Since we evolved to bipedal-ism, man has been grappling, punching, kicking, and choking in an effort to preserve ones life and to establish dominance in competitive environments. As man evolved, combat evolved. As combat evolved and nations were formed, our cultures needed entertainment. Culture without physical competition is.... BORING... and with that sentiment evolved the need for sport. As sport progressed, man's desires and will to win changed the way we prepared for battle and competition. This meant practicing harder, pushing ourselves to become stronger and developing tactful strategy. Superheroes were created and along came Milo the Kroton, who progressively got stronger by supporting a bull overhead. Milo became the poster boy for progressive overload and the "SAID" principle (Specific Adaptation to Imposed Demands). Today's athletes continually adapt to match the evolving demands of sport and their competition. We find ourselves in a Golden Age of Strength and Conditioning in which forward thinkers, sport science, and powerful motivators can literally transform an athlete or a fighters identity for the better.
5 Principles of NX Level Fight Crew Training
1. Physical strength 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 for one. 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 and 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). Think low reps (5/3/1) and use the minimum effective dose when programming, fight to maintain solid position, and always move weight as fast as possible on the concentric action !
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. Taking these steps will ensure force production/absorption is maximized while also increasing work capacity and recovery. An assessment based off of identifying postural alignment is an important place to start. With that being said, coaches need to create an active rolling assessment as the training process develops. Athletes perform self maintenance by starting each workout with 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. Tensegrity is of the utmost importance here. Mobility must be complemented with stability and strength.
3. Progressions, Planning, Prioritizing- The MMA athlete is a garbage disposal of athleticism. Strength, speed, endurance, resiliency and elusiveness come to mind when speaking of performance qualities. Many coaches "cant see the forest for the trees." We have to be realistic with these athletes. As previously discussed I have to get them stronger and more mechanically efficient. Movement pattern efficiency is dictated by strength, mobility and stability. These three factors help the athlete better express speed and power. After we build the engine, our next goal is to improve aerobic/ anaerobic capacities. Again, punching it home: build strength, convert to power, train the athlete to be able to sustain these qualities for 5 to 25 minutes. "Vertical integration." is a key concept coaches should consider in the periodization schemes of their athletes. The "training stew" analogy dummies down this concept best. The untrained athlete starts out with an empty bowl void of contents. The recipe begins with our meat = strength work. Speed and power come in the form of the potato. Speed, power and strength are essentially the "meat and potatoes" for the athlete. The broth represents fight technique. The broth is free flowing and makes the stew a stew. An athlete with no technique isn't a martial artist. Veggies represent movement efficiency (mobility and stability) for the athlete. Point blank they make the soup healthy. Finally, we add spices and some extra kick. These last few ingredients represent energy systems development (ESD). E.S.D, by means of aerobic and anaerobic work, bring out the best of all the other flavors and keep the taste great from start to finish. Great stew finds appropriate blend and balance of all ingredients. Take a generalist approach as a coach. Work on improving limiting factors and adding ingredients appropriately as you progress your relationship with each athlete. Keep in mind that a camp will take a toll on every performance quality. Finally, remember that a great s & c program is nothing more than a complimentary component that enhances the fighters already ongoing MMA training.
4. Mixed Martial Athletes- Movement qualities of the MMA athlete draw many comparisons in various sports. The MMA athlete moves much like an explosive basketball player playing defense. They need a Rugby players resiliency and power. However, they should also be treated like a fastball pitcher when dealing with shoulder wear and tear. I treat my guys with many of the same philosophies I apply to the field sport athletes I coach-- 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....so train him or her like one.
5. Fun Factor - The NX Level Fight Crew has been compromised of more than a dozen MMA Championship caliber athletes largely funneled in by the Midwest's premier MMA gym, Rofous Sport. The sport and its disciplines require an obscene amount of practice time. Many of my athletes spend 1/2 their lives with an overly active sympathetic nervous system. Strength coaches need to create a disciplined, competitive and fun environment. Many MMA personalities are unique, embrace this as a coach. Build trust and help them run with their hearts.
Good luck, great training and thanks for reading!