Fighting Fit

Fighting Fit


Finding your summer six pack.

The abdominal region is one of the hardest areas to train, not because the exercises that stress this area are diffi cult to perform, but due to the negative experiences most of us have had with training this muscle group. From sit-up tests in grade school to ab wheels at the gym, abdominal training has been etched into the steel of our minds as both painful and fun-free. Couple that with the fact that most people still have extra baggage around their waist after buying the latest get-absquick gizmo, and it’s no wonder why less people seek out the washboard stomach instead of a little more size on their biceps.


The four exercises in this workout are to be performed as a circuit. Perform the required number of repetitions below, and then rest 30 seconds between each exercise. After the fi nal exercise, rest for two minutes and repeat each circuit for three to fi ve sets, depending
on your level of fitness.


Begin in the plank position, with your back straight. Raise your right leg into the air, and return it to the mat. Repeat with the right leg. 20 reps on each leg.


Begin in a side plank position, with your left arm raised into the air. Raise your left leg into the air, and return it to the mat. Complete 20 reps, switch sides, and complete 20 more reps.


Begin in a standard sit-up position, while your partner locks his arms under your knees and you wedge your feet under his thighs. As
you perform a sit-up, use your core muscles to continue to stand up. Sit down, and repeat for 20 reps.


Begin in a reverse body lock position. Using your core muscles, lift your partner and arch him to the other side. Keep your grip, and reverse the motion, bringing him back to the starting position. Repeat for 10 lifts on each side.


Follow these guidelines to blast through your plateaus and find your best performance yet.

The topic of strength in sports has become a hotly debated topic in recent years. Some coaches believe that you can never be strong enough, while others believe strength is largely overrated. For those that train in combat sports, they know that strength, power, speed, and conditioning are all necessary traits if you want to be a well-rounded combat athlete. Today’s fighters can’t afford to be lacking in any of these areas any more than they can afford to have big holes in their ground game, stand up, or wrestling if they want to get anywhere in the sport.

Fortunately, when trained properly, strength is an area that can improve rapidly, and it’s a weapon that can be used to control the fight and take it where you want it to go. Top wrestlers have frequently been known for their high levels of strength, an advantage that has undeniably been a big part of why so many wrestlers have had great success in MMA. Whether you’re a wrestler or not, if you’re lacking in strength and explosive power, you’re missing out on a necessary ingredient for top performance, and you’re leaving yourself vulnerable to those that have it.


In the simplest of terms, strength is the ability to produce force, and at the end of the day, producing force is all your muscles are really designed for. They contract to produce force, and this force is what moves your body around, everything from walking down the street to throwing the knockout punch comes from your ability to produce the force necessary to do so.

In this way, strength is the foundation of every movement and every athletic quality we can think of. Explosiveness, speed, and endurance are simply different kinds of strength. Explosiveness depends on how quickly we can produce force, maximum strength is a matter of how much total force we can generate, and conditioning boils down to how long we can maintain our force production before we fatigue.

Different sports require different levels of each of these kinds of strength, and to be successful in combat sports, you’ll need to find the right balance between all three. Unfortunately, finding this balance can be tricky, and with most combat athletes already spending hours in the gym training to improve their skills, there is often little time left to devote to getting stronger.

Because of this, it’s absolutely essential that your strength program is delivering the results it should be, and this means it should take into account the specific needs of hardworking combat athletes. Trying to follow a strength program that is designed for athletes in other sports is often a recipe for disaster. To get the most out of your strength program, make sure to pay close attention to the following guidelines:

Don’t confuse strength with conditioning

Without question, one of the biggest problems made by combat athletes who are trying to get stronger is trying to develop strength and conditioning at the same time–often they even try to do this in the same workout! Recent research has shown that this approach leads to less than optimal results in both strength and conditioning. A better approach is to separate strength and conditioning into separate workouts.

Furthermore, lifting heavy weights with minimal rest between sets or performing high reps in circuit fashion is not the best way to improve strength. There is a reason you see the strongest and most explosive athletes in the world—power lifters, weight lifters, sprinters—resting a long time between sets. You would never see a world-class 100m sprinter running sprints with as little as 10 or 20 seconds rest between them and expect to get faster, so don’t think you can build maximum strength or power with this approach either.

