Fighting Fit

Fighting Fit


As the new striking coach for Team Alpha Male, former UFC fighter Duane “Bang” Ludwig has come out of the gate firing. Three of his Team Alpha Male fighters (Joseph Benavidez, Chad Mendes, and TJ Dillashaw) earned knockouts on the UFC on Fox 7 card, while Urijah Faber’s crisp striking helped him earn a submission win at the TUF 17 Finale.

With more than 50 kickboxing bouts and 30 MMA fights under his belt, Ludwig knows a thing or two about the striking game, and his BANG Muay Thai affiliate gyms ( are popping up all over the country. “The team is doing all the hard work,” says Ludwig. “BMT is just helping them become even more badass ninjas.”

This month, Ludwig and Team Alpha Male bantamweight TJ Dillashaw show readers a combo from the BMT System. Follow closely, as BANG Muay Thai has its own terminology. Leave it to Ludwig to create his own codes.

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1) Duane and TJ square off in orthodox stances.

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2) TJ begins his BANG Muay Thai “3-Shake-Fit In” combo by throwing a left jab. The goal is to get your opponent’s attention by attacking upstairs. It’s important to keep your feet in sync with your hands.

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3) TJ throws a right cross, while protecting his chin with his left hand.
4) TJ finishes his initial combo with a left hook.
5) TJ changes levels and begins his “shake” (shaking his head to the outside) and “fit in” (stepping with his left leg to the outside of Duane’s right leg for a fake shot). Now TJ’s head is to the outside and “off the tracks,” which keeps Duane from connecting with a cross or overhand.

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6) As Duane’s hands drop to counter/defend the shot, TJ drives forward in a southpaw stance, as if he is finishing the double-leg takedown.
7) TJ explodes upward and throws a left cross.
8) TJ finishes the combo by throwing a right hook.

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Optional Double-Leg Finish

If Duane doesn’t counter/defend the shot correctly in #6, TJ can finish the double-leg by cutting the angle and driving Duane 45 degrees to end up in mount or side control.


When you see a fighter gas it’s usually not because he’s out of shape. Sometimes there’s more going on than meets the eye.

We’ve seen it before, and it’s an awful thing to watch. It’s the middle of a fight, everything’s going well, and before you know it, a fighter “gasses out.” Sometimes he’s saved by the bell, and sometimes he’s even able to defend himself enough to continue and regain his strength. More often than not, however, he’s left defenseless, and his opponent takes advantage and ends the fight.

Clay Guida vs Gray MaynardCountless fighters have lost fights this way—even some of the biggest matches of their careers. And it’s not because their opponents had more skill or better strategy, but because they gassed. From amateurs to top professionals, regardless of the level of competition, gassing out is the great equalizer in combat sports.

Given the obvious importance of making it through an entire fight without gassing—not to mention what’s often at stake for a fighter’s career—we need to know why so many fighters gas out in the first place. This would be understandable, to a degree, if we’re talking solely about amateur athletes, but when world titles change hands because one of the fighters gassed, it’s clear this phenomenon has little relation to skill level or experience. In fact, it’s rare to see an entire card, even at the UFC level, without someone gassing out.

We see these debates online all the time. People want to know why fighters did or didn’t do certain things when they lose, and when it’s because they gas, the near-universal consensus is that it happened because they “weren’t in shape.” After all, when you’re out of shape, you’re bound to gas out sooner or later – and when you’re in shape, it means you can always last bell-to-bell, right?

The casual fan believes the answer to this last question is a resounding “yes,” but the real answer is far more complex than you’ve been led to believe. If you don’t know anything about the sport and you watch a UFC card, it probably doesn’t look much different from a bar brawl. If you’ve tried MMA for even a day, however, you understand and appreciate how incredibly technical and precise the sport is. In this same spirit, gassing out is far more complex than most people realize.

The more you understand about how energy production in combat sports really works, the more obvious it becomes that thinking fighters gas simply because they’re out of shape is akin to believing that getting in a lot of street fights qualifies you for the UFC. If you don’t understand the tremendous skill involved in fighting, this may seem logical, but anyone who has ever set foot in a gym and trained knows it’s just not that simple.

MMA Conditioning Myth Busting

To begin to form an understanding of the bigger picture with regard to conditioning, gassing out, and being in shape for combat sports, we need to start with a clean slate and put an end to many of the common myths surrounding the topic. Despite its importance and the frequency with which gassing out occurs, there are more misconceptions about this aspect of the sport than almost any other.

“He built up too much lactic acid”

Despite the fact that scientists have known that this is not the case for many years, this myth is all-too-frequently cited as the underlying mechanism of what happens when a fighter gasses out—even by otherwise knowledgeable people. The truth, however, is that lactic acid is never the reason fighters gas out. This is because it doesn’t even exist in the human body (Robergs RA, 2004). There is never any lactic acid in your muscles, either during fights or otherwise.

Instead, a substance known as lactate is produced when your body breaks down carbohydrates and turns them into an energy source your muscles can use through a process called anaerobic (without oxygen) glycolysis. Rather than causing fatigue in your muscles, the chemical steps that result in lactic formation actually help prevent fatigue and are an absolutely vital process in energy production. In other words, lactate is your friend, not your foe.

