The Four Foundations of Fighting
There's something about life that often leaves you with many choices, but few right paths. It's often hard to figure out which best suits you and this is no different when it comes to training for Mixed Martial Arts competitions.
In the world of sport fighting, there are as many different training routines as there are fighters. Between old-school boxing trainers and new-age technology nuts, no one can seem to decide on what to train. However, while training methods evolve and science reveals new perspectives on the human body, how much are we overlooking things?
A quick look in to some of the more well-known fighters can lead a newcomer to the sport confused on where to begin. Some fighters, such as Rich Franklin, have shaped a great portion of their routines around machines, in a hope that new technology will lead them to their optimal form.
Others, such as Fedor Emelianenko, have taken the opposite route and rely heavily on primitive training with minimal equipment, counting on tried and true methods of success. Where does the truth lie? When the training systems of top fighters take two separate extremes, what proves to be the best method? Have some fighters stumbled upon gold, or do they succeed despite their training? Perhaps the world of MMA training has too many answers, and not enough questions.
So, the question is, what are we training for? The obvious answer is to compete in the ring or cage environment. Truly, though, we are training to improve our body in preparation for that event. Training has become so mechanical in nature that the purpose of the labor has been lost. When this happens, we fail to see improvement and keep repeating the same mistakes. In a world so confused by modern technologies and dated systems, it's necessary to depart from the larger picture and take a look at the foundations that a fighter's shape sits on.
The Four Foundations of Fighting
Absolute Strength is essentially the body's ability to exert maximal force at its full potential.
Strength affects nearly every movement in the ring. It dominates the clinch and is present in every overhand right. The impact it brings shakes the ground with slams and muscles out of submissions. Absolute Strength is one of the key training points that all routines must address. The days are passed when old-school boxing trainers followed ancient myths of 'muscle-bound behemoths' and shunned the world of resistance training.
Nowadays, most fighters have found out the importance that maximal strength can bring to the ring. Often, in short-term exchanges of powerful strikes and takedowns, the one who is stronger comes out on top. This difference is made in the weight room. Whether it be through time spent throwing barbells around or taking the route of the strongman, strength training has become one of the key components to any fighter's arsenal, and any who falls victim to inaccurate myths and legends is only limiting their own potential.
Muscular Conditioning involves the muscle's ability to consistently exert itself without fatiguing.
It's highly important to develop strength, but it's equally valuable to develop conditioning so that the strength is not short-lived, but will continue deep in to the fight. The burning sensation that is often felt in the muscles after strenuous exertion isn't uncommon, but it needs to be dealt with just as one would do with aerobic/anaerobic conditioning. By specifically taxing your muscles, you can create a new threshold for your body and develop a higher tolerance for periods of extended resistance.
This is another instance where the weight room plays an invaluable role. Circuits and complex should dominate this aspect and help to develop endurance throughout the body. While absolute strength is indispensable to competitive success, one cannot ignore the body's ability to consistently exert that strength without succumbing to the tragedy of fatigue.
Power is generated through the use of maximal strength and optimal speed.
Explosive. It's when strength meets speed and results in applied force. However, transferring absolute strength to this position is not as simple as 'getting strong.' The key to it is developing Type II muscle fibers that 'turn on' faster than others and help to produce a greater output. That means quicker reactions and faster movement.
For proper explosion in MMA, plyometrics dominate the field. These unique, speed driven exercises are designed to build Type II muscle fibers in athletes and produce the kind of mixture of power and speed that is necessary to compete on the highest level.
Obviously one of the most sought-after components of a MMA game, power is the holy grail of one's labors.
Anaerobic Conditioning focuses on the body's ability to output maximum amounts of effort in short amounts of time.
Let's face it, fights aren't long-distance events. They are not low-output but rather constant bouts of exertion that stress the body in ways that most other sports can't even fathom. When training for a 15 minute, three-round fight, what sense does it make to spend several hours running at a slow and constant pace? Why do fighters consistently insist on using long distance running? A fight is a sprint to the finish that involves several periods of intense exertion and moderate-action. That is why it is essential to train in the manner in which you're going to fight. Through the use of intervals (Periods of High Exertion and Low Exertion), you can simulate the kind of pressure that is put on your body in a fight situation.
Fights should be viewed as rollercoasters. There's often a large build-up which leads to a quick pace of frenzied action that leaves you lost and disoriented. Just as things come to a halt, a new challenge arrives before you've caught your breath. The difference is that, in MMA, there is no safety harness and you must design your own ride.
The Four Foundations of Fighting are designed to help fighters focus on the true intentions of their training. It should not be considered as a substitute for skill but should be seen as a component used to augment the potential of that skill. In the future, further articles will begin to dig deeper into specific areas of the foundations.