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No Holds Barred Fighting: The Ultimate Guide to Conditioning
Elite Exercises and Training for NHB Competition and Total Fitness
By Mark Hatmaker, Dough Werner
Tracks PublishingCopyright © 2007 Doug Werner
All rights reserved.
Let's get technical ... not
We won't get technical in this manual. Exercise science is a fascinating field. We could expand this manual's page count tenfold if we made the preamble a primer on kinesiology, ATP, the Krebs cycle and other such physiological processes. Instead, we will forego the talk of how the body does what it does beneath your skin and focus instead on what you need to do to let these internal processes work for you, whether you understand the science behind them or not.
Let's face it, some people enjoy reading and memorizing the process of glycolysis and are fascinated by the details of the Krebs cycle and want more information on pyruvate-to-lactic acid. For those folks, I offer a few books I have found of value in the Resources section. For the rest of us who just want the food on the menu and could care less about the secret herbs and spices hidden in the recipe, read on.
Variety is said to be the spice of life. Perhaps. Who knows for sure? What I can tell you with some authority is that variety is essential for conditioning regimens. The human animal is a novelty seeking creature. We crave the new and the different. We'd rather see a new movie or episode of our favorite show each week than be subjected to the same one week in, week out. No matter how much someone loves thin crust pizza with feta cheese as the primary topping, that pizza fan will find his enthusiasm waning if he ate that meal three times a day.
If we are that fickle in our passive choices (sitting in a chair eating pizza or watching the same episode of "Lost" each week) the human animal is even more so when it comes to something that requires a little effort such as a conditioning routine. Anyone with a background in any athletic endeavor that requires conditioning can tell you it doesn't matter how good an exercise routine is, or what results he is reaping, after a bit of time, he craves something new. If you don't find a way to vary your conditioning routine (especially a difficult one) you will find it almost impossible at times to overcome the inertia to get yourself into the gym and get started.
It is with an eye on this human propensity for fickleness/novelty that we have not chiseled in stone the conditioning routines found here. No matter how good a routine is, sometimes shaking it up and trying something new just feels right. It seems to energize our intellectual and emotional batteries. It seems to have an effect on our physical batteries as well. Your body welcomes and responds positively to the new challenge. For example, squats are an indisputably fantastic way to build endurance in the legs, but after a while grinding out 500 a day turns into mindless tedium. Switching to a few weeks of no squats and substituting wall-supported single-leg squats can make the whole routine feel fresh. Once the wall-supported squats become stale, we return to standard squats and, ta-da, they feel fresh again.
It is with an eye on feeding the novelty craving that we offer exercise menus. We offer the menus to stimulate progress in slightly different avenues within the same conditioning goal. You've got to shake up the system to continue to grow. Another example: Your cardio/Max O2 may be benefiting from your daily three-mile run, but one day you substitute 15 minutes of skipping rope and you find yourself winded. What's happening here? To a large degree we are the victims of specificity again and we'll get to that later. We are experiencing the fact that the body, like the mind, desires variety/novelty. I assert wholeheartedly that if a conditioning regimen does not address the human need for variety/novelty that the athlete suffers in the end — either by abandoning the regimen altogether or suffering needlessly as you grit your teeth through yet another day of the same-o, same-o. When you feel stale, don't manufacture excuses and skip a day. That day can all too easily become two or three days. Instead, consult the exercise menus and skip your favorite pizza for a while until you begin to crave it again at a later date.
When approaching your conditioning regimen, keep an eye on efficiency. There are two definitions that shade this word. The first is how well an activity serves the purpose. We will skip that definition and label it effectiveness, which we will cover next. It is the second definition of efficiency that we concern ourselves with here. The definition that aims for maximum results in minimum time.
The menus presented here are designed to give you the most bang for your buck in the least amount of time. That time variable is almightily important. If you are a professional fighter or an aspiring one, you must devote a huge hunk of time toward your training because it's your job. But the club-level player, the weekend athlete or the person who wants to get fit and stay fit, doesn't have time to wake up early and run eight miles, hit the sauna, then the gym for two hours of working the heavy-bag, double-end bag, and so on. Then after lunch, you nap, hit sparring drills and follow that up with weight-training. Again, if you are a pro, that is your job. You are being paid to follow such a time intensive regimen. If you are the average athlete, you probably have a day job, a family and a home theater system to veg out in front of. You simply don't have the time to put in hours at the gym every day. Does that mean fight conditioning is out of your reach? Nope.
