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The Science of Training a Modern Day Gladiator: Part 1
{As written for the Italian PublicationOlympian Magazine."}

By Joe Dowdell, CSCS, C.H.E.K. Practitioner

----When one decides to enter the world of mixed martial arts fighting {a.k.a. No-Holds Barred or Ultimate Fighting}, they are truly choosing a unique path or as M. Scott Peck appropriately called it -- The Road Less Traveled. Many of us dreamed of one day competing as a professional athlete. We grew up playing football, baseball, basketball and or soccer, but very few of us wanted to be a professional fighter.

----Some of you may argue that Cage Fighting is brutal, primitive or even barbaric and you may be right, but regardless of your thoughts, you cant deny that these individuals possess a lot of courage and guts. Their dedication to their sport is unlike any other athlete. Each and every time they step into the cage, they are facing the possibility of getting hurt. They do not have anyone else to rely on, except their own arsenal of training techniques and the hundreds of hours of preparation that goes into each fight. Over the last five years, I have trained one of these unique individuals. His name is Colin ORourke. Simply put, Colins life revolves around training and fighting. His style of fighting is a combination of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and American Boxingnot to mention some basic street fighting experience.

----Many of you may be asking yourselves, what does it take to prepare for such an undertaking? Well, beside the obviousguts, confidence and a lack of fearit takes a lot of physical and mental preparation. Each combatant will spend years of training in their particular style(s) of fighting {i.e., Jiu-Jitsu, Wrestling, Kung Fu, Vale Tudo, Muay Thai, etc.}. In addition, there are the many hours of strength & conditioning that each of these warriors must endure each week. Plus, there are many other factors that can influence the success of a fighters preparation {see figure 1}.

Strength Training
Cardiovascular Conditioning
Nutrition / Diet
Recovery / Restoration
Flexibility
Family / Friends
Work / School
Environmental Factors
Injury
Drugs

Figure 1: Factors that can affect performance.

----For some of you most of these factors may seem obvious, but for many of you, their omission could spell disaster. Lets examine a few of the factors that can affect a fighters performance that are often neglected when designing an athletes training program. First of all, recovery or restoration is crucial to a fighters success. Without proper recovery, a fighter will either end up injuring himself or will eventually suffer a decrease in performance due to over-training. Some of the modalities that have been shown to enhance restoration are:

Sleep, massage, acupuncture, meditation, hypnosis, cryotherapy, heat therapy, hydrotherapy, Ultrasound, Russian stimulation, Active Release Technique, etc.

----Flexibility specific training will not only aid in recovery, but can also enhance performance. It is important to ensure optimal range of motion around each joint. Too little flexibility can inhibit an athletes ability to move fluidly and efficiently. On the other hand, too much flexibility can make an athlete susceptible to injuries particularly to the ligaments or tendons. There are many different forms of flexibility training. The following is a list of some of them:

Static, Ballistic, Active, Passive, Passive-Active, Active-Assisted and PNF techniques.

----Nutrition and supplementation can also have a significant impact on ones ability to perform at a high level. Since, some fighters need to maintain a certain weight or even lose weight to make a certain weight class, it is vital to understand how to properly manipulate ones caloric intake correctly. It is very important for the athlete to be able to either maintain their current strength levels or significantly increase their strength while following a low caloric diet. Therefore, it is imperative to consume enough protein in order to maintain the integrity of their muscle tissue while decreasing their body fat levels. In addition to the careful manipulation of protein, carbohydrate and fat intake, water consumption is very important. Dehydration can often result in a decrease in athletic performance and can even lead to hospitalization or death. In addition to proper nutrition and water intake, supplementation can also play a tremendous role in the maintaining an optimal anabolic environment for the athlete. There are many different types of supplements that can aid an athlete in their ability to compete at a higher level. The following is a brief list of supplements that can aid a fighters training program: Glutamine, Creatine, Caffeine, Branch Chain Amino Acids, Protein Powders, Anti-Oxidants, ZMA and an excellent Multi-Vitamin & Mineral supplement.

----Now that we have briefly discussed a few of the variables that can affect athletic performance, we need to briefly define a few terms.

Bio = Life
Motor = Movement.
Ability = It is a relatively stable characteristic which contributes to proficiency in a number of skills. Abilities are largely inherent.
Skill = A movement dependent on practice and experience for execution, as opposed to being genetically defined.