A good rule of thumb is, if you are getting winded during your strength workout, you may be working on strength-endurance, but you’re not going to improve max strength or explosive strength with this type of training. Always make sure to rest at least 2-4 minutes between sets of strength work if you are trying to develop one or both of these two qualities. Save the conditioning work for separate training sessions when you can really focus on it. Trying to train every aspect of strength all at once will never lead to the best results and should be avoided.

Don’t be afraid to lift heavy

In order to get stronger, you can’t be afraid to lift heavy weights, but you must also remember that if you’re spending 4-6 days in the gym training combat sports skills, you can’t handle the same lifting volume as a powerlifter or strength athlete that only trains strength. This is one of the biggest mistakes that combat sports athletes make far too often. They try to follow the exact same program as a lifter or an athlete that isn’t putting in the same number of hours training their sport.

You wouldn’t expect an NFL athlete to follow the same lifting program in the middle of the season as they follow during the off-season, so you shouldn’t expect to be able to follow the same high volume training programs as other lifters without eventually paying the price. Many combat athletes that have tried to follow training programs with strength training volumes that are too high eventually end up with sore and aching joints and injuries at some point.

Fortunately, combat athletes don’t need to develop the same level of strength as a power lifter, weight lifter, or other strength and power sport athlete, so there is no need to train with the same volumes to begin with. Most of those athletes have been lifting weights for many years and need higher volumes to continue to improve, but combat sport athletes rarely need anywhere near that amount of strength work to get stronger. For most combat sport athletes, 12-14 total sets of strength work with reps per set in the 3-6 range for the majority of sets per training session are usually enough to get the job done.

Stick to the Basic Lifts

With the amount of available time for strength work often limited, you have to get the most out of your time. This means sticking to the basic compound lifts. To improve your general strength, you should use the big lifts like squats, pull-ups, rows, deadlifts, and bench presses, because these lifts use a ton of muscle and help improve your nervous system’s ability to activate a lot of muscle at once. It’s this ability that makes up the foundation for maximum strength and
explosive power.

Exercises that isolate small muscle groups should be left to bodybuilders and fitness models. If you want to get strong and be a combat athlete, these types of exercises should be used minimally. While movements that use kettlebells and dumbbells do have their place in a strength training program, these exercises involve much lower levels of force and should be considered accessory exercises. Only once you’ve developed a solid level of general strength and developed your nervous system to a high level by using the core lifts should you worry about focusing more specifically on combat sports exercises.


• Rest 2-4 minutes between all sets

• Rest 3-5 minutes between exercises

• Perform 1-2 light warm-up sets before work sets

• Select a weight between 80-90% of your 1 rep max

• Try to increase weight in each lift each week

• If possible, always try to perform strength workouts at least 4 hours before or after combat sports training session

• Accessory injury prevention exercises can be included during warm-up period

• Do not train to failure, select a weight that will allow for 1-2 more reps per set than the prescribed number

• Following the 6 week program, make sure to take one “recovery” week with reduced weight and 40% less training volume

• Make sure to monitor your recovery throughout the program and adjust training volume as necessary, given your individual fitness level, training schedule,and goals

For more in-depth training articles and advice, be sure to visit Joel Jamieson on the web at:

The ligamentous injuries that occur during grappling and BJJ movements are usually the result of overeager novices or simply mistakes during the heat of competition. Sprains are injuries to the ligaments, which are the connective tissues that attach bone to bone, like the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) and the medial collateral ligament (MCL). Since ligaments have very poor elastic properties, any damage will usually be partial tearing or complete rupture of the ligament. These types of injuries are usually accompanied by a popping sensation followed by immediate pain — you will know when you tear a ligament simply by the sound and subsequent pain.

The ACL is a ligament that prevents your leg from shifting forward on the thigh (it prevents hyperextension of the knee). The knee bar specifi cally puts strain on the ACL, and if a competitor does not tap out there is a strong chance for damaging the ACL. Another common mechanism for ACL injury is getting your knee hyper extended from standing and pivoting while resisting a single leg shoot.

