Strength and Conditioning for MMA & BJJ: 5 Things you must STOP doing now!

Strength and Conditioning for MMA is no joke. Mixed martial arts and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu are among the fastest-growing sports in the world. This is true not only in terms of exposure in the mainstream media today but also in terms of innovation in how the sport is played and how athletes are trained.

Personally, I love BJJ and training is one of the highlights of my day!

If you’ve clicked this article then chances are you’re in love with the sport too. And maybe, you’re looking for a way to improve your performance in the training room and in competition.

Having said that, mixed martial arts is kind of like the wild, wild west of the sports world. It’s not easy to tell who knows what they’re doing and who’s blowing smoke when it comes to legit technical knowledge and real competitive edge.

Having a scientific, specific, outcome-based strength & conditioning program for MMA athletes is even more of a rarity.

And all of this is that much more true for the situation of the sport in India.

5 Things Athletes get wrong about Strength & Conditioning in Combat Sports

In this article, I want to talk about the common mistakes athletes make when they incorporate strength & conditioning into their training programs. Even if you’re not a combat sports athlete, the principles in this article still hold true if you play any other sport or if you favour functional performance over aesthetics!

Don’t Train like a bodybuilder.

Its called strength & conditioning work and not bodybuilding for a reason. Many athletes use the same techniques and splits used by bodybuilders in their training. The problem with that is the objective of strength & conditioning is to get stronger, faster, reduce the chances of injury, and last longer in the match. Bodybuilders, on the other hand, are looking to maximize muscle size and aesthetics.

The techniques used by bodybuilders like training till failure, more isolation work, working on one or two muscle groups per day, generally speaking – won’t help a sportsman perform better in his / her sport.

ALSO READ: Why Weight Loss Programs Fail and What is the solution ft. Jay Parekh

Moreover, the goal of an MMA athlete is not to gain weight (unless there’s a deliberate effort to go up a weight category or the athlete is confident about cutting weight) but to improve performance in the ring/cage.

Therefore, the methodology behind the training is completely different.

Don’t let strength & conditioning dominate your training

If you’re a fighter, or wish to become a fighter, the majority of your training time should be spent training to fight. Your strength and conditioning work revolves around your fight training. The same is true for any other Sport.

What does this mean? It means your strength & conditioning training adjusts as per your fight training and not the other way around. Your S&C routine should be adaptable, changing depending upon the specific fight training you’re doing that day, or as per the overall needs of your fight camp.

It also shouldn’t dominate your training time. If your training begins or ends with 15 minutes of generic callisthenics every day, then you’re not doing much more than wasting energy. Instead, most athletes would benefit from 2 to 3 dedicated S&C sessions per week.

Most importantly your S&C sessions must have a purpose behind them, and not just be a bunch of random exercises haphazardly put together.

Don’t try to do everything at once!

You’ll see plenty of articles and videos nowadays that clump all strength and conditioning under one workout. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way.

Strength and Conditioning is an umbrella term of a collection of physical attributes that in actuality are very different. These attributes require very different training styles to maximise their development.

Let me clarify: Take the words “Strength” & “Conditioning”:

  • Strength – Is the total amount of force that an athlete can generate against a load.
  • Conditioning – Is the process of becoming physically fit, which ultimately boils down to the development of the 3 energy systems used by the human body and how they work in tandem. The optimal development of these systems (with respect to the needs of the sport) affects the endurance level of the athlete.

Now, if you try to work on both attributes at the same time, unless you’ve never done any strength & conditioning work in your life, you’re not going to see much progress in either.

Instead, strength & conditioning training works in blocks, with certain blocks focused on a particular attribute, like strength, power, muscular endurance, power endurance, aerobic endurance etc.

To maximize your development, you need to prioritize your training by moving towards one goal. Too many amateur athletes try to move in every direction at once, and ultimately end up going nowhere.

Don’t follow a generic Strength & Conditioning Program

Strength and conditioning needs are specific. Each athlete will have his or her own specific holes in their physical development. Therefore, since each athlete’s needs are unique, each athlete’s program must be different too. In fact, depending upon the athlete’s current imbalances and training history, following a generic program might lead to overtraining injuries, postural issues, conditioning problems. and just overall making things worse!

A good Strength and Conditioning program is built from the ground up focusing on the specific needs of the athlete. Therefore the start of any program must start with a minimum assessment of:

  • Mobility
  • Current strength levels
  • Resting Heart Rate or HRV
  • Anaerobic threshold.

If you don’t know how to do this yourself, look for an expert who can help you create a program.

Yes, you’ll have to make a monetary investment, but you’ll be saving yourself a ton of time. I mean just ask yourself: Can you make more money in life? The answer is Yes. Can you buy back the time you’ve lost? Absolutely not.

Plus you’ll actually make real progress with the program you get.

Finally, don’t be lazy and do your Strength & Conditioning work.

Younger athletes can usually get away without much strength & conditioning work. But with age, the body begins to break down. We know that the body’s anabolic response is blunted the older we get. Which means it becomes harder and harder for our bodies to hold on to bone and muscle tissue as we age.

Age-related sarcopenia (muscle loss) and osteoporosis (bone loss) increase the rate of injury in older athletes. In fact, the human body typically reaches peak bone density at age 30, following which it begins to decline.

At a certain point in an athlete’s career, strength & conditioning becomes an essential piece of the puzzle. However, battling the wear and tear that comes with age isn’t the only reason you should hit the gym 2 to 3 times a week as a fighter.

Resistance training has been found to maximize the sport performance of younger athletes too while minimizing the risk of injury. Bottom line is, if you want to be the absolute best, then there’s no reason you shouldn’t invest time into a specific and personalized strength & conditioning program!

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The article was written by Jay Parekh. Jay Parekh is a Health & Performance Coach, specializing in coaching busy professionals. entrepreneurs and athletes. He is also a Writer & a Speaker, conducting workshops and seminars on these topics. His articles have been featured among the ‘Best Fitness Articles for Fatloss & General Health’ by the internationally renowned Personal Trainer Development Center (PTDC).

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