Why "off the mat" conditioning is a waste of valuable training time

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Gurrilla

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Jan 4, 2019
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One of the things that always bothered me was how often strength and conditioning aficionados tried to "lure" my athletes off the mat to participate in other sports like lifting and running

They would hang around my gym rarely venturing onto the mat whilst always offering advice and opportunity for my athletes to learn their "secrets of strength and conditioning" by leaving the grappling mat to going off to the weight room or out for a jog

As a record breaking wrestling coach and "founding father" of American MMA I knew that sport specific strength and conditioning was simply a beneficial byproduct of participation in a sport...not something that should parasatize your valuable mat time!!

I scientifically proved this theory when I banned all "off mat conditioning" for my high school wrestling team and quickly broke all the records for that school's 30 year history

When I had wrestled for that team some decade prior we were required to jog 30 minutes before even stepping onto the wrestling mat and required to lift weights at least twice a week...this radically reduced our actual on the mat wrestling time

As soon as I took over that team I required my athletes to show up to wrestling practice, gear up and get on the mat

After dressing out we did a sports-specific warm-up routine I developed that lasted right around five minutes

After that we went over the "move of the day" did a few fun drills then began live wrestling

Other Regional coaches began to interrogate me when they saw my success and when they found out that I banned jogging and weight lifting for my high school wrestling program they thought I was out of my mind however years later I found from some of their former athletes that they had adopted aspects of my regime into their programs

I had success in the sport of wrestling because I banned off the mat conditioning and interspersed Judo freestyle and Greco-Roman techniques into the American folkstyle wrestling program

You don't see Runners and weightlifters participating in MMA to get good at their sport

...why do MMA athletes leave the MMA gym to go jogging or lift weights in a misguided attempt to get better at MMA?

View: https://youtu.be/O9D5hrScqtI

View: https://youtu.be/q8Eyj_RECmg

View: https://youtu.be/LL8sN8mqx5g
 

SAJ

ATM 9 & 10 winner
Aug 2, 2015
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Yeah cardio should be specifically sport focused, so we get the cardio we need for our sport

I do believe running, sprinting, burpees does give you a baseline level fitness though and will improve your overall stamina and lung capacity.

I would say do both if you can
 

Gurrilla

Member
Jan 4, 2019
11
12
Yeah cardio should be specifically sport focused, so we get the cardio we need for our sport

I do believe running, sprinting, burpees does give you a baseline level fitness though and will improve your overall stamina and lung capacity.

I would say do both if you can
Good point and that those exercises will definitely give you a baseline of cardiovascular fitness so they would be a good thing to do if you had no training partner

However

If you actually have an opportunity to train with a partner and you decide to engage in off the mat conditioning instead you are wasting your time because sport-specific conditioning the kind of condition you get from participating in Combat Athletics is far superior in every measurable criteria
 

Leigh

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It's an interesting post. I used to kill myself with powerlifting and hill sprints for MMA. I was too focused on it and I had no energy for skill training and I didn't work on efficiency, so I'd still gas.

That said, improving your aerobic engine and building some muscle can be invaluable and that's easier with cardio and strength training than with sport training. But I never push myself close to failure any more.
 

Guerrilla

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Apr 24, 2020
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It's an interesting post. I used to kill myself with powerlifting and hill sprints for MMA. I was too focused on it and I had no energy for skill training and I didn't work on efficiency, so I'd still gas.

That said, improving your aerobic engine and building some muscle can be invaluable and that's easier with cardio and strength training that with sport training. But I never push myself close to failure any more.
I would suggest that you can achieve much more strength and conditioning gain by doing 15 minutes of Hardcore MMA training rather than anything else you can do outside of the gym for the same 15 min

If you have a training partner you have to be out of your mind then to do anything but Spar or hit the pads

next to that is heavy bag training

if you don't have a partner then of course off the mat training is your only option but people who parasitize their potential Mat time to go participate in some other sport are out of their mind

Remember the best way to not gas out is to dominate position and you're most likely to dominate position when you are good at the skills of gaining and maintaining position

The skill factor is huge but the simple fact is pound-for-pound MMA training is by far the most sport-specific conditioning you can possibly gain

Further to that end I am not an advocate of training in Jiu-Jitsu wrestling and kickboxing then glueing them together for a Frankenstein's monster MMA

Just train MMA plain and simple
 

Leigh

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Jan 26, 2015
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I would suggest that you can achieve much more strength and conditioning gain by doing 15 minutes of Hardcore MMA training rather than anything else you can do outside of the gym for the same 15 min

If you have a training partner you have to be out of your mind then to do anything but Spar or hit the pads

next to that is heavy bag training

if you don't have a partner then of course off the mat training is your only option but people who parasitize their potential Mat time to go participate in some other sport are out of their mind

Remember the best way to not gas out is to dominate position and you're most likely to dominate position when you are good at the skills of gaining and maintaining position

The skill factor is huge but the simple fact is pound-for-pound MMA training is by far the most sport-specific conditioning you can possibly gain

Further to that end I am not an advocate of training in Jiu-Jitsu wrestling and kickboxing then glueing them together for a Frankenstein's monster MMA

Just train MMA plain and simple
I tried that once but stopping the weights meant I lost size strength. Now I just tick over with some calisthenics.
 

