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More No Holds Barred Fighting Killer Submissions
By Mark Hatmaker, Doug Werner
Tracks PublishingCopyright © 2002 Doug Werner
All rights reserved.
Mixed martial artists and combat athletes have always been concerned with training for optimum results. Boxing rings, cages and wrestling mats are harsh venues. Less than optimum training methods reap less than stellar results. The arguments in conditioning are usually those of exercise choices:
Do I lift weights?
Do I work only with my body weight?
Do I cycle?
Do I run stairs?
I won't even pretend to propose an optimum conditioning program (we'll cover that in its entirety in another volume). What I do intend is to spotlight specific principles that you should strive to keep in mind before beginning any conditioning program or formulating one for yourself.
The first principle is that of specificity. Specificity refers to patterns of physical movement, physical demands and even comparative environments that transfer favorably to the sport you have chosen to better. For example, if you wish to be a better golfer, it is not necessary to spend two hours in the weight room four days a week or to perform sets of wind sprints. There is no doubt that your condition for these specific activities (weightlifting and wind sprints) would improve, but there would be little if any progress made in your golf game. To improve your game it is advisable to spend more time on the golf course driving, chipping and putting. In other words, you should select a regimen that is specific to your goal.
The same holds true for combat athletes. You must examine every training modality that comes your way to see if it does indeed have any transfers to what your sport is all about. For example, we all know that endurance is required for NHB, but what kind of endurance? The kind found in marathon runners? In speed skaters? In cross-country skiing? The answer is you need the kind of endurance found in NHB athletes. Sports kinesiologists have known for some time that the conditioning demands of one sport are poorly transferred to another. This view was expressed succinctly by UFC veteran Pedro Rizzo who said, "Runners run, swimmers swim, fighters fight."
So, to speak in general terms, the kind of endurance found in NHB would not be that of the Long Slow Distance (LSD) variety associated with long distance running. Logging lots of miles may be detrimental to your training if the fight game is your primary goal. NHB requires more from your anaerobic capacity than it does from your aerobic capacity. Thus your search for supplemental endurance work should be more of the anaerobic variety. Furthermore, that anaerobic training should be comprised of movements that parallel those of your endeavor or better yet be comprised of those actual movements.
The next principle to keep in mind while assembling your conditioning toolbox is that of synergy. It is not enough to choose exercises for their specific transfers. It is advisable to stack the regimen in sequences that will allow for greater development. For example, your workout may be comprised of some heavy anaerobic work that will tax your fine motor skills to a particular degree, and yet you intend on working pinpoint combination punching. It would be wise to order your fine motor skill work before any severely taxing work so that you are in possession of all of your resources. You can return to punching after your anaerobic work (good punching drills may actually comprise your anaerobic work), but these punches performed once taxed are more for continued anaerobic and muscular endurance to mimic the later stages of the fight than to fix neuromuscular grooves.
Another example of efficient synergistic stacking is found in our Gladiator Conditioning material. We recommend a pulling group, which is a series of pull-ups, and a grip group, a series of exercises designed to improve grip endurance. To stack them synergistically, we work our grip after the pulling group to prevent our fatigued grip from interfering with the possible gains in the pulling group. It is wise to examine your routine for synergistic stacking. Make sure that one exercise is not interfering with gains in another.
This term refers to body-weight resistance work. I am going to take myself out of the line of fire in the debate of weights versus body -weight conditioning. There is plenty of evidence on both sides to make convincing cases for each, although much of the evidence that is cited seems to be of the anecdotal variety and thus precludes its serious consideration in the schism. From a middle ground position I think it is safe to say that the ground floor of your conditioning structure should be the ability to control your own body weight through all ranges of motion. By control, I mean possessing the muscular strength and endurance, as applied through simple calisthenics, to maneuver your body freely in manners similar to your athletic endeavor. Without good control of your own body, it is a stretch to believe that the combat athlete will find within his grasp some of the more advanced combinations and chains that require precise kinesthetic control in all ranges.
With that stated as an argument for a base in body-weight exercises as a foundation for building such control, I see nothing that prohibits the addition of weightlifting to increase the functional strength of the combat athlete. Just be sure that any weight exercise passes the tests for specificity and synergy before its inclusion. Keep in mind that a good argument can be made for simply adding a weight vest and ankle and wrist weights to the somatotrophic base to increase the resistance gradually (in the Milo of Crotona manner) while still essentially performing exercises closer to specific applications.