One of the fi rst symptoms of an ACL rupture is a loud pop followed by pain and swelling in the knee joint. The knee will feel very unstable, and you will have diffi culty walking. A competent sports physician should be able to diagnose a complete ACL tear, but an MRI is necessary to determine whether it is a grade I, II, or III sprain. A grade I sprain involves pain with minimal damage to the ligament. Grade II sprains involve more ligament damage along with mild laxity (looseness) of the knee joint. A Grade III sprain involves complete tearing of the ligament with instability at the knee.

If you sustain a complete tear and you desire to continue to train and compete, you will eventually need to undergo an ACL repair procedure. Since the ACL does not heal itself, the surgery involves reconstruction using tendons or ligaments from another part of your leg or a cadaver. The good news is that with the appropriate physical therapy and rehab your knee can be as good as new after the surgery.

The MCL is located on the inside of your knee and holds the thigh and leg together. This ligament is often injured by a hit to the outside of the knee accompanied by twisting motions. If you sprain or tear your MCL, you will feel pain on the inside of the knee. There may be some swelling, and your knee may feel unstable. Fortunately, most complete MCL tears rarely need surgery and recover nicely after appropriate rest and rehab.


Full Blast

Get the cardio edge you need with a heart rate monitor, and never waste your workout again.

Regardless of whether you’re a professional fighter, an up-and-coming amateur, or you just train for fun, undoubtedly, you want to gain as much as possible from your hard efforts. Nobody wants to go to the gym every day without noticeable improvements. Sadly, this happens all too often, as most athletes and trainees have experienced plateaus in their training progress.

One of the easiest ways to make sure this diminishing return on your invested time doesn’t happen to you, is to take advantage of the cheapest coach you could ever have—a high quality heart rate monitor. Even though most people would never dream of trying to teach themselves the skills of mixed martial arts without spending good money for a quality coach, quite frequently, athletes go through physical training without the objective and invaluable feedback that using a heart rate monitor easily provides.

Just as you wouldn’t expect to get too far if you were to try to drive across the country without a map or GPS to guide you along the way, you shouldn’t expect to get the most out of your training program without the use of a heart rate monitor. These incredibly powerful little tools can mean the difference between developing world class conditioning and wasting endless hours of time training ineffectively.

If you take your time and hard work seriously, always make sure to train with a eart rate monitor and follow the simple guidelines below to get the most out of it. Once you begin using a heart rate monitor as suggested, I guarantee you’ll wonder how you ever trained without one.


One of the biggest and most common training errors is the attempt to turn everything into some form of conditioning. Rather than taking the time to adequately rest between sets to maximize your work output, combat athletes often complete everything in a circuit fashion, with as little rest as possible. Conversely, if you’ve ever watched a power lifter or an Olympic lifter train, you’ve no doubt seen the incredibly long rest periods they utilize between each and every set.

The primary reason for such long rest periods is to ensure that the strongest, most powerful muscle fi bers and the nervous system have fully recovered from the previous set and are ready to go to work again. When the rest period is insuffi cient, these fibers aren’t able to contribute as much and the result is that they don’t improve their ability to produce force and power to nearly the same extent. In other words, you don’t
get as strong or as explosive as you could when you rush the rest between sets.

Utilizing a simple heart rate monitor is an easy way to help gauge recovery from strength and power training. A good general rule of thumb is to make sure your heart rate has recovered to a range of at least 110-130
beats per minute (bpm) before beginning the next set. Not only will this lead to improved quality of your sets and reduce your chance of injury due to fatigue, but you’ll also see greater strength and power gains
as well.


One of the hallmarks and defining features of good conditioning is the ability to maintain explosiveness and strength in the later rounds. One of the real keys to being the kind of fighter that still has gas in the later rounds is the ability to recover quickly during the one minute rest period between rounds. The more quickly you can recover between rounds, the less likely you are to fatigue as time goes on, and the greater advantage you’ll have against an opponent in lesser shape.

Wearing a heart rate monitor and using it to gauge your recovery between rounds not only gives you a good indication of your fitness levels, it also helps make sure your training is headed in the right direction. The ability to have your heart rate drop quickly between rounds is known as heart rate recovery, and a well-conditioned fighter can expect to see his or her heart rate drop 40 bpm or more within one minute of rest.

