Grappler's Strength & Conditioning FAQ's
I began strength training and wrestling at the exact same time in my life, at
age 13. It was the summer before high school to be specific. Training back then
was very much ruled by the bodybuilding magazines. There was no such thing as
the internet back in 1989, and as a young kid with a paper route, my money was
invested in FLEX magazine. Little did I know that there was any difference in
how to train. I thought it was one way. Get bigger, get stronger and you will
have the edge.
this style of training led to numerous injuries. Through high school I injured
my knee twice, in addition to some other smaller injuries. After high school I
stay involved in wrestling, through coaching & live wrestling at every practice.
This point in time is where I switched my focus to bodybuilding. As before, my
workouts were literally copied straight out of the pages of FLEX magazine.
workouts, truly have little or NO carry over for athletes. After competing successfully
in bodybuilding, my love for the mat never leveled off. If anything, with the
emergence of the UFC & PRIDE made me hungrier. I knew that mentally I was at a
completely different level that ever before, confidence being very high. Still
training like a bodybuilder though, through my training in shoot fighting and
submission fighting, I injured myself once again, ultimately sidelining me severely.
This injury was the tearing of my ACL on my right knee, which I had previously
injured and had surgery on 8 years prior.
this injury I was completely disillusioned and angered with the my training methods.
Completely confused as to why I was such a magnet for injuries, I took massive
action & began researching training methods for mixed martial arts.
read every book & article I could get my eyes on. I read through the mixed martial
arts magazines and books, I called strength coaches that had worked with NHB fighters
and I grilled them with every question possible until they were ready to get off
the phone! Basically I approached this learning of strength training for our sport
as serious as I would train myself. I saw no other way to do this, ultimately
determined to fix my mistakes & help others avoid my training mistakes in an effort
to help them reach their true potential.
Even - Esh is the president of Combat Grappler & a strength coach for
serious athletes - with particular focus on combat athletes. He is located in
NJ, USA & can be reached via e mail at Zach@CombatGrappler.com.
His DVD can be purchased at www.NJstrength.com
while his Ebook, Gladiator Training manual is available at www.CombatGrappler.com
do you build 'mat strength'?
is often coined "functional" strength. The difference here is that you want to
apply the methods of dinosaur training, rock iron steel and what I call farm boy
or gladiator training. In essence, these all mimic the lifts of strong man training.
odd objects are similar to lifting a human. The object is never absolute and a
fight is never absolute as well. Muscles are worked that are rarely if ever worked
through even the most complex strength training you can do in a gym.
athletes at Combat Grappler do various strong man work, regardless of age, even
my 13 year old athletes do some strong man training. Here are our favorites:
pressing, sled rowing, sled dragging, sled rotations, sled running (i have various
rope atachments here - one rope goes around a weight belt and they walk with it,
another rope of shaped like the letter "Y", allowing them to row it to their chest,
press it in front of their body, drag it with hands behind them, or hands through
their legs, they do standing rotations with the rope as well)
Sand Bags - we pick these up explosively and catch them, walk with them on flat
surfaces, up stairs, curl them, press them over head, pick them up and rotate
them by placing them on a higher object such as a picnic table
barrow walks - filling these with very heavy weights they will push them up slight
inclines - often times the weights are a minimum of their own bodyweight, and
sometimes close to double their bodyweight
flipping - awesome work here! one of my favorites!! keg lifting or carries - i
have a garbage barrel filled with sand bags - they bear hug it and lift it, carry
it, rotate and lift
hammer training - hitting an object repeatedly from an overhead swing as well
as a side swing - making sure to equally work both sides
key here is to be creative, choosing odd objects that can be made or found - either
found in junk yards, or made by going to your local hard ware store. We do some
strong man training every workout probably. I like doing these either for an entire
workout, and sometimes at the end of a workout because doing them at the end can
sometimes closely mimic the exhaustive nature of a fight.
is key with all our workouts, and so, I emphasize, we change things constantly
- beginning, middle, end, or entire workouts of strong man lifting. I don't want
my athletes getting used to anything, and this is also better for their progress
as well as less strenuous on the nervous system.
do you develop 'mat endurance'?
was tlaking about this with a former champion wrestler, coach & current D 1 head
strength coach, Ethan Reeve - he had investigated the same question, but, he went
straight to the source and got a hold of world champion wrestlers from Russia.
A huge part of their training was drilling - but - this drilling was super intense
& looked like an actual match, done at very high intensity.
of all, live sparring makes it easier to get injured. Even though it is the most
enjoyable part of training, the majority of your "on the mat" training should
be centered on technique, done at high intensity.
give you an example, when I was in high school I attended a wrestling camp hosted
by a 2 time gold medalist in wrestling, John Smith - I went to his cmap 2 years
in a row. I will never forget watching him drill! Both camps he brought with him
two of the best D 1 wrestlers in the USA. The 2 of them together could not keep
up w/his drilling it was so intense! They were literally dying on the mat just
trying to stand up fast enough to keep up with him. They had to take turns drilling
with him because of this intensity. He drilled technique like a man possessed,
fire in his eyes and speed that was lightning fast!
is no one secret for mat endurance, but, you must put in your time with high intensity
drilling - I suggest doing this more than your live sparring.
you train to be explosive?
can definitely train to be explosive (power). This relates to your strength in
relation to time. Moving a weight quickly first & foremost requires time to progress
to. It requires an athlete to learn the lifts properly and develop strength foundation.