“He ran out of gas”

This is a catch-all term that essentially means a fighter is running low on energy, and it’s another one that seems to make sense on the surface, yet fails to hold up under the microscope of exercise physiology.

The truth is that the chemical fuel on which your muscles and your entire body run, Adenosine Triphosphate (ATP), never drops below 60 percent of resting levels in working muscles, even during the most intense periods of exercise and exertion (Westerblad H, 2010). Fights also don’t last long enough for your muscles to run out of glycogen, the stored sugar used to make ATP.

You don’t fatigue because your muscles run out of energy. It doesn’t happen, because your body is smarter than you. If your car runs out of gas, you just end up getting stuck somewhere. By contrast, if your muscles actually did ever run completely out of ATP, there would be serious cellular damage, and you’d be in major trouble.

To prevent this from happening, the body has a number of failsafe mechanisms in place to make sure your muscles never run as low on ATP as people run their cars on gas. The entire metabolic system is designed to make sure there is always gas left in your tank. It may look like a fighter has no energy left whatsoever when he’s gassing out, but in actuality, his tank is more than half full.

“He Was Just Out Of Shape”

We’ve all heard fighters say they feel like they’re in the best shape of their lives going into fights—or talking about how they’re able to “go forever” in training—only to end up gassing out in the second round. What happens there? Were these guys not in the kind of shape they thought they were in? Are all fighters who gas out in bad shape?

There are two sides to the equation here: energy production and energy expenditure. If you don’t look at both sides, you’re failing to see the whole picture, and this makes it easy to formulate incorrect assumptions. Energy management is really what determines whether a fighter can go bell-to-bell—or ends up gassed out and face-down on the canvas.

Picture two fighters who are both in the same shape. They’re about to fight each other. Fighter A is determined to finish the fight quickly and loves to knock out people, so he swings for the fences with every punch and is constantly pressing forward. Fighter B, by contrast, is highly defensive. He’s patient and carefully picks his shots—always waiting for a mistake to capitalize on before exploding and expending a lot of energy.

It’s not hard to see which fighter is more likely to end up gassing out. Fighter A is constantly expending more energy at a much faster rate than Fighter B, so consequently, he’ll fatigue much more quickly. If he can’t finish the fight early, he’ll likely be significantly slower and gassed out by the end.

This difference in energy management—how and when each fighter chooses to use the energy they’re capable of producing—plays the biggest role in how quickly they fatigue. A fighter can be in great shape, but if he manages his energy poorly, he’ll still end up gassed before a fighter who’s smarter about his pacing and energy expenditure. This is why fighters gas out at all levels of the sport. The top professionals are typically in much better shape than the guys at the bottom, and they’re still producing a great deal more energy. No matter what kind of shape they’re in, however, they can
still gas if they don’t use their energy wisely.

Why MMA Fighters Really Gas Out

To understand exactly why poor energy management can lead to gassing out, you have to examine the basics of energy production. We’ve established that muscles don’t fatigue because of lactic acid buildup, and they’re not running out of energy, so what’s really happening?

Although science can’t fully explain the mechanisms yet, it’s well documented that the greater force and power a muscle produces, the faster it fatigues (Enoka RM, 1992). This is why you can’t run a mile at the same pace you can sprint 100 meters. The more energy your body produces anaerobically (without oxygen), the more power it can generate—but the faster it will fatigue. Higher power activities require ATP to be supplied at a greater rate, so more of it has to come from anaerobic energy production.

Every fighter differs in how much energy they can produce aerobically and how much they can produce anaerobically—and there’s an inverse relationship between the two (Wadley G, 1998). The more energy a fighter can produce aerobically, the better his endurance will be, but the less force and power he’ll be capable of generating. By contrast, fighters capable of the highest power levels also experience the greatest rate of fatigue. This inherent tradeoff between a high work rate (power) and the ability to maintain it, combined with management of energy expenditure, provides the big picture of why fighters really gas out.

Fighters capable of producing a great deal of energy aerobically and managing it effectively will last from bell-to-bell every time. Fighters who can’t produce as much aerobically and have to rely on the anaerobic side—or fighters who don’t know how to pace themselves—are much more likely to gas out every time. The truth here is that energy production and management is as complex and variable as the fight-specific skills that are being fueled. To the educated eye, gassing out is not a simple issue at all, but yet another piece of a complex puzzle that ultimately determines whose hand is raised and who is left lying on the canvas.

Enoka RM, S. D. (1992). Neurobiology of Muscle Fatigue. Journal of Applied Physiology , 72:1631-1648.
Robergs RA, G. F. (2004). Biochemistry of exercise induced metabolic acidosis. Am J Physiol Regul Integr Comp Physiol , 287: R502–R516.
Wadley G, L. R. (1998). The relationship between repeated sprint ability and the aerobic and anerobic energy systems. Journal of Science Med Sport , 1:100-110.
Westerblad H, B. J. (2010). Skeletal Muscle: Energy Metabolism, Fiber Types, Fatigue and Adaptability. Experimental Cell Research , 3093-3099.


With so much emphasis in recent years being placed on the development of explosive power, endurance training or “road work” has lost some of it’s luster. But while endurance training for the average athlete may not produce results as quickly as intervals, at the elite level, the small percentages in return can be the difference between lifting UFC gold or becoming a name that could have been.

