Trainer Corey Beasley trains a host of professional MMA fighters out of his unconventional gym in Orange County. He knows how hard they push themselves to perform; he also knows the most common mistakes they make when trying to be the best. Fortunately, he has the solution.
These days it seems like MMA is everywhere! TV, magazines, clothing, gyms and more. Mixed martial arts has evolved into the fastest growing sport in the world, but I believe it is still in its infancy and athletes (coaches) are still trying to figure out the best way to juggle all the aspects of training needed to compete.
MMA is a complex sport that involves many different art forms. Fighters are forced to balance all aspects of their fight training, including boxing, Muay Thai, kickboxing, wrestling, jiu jitsu, drilling, technique, sparring and more. On top of this, they also need to fit some type of strength and conditioning plan, pay their bills, eat, sleep, and manage to squeeze in a personal life (family, friends, kids, etc).
Bottom line: there is a lot to deal with and overtraining is a huge problem.
In other professional sports, like the NFL or the NBA, athletes are guided through very specific workouts, practices, recovery techniques, nutrition plans, and more. There are millions of dollars riding on their performances and they do everything possible to perform at the highest level.
I spoke with a Pro Bowl Linebacker from the New England Patriots, he said “There are 50 guys competing for my position every year. They are younger, faster and hungry. I have to stay on top of my training all year, or I will be out of a job.”
As the fight world develops, the talent pool naturally grows with it. The amount of fighters that exist today versus 20 years ago is staggering. As the talent pool grows, it forces the athletes to improve or they risk being weeded out. The days of just being a tough bar brawler are gone. Today’s MMA champions are evolving into 24/7 athletes, like the NBA and NFL, where off season training, nutrition, and recovery are becoming vital to their success.
Unfortunately, there are still a ton of guys (and girls) out there that are inconsistent, misguided, uninformed, and are not performing up to their full potential. In my opinion, overtraining is one of the biggest problems right now in MMA. Guys train 2-3 times per day between skill sets, runs, and resistance training. There is little to no coaching or guidance for nutrition, program design, or recovery techniques.
I had a new guy come in this morning. He is relatively new to the sport and said that he sparred in the morning, had jiu jitsu after, went for a four mile run, then lifted weights at night. I like his ambition but he is asking for disaster.
So, without going into the all the details of training, I am going to explain the three main mistakes that I see MMA athletes make during their training.
Mistake #1: Ego Driven, ‘Adrenaline Junkie’ Workouts
MMA fighters do a high volume of work every week. Drilling, sparring, mitts, bag work, and other aspects are intense and they are all taxing on the body. If you are going to add a strength and conditioning plan on top of that volume of work, it has to be well thought out and compliment an existing plan. Way too many trainers, athletes, and coaches create programs from scratch, hearsay, YouTube videos, or past experience. Their main goal is simply to work hard, without taking other aspects of the fighters’ training or life into consideration. John Hinds said, “Any trainer can crush you, but only the good ones can heal you as well.”
If a fighter has been doing two workouts per day for a month straight, has poor nutrition, doesn’t sleep much, and is stressed out, the last thing he needs is a ball-busting, crusher workout that is just going to break him down even more. Remember, these guys are punching each other in the face, taking each other down, and tying each other into knots. They are always banged up somewhere.
So, my philosophy is this: vary workout intensities based on the fighter’s ability level, training load, lifestyle, and fight training schedule. I split my workouts into three groups: red, yellow, and green. I learned this simple system from Geoff Myers, who has become an invaluable part of our team.
Here’s a quick breakdown:
Red Workout: This is an anaerobic, high intensity type workout that everybody loves. They are usually shorter workouts with intense bursts of effort. The fighters’ heart rates are high, lactic acid builds up quickly, and the intervals are typically 30 seconds or less.
Yellow Workout: These workouts are still tough, but do not red line the athlete’s heart rate. They typically involve exercises lasting between 30 seconds and 5 minutes. They are medium intensity workouts or circuits; the athlete is working hard but can maintain their intensity for a period of time.
Green Workout: These are a low intensity, longer duration workouts that last longer than 3 minutes. Common examples involve jogs, swimming, biking, light bodyweight drills, etc. The idea is basically to get the blood flowing and help the body recover. These types of workouts are great for homework.
By assessing the fighter’s training schedule, you can vary their workout intensity to help them make progress without overtraining. Remember, your goal with strength and conditioning should be to stimulate, not always annihilate.
Mistake #2: Train Hard, Train Often
The lack of sleep, improper nutrition, and short rest periods leave athletes tired, vulnerable to injury, and eventually burned out.
Along with varying training intensity, there are many other factors that affect a fighter’s performance and health. Stress reduction, proper nutrition, sufficient sleep, and other recovery techniques are vital to a fighter’s health and performance over time. Like I said before, most of these guys already train too much, are banged up, and are nursing some type of injury. The “more is better” mentality usually leaves them tired, injured, or burned out if it is not addressed.