If you’re seeing substantially less than this, it’s a sign you need to improve your conditioning levels to avoid gassing out in the later rounds. A good rule of thumb is that you should be able to get down to a heart rate in the low 140s between each and every round, regardless of how high your heart rate gets during the round. Because the heart rate is too high and changes rapidly over the course of a minute, trying to get an accurate gauge of heart rate recovery without a heart rate monitor is difficult and problematic at best. A heart rate monitor makes measuring the heart rate recovery between rounds both extremely simple and accurate.


Resting heart rate has been used as a good general gauge of aerobic fitness levels and work capacity by endurance athletes for generations. Even though combat sports do not require the same level of aerobic fitness as pure endurance athletes like marathon runners and triathletes, combat sports still require a high level of aerobic fitness.

Although individual variances occur, the vast majority of the best conditioned combat athletes have resting heart rates in the low 50s and even upper 40s. With rare exception, this is the range of resting heart rate that’s necessary for a high level of conditioning and a heart rate monitor is the tool of choice to measure and track your resting heart rate.

To get the most accurate reading, it’s always a good idea to take a measure of resting heart rate first thing in the morning, before any stimulants have been consumed and before you’ve started your day. The best position to measure it is either seated or lying down, but whichever you choose, the important thing is to always measure in the same position each time, because resting heart rate can change by as many as 10 beats per minute from one position to the next.


Back in the 1980s, the concept of training in different heart rate zones began to catch on and sales of heart rate monitors skyrocketed. Treadmills in gyms all over the U.S. soon began to have labels showing different ideal target heart rate zones for maximum fat burning, or for increasing your “cardio.”

Although the suggested heart rate training zones that were developed in the ‘80s are a bit overly simplistic and not always accurate, the principle of making sure you’re training at the right intensity for your goals is still an important one. All combat sports require the right balance of energy system development, and using a heart rate monitor can help ensure you’re training at the proper intensity given your goal and overall training program.

A very simple way to look at heart rate zones is to consider a “Low” zone anything in the heart rate range of 130-150 bpm. This is the range generally used for low intensity training like roadwork and is primarily utilized to develop the efficiency of the heart and develop the network of blood vessels and capillaries necessary to deliver as much oxygen as possible to the working muscles.

The next zone ranges from approximately 160 beats per minute up to about 90% of your maximum heart rate and is termed the “Moderate” training zone. Keep in mind, however, that there is no formula to accurately determine your maximum heart rate and the only true way to find it is by working up to it in training. When you get to the point that you’re working as hard as you possibly can but your heart rate isn’t increasing, then you have found your maximum heart rate.

The Moderate zone is an important one for combat sports, and the more power you can produce while in this zone, the better your conditioning is. Typically the middle of this zone is where most people’s anaerobic threshold range will be, and training focused in this area can help maximize aerobic power and fitness.

Finally, the last heart rate zone is “High” and it is considered anything over 90% of your maximum heart rate. This is where the true limits of anaerobic energy production are pushed and your body is worked to its maximum. It’s always a good idea to track how much time you spend in this zone during training and to make sure it doesn’t exceed your recovery ability. Too much time spent in the highest heart rate zone is a recipe for overtraining, so you’ll want to pay close attention and monitor the total time spent, both daily and weekly, training in this High zone.


Finally, another way that a heart rate monitor can be utilized is as a detector of the early symptoms of overtraining. There are two different ways that using a heart rate monitor can serve to offer warning signs that you may be training too much. Using both methods in combination is the best way to make sure you avoid over training syndrome—and the decreased performance and increased likelihood of injury and sickness that so often accompany it.

First and foremost, large and sudden changes in resting heart rate away from normal can be an indication that there is an imbalance between training and recovery. It’s perfectly normal for day to day variations to occur, but large swings in resting heart rate, either up or down, are a warning sign that you may be headed towards overtraining. Any time you see a sudden and persistent increase or decrease of a morning resting heart rate of five to 10 bpm or more, combined with a period of high load training, it’s a clear indication that more rest is needed.