Guerrilla

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Apr 24, 2020
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I tried that once but stopping the weights meant I lost size strength. Now I just tick over with some calisthenics.
Weight training will make you stronger but not as strong as sparring, heavybag or pad work

When do you train at the sport you plan on competing in every muscle fiber is specifically condition for that specific exertion

The only time I weight train is why I'm trying to repair an injury and I can't get on the mat

Otherwise I have always advocated a sports-specific polymetric warm up (5/10min) followed by heavy bag work followed by increasing intensity padwork after that its all sparring

You can't tell me there's anything you can do that's more cardiovascularly demanding than shark tanking four or five tough guys
 

Guerrilla

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Apr 24, 2020
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You can train as hard as you want but you'll gas out on the mat if you are not used to the positional scramble at the same level your opponent is

I remember the look on my athletes faces when I banned
"running for cardio"

The other coaches thought I was crazy also until they saw my results start to pour in

Why would you go beat up your knees and back just to gain a third of the cardio you would if you had been on the mat where you would be learning skills at the same time?

A lot of studies are starting to suggest that steady state cardio like running actually lowers your testosterone and parasitizes your fast-twitch muscles
so if you absolutely have to go run for some stupid reason at least do Hill Sprints for God's sake don't jog
 

Guerrilla

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Apr 24, 2020
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No it shouldn't. It stretches the left ventricle and increases stroke volume, allowing you to produce more power at threshold
So interval does not?

I always saw steady state cardio guys gas real quick in interval

IE runners coming over to wrestling
 

Leigh

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No, intervals will not come close to developing the aerobic system that distance work will.

They gassed because they couldn't wrestle and went anaerobic. Interval guy will also gas if he's never wrestled.
 

Guerrilla

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Apr 24, 2020
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No, intervals will not come close to developing the aerobic system that distance work will.

They gassed because they couldn't wrestle and went anaerobic. Interval guy will also gas if he's never wrestled.
Hmmm

so why could my wrestlers compete with runners in running but runners couldent complete with FOOTBALL PLAYERS in wrestling???

1 year of wrestling practice either way and a football player was pinning a runner becaues the runner gassed not because of wrestling skills?

in fact i NEVER got a runner that didn't GAS in wrestling??

I didn't mention that I played on state championship football team and for some reason there were no distance runners on that team however there were several very successful Sprinters???

Interval training rules combat sports and steady state is for hippy vegans that cant fight their way out of a Starbucks at closing time?
 

Leigh

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Hmmm

so why could my wrestlers compete with runners in running but runners couldent complete with FOOTBALL PLAYERS in wrestling???

1 year of wrestling practice either way and a football player was pinning a runner becaues the runner gassed not because of wrestling skills?

in fact i NEVER got a runner that didn't GAS in wrestling??

I didn't mention that I played on state championship football team and for some reason there were no distance runners on that team however there were several very successful Sprinters???

Interval training rules combat sports and steady state is for hippy vegans that cant fight their way out of a Starbucks at closing time?
I don't believe that wrestlers who didn't run could compete with runners at running. That's nonsense.
 

Guerrilla

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Apr 24, 2020
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I don't believe that wrestlers who didn't run could compete with runners at running. That's nonsense.
Ok....so you dont believe some of my wrestlers could compete with the runners in running despite not being specialist runners

Do you believe that the football players out performed the distance runners in wrestling despite having equal skill in wrestling?
 

Leigh

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Ok....so you dont believe some of my wrestlers could compete with the runners in running despite not being specialist runners

Do you believe that the football players out performed the distance runners in wrestling despite having equal skill in wrestling?
Yes because there is more crossover between football and wrestling than running and wrestling. Footballers will be significantly stronger and more efficient at tackling and moving a resisting body.
 

Guerrilla

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Apr 24, 2020
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Yes because there is more crossover between football and wrestling than running and wrestling. Footballers will be significantly stronger and more efficient at tackling and moving a resisting body.
True...good point but they maintained better cardio consistently throughout their wrestling career

How can a over-muscled football player outperform a steady state cardio distance runner in wrestling even though they have approximately the same amount of mat time?

what did you think about that testosterone and steady-state video?
 