The more they can do to speed recovery and avoid injury, the better.
Mistake #3: Lack of Consistency
Developing the skill, strength, speed, and conditioning for an elite athlete builds progressively over time. Too many fighters train for a few weeks leading up to a fight, then take a vacation for a month.
It’s the old rabbit and the hare analogy that everyone has heard, but very few actually apply. As MMA evolves, the “rabbits” will be exposed. Being talented or tough will only last so long and developing a consistent work ethic will separate the winners from the losers. Skill and strength are not built in a few weeks; it takes years to develop a foundation of strength and skill and constant tuning to develop that power into a refined champion.
NFL guys talk about it all too often. There are hundreds of guys fighting for a position every year. A missed step, dropped pass, or a split second in try outs can mean the difference between millions of dollars and watching the game on TV. As fighting evolves, the most consistent guys that have built solid foundations and good work ethics will rise to the top. It’s how a sport evolves, and the MMA talent pool is growing rapidly!
9 Tips to Get Your MMA Training on Track
Tip #1: Get a Plan of Attack.
You’ve got to plan your training. Write down your goals, your priorities, your responsibilities (work, spouse, kids, etc), talk to all parties (spouse, coaches, etc.) involved and then organize your week. This takes some trial and error, but proactively attacking your week versus simply reacting to it always leads to learning and improvement.
Tip #2: Commit to It.
Taking the time to set goals and make a plan is one thing. Applying it, walking it out, and making it happen is another beast. Life will always throw challenges your way. Make sure to take the time to assess “why” you are training so hard, otherwise, little distractions will knock you off course. It may be easy to stay focused if you have a fight schedule, but how consistent are you with nothing set?
Tip #3: Get in the Gym.
Strength and conditioning is essential, but beware! Not all workouts are created equal. Make sure to find a good coach that can help you develop a plan that fits your needs, schedule, and helps you reach your goals. It doesn’t matter if you can bench press a house or throw 300 lbs over your head 100 times. MMA requires mobility, stability, strength, speed, and power that
can be maintained over time and in a variety of positions. It is a unique set of demands that most programs never address completely.
Tip #4: Take Time OFF.
Stress (training, workouts, etc) breaks the body down. You become stronger and build back up during times of rest. Taking time off is vital for your body and mind! Being fresh and prepared for one workout a day is more beneficial than forcing three and not retaining anything and performing like crap. Take a day or two off every week and at least one week off after a fight.
Tip #5: Get 8-9 Hours of Sleep.
Your body does amazing things when you sleep well. If you are not sleeping, then make this the highest priority. Sleeping allows your body to repair itself. I know you’ve heard it a million times, but make it happen.
Tip #6: Start Tracking What You Eat.
Food is fuel, period. Feed your body good fuel and it will perform better. Stronger bones, quicker muscle recovery, strength, reduced inflammation, higher energy levels, and many other benefits come from eating healthier. One of the easiest ways to change your eating is to become conscious of everything that goes in your mouth. I’m not a psychologist, but somehow writing it down makes you see the difference between what you thought you were doing and what you were actually doing. Write it down!
Tip #7: Do Some Type of Myofascial Release.
Foam rollers, massage, ART, sticks, balls, etc. are all amazing tools that will help you reduce soreness, avoid injury, recover quicker, perform at a higher level, and just feel better. These are life savers, so if you don’t use them, start! And if you don’t know how to use them, figure it out quickly, because these will save you from years of unneeded misery.
Tip #8: Ice it Down.
If you strain a joint, muscle, or just have a very intense workout, take the time to ice down afterwards. Could be a simple ice pack for 20 minutes or as intense as an ice bath. Ice is one of the most underrated fixes on the planet.
Tip #9: Try Contrast Showers.
Contrast showers are basically 1 minute of hot water, followed by 30 seconds of cold water, repeating 5-10 times. Initially it is a shock, but you go numb after a couple cycles. This is great for increasing blood flow and speeding recovery.
MMA is a raw sport that is evolving into an incredible chess match of mind, body, and will. It is sport and competition in its purest form. It is exciting to watch the sport evolve and is rewarding to help young athletes chase and achieve their dreams. I truly hope that this information helps you get more out of your training and enables you to perform at a higher level.
This article was featured in the March 2011 Issue of the My Mad Methods Magazine. "Overtraining & MMA How to Avoid Common Mistakes" was written by Corey Beasley. Learn more about the My Mad Methods Magazine by Clicking Here
Corey Beasley has been a strength and conditioning coach for over 10 years. He owns Innovative Results, in Costa Mesa CA, which utilizes 'out fo the box' training methods to assist their clients look better, feel better and perform better. Corey works with elite level wreslters, jiu jitsu, and MMA athletes. Find out more.
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