Doing exercises such as plyometrics build speed (power) as well as doing exercises
with light to moderate weights for low reps and higher sets.
lower reps and higher sets? First, the lower reps allow us to exert power - training
towards failure slows you down and does not allow you to train for power & speed.
here are a few
examples of training for power:
push ups, 5 sets x 5 reps
jumps / split squat jumps, 4 x 5 - 8 reps
jumps, 8 x 3 reps
jumps, 6 x 4 reps
arm kettlebell push press, 10 x 2 reps
pull ups superset with barbell hang clean, 7 sets x 3 reps for each notice how
i gave bodyweight and free weight examples - apply both of them, be creative,
keep reps low and vary the number of sets. Rest periods are often in the range
of 30 seconds to 1.5 minutes.
when training for speed / power, i like to switch the rest periods a lot - research
shows that the central nervous system needs to recover fully from such power /
speed exertion - so rest periods are reccomended to be on average 3 minutes. But,
for the MMA field, that does not truly relate to what happens in a fight or match
where we have quick bouts of fighting every 10 - 30 seconds - and thus, our rest
periods are sometimes only 20 - 30 seconds. I may not be following the rules of
research, but I believe you need to experiment with "in the trenches" work, not
simply book research!
note on power training: we use medicine ball throwing often for power. Why medicine
balls? because we can release them with out worrying about slowing down. When
using free weights, no matter how fast we want to move the weight, we must eventually
come to a stop with it - this is what we call "putting on the breaks" - doing
a bench press for power, Icannot throw the weight into the air. A medicine ball
can be released and thus I can exert all my effort, speed, power to throw it.
In my DVD, The Ultimate Guide to Sport Specific Training, my partner &
I show numerous med ball throws with a partner to build power & speed.
Do plyo's work and are they dangerous?
can be dangerous just as anything can be dangerous - doing them incorrectly, doing
them too often, etc. can make anything dangerous. Keep in mind plyos are exhaustive
in nature for the CNS and should not be done on a daily basis!
training slow make you slow (a la SuperSlow) and training fast make you fast?
my athletes have acquired solid technique in the lifts we move the weights fairly
quickly. That being said, form can always be improved in all lifts. I do not have
my athletes move a weight slowly except for the beginners, where we often change
the tempo of the lift which is a simple way to increase difficulty of an exercise
before loading it with extra weights.
athletes move the weights quickly, but I emphasize not to mistake speed with moving
sloppy and out of control.
Machines v Free Weights - what's better?
weights with out question. Machines are out for athletes. Sometimes cables are
used, but NEVER do we use machines. The machines provide us with no stability
effect and they are a large reason as to why I looked strong, had strong muscles
yet had weak joints & ligaments.
v Bodyweight - which has the most carryover in MMA training?
I can say which is better since I would never want to use one instead of the other.
I will say this, for my beginning athletes, young teenagers, we start with bodyweight
strength training and do lots of it! In addition, my advanced athletes still do
bodyweight strength training every workout. All my athletes do an average of 50
pull ups per workout (varying grips each set)! We love the one legged squats,
push ups and the variations, pull ups & dips, plyometrics for upper & lower body
as well are amazing!
you train to failure or not?
rarely do my athletes train to failure. Often they leave 1 or 2 reps in the tank.
I look for my athletes to maintain form (for safety reasons amongst others) as
well as speed during the exercise. The closer they get to fatigue, the more they
slow down and the less benefit the lift has on gaining strength & power.
do you combine bodyweight training and weights into an MMA schedule?
suggest to avoid long workouts first of all for Mixed Martial Arts fighters. Never
strength train longer than 1 hour, and often times you can be finished with a
workout in 30 minutes on average.
not to strength train followed by live grappling / sparring - your muscles, joints,
and CNS will be fatigued putting you at higher risk for injury. You cna strength
train on the same days you train in MMA though, be sure to have adequate rest
& nutrition in between each session, preferably a minimum of 4 hours.
you are a full time fighter, this is not difficult for you to get all this rest,
hopefully napping mid day as well. For the fighter with full time job, family,
and training, I would try and separate the days. One day MMA work, next day strength
training. Or, have a quick strength workout, then technique work, or technique
work followed by strength training. If strength training is done same day, be
sure to make this a very short workout and listen to your body. Pushing through
fatigue when you really feel exhausted is a great way for injury to occur.
is your body sending you a message to rest - learning to listen to your body will
give you greater longevity & greater success for your given MMA sport.
2 - Kettlebells, weights & cardio, recovery, time efficient training.......
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