----What are Bio-Motor abilities? Well, simply put, they are life movements. They are largely inherent and can greatly affect any sport or work environment. Whenever you are designing a clients training program, or even your own, you need to determine which Bio-Motor Abilities will affect the desired activity most and to what degree each one contributes to it. Then, you should evaluate your clients strengths and/or weaknessesparticularly as they pertain to each of these abilities. Below, you will find a list of the Bio-Motor Abilities, including a brief description of each term, which needs to be considered when analyzing any sport or activity:

* Strength = It is the ability to apply force.
* Power = It is the ability to apply maximum force in the shortest amount of time.
* Endurance = It is the ability to sustain work for a prolonged period of time.
* Speed = It is the ability to move very quickly.
* Coordination = It is the ability to integrate the actions of different parts of the body to produce smooth, successful movements.
* Flexibility = It is the ability to move a joint smoothly through its complete range of motion.
* Agility = It is the ability to change body position rapidly and accurately without losing balance.
* Balance = It is the ability to maintain a stable and specific orientation in relation to the immediate environment.


----Now that you understand what each of these Bio-Motor Abilities are, you need to rate each one as it pertains to their sport or activity. By using a 10-point scoring system, which I adopted from Paul Chek {1 being the lowest and 10 being the highest score}, evaluate their sport and subjectively place a numerical value next each of the Bio-Motor abilities {see }. By doing this, you will now have established a relative importance for each area. Now, when designing the program, you should allocate certain phases during the training process as well as certain exercises in order to ensure that you are training the abilities that are most important for their sport. In addition, we need to look at the common injuries and/or muscle imbalances that occur in their sport and take them into consideration as well. Below, I have listed an example of how to apply this concept to the sport of Jiu-Jitsu:

Strength = 8.0
Power = 8.0
Muscular Endurance = 7.5
Speed = 7.0
Coordination = 6.0
Flexibility = 6.5
Agility = 7.5
Balance = 7.0

Figure 2: Bio-Motor Ability ratings for Jiu-Jitsu.

----It should be noted that there is interdependence amongst the various Bio-Motor abilities. It is very rare for a movement to be purely dominated by a single ability. Most movements are a combination of two or more abilities. In other words, when strength and speed are equally dominant in a movement, the result is Power. During the early phases of training an athlete or client, it is important to develop all of the Bio-Motor abilities equally in order to establish a strong foundation. The greater the foundation or base of support, the greater the potential for development of that athletes potential. Whenever we decide to focus on the development of oneAbilitythere will be an indirect affectpositive or negativeon other Bio-Motor Abilities. In other words, if we focus on developing a clients maximum strength level, it will usually have a positive effect on their speed, but potentially a negative effect on their aerobic endurance.

----During the first phase of their training program which usually lasts between 4-6 weeks, the main focus should be on correcting any muscle imbalances &/or the rehabilitation of any injuries suffered during competition. In addition, we should concentrate on correcting any postural faults, if necessary. Poor posture can often lead to a muscle and/or connective tissue injury because the length-tension relationships around a joint may no longer be ideal. Therefore, during movement, an impingement may occur at a particular joint because the instantaneous axis of rotation at that jointparticularly at the shoulder jointmay be impaired. During this phase, we are emphasizing things like joint stabilization, core strength and postural dysfunction as well as strengthening long, weak muscle groups and lengthening short, tight muscle groups.

----In the series of articles to follow, I will guide you through the various stages of Colins training program in preparation for a No-Holds Barred Fight. The second article in the series will take you through some of the basic principles of Periodization and Program Design, such as the Anatomical Adaptation Phase, the Hypertrophy Phase {if necessary}, the Maximum Strength/Power Phase as well as the Recovery Phase. I will discuss the acute training variables and how to effectively manipulate them in order to achieve desired goals. In addition, I will describe in detail Colins 6-Week Base Conditioning Phase, which will include photos of the actual exercises we used as well as descriptions of how to perform them correctly.

References:


Bompa, Tudor. Theory and Methodology of Training: The Key to Athletic Performance. Dubuque, IA: Kendall-Hunt, 1994.
Bompa, Tudor. Power Training for Sport. Oakville, ON: Mosaic Press, 1994.
Bompa, Tudor. Periodization of Strength. Toronto, ON: Veritas Publishing, 1995.
Bompa, Tudor. Periodization Training for Sport. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics, 1999.
Burton, A. & Miller, D. Movement Skill Assessment. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics, 1998.
Carr, Gerry. Mechanics of Sport. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics. 1997.
Chek, Paul. Program Design Correspondence Course/Seminar. 1995.
Chek, Paul. Advanced Program Design Correspondence Course/Seminar. 1997.
Chek, Paul. C.H.E.K. Level 2 Internship. 2000.
Kent, Michael. Oxford Dictionary of Sports Science & Medicine. New York: Oxford University Press. 1998.
McGinnis, P. Biomechanics of Sport and Exercise. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics, 1999.
Poliquin, Charles. Personal Communication. 2000.
Siff, M.C. & Verkhoshansky, Y.V. Super Training: Special Strength Training for Sporting Excellence. Perry, OH: Strength Coach, Inc. 1996.


 

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