Second, aside from changes in resting heart rate, overtraining can also be seen in altered rate responses to exercise as well. In other words, you may fi nd that your heart rates are signifi cantly different in training than where they typically fall. It’s not uncommon to see heart rates that are 10 bpm, or even higher, than where they would normally be for a given level of intensity. In the later stages of over training, you may even find the opposite and have a diffi cult time getting your heart rate as high as it would normally be—this is a very clear sign you’re in a deeply over trained state and in need of a great deal of rest and reduced training volume.

Monitoring both your morning resting heart rate and how your heart rate responds to training can provide tremendous insight into how hard your body is working and whether or not it’s able to recover from a given level of daily and weekly training. When all signs point to the fact that you need more rest, simply back off for a few days to avoid injury and a deeply overt rained state that can require weeks or even months for recovery.


– Zones
Low intensity work: 130-150
Mid workload: 150-90% of Max HR
Max workload: Over 90% of Max HR

– Allow heart rate to drop to 130 or lower between exercise sets to enable maximum work load.

– Track recovery heart rate between rounds to gauge fitness level.

– Monitor your resting heart rate for significant fluctuations—a sure indicator of overtraining and a sign to take a few days of rest.

For more advanced heart rate training tips, be sure to visit Joel Jamieson’s website at and check out his cutting edge BioForce HRV system for optimal conditioning.


From the outside looking in, I believe the game plan for Jamie Varner was to use his striking to land power shots, thus setting up his takedowns so he could score with ground-n-pound. I think Henderson’s game plan was to fight at long range and make Varner take bad shots, extending the fight to rounds 4 and 5.

The striking and wrestling advantage went to Varner. The ground and conditioning edge went to Henderson. (Henderson also has really nice hair).

The Breakdown:

Round one played out as expected. Varner looked to exchange more while Henderson was content to stay relaxed and play the range game. Varner worked his way into the clinch and scored a nice takedown. Henderson was able to bring the fight back up to his feet without much damage. This was a close round, but Varner took it 10–9.

As a coach, I would describe round two as methodical. As a fan, I would call it boring—two explosive athletes unwilling to engage. Where was the counter punching? Where were the combos? This round was a draw.

Round three showed what a fine line fighters walk in MMA. Varner made a careless mistake by leaving his head on the outside of his double leg, and Henderson locked on a tight arm-in guillotine. Varner tapped seconds later. Could Varner have slammed his way out? I doubt it.

Post Fight Fodder

Varner looked uncomfortable with Henderson’s length and kicking. I do not believe ring rust or injuries factored into Varner’s performance, but it may have in the later rounds.

The top 155-pounders in the WEC—Henderson, Varner, and Donald Cerrone—are separated by a fraction. Any of them could win on a given night. In addition, 155-pounders Kamal Shalorus and Karen Darabedyan are both tough dudes. I would love to see them fight.

The WEC always delivers.


“This fight was purely about discipline. Varner didn’t have it. Henderson did. Varner said he came to “fight,” but got caught taking a shot. Varner went away from his game plan, while Henderson was patient enough to wait for an opening that he could exploit.”—Matt Pena, MMA boxing coach

“I think Henderson did a good job of getting Varner frustrated by kicking and looking to take him down when the opportunity opened up. It forced Varner to change his tactics and go for a takedown himself. Varner is a great fighter, but like too many of today’s fighters, he wanted only to stand up and trade punches. Henderson, on the other hand, wanted to win by any means necessary. I think in the MMA game today, too many fighters ignore the ground game in favor of trying to be crowd-pleasers.”—Jeremy Horn, MMA legend


Pick your opponent apart with a jab to knee-pick combo.

Rashad Evans averages 3.7 takedowns per 15 minutes in the cage, with a takedown accuracy level above 50 per- cent. The former Michigan State wrestler knows how to get the fight to the mat—a good strategy against Muay Thai World Champion and fellow Black zilian Tyrone Spong. In this MMA 101, Rashad shows readers how to set up and finish his knee-pick takedown.

1) Rashad and Tyrone square off in or thodox stances. Remember to keep your chin tucked and your right hand up to protect your face

2) Rashad throws his left jab and returns to his star ting position.

3) Rashad can continue to feint the left jab to get a sense of Tyrone’s reactions.

4) Rashad throws his left jab again.

