What Is Strength And Conditioning?
Is Strength and Conditioning (S&C) lifting weights? Running? Doing Sprints? Hitting the heavy bag? MMA training? Rolling BJJ rounds? Stretching? Wearing ankle weights on your daily commute? All of the above are tools one can use in Strength and Conditioning, but the tools aren't to be confused with the method and process of a well structured Strength and Conditioning program.
A Strength and Conditioning program should be flexible enough to allow you implement it around your schedule; designed so that it beneficially supplements your desired martial art. For example, if you are an avid Brazilian Jiu Jitsu enthusiast, you may well be aware that you would like to improve your ‘gas tank’ during live sparring rounds, have a little bit more explosiveness in your escapes and take-downs, have a crushing, unbreakable grip, and work towards those crazy mobile hips that make your
guard an impassable puzzle for those who face you. Those all sound like worthy attributes that any BJJ enthusiast would long for. The question is, how do you get there? Do you just keep training and hope that they magically manifest into reality over time?
A combat sports, fighting arts or MMA Strength and Conditioning program should be designed so that it supplements your desired art. For example, if you are an avid Brazilian Jiu Jitsu enthusiast, you may well be aware that you would like to improve your "gas tank" during live sparring rounds, have a little bit more explosiveness in your escapes and takedowns, having a crushing, unbreakable grip, and work toward mobile hips that make your guard an impassable puzzle for those who face you.
Those all sound like worthy attributes that any BJJ enthusiast would long for. The question is, how do you get there? Do you just keep training and hope that they magically manifest into reality over time?
What Is the Aim of a Good MMA Strength and Conditioning Program?
Above all else, the primary goal of a combat sports, fighting arts or MMA strength and conditioning program should be injury prevention and performance enhancement. If you have those two bases covered, it means that you can spend more time doing what you love, as opposed to being sidelined with nagging injuries.
Every time you perform strength and conditioning exercises you should be able to answer one key question: “Is this developing my sport specific skills?” In other words, am I gaining benefit from practicing ‘x’ that I cannot derive from practicing the actual martial art that I’m trying to get better at?
All too often people waste their time performing ineffective workouts that aren’t specifically adapted for the athlete’s goals. Merely smashing out a “chest and triceps” gym workout, blasting yourself with some kettle-bells, killing yourself during a WOD (workout of the day) at your local cross-fit gym, or running 10 miles for “the cardio” won’t get you where you want to be. Vague and sporadic approaches like this will are a waste of your precious time and energy.
Gone are the days of aimlessly working hard and hoping that will translate to results on the tatami. Sure, working hard is still an integral piece of the equation, but working out smarter is just as important to implementing a successful strength and conditioning program.
You can’t be the best martial artist that you can be by just practicing your martial art. You’ll miss out on developing too many important physical attributes. You also can’t become the best martial artist you can be by just strength training in the hope of having bigger muscles or more power. Application is key. These two areas have to complement each other well and align with your goals of self improvement.
Getting Started with a MMA Strength & Conditioning Program
Remember that the primary goal of combat arts strength and conditioning is injury prevention.
Movement quality and efficiency are paramount. A martial artist must have fluid and full range of motion in the ways that their art demands. Combat sports, by their very nature, are chaotic and unpredictable. Proper strength and conditioning can make you more resilient to injury. Good movement mechanics and mobility are necessary to avoid catastrophe.
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An effective strength and conditioning program will address range of motion limitations, mobility and flexibility weaknesses.
There are many methods to address and progress in these areas. You could try yoga, develop an “animal movement” style practice, or find a Functional Range Control (FRC) practitioner in your area. Look at fundamental movement patterns and work your way towards efficiency in those areas. See the training section for information and application of these principles.
Once a basic understanding and competence has been established in this area, we can start to look at personalized and periodized plans to improve strength and power output.
Two skills that are incredibly beneficial for athletes, as well as anyone looking to move and age well.
Here, we may employ such strategies as strength training, speed work, agility work, Olympic lifting, ‘unconventional’ methods (kettle-bells, maces and sand bags), cardiovascular endurance, and lactate threshold training, working on these modalities progressively over time.
All of these training modalities are covered in our training section. Once we have these fundamentals in place, we can begin to build a dynamic, highly functioning athlete that is capable of performing at their best while minimizing risk of injury and maximizing rate of recovery.
Our goal at Fighting Arts Health Lab is to help you understand, and provide you with a frame work on how to use the right tools, at the right time. The aim isn’t to provide you with merely a list of tools or exercises but an understanding of how to take those strategies and form them into a well executed, tactical strength and conditioning program that will maximize your investment and avoid over-training and injury.
Above all else, we want to help you become a better combat athlete.