The menus have been composed to bring the greatest results in the minimum of time for two reasons.
1. Most of us simply do not have the time to train like an elite athlete.
2. You do not have to increase training time to get top-of-the-food-chain results. You merely have to alter training efficiency to reap the same rewards.
Tuning a conditioning regimen for efficiency is a key factor in your quest to becoming the best NHB/MMA athlete you can be. The more efficient your conditioning regimen, the less time it takes. The less time required by your conditioning regimen, the more time you have to devote to fighting technique, sparring drills and such that got you into the sport in the first place. Keep in mind at all times that your job is to learn to be a better fighter, not to be the best executor of squats, the best kettlebell slinger or the best weight lifter. There are separate competitions for these endeavors, and that is outside the purview of this manual.
Again, the focus of efficiency is to provide maximum results in minimum time so that you can increase the amount of time training for the sport or for your personal activities. You want to do squats for two hours? That's an excellent goal, but you have thrown efficiency out the window if fight training is your goal. That's two hours that might have been spent doing something better like punching drills, submission work or takedowns. After all, if fight training were merely a matter of conditioning, then the top competitors in power lifting and triathlons could step into the ring and reap the rewards easily. Don't get me wrong, these activities can contribute to fight training, but they are not substitutes for fight training. Your job in the gym is to train hard, get it done and then get down to the sport.
Do not mistake my efficiency decree to mean that reduced training time insures fitness. That's nonsense. Efficiency is paramount, but it means nothing without effectiveness. If the conditioning regimen does not do the job it claims to do, then it is an ineffective workout whether it takes 15 minutes or 15 hours.
My workouts have been tested for effectiveness, but you are the ultimate judge. You know best your specific needs, weaknesses, strong points and goals. The menus are presented in a mix-and-match template so you can boost effectiveness according to your dictates. If a menu selection has plateaued or is not giving you sufficient intensity, then it is time to select the next option so that you can continue to train with effectiveness.
Going through the motions of a workout without bumping up the intensity will provide results for a while. But for a workout to continue to be effective, it must be tweaked now and again as we pay attention to the input (exercise choices) and the output (real world results). Effectiveness, more often than not, is keyed off two fundamental principles — intensity and specificity.
This is where the rubber meets the road. Intensity separates those with the warrior heart from those who pose. For efficiency and effectiveness to be truly efficient and effective, your training must be intense because the sport is intense. To crib from a Special Forces mind-set, your training must reflect battlefield conditions. In other words, NHB/MMA competition is a physically grueling game. If you do not create grueling conditions in your workout, then I can say with all surety, that you are not ready to play.
NHB/MMA calls for intense expenditures of energy, often in bursts, over a moderate time period that is marked by an overall elevated demand on endurance. The average NHB/MMA episode calls for 5-20 minutes of total work time. In that time there will be (optimally, for both the fans and the well-conditioned fighter) no cruising — moments of rest and inactivity. Demands of endurance are made of both the cardiovascular system and the muscular system. These endurance demands are the primary reason we place muscular endurance above muscular strength in the training hierarchy. Strength is terrific, but all things being equal, the endurance component is the bet to hedge if you have time to develop only one aspect.
Endurance training is approached in one of four ways:
1. Long Slow Distance Training (LSD)
2. Interval Training (IT)
3. Threshold Training (TT)
4. Peaking Threshold Training (PTT)
We discuss each approach briefly and then focus on the one most beneficial to the game in question. This manual contains advice for all four approaches, but you will detect an admitted bias for one form of training over the others.
LSD Training is aimed at building an athlete who can deliver a steady performance over the long haul with no bursts of intensity needed. Think marathoners and triathletes.
Interval Training is intended to redline your system, meaning to push you out of the aerobic zone and into the anaerobic zone for short bursts of very intense activity. These bursts are followed by long rest periods. Think sprinters or football linemen.
Threshold Training is the middle ground between all-out interval training and LSD. We perform above a comfortable pace, but do not redline the system. Think middle-distance runners.
Peaking Threshold Training is a combination of interval and threshold training. We train at a pace above LSD and intersperse intervals/bursts into red line territory, then we drop back to the above LSD pace to "rest," though never stopping or dropping to LSD. These are the conditions one encounters in NHB/MMA — short to medium duration (5-20 minutes) like the sport requires, and endurance demands that reflect the pacing of a well-matched fight. This last component will be of most concern in this manual. Although we will have our eye on Peaking Threshold Training, we must use the other approaches to prepare for this level. We will return to these levels for recovery days, since pure PTT is too demanding of the system to be done daily or even for several days per week.
