Can Being Strong Ever Be TOO Strong? Part 2

In the second part of this blog we are going to look at what in my opinion, is the best way for an MMA fighter to train.

First off, we need to remember, there are many ways to skin a cat and every athlete will move differently, will have different skill sets as well as different genetics, so there will never be a one size fits all program. That said, there are some simple principles that are the same across the board.

For any combat athlete, (though probably more so an MMA fighter) rotational power and stability are key. In every fight you will have punching, kicking, throwing, clinching and grappling Defending takedowns, working against the cage and maintaining top control, all of which require stability and rotational power.

The average, active MMA fighter will be training 4-6 days a week, with a lot of these days consisting of two or more sessions. Niggles are going to happen and injuries are commonplace, especially as a fight nears and they begin to push their body that little bit harder.

A strength program needs to fit into and around their main training, i.e. becoming the best they can at fighting. This is a big problem area as far as I can see. So many fighters, coaches and trainers, concentrate on becoming the strongest fighter and lifting heavier instead of focusing on the skills of the sport itself. If a fighter is coming into the technique, grappling and sparring sessions tired or feeling a bit deflated, it may be time to reevaluate the strength & conditioning plan.

With all these training sessions, the strength program needs to focus on the biggest bang for buck moves, meaning the fighter can spend less time training and more time recovering.

During combat, a fighter will never do a movement just once, so for me, this automatically means that going anywhere near 1rm should be avoided (also factor in the risk/reward continuum, the closer to a 1rm he goes, the more stress is placed on the CNS, the longer the recovery will be, not to mention the higher the risk of injury). A better focus may be a 5x5 cycle.

Now lets take the position of the fighting stance, is it square on or split? It’s split, this means all his punches, kicks, shoots etc will be from this position so lunges or split squats are probably a better option over back squats.

Escaping from the bottom requires explosive hip drive so could a weighted hip thrust be a better option to a dead lift? Possibly. Heavy single arm swings should also be considered as it is also works anti rotation as well as grip.

For pushing, the close grip bench would also probably replicate driving someone off you from the bottom more so than a normal one would. And the single arm push press can’t be ruled out for building pushing and punching power.

The Turkish Get Up is a great exercise to build isometric strength, shoulder stability, and it involves level changing (ground to standing, back to ground) which is a big component of MMA while the single arm row on a suspension trainer like a KO8, is great for building back strength as well as stability.

Lastly there is rotation, for this I focus on various exercises using a barbell and landmine, a macebell and a Bulgarian bag. These not only work rotational power but help promote shoulder health. Throw in some dead hanging and mobility drills and you have a minimalist strength program that won’t take forever and when the right weights are selected will improve the performance.

Is this the perfect program? For some fighters, yes, for others no. It always goes back to the individual. I know a lot of fighters who’s training focused on strength and size but ignored mobility (I was one of them), for these fighters, concentrating on movement and mobility would probably be a better choice. Try and remember, each person will have their own problem areas and as a coach, your job should be to spot them and fix them.

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