Building your aerobic capacity to augment your explosive anaerobic capabilities is important for several reasons. A larger aerobic base means your anaerobic engine is used less often, sparing it for more critical moments in the fight. And because ATP is a byproduct of aerobic respiration, a large aerobic base means your anaerobic engine has more fuel at it’s disposal. These increases in efficiency also mean faster recovery times between rounds and faster recovery after workouts.

For centuries, warriors of all cultures have relied on running and endurance training as a fundamental component of a well balanced training program. As the sport of MMA evolves, even fighters with the most elite level of a particular skill, have to develop a balanced game in order to succeed. The same is true for conditioning. Make time for your road work and you will be one step closer to reaching your full potential as a fighter.


A resting heart rate as low as Michael Bisping’s phenomenal 34bpm, doesn’t come easy. Only a highly effi cient aerobic system with a high red blood cell count, and cells bursting with energy producing mitochondria can cruise along at such a slow rhythm. FIGHT! Recommends using MRI’s newest product EO2 VMAX in conjunction with your regular conditioning to help boost your aerobic base and overall fitness. Available now at

Anyone who’s watched the UFC or other mixed martial arts events is familiar with the armbar, and everyone who has trained in MMA has undoubtedly been caught in one. The armbar is one of the fi rst submissions Jiu-Jitsu players learn, and it is the basis of many submissions in BJJ and MMA. We know how to put our opponent in an armbar, but what exactly happens when we make our opponent tap? Injuries to the elbow joint are most common, but damage can extend to the ligaments and bones in the elbow as well.

To understand what happens to the elbow in a properly executed armbar, we fi rst have to understand basic elbow anatomy. The elbow is primarily a hinge joint composed of three bones: the humerus (upper arm), the ulna (pinky side of forearm), and radius (thumb side of forearm). The elbow fl exes from 140° to 150°, extends from 0° to 10°, and rotates (pronates and supinates) in both directions about 90°. Ligaments known as the ulnar collateral and radial collateral ligaments stabilize the elbow joint on opposite sides to prevent the elbow from bending inwards and outwards. These two ligaments are fan-shaped structures that combine to form a watertight capsule which surrounds the elbow joint and keeps the synovial fl uids that lubricate the joint where they need to be. There is also an annular ligament that wraps around the head of the radius to keep it in place next to the ulna. The biceps tendon attaches on the front of the forearm and allows us to fl ex our elbows (and resist an armbar attempt), while the triceps tendon attaches on the ulna behind the elbow.

If an armbar is held for too long, there are a number of injuries that can occur at the elbow. The most common are injuries to the joint capsule and collateral ligaments. In some people (primarily women and adolescents), the elbow can hyperextend to about 10° before some kind of structural damage occurs. Since the joint capsule is made of inelastic connective tissue, it will tear if enough force is applied. Over time, repetitive strain on the joint capsule and ligaments can cause pain and laxity in the elbow joint.

As the joint capsule and ligaments are stretched beyond their normal limits, the part of the forearm known as the olecranon compresses into the back of the elbow called the olecranon fossa. This direct pressure from bone on bone contact can be very painful and is usually what makes us tap before more damage occurs. If the elbow is hyperextended repeatedly from years of training, or suddenly from a quickly executed armbar, it can result in small chips to the bone and cartilage which is referred to as osteochondritis. Sometimes these loose fragments need to be removed if it causes pain and interferes with normal fl exion and extension at the elbow.

As a general rule, our bones are the strongest parts of our bodies, but it is not uncommon for the connective tissues to withstand more force than bones before being damaged. We all grimace when we see replays of what happened to Tim Sylvia’s arm in his fi ght against Frank Mir in UFC 48. When an armbar is applied, the knees and thighs are squeezed around the arm while the hips are extended upwards exerting a tremendous amount of force on the bones in the forearm. The resistance supplied by the inherent strength of the ligaments and the additional resistance from the action of the biceps pulling upwards can put more stress on the forearm. This can lead to a fracture in the shaft of the radius or ulna. A fracture to the ulna is referred to as a Monteggia fracture and almost always requires surgical repair through open reduction and internal fi xation with plates and screws.

Anytime you sustain an elbow injury from an armbar, the most important thing to do is avoid further trauma. No good will come from continuing to train or compete with a serious injury. Tenderness and swelling around the elbow are obvious signs of injury. Popping or clicking sounds are also common following elbow injuries, but should not be a cause for concern unless the elbow locks or is painful as it makes noise. Any visible deformities around the elbow and forearm could indicate more serious injuries, including fractures or dislocation and should be evaluated by a physician immediately. X-rays, CT scans, and MRIs can rule out conditions like osteochondritis, bursitis, bone fragments, and stress fractures.

Once the elbow pain has subsided and you are able to do basic drills, a solid rehab routine is always recommended. Any strength training or resistance exercises to increase grip, wrist, and forearm strength along with biceps and triceps exercises would be appropriate. Elbow braces and certain taping techniques may help with problems with laxity and can help prevent further injury during training, but it probably won’t do much during the heat of competition. Elbow injuries are inevitable in BJJ and submission grappling, so be prepared to deal with the consequences next time you decide to go for an armbar or refuse to tap out from one.