5) This time, Rashad changes levels by bending at his knees. He uses his left jab to push Tyrone’s shoulder, while picking Tyrone’s knee with his right hand.

6) Rashad continues to drive through Tyrone, pushing with his left hand and pulling with his right.

7) Rashad secures the takedown by blocking Tyrone at the knees to prevent an up-kick. Rashad can choose to throw combos from his feet or take the fight to the mat.


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


Increase your overall punching performance and endurance by utilizing these 3 simple workouts.

By Jason Van Veldhuysen

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You don’t have to look much further than Anderson Silva’s dismantling of Forrest Griffin to see a clear example of what superior striking can do in MMA. But the ability to control entire fights in the striking range, or use effective striking to set up opponents for techniques that favor your overall strategy, doesn’t come easily. Increasing the efficiency of your punching motion is key to giving you the fluidity necessary to raise your striking performance to the next level.

But how do you organize your training to get the maximum benefit and integration of skills for MMA? Part of the answer is style based—it depends on your strengths and what type of fighter you are. A former wrestler like Johny Hendricks will likely take a different approach than a former pro boxer and kickboxer like Anderson Silva. It’s also important to take into account the opponent you are preparing for and where you are headed with your skillset long term. All things being equal, the old saying, “what you put in is what you get out” still applies.

Raise your efficiency, raise your level
Punching is primarily an anaerobic activity—it is an explosive action. From a physiological standpoint, the minute you start throwing punches, you only have a maximum of 15-20 seconds of high quality output before the effectiveness of your punches takes a serious decline. On the heavy bag, a high level amateur boxer can throw about 200 punches per 3-minute round (assuming active footwork and head movement), and depending on the focus of the round, a high level pro can hit upwards of 300 punches per round. Here, we’ll outline a few of these concepts and learn how to apply them in the gym. You don’t have to take the words as gospel, feel free to apply the concepts and make modifications to the specifics as needed.

Maximize your work
Once a fighter learns proper striking technique, the most significant component impacting progress over the long run is the striking work rate. Striking work rate can be broken down into two components:

1) The total number of punches thrown over time or during a given period of time. This aspect of work rate improves technique, speed, and efficiency.

2) The quality of striking, i.e. how hard, fast, and accurate those strikes are.

Your work rate for striking is where quality meets quantity, and is one of the biggest training assets that an MMA fighter can absorb from traditional western boxing. Because MMA training encompasses so many disciplines, it’s imperative that your time spent striking is of the highest quality—there isn’t a moment to waste. Follow the steps outlined below and I am confident they will take your striking to another level.

1.) Train for a high volume of punches to increase efficiency and improve technique

2.) Train for speed endurance and high quality speed to emulate the intensity of combat

3.) Integrate the improvements into your MMA game.

Step three will be taken care of through ‘business as usual’ MMA training. Just ensure that you apply your techniques at full speed and maintain a high work rate. Other than intentional breaks and rest cycles built into your training, your goal is to maintain the new level of output attained through your striking ramp-up.

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Workout 1 – High Volume Punching
The purpose of high volume punching is to educate your muscles to punch properly and efficiently. Studies of elite distance runners in the 1980s showed that runners with higher biomechanical efficiency were able to keep pace with, and even beat counterparts who possessed a higher VO2 max. Simply stated, better technique equals more speed, power, and endurance for a given amount of work, and there is no better way to improve your punching technique than by high volume punching. Through repetition, you are training your muscles and nervous system to “groove” a particular motion. Your body adapts to this motion over time so that it requires fewer resources to execute. Kinetic linking of your whole body and punch trajectory slowly becomes refined. If your striking is not where you want it to be, then take one workout of the week and dedicate it to high volume punching. A good mark for an MMA fighter to shoot for is somewhere between 3000 and 3500 punches in a given workout, including shadowboxing, the heavy bag, and other optional tools such as mitt work and the double-end bag. You don’t need to count each punch yourself—instead you can estimate it based on a few drills and the number of sets you perform.

How to do it:

Stand in front of the heavy bag and throw long range, high quality punches non-stop for one minute. They don’t have to be at an all out pace, just hard and fast enough that you could go a few seconds over the minute before requiring rest. If you don’t make it through the minute, then it’s a clear sign your punch technique and efficiency needs work. How many punches did you count? My guess is that you hit somewhere between 200 and 250 punches. Take a break for 30 seconds and repeat.