The demands of the sport decree that we must err on the side of intensity — not only in the choice of PTT over the other endurance packaging, but also in the approach to all aspects of training. These intensity demands provide both good news and bad news.
The bad news is that intensity training is hard. Seriously hard. You will have to dig deep to give it the discipline it demands.
The good news is that intensity training is so efficient that you will reap optimum results in minimum time leaving you with plenty of time to train your game.
Professor Martin Gibala of McMaster University conducted an experiment confirming what many fighting athletes have known for centuries. Gibala assembled test subjects and gave them a pretest of an 18.6-mile time trial on exercise bikes. He tested their VO2 Max, which is the rate at which muscles are able to absorb oxygen. He then divided the subjects into three groups to follow an exercise regimen for the next three weeks.
Group one cycled for two hours at LSD pace each exercise session.
Group two cycled for 10 minutes per session, but included a few 60-second bursts of activity.
Group three cycled all-out for four 30-second bursts with four minutes of rest between bursts.
At the conclusion of the three weeks, each group achieved the same increase in fitness and VO2 Max. The difference is that Group three did it with a total of only three minutes of exercise time per session.
It seems that if we follow Professor Gibala's findings to the letter, we should focus on interval training, but we will choose the middle course. Keep in mind the third group worked hard for 30 seconds and then rested for four minutes. The body attunes to that pattern and begins to expect periods of inactivity for recovery no matter the fitness level. NHB/MMA will not allow such a work/rest ratio. What we take away from his study is that the 10-minute high-speed sessions that included 60-second bursts are very efficient and approach the overall fitness arc encountered in NHB/MMA.
Numerous research studies back up the results that can be attained via interval and/or PTT. Not only does this approach to training provide high fitness rewards in minimum time, but also is more efficient at burning fat despite burning fewer calories than the longer exercising LSD approach. This is proved by studies like those conducted by Angelo Tremblay and Claude Bouchard among many others. Do you get the idea that efficiency is not really efficient unless it is conducted with intensity? Intensity and efficiency go hand in hand to bolster effectiveness, but there is still one more major component to consider before we get to work.
"Runners run, swimmers swim, fighters fight." — Pedro Rizzo, NHB Veteran
I'm sure you're way ahead of me at this point. Let's flog that Special Forces warrior maxim again, "Let your training be a reflection of battlefield conditions." In the section on intensity, we made a case for selecting the optimum package for endurance training that best reflects the demands of the NHB/MMA game. Keeping Professor Gibala's optimum findings in mind, does this mean that we can cycle for 10 minutes with one-minute bursts and be prepared for NHB/MMA? Absolutely not!
We must remember that the test subjects were pretested in a timed cycle trial, trained on a cycle during the experiment and then retested on a timed cycle trial. Their fitness gains were exercise specific. Yes, they increased general fitness contributing to better health, and they improved their ability to cycle, but not much else. Anyone who has tried a brand-new physical activity can attest to the "I thought I was in shape, but this is totally different" experience. This sport specific effect should be obvious to all. If sport fitness were a generalized phenomenon, then NFL players could play in the NBA in their off-season with no problem. Marathon runners could compete in Olympic swimming with little effort. Power lifters could compete in triathlons easily. And triathletes could clean and jerk twice their body weight with ease. But we all know this isn't the case.
Practically any physical activity will improve health and the ambiguous term "fitness," but to improve at an athletic activity, we must train that specific activity. You may have a great six-minute mile pace on your run, but if you switch to skipping rope for a day, you will find a 12-minute session with the rope a bit taxing. It doesn't mean that you aren't fit, it means you aren't fit for skipping rope. It is with the idea of specificity in mind that we must adhere to exercises that best reflect the activities and demands of the sport we are training for. If we can design a series of activities that will raise both our overall fitness and our sports specific fitness, we are really on to something.
Running, swimming and lifting weights are great tools to have in the NHB/MMA conditioning toolbox, but what each of these activities most prepares you for is that particular activity. Cribbing from Pedro Rizzo, running makes you a better runner and swimming a better swimmer. We must use some activities that are not sport specific to build particular sport specific components, but we must use them in ways that better reflect the battlefield of what this sport is. This manual is specifically about the concept of specificity.
Excerpted from No Holds Barred Fighting: The Ultimate Guide to Conditioning by Mark Hatmaker, Dough Werner. Copyright © 2007 Doug Werner. Excerpted by permission of Tracks Publishing.
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