Efficiency and effectiveness
Efficiency can be defined as getting the job done in an economical manner regarding time consumed. Effectiveness can be defined as getting the job done in a manner that ensures that the right job is getting done. To put these definitions into stark relief, a workout that consists of nothing but crunches and takes only 20 minutes is time efficient. But is it effective for the combat fighter? Of course not. Too many factors would be ignored. Where's the aerobic and anaerobic work? The total body flexibility program? Overall muscular strength and endurance work? On the other hand, a workout consisting of 300 exercises to develop punching power, speed, and endurance is highly effective but the amount of time needed to complete such a regimen is far from efficient.
A good workout will blend the aspects of efficiency and effectiveness so that each exercise is chosen for its effective specific transfers and chosen carefully to not take an exorbitant amount of time. An optimum conditioning regimen is intense, specific and of short duration.
The short duration is vital on two counts. First, the more efficient and effective your workout the more time you have to devote to actual fight training as opposed to just logging longer conditioning hours. Second, by training in a time efficient manner, you are more likely to pursue such a regimen since it does not seem as daunting in time consumption and it will leave you with enough free time for reality maintenance. By reality maintenance I mean enough time to live your life, work your job and see your family. Many workouts exist on paper as very nice wishes, but do not consider the demands of the non-sponsored, non-endorsed, has-a-day-job, everyday athlete.
There you have it. To devise an optimum conditioning routine that takes into account all of the above considerations, you must test it for specificity, synergy, baseline body control through somatotrophics, efficiency and effectiveness, and measure it all against reality maintenance. Without careful consideration of the above, I have sincere doubts that your time will be used to its optimum. Keeping this in mind I believe you now have the strategic components to approach many regimens and to judge them according to your own needs.
Remember this is only a strategic approach to evaluating regimens. It will take another volume to cover the specifics of an optimum routine that would include technique cultivation, muscular strength and endurance work, aerobic and anaerobic work, plyometric work, speed mechanics, agility work, cognitive work, scheduled rests and breaks, total body flexibility and nutritional intake. The only aspect not mentioned in that list is breath work, and I consider that component so important that we will cover it in this volume. It's next.CHAPTER 2
Take a breather
The ultimate importance of breath control
What's a chapter on breath work doing in a book on hardcore NHB fighting? It seems more appropriate to find it in a New Age or alternative health tome. Well, hold on to your hats because I'm here to tell you that breath work is perhaps the foundation on which successful mat work is built. Good breath work is fundamental to all athletic endeavors, but it seems to lend itself particularly well to mat work where partner compressions (i.e., heavy guy laying on your chest) can make normal patterns impossible.
Breath work is integral to your game since it is the only component of the autonomic nervous system that falls under our control. Heart and digestion rates are out of our hands beyond their eventual shifts through conditioning, but your respiration can be controlled and directed. You can learn to choose the rate of your respiration, the depth of intake, the rate of outtake, force of exhalation and even direct your breathing to different lung areas.
Why would the control of such functions be of interest to the NHB athlete? We know that the body is fueled by your nutritional intake (that you have control of and can modify), your liquid intake (again, under your power) and that you are also fueled in the psychodynamic arena through thoughts, attitudes and anxieties regarding your athletic performance (again under your control although maybe a bit tougher to regulate than the physical concerns). Your respiration fuels all of these processes. There is no fuel process that can be metabolized in the body without the presence of oxygen.
Oxygen is brought into the body by the lungs and distributed throughout the body by oxygenated blood. The lungs release depleted gases (carbon dioxide) on exhalation. So if all fuel functions can only take place in the presence of oxygen and oxygenated blood, it stands to reason that the base fuel process is that of respiration. After all, one can go for weeks without food and days without water but only a few minutes without oxygen.
By acknowledging that respiration is the core fuel process and gaining an understanding of how we can control its different characteristics, we can economize and energize our primary fuel usage.
Competing breath rates
Most people inexperienced in a particular athletic endeavor have a tendency to hold their breath during exertion or at the very least use inefficient breathing patterns. By doing so they greatly reduce their overall performance and endurance. A simple strategy I use when rolling is that of competing or comparative breath rates. Mat work is ideal for this strategy as the proximity of competitors allows one to hear what the other person is doing. To take advantage of this strategy, merely listen to the breath rate of your partner during a roll and attempt to bring your rate in under his. It's as easy as calming your rate and lengthening the intake and outtake of your breath. By doing so you will more fully oxygenate your blood, calm your mind and body, and reduce any excess tension or struggling in a game that is primarily about leverage. Slower and deeper breath rates will outlast fast and shallow rates every time.