Leigh

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what did you think about that testosterone and steady-state video?
I think he's mistaken/confused. He cites a study where people run 40 MILES A WEEK and then says that steady state cardio that most people are doing is detrimental to your anabolic health. Most people are not running anything like that sort of distance.

The guy also cites a study that compares interval training over 3 weeks with distance work over 3 weeks for fat loss but doesn't mention the distance work protocol.

He also says marathon runners are skinny-fat. No, they're just skinny, because any excess weight is detrimental.



I'll agree that excessive exercise raises cortisol and long distance endurance athletes likely have lower testosterone, not helped by the fact that they keep their bodyfat down. But I don't think that has any bearing on a combat athlete who only does 1-2 hours of distance work per week and also spars and does strength work.

I cycle for 1.5-2 hours on Sundays. I enjoy the countryside and fresh air, I enjoy the cardio benefits and it's a good recovery session to get my body moving and blood flowing without putting strain on my body. I've done LOADS of interval training in my time, mainly cos I'm a fast twitch guy and sucked at running, but it mangled my CNS with the weight training and MMA sparring as well.
 

Guerrilla

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Apr 24, 2020
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I think he's mistaken/confused. He cites a study where people run 40 MILES A WEEK and then says that steady state cardio that most people are doing is detrimental to your anabolic health. Most people are not running anything like that sort of distance.

The guy also cites a study that compares interval training over 3 weeks with distance work over 3 weeks for fat loss but doesn't mention the distance work protocol.

He also says marathon runners are skinny-fat. No, they're just skinny, because any excess weight is detrimental.



I'll agree that excessive exercise raises cortisol and long distance endurance athletes likely have lower testosterone, not helped by the fact that they keep their bodyfat down. But I don't think that has any bearing on a combat athlete who only does 1-2 hours of distance work per week and also spars and does strength work.

I cycle for 1.5-2 hours on Sundays. I enjoy the countryside and fresh air, I enjoy the cardio benefits and it's a good recovery session to get my body moving and blood flowing without putting strain on my body. I've done LOADS of interval training in my time, mainly cos I'm a fast twitch guy and sucked at running, but it mangled my CNS with the weight training and MMA sparring as well.
What % do you figure the best heavyweight step into the ring at?

If you had 6 hrs a week for training time how many hours would you dedicate to steady state?
 

Leigh

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What % do you figure the best heavyweight step into the ring at?

If you had 6 hrs a week for training time how many hours would you dedicate to steady state?
% of what? Bodyfat? Varies drastically. Cormier carries fat, Overeem was pretty ripped.

Time to train isn't usually the limiting factor, it's recovery. If I only had 6 hours and NO other time, I would spend 20-30 mins on strength work and everything else would be skill based and sparring.

However, that's not realistic. I'd find the time to slip in some cardio. I'd do something low impact and low intensity. Go to bed an hour earlier and do something in the morning or find time somewhere.
 

Guerrilla

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Apr 24, 2020
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% of what? Bodyfat? Varies drastically. Cormier carries fat, Overeem was pretty ripped.

Time to train isn't usually the limiting factor, it's recovery. If I only had 6 hours and NO other time, I would spend 20-30 mins on strength work and everything else would be skill based and sparring.

However, that's not realistic. I'd find the time to slip in some cardio. I'd do something low impact and low intensity. Go to bed an hour earlier and do something in the morning or find time somewhere.
What do you think the average body fat percentage is of the top 10 UFC heavyweights?

Guys who maintain 20% + are stronger because their body never switches into conservation mode and stays in muscle building mode

also steady-state will attack your fast-twitch and convert it into slow twitch

In my opinion it's best to be a 20% BF competitor who focuses 99% of their training on interval cardio like sparring bag work and Thai pads

jogging is literally the dumbest thing you could possibly do

If your obsessed with steady state cardio at least ride a bike so you won't beat the crap out of your body while you're reducing your testosterone level and giving up fast twitch for slow twitch muscle fiber
 

Leigh

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What do you think the average body fat percentage is of the top 10 UFC heavyweights?

Guys who maintain 20% + are stronger because their body never switches into conservation mode and stays in muscle building mode

also steady-state will attack your fast-twitch and convert it into slow twitch

In my opinion it's best to be a 20% BF competitor who focuses 99% of their training on interval cardio like sparring bag work and Thai pads

jogging is literally the dumbest thing you could possibly do

If your obsessed with steady state cardio at least ride a bike so you won't beat the crap out of your body while you're reducing your testosterone level and giving up fast twitch for slow twitch muscle fiber
I don't understand the relevance of BF %age to the discussion.

Regarding steady state cardio, you're entitled to your opinion but it is undeniable that the athletes who can maintain the highest power output at threshold are steady state endurance athletes. There are plenty of world class combat athletes who have used roadwork as a staple of their training regimen. My power at threshold increased 40% in 6 months when I switched to distance work.