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.