Strength & Conditioning for Fighting Part 1 by Sim Lucien, CSCS

I’ve been getting a lot of questions about how to balance the lifting, conditioning and everything while training for fighting.

Talk about a LOADED question!

Because there are so many individual variables to consider (the exact sport you compete in, your level, your S&C background, how much time before your next event and the type of event), this is going to be more of a conceptual overview with my experiences mixed in.

Check back to my past posts on Fire and Water Fighting and Who gets into MMA for more looks at training and opposition.

So let’s start with a couple basic assumptions:

1. You are in shape enough to be able to compete.
These two are notorious for walking around way above their weight class and cutting a ton of weight fight week.

Unless you are Forrest Griffin or Rampage Jackson, you being 30+lbs above your competition weight means you’re fat and out of shape. This post ISN’T FOR YOU! Get your diet right, get in the gym and get in shape! Worry about your fight skill and specific conditioning later.

2. You are skilled enough to compete.
I don’t care what you squat, bench and clean. I don’t care if you can drop 5-min miles for a half marathon. If your only punches are the right and left hay maker, you can’t kick, your wrestling sucks and joint locks don’t exist in you world, YOU CAN’T FIGHT!

Stay in shape, stay strong and learn a discipline or two and you’ll be ready to rumble.

Concept 1: The more you will have to fight, the better your conditioning must be.

If you have a tournament (multiple bouts in the same day), you need to be in better shape than if you have if you only have one bout. If you have to fight five rounds (MMA championship fight) you need to be in better shape than if you only have to fight three rounds.

That being said, it doesn’t just mean more cardio! It doesn’t matter how good your wind is if you hit like a girl!

Get your strength and power endurance up so you hit as hard in minute 1 as you do in minute 30.

Concept 2: The closer to the fight you are, the better conditioned you have to be.

So let’s say you have a fight in 3 months (12 weeks). During weeks 1-2, you really don’t need to do that much conditioning work (provided you’re in shape enough to be able to take a fight). Really (and this depends on your particular style and strengths), you don’t need to condition for the first 6-8 weeks. Keep working your technique, drills and sparring.

This is the time to build your strength levels as high as possible. This is called “front loading.”

We do this because strength gains take longer to make, but last longer. Next we ramp up the conditioning and taper down the strength work. Something has to give as the body can only handle so much stress before something gets injured or you get sick. Our strength will fade slowly, but the extra energy will go toward recovering from our other workouts. Because cardio goes faster, but is developed faster, we increase our frequency and intensity of those workouts in the 4-6 weeks leading up to the fight.

Concept 3: The closer to the fight you are, the more specific you have to be.

Let’s use out last example of the 12 weeks before a fight. On week one, your lifting is geared to getting you prepared for more strenuous training, cardio isn’t really needed and your fight training is mostly you working general techniques or anything you needed to improve on after your last fight. As we get closer to your next fight, details become more important. Here, we focus on the specific techniques and drills needed for the upcoming opponent.

Is the opponent southpaw? Jiu jitsu black belt? Great wrestler? Stand up specialist? Great with the clinch? A ferocious kicker? Your game plan on how to address and attack these and other specs of your opposition must be drilled to the point of second nature at this time. Your strength work is minimal, but lifts train you to be as efficient and effective in you competition as possible. Your conditioning is geared to make you the most ready for EXACTLY what you will have to do in the ring, mat or cage.

Concept 4: The closer to the fight you are, the healthier you should be.

This should be the biggest DUH moment of this article, but the point can’t be overstated. The flaw most fighters across all the sports have made in their training for decades has resulted in the fight really being who was less beat up.

Look at it this way: you’re about to have a contest in which another person is trying to beat you up. YOU SHOULDN’T HELP THEIR CAUSE! Be as well-fed and hydrated as possible (given that you may have to cut weight). Be well-rested. Lifting can be cut totally 1-2 weeks prior to the fight to allow for more recovery. Workouts should be short and focused. The last week especially, you’re not gettingnoticeably better. At this point, just be mentally sharp, on your A game and healthy.


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