3. Non-Specific and varied motor patterns in the sport mean that you can train the athlete for general strength.
This makes things a little easier than training a track and field athlete or a cyclist for example. By simply getting them stronger in all the main lifts (Bench Press, Deadlift, Squat and Pulls) and in a number of different planes of movement, you give them the potential for greater conversion to power later on.
4. Transition to power for optimal force expression, super compensation and peaking for the event.
Whilst strength is the key quality we focus on developing, it must be converted to power for optimal performance. This simply means that as we get nearer the event, training becomes more about rate of force development, rather than maximal application of force (in a non-time dependent situation). In this phase of training we will use Olympic lifts (or extracts of), Plyometrics and Medicine Ball throws. The athlete will also be doing a lot more full contact sparring so the respite that comes from less Barbell work is a welcome adjustment to the training week, allowing them to recover and peak for competition. As mentioned above, we are also monitoring bar/movement speed to ensure that progress is being made. Watch the video below as an example.
5. Don’t forget to work the ‘corners’.
This is a term that I first heard of when I was going through my training to become an Army Physical Training Instructor. The term refers to things that may likely be a limiting factor for the sport. It doesn’t matter how strong you are through the trunk and arms if you have weak grips for example. Same goes for the muscles of the neck and the rotator cuff of the shoulder. We implement a year round focus, particularly on the grips and rotator cuff strength. This also covers ‘counter function’ work where we work on restoring good posture, Scapula and Core function. Neck strengthening is also a VERY important thing to develop and is covered in detail at grappling sessions.
MMA is about being a skilled and effective fighter. Increases in strength, power and work capacity will further facilitate this process, allowing the athlete to be a better version of themselves. Developing these qualities should be done in a deliberate and objective manor that doesn’t detract from training the core skills of the sport. I often talk to my athletes about S&C being the icing on the cake. It has to be complementary and supplementary to the specific skills training they are doing. They must first have all the key ingredients for putting together and baking the base of the cake though. Only then can we make them a better athlete for expressing their skill set (the icing). Working in 3-6 week blocks during the off-season (usually directly after a fight) will give the greatest chance of successful adaptation to the program. After all, if it were only about strength and fitness, the UFC would be full of Crossfitters and Strongmen (no hate here for you guys, just an example). Whilst strength can overcome skill if the deficit between the two athletes is great, it has to be a REALLY big difference. Just watch the way former UFC Heavyweight Champion Tim Sylvia deals with the worlds strongest man in the video below. Superior skill wears down the obvious physical attributes of Mariusz.
STAY TUNED FOR PART TWO WHERE I WILL COVER THE DEVELOPMENT OF ENERGY SYSTEMS