You’ll notice plenty of talk and press about anti-inflammatory foods, supplements and medications these days. Inflammation certainly sounds bad, but is it always so? And what exactly is this seemingly pesky thing? Inflammation is part of our body’s innate immune response—we’re born with it. Without it, we wouldn’t heal. When something harmful is irritating your system or a body part sustains a blow, the signs of inflammation are ready and on the scene to attempt to remove, care, heal and protect.

Acute inflammation due to things such as intense training, a cut on your skin, or a banged up knee will show symptoms of rapid onset, lasting for a couple days to maybe a week or two depending on severity (Just how banged up was that knee?). Symptoms include pain, redness, immobility, swelling and heat. Chronic inflammation on the other hand, lasting a few months to several years, is seen in conditions such as inflammatory bowel disease, arthritis, and asthma, or when acute issues become chronic. Although a certain amount of inflammation is needed to heal, the continual onslaught over time will start to damage and destroy cells and tissues. More and more research is indicating links between chronic systemic inflammation and conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, allergies, Alzheimer’s, and cancer.

Hopefully most of the inflammation you’re dealing with is acute inflammation stemming from things like a tough training week, a strained joint that won’t keep you down long, skin irritation due to a new laundry detergent, or a random sinus infection. To keep acute inflammation acute, and to keep chronic inflammation from wreaking havoc on your system, make sure you stack your diet with healthy, clean anti-inflammatory foods and nutrients from the list below.

Wild salmon is packed with EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), two polyunsaturated fatty acids considered essential as we cannot make them ourselves. We must consume them either via food or supplemental sources. Along with salmon, oily fish such as sardines, mackerel, tuna, trout, and anchovies also make the list, with wild salmon usually winning the title of most popular and appetizing with fewest toxins. Along with being anti-inflammatory, wild salmon also supports cardiovascular, cognitive and immune function.

This spice is found predominantly in Indian and Asian cuisine and can be identified by its bright orangey-yellow color and slightly bitter, peppery warm flavor. Curcumin, one of its major compounds, should be of interest to athletes as well as anyone dealing with pain and inflammation, due to its ability to mimic the power of popular anti-inflammatory meds without the negative side effects. Other benefits include antioxidant, immune and cardiovascular support.

Blueberries may be small in size, but their phytonutrient content keeps them standing with the big boys, thanks in great part to their powerful antioxidant rich anthocyanins. All berries show promise, so include a variety in your diet, but blueberries most likely take top spot. Not as sweet as berries but just as potent, tart cherry juice has been shown to help reduce post-exercise pain and soreness leading to shorter recovery times.

Long revered as an important part of the Mediterranean style diet (known to decrease risk of heart disease), olive oil’s extensive list of polyphenols make it a major contributor in the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory departments. Although its weaker tolerance for heat may not make it the best cooking oil (go for higher smoke point coconut oil and avocado oil instead), drizzle garlic infused olive oil over your steamed greens to make your possibly picky taste buds quite happy with that broccoli.

ON THE FLIP SIDE…You want to cool inflammation, not fuel it! The following are some pro-inflammatory foods that are best to avoid/minimize.

Foods containing trans-fats:Avoid these as they’re known to increase bad cholesterol and triglycerides, lower good cholesterol, and cause increased general inflammation.
Foods containing high sugar levels:Minimize foods containing high levels of added sugar, as it can increase inflammation and stress the immune system.
Conventionally raised, grain fed meats:Go for organic/grass fed/pastured instead.
Processed foods:Check any bag of cookies, crackers or packaged snack items in your pantry, and you’ll see that they typically contain high levels of omega-6 rich safflower oil, sunflower oil, corn oil, etc. When eaten in abundance without the regular balance of omega 3’s (like those in wild salmon) inflammation is increased.
Gluten and Dairy:For some individuals, gluten (wheat, rye, barley, spelt, possibly oats) and dairy can be pro-inflammatory. Whole, unprocessed gluten free items such as sweet potatoes and quinoa as well as low sugar milk substitutes like unsweetened almond and coconut milks are great alternatives.

In addition to a proper diet, adding a high quality glucosamine & chondrotitin supplement will help keep your joint inflammation down. Just ask Don Frye, Duane Ludwig, or any of the members of Team Alpha Male. They all rely on GLC 2000 to keep their mobility smooth. A 90 Day Supply is $56.95. Buy online at


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UFC middleweight Dan Hardy uses yoga to take his training to an enlightened level.

Just over a year ago, I began a steady and consistent practice of Bikram yoga. The 90-minute beginning class consists of 26 postures, each performed twice and held for up to 60 seconds. The room is a stifling 105 degrees, with 40 percent humidity, which is much too hot for someone born in a country that gets five days of sun each year (but I do love the British summertime). There is only one thing that would keep me going back into that room over and over: the benefits seen and felt almost immediately in my training camp. This was the first time I had introduced training sessions into a fight preparation that were dedicated entirely to recovery and physical wellbeing.

