Training for Amateur Combat Athletes IV: Putting it all Together

In previous posts, various aspects of training for a combat athlete have been discussed, along with examples of how training sessions can be structured.   The goal for this post will be to illustrate how all of the different traits can be trained over the course of the week for a fighter at the amateur level.  The author suggests reviewing part I of this series to look at some of the factors that play a role with an individual competing at this level.

The challenge with the amateur fighter is dealing with time constraints.  It is important for someone who competes to have a good balance of specific fight training and general physical preparation.  Parts II and III of this series examines some of the methods of physical preparation that are either underutilized or mismanaged in this athletic population.  The mismanagement usually comes in the form of omitting an aspect of training, or through the misapplication of a certain means of training.  An example of misapplication of metabolic training is the overuse of lactic-based training for a fighter whose competition primarily involves striking (i.e. a kick boxer).  The following is an example of a training program that can be followed by an amateur fighter who has had experience with various modes of physical training (i.e. weights, running, etc.) and is preparing for an amateur contest.  To illustrate how this can fit in with the actual fight training, generic recommendations as to what type (referencing intensity level) of fight training may be included on what days.

*Monday

Warm-Up

Day One Jump training

High-intensity fight training (drills and sparring at a level over 70% intensity)

*Tuesday

Warm-Up

Low-intensity fight training

Body Weight Aerobic Capacity Circuit or in place tempo conditioning (working at less than 70% intensity)

*Wednesday

Warm-Up

High-Intensity Fight Training

Strength Training Day One (The link goes back to the article on strength training, do the Monday session in the article)

*Thursday

Repeat Tuesday activities.  The actual drills/exercises can be different, but intensity level should be the same.

*Friday

Warm-Up

Day two Jump training

Day two strength training (This would be the Friday session per the link provided)

*Saturday

Mixed intensity day- fight work.  Give a brief high-intensity stimulus (sparring or high intensity technique work) followed by low intensity drills/recovery.

*Sunday

Off

The weekly outline provides a program that will cycle through different intensities of fight training, while concurrently training general physical qualities.  It would be suggested that this sample be utilized for a period of no longer than 3 weeks, and that an individual has developed a certain level of strength through a foundational program that focuses on correcting muscular imbalances before utilizing max effort and dynamic effort strength methods.  For further information on the methods and techniques utilized, the reader is directed to the references at the end of the linked articles.

This three-week block of training addresses both strength and explosive power.  General aerobic capacity is trained during the low intensity days, with the overall structure of the week utilizing a high/low scheme as advocated for by Francis (2008, 2012).  The only slight exception to this comes from the Friday-Saturday portion where high intensity elements occur in back-to-back training days.  This occurs due to the short period of time the individual is exposed to these elements each day, while Sunday serves as a day of complete rest from all training activities.  Francis (2012)has stated that high-intensity elements can occur in consecutive days as long as the exposure is short.  It would be imperative that if the coach/trainer responsible for fight training limit the exposure of high-intensity drills during fight training on Saturday.

It is emphasized that this plan is just one example that may be utilized for an individual competing at the amateur level of a striking-based combat sport.  As with any program, it is important to understand the training experience of the individual partaking in the plan, which should also include a history of any previous injuries the individual may have experienced.  The elements given can be structured any number of ways based on the other obligations the individual has (i.e. work schedule).  One example (that would actually be more optimal if it can work) is to structure the training sessions such that some of the work is performed in the morning, while the remainder is completed in the evening.  After a three week block such as this, the focus of certain training elements may change depending on how far out from a competition the individual may be.  Successive blocks should look at other aspects of development (i.e. alactic capacity) to ensure overall physical and tactical development before one competes.

Post any questions below.

References

Francis, C.  2008.  The Structure of Training for Speed.  CharlieFrancis.com.

Francis, C.  The Charlie Francis Training System.  Kindle Edition.  2012.

*Other references related to the program are in the article links provided.

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.

Preparation Considerations- Combat Sports

Combat sports represent a wide-ranging set of activities where success is dependent upon general preparation and skill development specific to the demands of energy system development, strength and power development, and skill development of a given discipline. One needs to consider these variables when designing the training regimen based upon what a given discipline calls for. These demands can vary greatly within a discipline, for example, Mixed Martial Arts (MMA), or can be more focused in disciplines such as Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and Kickboxing. The purpose of this post will be to examine the general structure of training for combat sport disciplines, while simultaneously discussing some of the misdirected efforts which hinder the preparation process.

Energy System Considerations

Probably one of the most common misdirected efforts in the training of most combat athletes involves the overuse of lactic energy system development (Smith, nd). For many combat disciplines, this results in repeated efforts of low quality, which in the end does not support what should be the end result of the preparation efforts. Smith (2013) stated that, “Fights consist of the generation of high quality outputs repeatedly.” Lactic-based energy system training does not provide the high quality output needed for many of the skills involved in training combat athletes, particularly those involved in striking or short contact disciplines.

