their strength lifts increased? Has their body comp changed? Has their work capacity and heart rate variability improved? Is their anatomical position changing ? Are they recovering? Are they reducing collective injury totals? Do they look better? Do they feel better? Are they better people because of my system? Have they came back camp to camp? Are they referring teammates?” Finally, my last question to myself is “Are they winning ?” Winning sometimes blinds us to what is really happening. The football world is a perfect example of winning becoming a Siren for success. Often, the greatest strength coach is really the best recruiting coordinator. Analyze all you want and you still have to understand you are only partly responsible at best and partly responsible at worst.The biggest responsibility lies in the hands of the athletes. Their dreams are all uniquely similar but what separates the good from the great and the great from the best is talent, belief, action and discipline. If you can help be a muse for all four you may be a part of a champions journey. Thank you for reading.
Fast Friday Five
Since we evolved to bipedal-ism, man has been grappling, punching, kicking, and choking in an effort to preserve ones self, to conquer, and to establish dominance in competitive environments. As man evolved, combat evolved. As combat evolved and nations were formed, cultures needed entertainment. Culture without physical competition is.... BORING... and so evolved the need for sport. As sport evolved, man's want and will to win changed the way we prepared. This meant practicing harder and pushing ourselves to become stronger. Superheroes were born and along came Milo, the Kroton, who progressively got stronger by supporting a bull overhead. Milo shed light on two specific variables: Progressive overload will lead to adaptation...and...and...being big and strong can be boring. Seriously, what good is strength when one cant accurately transfer or showcase it quickly, efficiently and do so over a considerable period of time, day in and day out. Today's athletes keep evolving, natural selection will always hold true. We now find ourselves in a Golden Age of Strength and Conditioning in which forward thinkers, awesome ( readily available) research, and powerful motivators can literally change an athlete or a fighters identity for the better.
Coach Giff's 5 Principles of NX Level Fight Crew Training
1. Physical strength (absolute, general, maximal, relative) is the biggest confidence builder known to man. As rock star strength coach Mark Rippetoe once said, "Strong people are harder to kill than weak people. And more useful in general." Truer words may have never been spoken when it comes to the MMA athlete. Why couldn't an MMA woman with superior skills stand a chance with an NFL linebacker in the octagon--slabs of muscle and strength.Strength plays such a crucial roll in grappling (grip/opponent command), in striking (punching and kicking speed/power comes from strength) and in the ability to resist fatigue (relative body strength = improved work capacity and neuro-muscular efficiency). My fight crew performs at least three max effort exercises a week to improve their strength reserves. We Push/ Pull for the upper-body (Horizontal presses-DB Floor Press, Log Press, Board Benching Fat/ Horizontal Rowing or Vertical Pulling- Fat Bar Pendlays/ T Bars & Heavy Chins) and we also squat or perform dead-lifts for our lower half (goblet squats, zercher's, front squats, safety bar squats, trap bar dead's, sumo's, conventional, etc). As far as programming strength- think low reps (5/3/1), demand the intent of bar speed is always present, and understand these guys are being put through the ringer elsewhere and limit volume and intensity---save the athlete for singles week!
Pan Am's Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Champ Scott Huston and RFA Champ Mike Rhodes Pulling Big Weight
2. Movement efficiency is the name of the game at NX Level. Athletes need to have optimal structural alignment, soft tissue quality, mobility, and core stability to diminish energy leaks, ensure force production/absorption is maximized, and also increase work capacity and recovery. Our assessment is based off of postural alignment and the Functional Movement Screen and allows us to blueprint our athletes for asymmetries and deficiencies. Our "athletic machines" keep healthy and mobile by starting each workout with PVC pipe or LaX ball self myofascial release, manual ART, mobility, flexibility, and core stability. Fighters specifically need to pay attention to foot pro-nation (nasty posterior tib tightness), hip external rotation, anterior pelvic tilt, scapular protraction and shoulder internal rotation. Mobility and soft tissue quality is crucial here to restore alignment and regain optimal ranges of motion in ankles, hips, and shoulders.
UFC star Erik "NewBreed" Koch opening up his hips with NX Level's spider man stretch
3. Periodization- Training and coaching is both an art and a science. I tend to favor block periodization of some sort in a linearly conjugated fashion...that was a contraindicating philosophy I just threw out. Truth be told, the MMA athlete is the garbage disposal of athleticism. These guys are expected to be strong, fast, explosive, aerobic dynamos, whom also need to be resilient and yet malleable like water. When I look at these guys with a grand scheme approach, first thing is first, as previously discussed I have to get them stronger and more efficient. Once these principles are achieved it is easier to convert those qualities into speed/power and than continue to bring up their aerobic/ anaerobic capacities after those above pieces are set. Again, punching it home: build strength, convert to power, train them to be able to sustain these qualities for 5 to 25 minutes. One concept I do live by is"Vertical integration." To dummy it down, I allude to the "training soup bucket." The untrained athlete starts out with a near empty bucket- you start to do some strength work (meat), some hypertrophy and general strength work, than you try to add some speed and power training (potatoes), and than you need to finish with some strength endurance and energy systems development (ESD) (broth/spices/veggies etc)... and oh my gosh we need to drop some weight so lets run some more (now we are just watering it down)---pretty soon that bucket is over flowing and you lost a brunt of the meat and potatoes you first started out with.The soup is now flat...The healthiest recipe needs to take on a generalist approach. Know that a little bit can go a long way and understand the vigor's of training camp will take a toll on every performance quality.
4. Athletes- The Transformers of UFC/MMA - Movement qualities of the MMA athlete draw many comparisons in various sports. The MMA athlete moves much like a basketball player, needs a Rugby players strength and resiliency but also should be treated like a fastball pitcher when dealing with shoulder wear and tear..MMA athletes also need short area quickness and explosive power while also being strong and resilient to injury. I treat these guys with many of the same philosophies I apply to the field sport athletes I train-- they need to bend the knees, extend the hips, push/pull, create tension, keep tension, apply force and absorb force all while resisting fatigue. That is sport. The MMA fighter is an athlete....
NX Level Fight Crew: Rocky & Pat Magladeno, Sergio Pettis, Mike Rhodes & Elias Garcia workin' it
5. Fun Factor - The NX Level Fight Crew is a team of ten plus athletes largely funneled in by the nations premier MMA gym, Rofous Sport. Many of these athletes are the "grinder athletes" who actually do "grind." Working until 3 am and arriving for an 8 or 10 am workout. The sport and its disciplines require an obscene amount of practice time and many of my athletes spend 1/2 their lives with an overly active sympathetic nervous system. While training needs to be focused, monotony requires us to create a fun and exciting environment. With this said, coaches need to create discipline while never stifling the athletes personality completely. I never forget they are lovers and fighters. I will leave this edition with a special shout out to my man Mike "Biggie" Rhodes - keep running with your heart! Good luck, great training and thanks for reading!