This particular practice was derived from a selection of traditional Hatha yoga postures. It was Bikram Choudhury who formulated this approach to the practice, before his moral and ethical devolution once his brand was established and he became famous and wealthy. I had tried a few different types of yoga throughout my martial arts career in my endless and seemingly impossible quest for flexibility. Bikram yoga was new to me—I had not heard of it until my friend and coach Alder Hampel suggested it to help with my leg dexterity for jiu-jitsu. We did two sessions (one week apart), and I spent a good portion of the class lying on my mat trying to stop my limbs and abdominal muscles from cramping.

My brief experience had been thrown in the draw with all other yoga that didn’t seem to fit with my training camp. It wasn’t until I spent a couple of weeks in Peru that it came to mind again, and I felt an immediate pull to start back upon returning to Las Vegas. I think I may have left a chunk of my ego in the Amazon because I no longer cared if the 80-year-old woman on the mat next to me was kicking my ass, while I was sitting in a sweaty mess on my sodden towel. Finally, at age 30, I had committed myself to getting flexible, before my joints started to creak when I got out of bed in the morning.

The first few weeks were tough, and I occasionally had to leave the room to let nausea pass or take a few minutes off to stretch out a cramped muscle. Eventually, my diet adjusted, and I knew that the three-hour window before class started was a water-only time. I noticed right away that certain foods couldn’t be eaten on days when I practiced, so they eventually became excluded all together. I was craving a lot more fresh food, fruits and vegetables, and less animal products. I was adding salts to my water and keeping a constant watch on the volume I was drinking. I began to find my rhythm, feeling hydrated throughout the class even after sweating an average of seven pounds each session. I was able to focus on my physical improvements, keeping a mental note of my capabilities in each posture.


image descFrom years of keeping my chin tucked, I had developed a slight forward head posture, which made it uncomfortable to sit for long periods or sleep on my back. With the strong focus on back bending throughout the series, my posture began correcting itself. As you can see in Half-Moon Backbend (Photo A), my spine flexibility is starting to improve, allowing me to look at the wall behind me. This was impossible 12 months ago. The key for all of these postures is the movement into them—it has to be gentle and mindful. In Half-Moon Backbend there should always be a lifting out of the waist to elongate the spine. I still have a very ridged mid-spine, so I put my mind in that part of my body during the stretch and try to relax into the posture a little more.

Aside from the flexibility gains, I found that the stability in my knees and ankles improved. For a posture like Standing Head-to-Knee (Photo B), flexibility in your hamstrings is not enough. Entering into the position, you have to extend your leg, while keeping the standing leg locked, then round your back and bend your arms down to place your forehead high on the knee. Although the contracted quadriceps on the standing leg does most of the work, there are a lot of supporting muscles holding steady to prevent any sideways movement in the joints. I enjoy visualizing my standing foot as a magnet that I cannot separate from my magnetic yoga mat, focusing on driving down into the ground and using that energy exchange to root myself.

This is a fairly recent posture for me, as I struggled a lot with balance when I began rounding my back and stretching forward. There is also an emphasis on pulling the toes back toward the head and keeping the extended leg locked. The advancement of this position is removing the hands from the foot whilst keeping the forehead on the knee. It was this posture that taught me about the value of a meditative state during practice. I found that if I wasn’t mindful of my breathing and focus, my balance would only hold a few seconds once my leg was extended. With a calm and focused approach, I can hold fairly comfortably for much longer. Think of being mindful as filling the stretched or unstable body part with your mind. Be present in that space within yourself and learn to support in with your focus.

image descTree Pose (Photo C) and Triangle Pose (Photos D) have been very useful in opening up my hip muscles. I always think of these as the “guard” muscles—the ones that have to do so much work to control an opponent in your guard. All of the grappling arts demand strong and powerful hips, but the danger is that it can lead to a tightening of those muscles if they aren’t stretched a lot. My hip flexors have been tight from years of kicking and kneeing, even to the point where sitting cross-legged can be uncomfortable.

Tree Pose (Photo C) is much more gentle and didn’t take too long to improve my front and inner hip muscles (adductor brevis and longus, pectineus, and iliopsoas). I started by holding my foot high on my thigh and driving my hips forward, until my flexibility allowed me to remove my grip without the foot slipping at all. Once I have my balance and my foot is high on my thigh and my hands are in prayer, I role my hips forward and lengthen my spine like a child trying to appear taller than they really are. The following posture in the series is toe stand, which I am still struggling with. It is basically the same posture except the base leg is bent so it seems like you are sitting on your heel.

Triangle Pose (Photo D) opens up the whole body, from the foot of my straight leg to the hip and glutes of my supporting leg. The simultaneous upward and downward reaching elongates the muscles in the torso and creates a twisting stretch that lengthens the hip flexors and adductors.

image descPhotos E, F, and G are some of the advanced 84-posture series, most of which are a real challenge for me at the moment. Finger Stand (Photo E)—and thanks to Bruce Lee I did hundreds of fingertip pushups over the years—is fairly comfortable for me. Keeping your legs locked and strong makes a huge difference here. After that, the effort is predominantly in the core, keeping the whole body tight and the legs raised.

Peacock (Photo F) requires more core strength and muscular endurance than flexibility, whereas Upward Stretching (Photo G) requires good core strength, but also a fair amount of suppleness in your hamstrings. I found that this posture needed less effort from contracted muscles as my hamstring flexibility increased.

