This year could be the year that you could become an absolute fighting machine but first there are a few things you need to look at in order to become a machine. For example there are a variety of physical attributes needed to become a good, well-conditioned fighter. These include:
If you think of these physical attributes as cups full of water, as fighters we want to make sure that we have all the cups are full. There is no point have an insane amount of strength with little fitness, or an amazing amount of balance and no speed. We need to look at our physical attributes and make sure that we are working on our weaknesses. The more we work on a cup (or attribute) that is over flowing the more we neglect other areas. There is no point being really strong in the upper body if you upper body muscles are so tight that you tap out as soon as a Kimura is locked in!
Over the coming weeks I encourage you to analyze your physical attributes and adjust your strength and conditioning program accordingly. Throughout this article I am going to give you some examples of exercises or workouts you can do to assist in strengthening your weaker attributes.
Endurance: In my experience I have found that light-heavyweight and heavyweight fighters tend to lack in the endurance aspect of their physicality. If endurance is your weak point then I suggest you start with some long runs, long swims or some circuits totaling around 45-60 minutes. You may even like to do some extended rolling in jujitsu classes or some long sparring sessions at boxing or kick boxing class. If muscular endurance is your weakness then increase your rep range in the gym as well as include some supersets or kettlebell circuits in the gym and your muscular endurance will be your most valuable asset in no time.
Speed: Once again speed is usually a weakness suffered by light-heavyweights or heavyweights. If you are keen on increase your speed then look at including short sprint work into your conditioning program or after your strength training. Include 10 sets of 30-50 metre sprints 3 times a week to see an improvement in your speed. For speed I love adding in body-weight Turkish get ups as it not only increase speed but gives fighters a massive advantage in the scramble.
Flexibility: If you are un-flexible then it is vital that you start stretching. Attend some yoga or palates classes or load up some stretching videos on YouTube and follow along. If you are inflexible and you do not stretch, sooner or later you will get injured either from having poor range of motion in your joints or from a muscle imbalance. Stretch for 20-30 minutes after each training session if you want to see results.
Strength This is where many lightweights need help, many have the speed to knock people out but do not have the strength or power to do so. If you need to get strong then I encourage you to start a gym program that focuses purely on strength. Make sure you include fundamental lifts such as bench press, squat and dead-lifts as well as some chinups and military press. Some good strength programs include Wendlers 5/3/1 program and Starting Strength by Mark Rippletoe.
Balance: If you need to work on your balance then I suggest you start improving your spatial awareness as well as your ability to stand on one leg. To start with practice some basic gymnastic movements such as forward rolls, handstands and cart wheels. Also look at standing on oner leg with your eyes open and then closed as a way to improve your balance. If this is easy stand on a pillow or crash pad for more instability. Include these activities in between during your rest period in the gym.
Power To increase your power it is important to get into the gym and start performing some explosive movements such as power cleans, box jumps, snatch, Tyre pushes and kettle bell swings. All of these movements require a high level of co-ordination and skill so make sure you have a qualified coach observing your training.
Agility Agility is needed in MMA to evade your opponents punches and take downs. Once of the best ways to improve your agility is by using an agility ladder. Add some agility ladder drills to your warm ups in the gym or before your sparring sessions. Another great exercise to help your agility is body-weight Turkish get ups.
Coordination Coordination is needed by most fighters but if it something you lack then I suggest you starting drilling every submission, every take-down, every kick and combination until you can do it in your sleep. There are no shortcuts to being an incredible striker except for putting in the effort and working hard. When I had 12 months off due to a knee reconstruction I performed a lot of mental imagery and visualization so I would not forget the ‘feel’ of my favorite techniques.
In conclusion it is important to understand that all of this is just your physical attributes. Not your fighting skill. This year I encourage you to not only analyze your physical attributes but also your fighting skills.
Do you need to work on your take-downs? Is your striking up to par? How is your Thai clinch? Are you confident at escaping mount or back control? How are your wall climbs getting back to your feet? How is your overall submission game?
This year begin looking at your fighting skills from all angles. If you find out that your grappling is not good enough then consider dropping a kickboxing class and adding a jujitsu class to your weekly schedule. How is your leg lock defense? If it is no good then attend some Sambo classes.
To be a successful fighter you are never going to have every single angle covered, that is the beauty of this sport. There is always something new to work on and learn. But the best fighters are the ones who know their strengths and their weaknesses and adjust their schedule accordingly.
Matt is the founder of Beyond Grappling fitness and conditioning. He is a 2008 Beijing Judo Olympian as well as nationally ranked freestyle wrestler and National Champion in Brazilian Jujitsu. Matt has a passion for teaching all aspects of grappling especially the fitness and conditioning aspect. Recently he has been traveling the world aiming to qualify for his second Olympic Games.