This form of training is as old as fighting it self. Boxers and Wrestlers (among others) have used the ‘road run’ as a form of conditioning for years. In some circles it has attracted ridicule as being non-specific or not relevant due to the supposed lack of carry over and diminishing effects on power output. I for one was not a fan of this training method for quite some time, preferring instead to focus on interval-based conditioning. Upon re-examination, my thoughts have shifted though. I now believe that this type of training has a very legitimate place in the yearly plan.
The main actions of MMA are Anaerobic (punching, kicking, grappling etc.), the ability to recover in between these efforts is a product of aerobic metabolism. To the degree that the aerobic system has been developed (and also to the degree that you have anaerobic endurance), the fighter will recover better between combinations, efforts and exchanges. Long slow training will create a training response known as ‘eccentric cardiac hypertrophy’. What this means is that the left atrium of the heart is increased in size , allowing more total blood to be oxygenated with each pump of the heart, and a lower heart rate to be maintained. Strength/resistance training has the opposite effect, causing ‘concentric cardiac hypertrophy’.
As grappling is a form of strength training that encompasses all three forms of contraction (concentric, eccentric and isometric), we will from the concentric cardiac hypertrophy, get a thickening of the muscle fibers of the heart. This will help the heart to pump out more blood at higher heart rates, that in conjunction with the adaptations of lower intensity work will also increase mitochondria density(crucial in energy production and recovery between exchanges) not to mention a number of very important aerobic enzymes.
I recently had an athlete (David Simmons) compete after adjusting his training to include LS training in the preparatory phase and the results were noticeable. He still did all his anaerobic endurance training and the two were very complimentary to his performance. He could literally of fought for 30 minutes straight. The first round ended and he stood in the middle of the cage waiting for his opponent to appear for round two. He then preceded to TKO his opponent at about the two-minute mark of that second round. So much for loss of power output from aerobic training.