It is well-known that many combat/martial art facilities implore lactic-based efforts due to the fact that they make people feel they are “training hard”.  They increase the intensity and volume of their “cardio” in an effort to enhance their conditioning levels, at the expense of the outputs required for activities such as striking.  This is done through the inappropriate application of equipment such as battle ropes (which can be used in the general preparation of fighters, but are usually applied wrong) and through misdirected activities such as rapid punching activities (punching with low power for greater than 20 seconds making the arms feel heavy or have a “pump”).

Another misuse of training time for combat sports involves the use of long-duration runs or “road work” to enhance conditioning.  While this is a time honored tradition in the development of fighters, it does not provide an optimal medium for the development of the oxidative system as needed for combat sports. Various other modes of training exist that can address the oxidative requirement for fighting at a much higher output and much lesser structural cost that long distance running.

Lack of Explosive Power Development

This area of training usually goes hand in hand with what was described above.  Due to the emphasis on the “cardio” or “conditioning” done by many participating in combat sports, there is a lack of emphasis on the force-velocity characteristics of movement during various skills in fighting.  Skill elements in fighting (in particular, striking skills) require explosive power development, which can only be enhanced by high quality efforts.  This requires appropriate application of work:rest ratios that allow for appropriate recovery between work bouts (See: Development of the Alactic System).  Jumps, medicine ball throws, and short sprints with full effort and appropriate rest durations will assist in developing necessary traits for fighting.

Organizing training weeks:  The High/Low System

The late Charlie Francis, a former track and field coach from Canada, designed training around a high/low construct based on individual training modes influence on the central nervous system (CNS).  The use of this system involves alternating training days of high and low CNS stress in order to allow for appropriate recover and long-term athletic development.  While having a low day may not suit well with the athletes or their coaches, in the end the cumulative effects of this form of training will result in the most optimal results, due to the fact that the athletes are able to sustain maximal outputs on their high days without residual fatigue from previous training sessions.  I would recommend readings on this structure of training from the works of Charlie Francis (Francis, 2012).

While much of what is done during the preparation of fighters is done with the intent of working hard to achieve success, much can be done in this area to create a optimal environment for training to truly match the required demands of a fight.  Athletes of lower preparation should not concern themselves with what is done by high-level fighters, and should build an appropriate base of training and work towards appropriate energy system development and outputs based on force-velocity demands of the discipline they participate in.  High/low sequencing should be considered, along with examining drills and exercises to make sure they are allowing athletes to develop the necessary traits for their competition.

References

Smith, J.  (2014).  MMA Preparatory Considerationshttp://www.globalsportconcepts.net.

Francis, C.  (2012).  The Charlie Francis Training System.  Kindle Edition.

 

 

 

 

Development of the Alactic System Part IV- Alactic Capacity Application

During a previous post on alactic capacity, I described the background behind developing this physical quality. In this post I will give a general training example that can be applied in order to train alactic capacity. In the example, I will be using hill sprints. Keep in mind, you don’t have to run in order to improve alactic capacity; jumps may be used as well. When using a hill in this manner, it should be a hill that allows for good running form (the hill shouldn’t be too steep). For many, hill running can be a good way to develop acceleration ability (see Charlie Francis GPP DVD available at www.charliefrancis.com).

wk1- 30 yrds X 5 (rest 45 seconds between reps) Rest 2 minutes, repeat series

wk2- 30 yds X6 (rest 45 seconds between reps) Rest 2 minutes, repeat

wk3- 30 ydsX7 (rest 45 seconds between reps) Rest 2 minutes, repeat

wk4- 30 yds X 5 (rest 30 seconds between reps) Rest 2 minutes, repeat

This training block can be applied to many sports including:

*Football (skill positions; i.e. wide receivers, running backs, defensive backs)
*Basketball
*Field Hockey
*Combat Sports
*Lacrosse
*Soccer

As I stated before, the designed 4 week block is a general application. An individual would have to have a certain fitness level in order to utilize the distances and rest periods listed. Someone with a lower level of conditioning would either have to increase the rest periods (between sets and series) or decrease the running distance (from 30-20 yards).

Development of the Alactic System Part III- Alactic Capacity

In a previous post, the development of alactic power was discussed.  In most athletic contests, athletes need to not only be explosive and powerful, but they also need to sustain that power over the course on an entire contest.   In order to develop this quality, appropriate programming to develop capacity of the alactic system will enable an athlete to compete with speed and power repeatedly for the duration of a contest; Verkhoshansky & Verkhoshansky (2011) defines power and capacity in this manner:

Capacity- the total quantity of producing energy

Power- the quantity of energy produced in the time unit

Improving the capacity (or conditioning) of the alactic system requires that short duration efforts greater than 95% intensity (<8 seconds) are repeated in multiple bouts.  An important component of this type of training is to keep an individual below their anaerobic threshold; the athlete should not begin to utilize the lactic system due to the intensity zone utilized being too slow for speed development (Francis, 2008).  Keeping the athlete below anaerobic threshold with efforts greater than 95% with appropriate rest intervals means the speed and power of the effort will be maintained for the duration of the session.