Fortunately, the popularity of yoga is widespread now, and in many cases there are several options of styles and studios. I enjoy the Bikram style because I feel it’s a little easier to stretch in the heat. Other styles of yoga aren’t quite as uncomfortable but will still be very beneficial. If you can’t get to a class, there is a wealth of information online to draw from. Try taking a few minutes each day to stretch out and reconnect with yourself. Even if it’s just some basic stretches, be gentle and explore your body’s capabilities. For me, yoga is about awareness of self, appreciation of the vehicle you have for this human experience, and understanding the potential and adaptability of the body. After these practice sessions, I feel lighter, motivated, and focused. I have been a lot more productive, healthier, and felt more alive than ever before.

Heating Up

I know that a lot of people, particularly at the start of their practice, will find the heat to be too much. One of the flaws in Mr. Bikram’s attitude toward teaching, and something that has been passed on to some teachers, is this ego about the heat of the room. The benefits of the heat are that your body will naturally be more supple and it will be easier to stretch to your maximum in the postures. However, if you find that the heat is causing you to spend a lot of time on your mat feeling nauseated, then it is counterproductive. Ask the teachers at the studio where the cooler spots in the room are. Your practice will only improve if you can do the practice. If you are unlucky enough to find yourself with a heat miser for a teacher, use the cooler spot or find a studio with less ego.

Food for Thought

Since beginning yoga, I primarily avoid dairy, pork, processed foods, and fast food. I usually have one animal product each week, but only in the evening, and never before practice. The last time I ate fast food was January 2. I ate lemon chicken from a Chinese takeout, and in my next yoga session (which wasn’t for another week because of travel), I lay on my mat for most of class feeling nauseous and reliving every bite of that meal.

I’ve developed some kind of new internal sense that tells me what is and isn’t welcome in my diet. I don’t even crave that stuff any more. I know that the immediate gratification is not worth the stress it puts on my body. 


UFC Welterweight Matt Brown demonstrates a functional strength workout for increased core and lower body power.

Utilizing the Westside Barbell System under the guidance of Louie Simmons, the goals of this strength and conditioning routine are to increase overall strength, paying particular attention to the lower back, hips, and glutes, while increasing dynamic muscular endurance. Try adding this workout to your weekly routine for lower body stability.


This exercise is superior in developing whole body General Physical Preparedness (GPP). Matt walks for a steady pace for a determined time, or he performs multiple trips of 60 yards, changing positions and walking styles, such as rickshaw style, walking backwards, and walking forward with a high knee. You can wear ankle weights and a weight vest to make the exercise more challenging. This exercise builds up the entire posterior chain, trunk, traps, and hand grip.

Duration: 5 minutes

Rest: 30-60 seconds between exercises


Matt starts in a wide sumo stance with an over-under grip. He grasps the bar with his arms locked out and his shoulders pulled back, while keeping his legs straight to pre-stretch his hamstrings. He pulls himself down to the bar by lowering his glutes and pushing his knees out. Matt pulls the bar back toward him, keeping his lower back arched and “trying to spread the floor” with his feet by pushing his knees out and squeezing his glutes toward the top of the movement. Using doubled-over mini bands will cause a forced over-speed eccentric phase. This is vital because kinetic energy is gathered in the eccentric phase. This causes a sudden release of elastic energy stored in the tendons and soft tissues of the body. Heavier weight will not add to the rebound phase as effectively as using an over-speed eccentric phase.

3 sets of 10 reps

Rest: 30 seconds between sets


Matt places the bar on his back in a squat position, while keeping his lead leg in front. He bends over, rounding his upper back until he feels he reaches the correct position. Matt uses his lower back to initiate movement at the bottom, while firing his hamstrings and squeezing his glutes toward the top of the movement. Adding the bands to the front of the bar takes away the bio-mechanical advantage at the top of lift, which makes Matt work through a full range of motion. This exercise will build erectors, hamstrings, and glutes due to extending the legs and back simultaneously.

3-5 sets of 10-15 reps each side

Rest: 30-45 seconds between sets


This is another exercise that is superior in developing whole body GPP, which is a crucial for cardiovascular efficiency and muscular development. Matt performs this exercise by power walking with long strides and pulling with his heels. This works the glutes and hamstrings while also building calf muscles and hips (both front and back). Always walk and never run with a sled. The chaotic effect of the bamboo bar will target kinetic energy to the shoulders, elbows, biceps, and lower back to strengthen stabilizing muscles and allow for healthy joint function.

Duration: 5 minutes

Rest: 30-60 seconds between exercises


By Tom Barry |

Eddie Wineland’s strength and conditioning training is just as unconventional as his appearance. Applied Strength & Conditioning coach Jason Gus carefully utilizes the training principles taught by Louie Simmons of Westside Barbell to develop Eddie’s absolute strength, explosive strength, and dynamic muscle endurance. The goal of these five exercises is to develop these strength types by targeting the muscles (hips, lower back, and glutes) that give Eddie his knockout power and his never-ending gas tank.

image desc1. Resistance Band Grappling

Sets: 2-3, Duration: 5 Minutes

This exercise can be used as a warm-up or as a main accessory exercise. It is well known that grappling works the whole body. Adding a resistance band around the waist adds an extra 50 to 200 lbs. of resistance that constantly pulls Eddie backward. This exercise forces him to explode forward in order to overcome band resistance. The band relentlessly forces Eddie to push his hips forward. This will develop isometric strength and dynamic endurance in his hip flexors.


image desc2. “Gus Grapples” Medicine Ball Drill

Sets: 1, Duration: 5 Minutes

The goal of this exercise is to train Eddie’s overall muscular endurance as well as his ability to recruit his explosive strength at any stage during a fight. To perform correctly, focus on maximal acceleration as you take three steps forward, while simultaneously throwing the medicine ball. It is vital that constant tension is kept on the bands at the start and finish of every movement.

