Developing badass, combat endurance requires a unique approach to conditioning. Unfortunately, many forms of aerobic training that have no business in an octagon or cage have infi ltrated MMA conditioning. One of the biggest culprits is long, drawn-out cardio sessions. Let me explain.
Your body relies on three systems to produce energy and each system is correlated with how much power you can produce. The ATP-PC system comes into play fi rst. It maintains muscle contractions for approximately 10 seconds, and it’s responsible for fueling ball-busting effort. This is why you can’t run at top speed for longer than 10 seconds. When the ATP-PC system runs out, anaerobic glycolysis takes over. It allows you to train with moderate to high intensities for up to 10 minutes (although this time varies with each person). Anaerobic glycolysis is the system responsible for accumulating lactate, nausea, and a drop in muscle pH. When anaerobic glycolysis gets depleted your body turns to its fi nal system, aerobic metabolism, that can maintain muscle contractions for hours. However, it can only support low levels of power. This is why marathon runners are as weak as a karate chop from a fi ve year-old.
The chart is neat and simple, but when you’re fi ghting, all energy systems are playing a role. The way you train for endurance, however, will determine which system dominates. For MMA, anaerobic glycolysis is the system that must be supercharged. And this is why an hour jog will wreak havoc on your ability to sustain knockout power – it develops the wrong energy system.
The Tabata Protocol, developed by Dr. Izumi Tabata, is an ideal way to develop combat endurance. His protocol consists of 20 seconds of all-out, total body effort, followed by 10 seconds of rest. My fi ghters push a 100 to 200-pound sandbag across the ground, but pushing a loaded sled or compact car will do the trick. Repeat the cycle 10 times, for a total of fi ve of the most brutal minutes of your life (the elite athletes Tabata put through his protocol will attest to the masochism of it).