This type of conditioning can be performed with both jumps and sprints.  The key is to have a high intensity effort as described previously, with a rest interval of 10-60 seconds (Morris & Williams, 2013; Verkhoshansky & Verkhoshansky, 2011).  Many times coaches implement more lactic-based conditioning in an effort to help with maintaining an athlete’s speed for a contest.  The inherent problem with this is that the speed of the effort in this type of training begins to drop as efforts are repeated; an athlete actually ends up training to maintain a slower speed.  Sports such as football, basketball, volleyball, soccer, field hockey, some combat disciplines, and lacrosse are sports that primarily utilize both the aerobic and alactic systems to fuel their efforts, and should not be incorporating large volumes of lactic-based conditioning into their off-season or in-season protocols.  In a future post some examples of alactic capacity training will be outlined.

References & Recommended Readings

Verkhoshansky, Y., Verkhoshansky, N.  2011.  Special Strength Training Manual for Coaches.  Verkhoshansky SSTM.  Rome, Italy.

Francis, C.  2008.  The Structure of Training for Speed.  CharlieFrancis.com

Morris, B, Williams, R.  2013.  American Football Physical Preparation:  How to Optimally Prepare for Your Best Season Ever.  Ebook available at elitefts.com.

Development of the Alactic System II- Alactic Power

In the previous post, there was some background provided on the topic of training  the alactic system. It is recommended that you read that post, along with some of the other posts that are linked to that post if you are unfamiliar with the basics of this topic. This post will apply the information to how to develop power of the alactic system, which is important in any sport where the training speed and power elements is necessary in an athlete’s physical development.

Before getting into developing power of the alactic system, one needs to look at the difference between developing the capacity a systems versus power. Verkhoshansky (2011, pg 164) defined power and capacity as:

Power- the quantity of energy produced in a time unit
Capacity- total quantity of energy produced

So simply put, power looks at the rate in which one produces energy. This is an area of neglect by sport coaches by virtue of the “conditioning” that gets implemented both during the in-season and, by virtue of what the athletes get exposed to in-season, what the athletes either look to focus on with their off-season training (if not given any guidance, or by what the sport coach tells them to do).  Reproducing an effort time and time again means nothing if the individual efforts don’t achieve the necessary production (for example, producing enough force).  Therefore, it is necessary to address this area of preparation by producing maximal efforts with appropriate rest periods and volumes of work to achieve this goal.

This now comes back to speed and power development for athletes.  The following is an example of a sprinting protocol that could be utilized to improve speed/power in an athlete:

Set 1

3 X 10 yard sprints ( 1 minute rest between reps) Rest 3 minutes

Set 2

2 X 20 yard sprints (2 minute rest between reps)

This is a basic example that can be used to address speed for cyclic athletes, or can be used as a general means of improving force production for some athletes whose sport or activity does not involve linear running.  Over the course of a few weeks, sprints can be added to the overall volume (the key would be to make sure that speed does not drop off with later repetitions).  Addressing this type of preparation may also be performed through other means as well (i.e. jump training).  It is important that individuals in athletic endeavors appropriately address physical preparation though means most important for their sport.  Addressing this aspect of training is very important to sports where power development is necessary to enhance performance.

References & Recommended Readings

Verkshoshansky, Y.  Verkhoshansky, N.  (2011).  Special Strength Training Manual for Coaches.  Rome, Italy: Verkhoshansky SSTM.

Warm-Up and Injury Prevention for Fighting and Athletic Performance Seminar

Mensinger Performance & Fitness Systems and Master Moyer’s Karate & Kickboxing will be hosting a seminar focusing on the topics of warm-up and injury prevention.  Although geared towards the combat athlete, any athlete or fitness enthusiast will find a great deal of information in this 2 & 1/2 hour session.  Topics to be covered and activites include:

*Warm-Up Routine Design

*Specific mobility and injury prevention exercises for the ankle, knee, hip, shoulder, & back

*Breakout sessions with opportunities to do some of the exercises and activities

*Open Q & A session at the conclusion of the event

This seminar will consist of both discussion and active participation by the attendees.  Everyone in attendance will receive a manual with information from the seminar in it, along with sample routines and exercises based on what was discussed at the seminar.

Cost: $25- $15 for each additional family member who signs up

Time & Date: 1-3:30 pm On Saturday, December 3

Place: Master Moyer’s Karate & Kickboxing Factory

Anyone involved in fighting/combat sports will get a great deal of information for a great price.  The manual itself will give some great options and ways  to incorporate the information into your training regimen.

Contact Jason Mensinger- jasonmensinger79@gmail.com if you have any questions or call 610-301-5591

For outstanding martial arts instruction (where I earned my 2nd degree Black Belt) and competitive kickboxing training program, vist www.moyerskarate.com

A registration form for the seminar can be downloaded at this link- SeminarDec