This exercise mimics the central nervous system demands that occur during grappling exchanges against the cage and helps to train Eddie to keep constant forward pressure with his hips. To avoid adaptation, numerous movements with the medicine ball while varying the band tension or changing the ball weight can be implemented (super-set this exercise with sumo deadlifts and your explosive power will go through the roof).


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3. Belt Squat Walk (Westside Style)

Sets: 2-3, Duration: 5 Minutes

This exercise is a tremendous hip and glute developer that provides a carryover to Eddie’s kick and knee power. While standing in a wide stance on the boxes, Eddie will “belt squat walk” by shuffling his weight from his right leg to his left leg while contracting his glutes for five minutes. To add variety, he will perform 10-15 reps of high knee strikes to a pad, or he will squat to parallel and then return to walking until the five minute duration is up. To change up the exercise, Eddie will add stronger bands, heavier kettlebells, or swing the kettlebell in order to focus more on stabilization.


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4. Sled Drag with Pummeling

Sets: 1, Duration: 5 Minutes

This exercise will build up the entire posterior chain while simultaneously building muscle endurance. Attach a sled to a weightlifting belt around your waist and explosively walk forward with long strides. While walking forward, have your training partner pummel with you for one-minute-on and one-minute-off intervals for the five-minute duration. Remember to always keep walking forward, pulling from the heels.


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5. Sled Drag with Atlas Stone Carry

Sets: 10, Duration: 60-Yard Trips

This exercise develops sheer brute force. The awkward position of carrying the atlas stone with a Gable grip presses against the diaphragm, making it hard to breath. This exercise is an incredible conditioning exercise. It will build muscle endurance in addition to developing strength.
Eddie will use a Gable grip (overlap hand grip) around the atlas stone, while pulling his shoulders back and keeping the core of his body tight. He will power-walk forward with a sled for 60 yards and immediately return to where he started.


By Luke Rockhold // Photos by Paul Thatcher

Luke Rockhold gets his blood pumping with “Crazy” Bob Cook’s four-station circuit at American Kickboxing Academy.

This circuit consists of one minute on the Airdyne bike, then one minute on one of three drills (hitting focus mitts, ground-and-pound body bag, and Russian twists). We go back and forth—bike, drill, bike, drill—for 30 minutes as hard as we can. It’s the most brutal workout ever. It’s more brutal than any fight. We do this circuit three days a week for six weeks straight. The whole time, our coach Bob Cook is watching us—yelling at us to go harder. He’s called “Crazy” Bob Cook for a reason.

Airdyne Intervals – 1 Minute

Keep the airdyne at 85rpm or higher. It will be in the 90s closer to fight time. Go as hard as you can.

Pad Work – 1 Minute

Work on different combinations, including body shots. Focus on your footwork.

Ground-and-Pound – 1 Minute
Rain down punches and elbows. Switch between side guard, half guard, and mount.

Weighted Russian Twists – 1 Minute

Sit on the floor with your knees bent and your feet pinching a body bag. With both hands, hold the sides of a weight plate. Brace your core, and rotate your torso to the right as far as you can. Reverse your movement and twist to the left as far as you can.



It’s unfortunate that the “C” word has become nearly as infamous as “trans fat” among athletes. Carb-phobia is one of the chief concerns that I tackle most often when I meet with new clients. My elite and competitive MMA athletes are particularly carb conscious since they must struggle with keeping close to their desired weight class. The truth is, smart carb planning is key to pushing athletic performance and warding off fatigue during a workout. Here are some of the most common carbohydrate-related questions my clients ask.

How many carbs should I eat each day to maintain my weight and improve performance?

While nutrient recommendations are often given in percentages, it’s far more accurate to determine nutrient needs based on body weight. Endurance athletes require a range from 3 to 5 grams of carbs per pound of body weight while a more casual fitness exerciser requires 2 to 3 grams of carbs per pound of body weight.

Do my muscles use carbohydrates or fat for fuel?

You may be surprised to find out that muscles can use both of these nutrients under different circumstances. Exercise duration and intensity are the key factors that determine which source is preferable. Fat is the predominant fuel source at rest and low-intensity exercise. Carbohydrates are burned during BOTH high-intensity, short-duration anaerobic exercise and high-intensity aerobic exercise. So whether you’re planning on a long run or shorter bouts of explosive lifting, carbs will energize your performance.

Will a high carbohydrate diet make me gain weight?