The idea of breath control sounds fine in the theoretical sense, but practical application in a sport that goes into anaerobic areas makes it tough to downright impossible to maintain a controlled rate. Scrambled bursts that redline into anaerobic areas cause you to gasp for air once you come out of the anaerobic red-line. The reason for the hyperventilation is found in the name itself, anaerobic, which means without oxygen. The scrambled activity happens so fast that present oxygen reserves get exhausted, and the activity continues at a rate faster than new oxygen intake can keep up with. Once you come out of this redline your lungs will naturally pump at a faster rate trying to rectify this depleted state. The problem is that your faster rate is not allowing for maximum exhalation before your next inhalation and waste gases (carbon dioxide) are still cycled within the lungs. They are taking up space and not allowing for a full oxygen intake — keeping you on the hyperventilation cycle — attempting to burn fuel where there really is none to be burned.
To pull yourself out of this cycle, all you have to do is the opposite of your natural instincts. Instead of gasping for air, forcefully exhale all of the contents of your lungs in a long audible breath (a sort of whooshing sound). Once all waste gases have been expelled by the clearing breath, your next breath will be a long controlled full breath of energizing oxygen. From there return to comparative/competitive breathing.
This is a specialized pattern for use when energy reserves are low. You are in the late stages of the match and you feel sluggish (usually due to poor removal of waste products throughout the body). The energizing breath is a quick pick-me-up to access your core fuel source. You essentially hyperventilate at an extremely fast rate, two to four inhalation/exhalation cycles per second, using shallow breaths. This rapid pattern need be done for only 15 to 20 seconds to forcefully reintroduce your core fuel. Try this not only in your training but in your everyday life when sluggishness sets in. It can provide an extra temporary boost.
It is advisable to make all of your breathing patterns audible. By inhaling and exhaling in audible whooshes, the sound itself can act as a mnemonic device to remind you to concentrate on your breath control first and foremost. The audible pattern also helps provide mental focus. And lastly, the audible pattern has been known to be a bit disconcerting to unseasoned rolling partners and can be just one more weapon in your arsenal.
There will be times when your chest will be compressed by your opponent or you will be stacked in unnatural positions. It is in these compressed positions that extreme diligence must be paid to breath control. When placed into one of these positions, you must focus on keeping your rate under control. You've got to learn to relax in what are decidedly unrelaxing positions. In these positions you will not have access to your entire lung surface area. By relaxing your breath you can learn to make the most of the surface area you do have access to.
To train this contingency outside of actual partner rolling compression, grab a heavy bag and lay it on the mat. Lie cross -body on the bag placing your diaphragm against the bag. Stay off your knees and arch your diaphragm into the bag. The only points of contact will be your toes into the mat and your diaphragm being pressed into the bag. Hold this position for three minutes. Performing this exercise will allow you to relax your breathing even when you have less than full lung access.
For extra stress, try performing a series of jump squats and then moving immediately into this exercise to duplicate the higher breath rates that scrambles induce.
This is a companion exercise to the compressed breath. Here again we are dealing with less than optimal lung coverage. Lie on the mat and roll your legs over your shoulders in imitation of a stacked position — in yogic parlance, a plough posture. Compact your stack as extreme as you can tolerate and hold for three minutes while you learn to breath in this shallow lung position.
Try performing the same exercise after a series of jump squats as stated in the previous pattern to learn to control the breath after a scramble. These two exercises are of significant value as they adhere to the specificity principle in conditioning.
This pattern is meant to be performed before or after your rolling session. It is meant to educate filling the lungs to full capacity, holding the breath in an anaerobic state and then conditioning the diaphragmatic musculature to assist in full expulsion. It is also useful for calming prematch jitters and can be used in your daily life in addition to your NHB training.
To perform the relaxing breath you do nothing more than adhere to the following ratio: 4–7–8. In other words, inhale to full capacity at a slow 4 count, hold your breath at full capacity for a 7 count, and then slowly, fully exhale at a slow 8 count. Perform a minimum of ten cycles of this repeating ratio for full benefit.
That's it. Breath control strategy, physiology and five patterns to assist you in your progress in the sport. Remember, breath control is as vital as technique and it is advisable to make it a regular part of your training. As a matter of fact, there should be no aspect of your training where you are not aware of your breath rate and its quality. This sort of attention to your core fuel source will accelerate your rate of learning appreciably.
Excerpted from More No Holds Barred Fighting Killer Submissions by Mark Hatmaker, Doug Werner. Copyright © 2002 Doug Werner. Excerpted by permission of Tracks Publishing.
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