Repeat this drill for as many time as it takes to clock 3000 or more punches. Your output per minute will decrease as the time goes on. To remain on the safe side, aim for 20 sets of 1 minute. As the rounds go on you can lengthen the rest up to 1 minute if that helps to maintain your quality of striking. Your main goal is to throw between 3000-3500 punches in this workout.

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Workout 2 – Speed Endurance
Outside of busy and active sparring, speed endurance is the best way to prepare for a fight, as it most closely resembles the pace of a high pressure fight. The rest periods will be short between punch combinations.

How to do it:

For one workout of the week, choose a few 5-8 punch combinations that you have practiced and can throw effectively, then step to the heavy bag or get yourself ready for an intense shadowboxing session. Set your timer for the desired length of time—ideally 5 minutes to simulate a full round. Once the bell goes, throw one of your combinations with full speed and power. As soon as you are finished throwing, move laterally left or right and give yourself just enough time to take one breath, then reset into striking position and throw again at full speed and power. Continue at this pace for the length of the round. Push your output at a high pace to the best of your ability.

Workout 3 – High Quality Speed
This type of training focuses on increasing your maximum speed and power in single bursts of activity. Think of it as the equivalent of the 40-yard dash in football. The goal is to release all-out explosive combinations, where speed, power, and precision harmonize. You are essentially pushing your punch capacity for a single burst of activity.

How to do it:

For one workout of the week choose a few combinations ranging between 5-8 punches and throw them with maximum speed and power. The difference here is that your recovery time between combinations will be longer than the speed endurance workout so you can fully recover. After you throw your combinations, you will move around laterally and relax your whole body. Take anywhere from a 10-15 second break before throwing your next combo. Remember, each release of your combo has to be at maximum speed and power—don’t hold anything back.


The overall focus of this program is to bring your striking to a new level. Your chain is only as strong as its weakest link. By focusing on striking for a set period of time, you will not only enhance this aspect of your game, but you will learn better integration and transition of your other skills. My recommendation is to follow this program for one month. Do each workout once a week for four weeks, totaling 12 striking-focused workouts. Once you have completed one month of training, you can re-assess your striking. As your MMA training progresses, strive to keep your striking at the highest quality, and remember—don’t waste a single punch.


As MMA continues to grow in popularity, it seems that less-experienced trainers are creating programs to try and mimic the metabolic and cardiovascular demands of MMA. This has developed the “MMA is tough, my workouts are tough, so I am tough” mentality of training that supports concepts such as: throwing up is positive indication of a good workout, or if you aren’t constantly sore or injured, you aren’t really a dedicated MMA fighter.


As a result of this mentality, aspiring fighters are hammering out insanely demanding metabolic circuits in addition to their six to seven days of martial arts training, which can leave their muscular, nervous, and immune systems devastated. The result is a fighter lying in a pool of his own sweat, unable to muster the strength to high-five his trainer and wondering if he can crawl out of the gym to go home. It’s time for this “myth” to be put to the test with some training facts.


MMA technique and sparring sessions are similar to both the physical and metabolic demands of actual fighting.


MMA fighters are now training more daily and weekly martial arts and sparring sessions than ever before.


Recovery is essential to heal muscles, improve motor programs, and make improvements in strength, speed, and power.


Classic signs of over training are persistent soreness, fatigue, and increased injury rate.


Throwing up is a sign that you have just put such inappropriate stress on your central nervous system that your body is trying to protect itself from more absurd damage.




Although MMA is tough, this doesn’t give trainers and coaches a license to destroy their athletes. We must still follow rules of program design that apply to every athlete. The first aspect of training that must be programmed into a fighter’s week is recovery. After this, the appropriate workouts can be scheduled. A “balls-to-the-wall” mentality is cool, but know that any trainer or program can make a fighter tired and sore. Not every trainer or program can make someone better.


If you are incessantly tired and sore, you are not tough, you are over trained, and you need to change your program. Metabolic circuits have some advantages, but that does not mean they are always productive or appropriate.