When it comes to weight gain, it’s really a matter of looking at overall calorie intake over a weekly period. Excessive calories lead to weight gain. Carbs, in fact, offer the same number of calories per gram as protein (4 calories/ gram). While protein is a particularly filling nutrient, carb-rich high-fiber foods like oats, whole-grain breads, and beans are also very filling because they are digested slowly and offer a nice and steady release of blood sugar. Planning for carbs to play a significant role in the diet will give any serious athlete an advantage. Weight gain can be avoided so long as an athlete maintains a balance between calorie intake and energy expenditure.

Should I try “carbo-loading” strategies to increase muscle glycogen stores before a fight?

Muscle glycogen is the storage form of carbs in the muscle tissue and is the preferred fuel source during high-intensity exercise over blood sugar. Including quality carbohydrate sources throughout the course of the day will help keep glycogen stores full. “Carb loading” is a strategy that involves planning a highcarbohydrate diet in order to increase the amount of glycogen that can be stored within muscle tissue. While this strategy is indeed effective, it is only useful for events or competitions that last longer than 90 minutes in duration. So for a three- or five-round fight, carb loading isn’t likely to influence athletic performance.

How should I time my carb intake before a workout?

The pre-workout food should be predominantly carbohydrate based and lower in both fat and protein. A large meal takes about 3 to 4 hours to fully digest, and a smaller snack can take 1 to 2 hours to leave the stomach. So the best portion of food will depend on when you plan to work out after eating. Since most people prefer to eat within an hour or two prior to exercise, some good choices for that time frame include:

• ½ whole-grain bagel with a thin spread of natural peanut butter • 1 cup of plain fat free yogurt with one banana

• one serving of oatmeal with ½ cup blueberries • one Nature Valley Granola bar with two egg whites

• 1 cup whole-grain cereal with 1 cup skim or light soy milk

• one serving of whole-grain pretzels with one serving of reduced fat string cheese


Lunges are a great unilateral (one-leg) exercise option that can help improve your stance, level changes, directional changes, and punching power. By focusing on the strength and ability of each leg independently, it allows you to “bring up” your weak side and reduce your chance of injury. Add these three lunge variations to your workout regimen to improve the strength and performance of your lower body.

After a two-year hiatus, heavyweight Todd Duffee returned to the Octagon at UFC 155, earning Knockout of the Night over Phil De Fries. Currently, Duffee is training at American Kickboxing Academy with big boys Cain Velasquez and
Daniel Cormier.


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1. Anterior Leaning Lunge

The anterior leaning lunge provides an eccentric overload stimulus to the hamstrings, glutes, and lower back that can help improve your ability to change levels.

Stand tall and hold a dumbbell in each hand at your side. Step forward with one leg, keeping your front knee bent 20 degrees and your back knee straight. As your front foot hits the ground, simultaneously lean forward by hinging at your hips. Keep your back straight and allow your rear heel to come off the ground. Reverse the motion by stepping backward and returning to a standing position.

Coaching Tips

• Don’t round your back. The anterior (forward) lean should come from hinging at your hip joint.
• Don’t let the dumbbells touch the floor at any point during this exercise.
• Lean your torso forward until it becomes parallel to the floor.
• Keep your back knee straight as you lean into each rep.
• Allow your rear heel to come off the ground as you lean into each rep.


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2. Fighter’s Lunge

The fighter’s lunge creates a reciprocal resistance stimulus by simultaneously strengthening the hip flexors on one side while also working the hip extenders on the other leg. This replicates and improves the force production pattern involved in creating explosive knee strikes.

Stand tall and hold a dumbbell in each hand. The dumbbell in your right hand should be outside of your right hip and the dumbbell in your left hand should be in front of your left thigh. Perform a reverse lunge by stepping backward with your left leg, allowing your left knee to gently touch the ground. As you return back to the standing position, allow your left thigh to meet the center handle of the dumbbell. With the dumbbell against the middle of your left thigh, flex your hip and raise your knee just above 90 degrees to the floor (as throwing a knee strike). Step backward again with your left leg and repeat.

Coaching Tips

• As your rear leg comes forward, the dumbbell should be mid-thigh level as you flex your hip.
• As you flex your hip, lift your knee just above your hip joint before returning your leg back for the next rep.
• Your thigh should gently touch the dumbbell.


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3. Lateral Lunge with Cross-Body Reach

The lateral lunge with cross-body reach helps improve the ability of the glutes to load and explode in a manner that transfers force across the body from one side to the other. This helps improve your ability to change direction and throw powerful strikes.

Stand tall and hold a dumbbell in your left hand by your side. Step out laterally with your right leg, allowing your right knee to bend 20 degrees. Simultaneously shift all your weight to your right leg as you reach your left arm in front of your right foot. Explode out of this position and return to the same starting position.

Coaching Tips

• Hinge at your hip joint and do not round your back as you lean forward and reach across your body.
• Keep both feet pointed straight ahead throughout this exercise.
• Do not take long lateral steps (this is not a stretching exercise).
• It is designed to improve your ability to transfer force across your body.
• Your trailing leg should be straight as you begin each lunge.



3-6 reps per leg with each set of lunges.


3-5 total sets of each lunge variation. Be sure to use 1-2 different lunge variations within a given workout.


Lower into each lunge using deliberate control. Explode out of each lunge in a powerful manner while still maintaining solid technique.