Training for the Amateur Combat Athlete Part II: Warm-Up and Strength Training

In Part I of this series, there is an overview of some of the general concerns associated with training competitive amateur combat athletes.  As stated in that post, the focus of the series will be on athletes involve in competitions that rely on striking (i.e. kickboxing).  While some of the information can carry over to events that involve grappling, there will be other elements that should be added to optimize performance in those events.  This post will focus on the warm-up to address joint mobility and preparation prior to general and technical training, and the strength training element.  It is suggested to read the first part of this series to give oneself an idea as to what some of the issues and items to address with amateur fighters.

Warm-up is an important component when engaging in physical activity.  The physical benefits on an appropriately designed warm-up includes the following:

*enhanced activation of the nervous system

*improved metabolic response to exercise

*increased muscle temperature

*increased oxygen delivery to muscles

*nourish the joint surfaces

What is important to remember is that the warm-up should encompass much more that just static stretching or a few minutes jumping rope (although both of these things may be included in the warm-up with other activities).  By performing a gradual progression of activities in a warm-up, one can both optimize the training session to follow and help prevent injuries.  Going though a longer, more extensive warm-up one can also help improve work capacity.

Here is one example of a warm-up that can be used for combat athletes

As you see in the video, there is a gradual progression of the types of movements performed in the warm-up.  There is also the inclusion of power speed drills typically used in the preparation of athletes who require sprinting as a component of their sport.  While no form of running is directly specific to any combat athlete, the general nature of the movements can effectively prepare these athletes for their main training sessions.  In addition, if the athlete partakes in sprinting/running activities as a general part of their training, these drills function in working form.  Longer warm-ups can also have the ability to enhance work capacity and help in developing the aerobic system in a low cost manner.  Activities such as this can be performed on “off” days from more intense training to also assist with recovery.

The second item to address in this post will be the strength element.  Strength training is an important component of physical preparation for any sport, and may times is neglected due to erroneous fears associated with strength training.  As with many individuals in sport preparation, amateur fighters lack general preparation and attempt to train by only utilizing specific means  of preparation (fight training) for a contest.  This is not to say that the technical aspects of training are unimportant; but everyone who competes in any sport need a level of conditioning to achieve optimal results.  Randomly throwing in general forms of exercise (i.e. battle ropes, kettlebells, yoga) within the technical training is not a plan for conditioning.

For the amateur fighter and purposes of this post, it will be recommended to have structured weight training carried out two times per week (it will be assumed that a fighter is about 3 months away from a fight).  The schedule and structure to be suggested is based on a model proposed by Scott and Saylor (2010), and one the author has suggested in the past for these types of competitors.  The two sessions should be separated by at least 72 hours to allow for appropriate recovery.   The training days for strength will take place on Monday and Friday (this can be adjusted based on what days the fighter will be training during the week and the intensity of training on those days).  The following example will be a 3 week block of training one may utilize.

Monday

1. Box Squat- Work up to 90% of 1 Repetition Max and take 2-3 more singles at that weight or heavier

2.  DB Romanian Deadlift 3 X 10

3a. DB Flat Bench Press 3X12

3b. DB Single Arm Row 3X15-20

4.  DB Lateral Raises 3X12

5.  Abdominal Exercise

Friday

1.  Box Squat Dynamic Effort

wk1- 60 12 X 2 (40 second rest between sets)

wk2- 65 12 X 2

wk3- 70 10 X 2

2. DB Lunges 2 X 12-15

3a. Band Good Mornings 3 X 10-12

3b.  Abdominal Exercise

4.  Lat Pulldown, Chin-Up, or Pull-Up (Choose one) 3 X 10-125.

5.  Oxidative Push-Ups (2 seconds down, 2 seconds up no lockout at top) 30 second sets/Rest 60 seconds X 4 sets (This can progress over the course of 3 weeks)

The program outlined utilizes both the max effort method and the dynamic effort methods as described by Zatsiosky and Kraemer (2006) and applied by Simmons (2013).   One of the goals of this training is to improve one’s ability to apply force.  Improvements will come in improvements in absolute strength, providing a fighter with the capability to have greater outputs during their fights.  While raising absolute strength though max effort weights may not improve outputs in a professional level fighter, fighters at the amateur level will typically need to raise this quality in order to maximize their performance.  In reality, the design of this portion of the general physical preparation training will be based on the individual needs of the fighter; however, many amateur fighters (and their coaches for that matter) don’t think they need to raise their strength levels when in fact they need to.  Some individuals may require a program based more on lower intensity/high volume strength work to prepare their bodies for this type of strength training (this topic can be addressed in another post).  The next power with look at explosive power development through jumps.

Resources

Scott, S. & Saylor, J.  (2010).  Combat Conditioning for Sports.  Santa Fe, NM: Turtle Press.  Kindle Edition.

Simmons, L.  (2013).  Explosive Strength Development for Jumping.

Zatsiorsky, V.M., & Kraemer, W. J.  (2006)  Science and Practice of Strength Training.  Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.

 

Training for the Amateur Combat Athlete Part I: General Planning and Overview

Combat sports have grown in popularity over the past 10-15 years, which can partially be attributed to the increased exposure of professional fighting organizations.  Individuals who compete professionally have to manage working on the technical aspects of fighting, along with managing the training of physical traits important to their sport.  Competing at the amateur level also requires planning to achieve optimal results during contests.  Fighters competing at this level have the added challenge of developing a training schedule around other life obligations (i.e. full-time/part-time job).  In order to compete successfully at the amateur level (and if one ever plans to compete professionally) one needs to make sure that all training stresses are accounted for appropriately, and that both tactical training and physical conditioning are planned for during the training week.  This series of article posts will address the physical requirements and training for combat athletes training at the amateur level in a striking based competition with no ground fighting/grappling component.

An individual looking to compete in amateur fights should look to plan physical stresses to both optimize their performance in the right and to prevent injuries.  This many times is difficult for participants at this level due to the fact that even their tactical planning is usually not very well organized.  Drills are more or less randomly performed over the course of the week without looking at the stresses that are being imposed on the body.  Training to address the general physical qualities required for competition are not addressed adequately, or they are addressed through random incorporation of conditioning exercises made to create a feeling of exhaustion for the athlete.  Physical traits that should be developed when participating in activities such as this include exercises and training sessions that involve the following (in no particular order of importance):

*optimal mobility/flexibility

*strength development

*explosive power

*metabolic conditioning (aerobic & anaerobic development)

*injury prevention

Fighting coaches who run facilities where amateur competitors train typically run group classes that involve participants who do not partake in fighting competitively.  While this doesn’t necessarily have to be a problem, many times it becomes an issue because of not taking into account the stresses imposed on the body in an effort to design “tough workouts” throughout the week.  Many of the things done to promote general fitness are done so to the detriment of the overall development to the competitive fighter (and to the other people looking for training as more of a hobby or for general fitness, but that right now is beyond the scope of this article series).  Coaches need to understand that the qualities listed above need to be developed in an appropriate fashion, and that this training needs to take place with the technical aspects of training at the same time.  As stated previously this all has to be done with tighter time constraints, as amateur fighters will typically have more limited times to train.

The series of articles dedicated to this topic will address ways in which the general physical preparation can be included in the training week of a fighter preparing for a competition.  Understanding that technical training and practice will be taking place at the same time, there will be some general discussion of the intensity and what type of practice should be taking place on days based upon a hypothetical training week for a fighter.  While this series can’t take into account every individual’s nuances about their obligations during the week, it can serve as a reference to be adjusted if necessary.  Part two of this series will look at implementing a strength training routine in the weekly training.