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Q & A: Training Periodization for MMA Fighters

Like I said a couple of weeks ago, I want to start doing as close to a weekly Q & A as possible. Now that I have a few questions rolling in, I want to tackle one.

First up is Jeff Brown, who is busy training for his sport throughout the week and isn’t sure where to place his strength training for best results all around.

He writes:

    “I train Monday -Thursday from 6:30 to 8:30 MMA, Grappling, MMA, Grappling. 9 times out of 10 The next morning I am Dog tired and don’t want to lift weights. I was wondering with a schedule like this when do you think is the best time to lift and at what intensities. I don’t want to run the risk of overtraining. How can I find the Supercompensation Phase and Act on it?”

Jeff, thanks for writing in and asking this question, and congratulations on your recent victory. Looking awesome brother!

Jeffrey recently won the 175lb MMA TITLE at Stellar Fights 7 in Harrington DE!

I know from speaking with Jeff in the past on developing his training program, that he works his ass off, which is important. The sheer volume of work this kid is capable of doing is insane. I don’t think I have ever been able to train like that.

However, there is a time for taking it to the limit like that and there is a time to back it down a notch.

I have always looked at training athletes as a balancing act between strength training (working in the gym to build strength and power) and skills training (time on the mat improving your game, specifically).

My suggestion in this case is when you are nearing a fight and there is going to be a lot of time on the mat, striking the bag, rolling and practicing holds, then the amount of time you spend in the gym is going to drop.

Remember, whether you are in the gym lifting weights or if you are int he MMA studio hitting a heavy bag, clenching up with sparring partners, taking and giving shots, working on escapes, etc, all of that stuff entails shock and trauma to the body.

When you’re nearing a fight, you NEED to stay in shape and keep the rust off in order to be in top form when the fight comes up. At that point, the time for building strength is already past you. Now it is time to maintain the strength that you have.

So with your given schedule of high intensity sport-specific fight training Monday through Thursday, my biggest suggestion would be to focus on doing some strength-maintenance training on Friday and/or Saturday.

Since you don’t train MMA on Friday, Saturday or Sunday, these are really your best days. Most likely, you are going to be beat up on Friday, so that may not be an option unless you hit it later on at night, which for some people actually does work out pretty well.

An even better day might be Saturday, in order to work your big movements like Presses, Squats, and Deads, in a low volume manner.

I am talking about a good solid warm-up, and then a few work sets where you stay up around 90% of 1RM in the lifts, followed by a small amount of accessory work, mainly working on treating potentially injury-prone areas, things like the posterior shoulder, lower back, hip mobility – things like this.

So we can call that your weekend workout. Pick the day that works best for you and do the main strength building stuff that day. If you feel well enough to do two workouts over the weekend, AWESOME, but you don’t want to kill your sport-specific training when the week starts back up either.

Specifically, you asked about Supercompensation, which is the body’s ability to adjust itself to a higher level after one training session in order to be better or stronger for the next one. At this stage in the game, this is still possible, given the right amount of rest time, but it is going to come down to many individual factors, for you, Jeff. Diet, sleep time, other stresses to the body like work/labor, bills, etc.

The most important thing for you is to try to find a time during the weekend that you can get some work in on the bigger, multi-joint movements to maintain the strength you have worked so hard to attain.

Another extra workout, on the weekend or during the week if you can handle it, will be a bonus, but the intensity level will most likely be much lower, and then it is a matter of making sure you are replenishing your energy, getting the right food for muscle recovery, and enough sleep to repair damage.

In closing, I will leave you with a quote from Easy Strength, by Pavel and Dan John (a great book I am slowly working my way through):

    “Competitors, especially fighters, often miss the point of strength training. The barbell is not there to make you a better man or test your mettle; that is what the mat, the ring or the kettlebells are for. And you are not training to become a weightlifter or powerlifter. Iron is a means, not a goal.
    Your goal is to excel at your sport, and you lift to get a strength advantage over an opponent of equal skill. And if you hope to be a contender, practicing the skill of your sport must dominate your schedule.”

That is a direct quote from Easy Strength, on page 74, and it pretty much goes along with what I have stated.

I hope this helps you, Jeffrey, and anyone else who competes in a sport at a high level. Remember, there is time for periodization, moderating intensity, and also knowing when to bust your ass in the gym, and when to do so on the mat, field, or court.

If you are interested in reading more of Easy Strength, click here.

Although I am working my way through it at a snail’s pace, I am enjoying it heavily. There is literally an interesting, throught-provoking, or entertaining statement on each and every page!

All the best in your training,


Check out Easy Strength – Click the Image Below

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