Intelligent training begins with assessment. In addition to cardiovascular training, you should take a good look at your strength and flexibility limitations. If weakness or tightness is present, address these needs before simply jumping into “all out” circuits. Particular areas to address are the neck, rotator cuff, groin, and hamstrings. In order to build strength without crushing the nervous system, classic strength and flexibility sessions can be used to replace metabolic sessions during the week. This will not only turn some of your weaknesses into your strengths, but it will also leave energy for your daily martial arts training sessions.


Another tip while rolling or sparring is to train with a mindset that you are attempting to improve both technical and cardiovascular capacity. Rounds can be used to develop both technique and gas with the right emphasis. Wearing a heart rate monitor during sparring can help you to better understand the precise demands of the sport and the recovery necessary for improvement.


As MMA becomes more mainstream, it is time for MMA training to match this growth. Haphazard training leads to haphazard results. Time to listen to our bodies, get enough rest, and most importantly, question the myths.


Bars and shakes are great in a pinch, but there’s plenty to choose from when it comes to natural sources of quality protein.

Protein aids in the building, repair, and maintenance of lean muscle tissue. Along with carbohydrates and fat, protein is one of the three principal macronutrients. These nutrients provide calories (energy), and are needed by the body in large quantities (compared to micronutrients like vitamins and minerals needed in smaller amounts).

The minimal daily requirement for the average person (not active) is 0.36 grams (g) of protein per pound (lb) of body weight. Athletes, however, need more protein than the average couch potato, so those involved in endurance-based sports need approximately 0.55 to 0.64 g/lb daily. Those involved in strength-based activities will require approximately 0.55 to 0.77 g/lb. Since fighters train in both of these realms, meeting somewhere in the middle around 0.68 g/lb body weight is a good template. If you do the math, a 175-pound fighter with a well-rounded training schedule will require approximately 119 grams of protein daily. While that sounds like a lot, when you break it down over three meals and a couple of snacks, it’s not excessive when you have these natural sources to choose from.

Tip: Organic, grass-fed beef has higher levels of anti-inflammatory omega-3 fats, metabolic boosting CLA (conjugated linoleic acid), and antioxidants beta-carotene and vitamin E (compared to conventionally fed/raised beef).

3oz Beef (93% lean ground)
Protein: 21g
Calories: 145
Fat: 6.8g

Tip: Buy organic eggs to ensure that the chickens were raised in a cage-free environment on organic feed and were not given antibiotics or hormones.

1 Large Egg
Protein: 6g
Calories: 70
Fat: 5g

Tip: Go wild (versus farm-raised) when it comes to this fish that is rich in omega-3 fatty acid, as farm-raised may contain up to 10 times more toxins, including PCBs and mercury.

4oz Wild Salmon
Protein: 29g
Calories: 206
Fat: 6.8g

Tip: Like grass-fed beef, grass-fed bison will be higher in omega-3 fatty acids, CLA, and antioxidants, as well as protein, B vitamins, iron, and selenium.

3oz Grass-Fed Ground Bison
Protein: 21g
Calories: 150
Fat: 7.3g

Tip: Ground turkey is a great lean protein source that easily lends itself to everyday entrees such as burgers, chili, and meatloaf.

4oz Turkey Breast
Protein: 28g
Calories: 121
Fat: 1g

Tip: When you’re looking for the leanest of the lean, skinless breasts are the way to go. However, skinless thighs are usually quite a bit cheaper and not that much higher on the calorie scale, so when pennies need to be pinched, thighs are also a good choice.

4oz Chicken Breast
Protein: 35g
Calories: 170
Fat: 3g

4oz Chicken Thigh
Protein: 32g
Calories: 200
Fat: 8g

Tempeh (cooked/fermented soy)
Tip: Tempeh is much healthier than tofu due to the fermentation process that negates the effects regular soy can have on thyroid and hormone balance.
4oz Organic Tempeh
Protein: 20g
Calories: 220
Fat: 8.5g

Advanced Protein
Sometimes you don’t have time to cook a chicken breast. For a quick protein boost when you’re in a hurry, try Xyience’s new Advanced Protein Complex, with 25g of protein, 2g of fat, and 125 calories per scoop. You can get a two-pound canister at for $25.97.