Adapting Strength Training to the Demands of a Fight

This is an excerpt from Mixed Martial Arts by Frederic DelavierM & ichael Gundill.

Adapting Strength Training to the Demands of a Fight

For optimal transfer, strength training must adapt to a fighter’s needs, not the other way around. Compared to strength training exercises, the blows used in a fight are very different:

> The rhythm of strikes is jerky, but strength training is very rhythmic.

> Rest periods between two blows are random, but in strength training, repetitions are done one after the other without much rest.

>A fighter does everything possible to rid the body of lactic acid and to avoid pumping up the muscles, but a bodybuilder strives for both burn and pump.


To overcome this triple difference, two techniques for increasing intensity are appropriate:


1

Stop and Go to Accelerate Initial Strength

This technique involves pausing for 1 to 2 seconds between each repetition. For example, when doing push-ups, you stay elongated on the floor for 1 second while you relax the muscles and then activate them, causing the contraction. The goal of this pause is to eliminate the accumulation of elastic energy that took place during the lowering phase of the push-up.


You must pause at the bottom of the exercise rather than the top so that the repetition begins with a positive phase (pushing the weight) rather than a negative phase (lowering) because this is how you strike blows against your opponent.


The stop-and-go technique benefits a fighter in these ways:

  1. It is very useful for improving initial strength. The muscles have to contract powerfully without the benefit of elastic energy stored up during the negative phase.
  2. It is important to work on the initial strength of a muscle in a near-resting state rather than a muscle that is already contracted, since this is very rare in a fight.
  3. The combined work of initial strength and acceleration strength will help you become quicker.
  4. The rhythmic tempo of repetitions in classic strength training promotes blood flow, which is not good. The staccato rhythm of the stop-and-go pauses will minimize pump and the accumulation of lactic acid.
  5. A random tempo mimics the conditions in a fight better than classic strength training does.

2

Doing Sets With a Between-Reps Break

The natural tendency is to want to do repetitions as quickly as possible one after the other. This bodybuilding tactic is not ideal for a fighter. When repetitions come without pause, fatigue quickly sets in because the blood flow is hindered. Metabolic wastes, such as lactic acid, build up and cause strength to decrease.


Furthermore, the muscle starts to get pumped up. If you train your muscles to get pumped up the way bodybuilders do, you will paralyze yourself more easily during fights.


So you need to do whatever you can so that your muscles do not get in the habit of getting pumped up. A pause between each repetition minimizes the pump caused by the restriction of blood flow. Blood circulates more freely, which helps transport oxygen and allows you to stay stronger for longer periods.


The philosophy of between-reps breaks consists of doing everything you can to avoid fatigue instead of seeking it out as you would in bodybuilding. To be able to work out a lot without wearing yourself
out, you would be well advised to avoid failure (temporary fatigue of the neuro-muscular system). As Charlie Francis, former trainer of sprinter Ben Johnson, notes, a 100% effort requires 10 days of recovery time. But if you push to only 95% of your ability, just 4 hours of recovery time is needed between two workouts.


This explains why scientific research shows that it is not a good idea for beginners to push sets until failure. Striving for failure is more appropriate for those working on muscle mass than for those wanting to increase strength or power.


Between-reps recovery breaks let you work with as heavy a weight as you can without exhausting your nervous system for a long time afterward. Thus, you can do your various workouts more closely together while still minimizing the risk of physically exhausting yourself.


Taking 15 seconds of rest between each repetition allows your muscles to recover up to 80% of their initial strength (Haff et al., 2003, Journal of Strength
and Conditioning Research
17(1):95-103). With the same weight and a similar rest break, spacing out the repetitions instead of doing them one right after the other immediately increases strength by 30% (Denton and Cronin, 2006, Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research 20(3):528-34).


By resting for 15 to 20 seconds between 2 repetitions (midset break), you can lift heavier weights and get stronger faster.

Read more from Delavier’s Mixed Martial Arts Anatomy by Frederic Delavier and Michael Gundill.

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