by Matt Wiggins – MMAWeekly.com
HA HA!! That’s right folks – Wiggy is BACK. I know I’ve been gone for a while, but after working CRAZY hours at a lousy job, and spending a year in Iraq ducking mortars and rockets, I’m back home in the States, and back home writing for MMA Weekly.
If you haven’t had the (dis)pleasure of reading my articles and trying my workouts, have no fear – I’ll have you working your tail off in no time. My workouts aren’t complicated, and they’ll get you into phenomenal shape. They’re not easy, though – I’ve had more than one MMAist cussing my name during my workouts! Don’t say I didn’t warn you…
For my “re-debut” here at the best MMA News site in the world, I wanted to bring up a topic that has been I’ve been stewing on for a while now…
Unlike the “early years” of MMA (the old Brazilian Vale Tudo events, the early UFC tournaments, and even Pride’s first shows), Mixed Martial Arts is now a game of weight classes. Due to the dramatic increase of the fighters’ skills, and level of competition always being raised, the days of the little guy fighting the big guy are, for the most part, over (at least in the United States, anyway).
Because of this, MMAers of all levels are now climbing into the ring or cage with a guy (or gal!) that is roughly the same weight. If you’re a middleweight, weigh in at 185, and walk into the cage at around 190, then most likely so is your opponent. You might find fluctuations within the weight class itself (e.g. – you might have a 175 pounder fighting a 185 pounder but they’re still both middleweights), but the difference won’t be more than a few pounds.
When designing your Strength and Conditioning (S&C) programs, it’s this weight you want to be able to move and dominate. Like we said above, if you walk into the cage or ring at 190 lbs., then most likely so will your opponent. It’s that 190 lbs. you want to be able to manhandle.
Think of it this way: if you have the power and conditioning to dominate your bodyweight – to manhandle anything that weighs as much as you do, how much of an advantage does that give you?
Let’s look at a couple of examples – Quinton “Rampage” Jackson and Matt Hughes. Both are known for their legendary slams. They get stuck in what might look to be a bad position, and somehow, they just pick their opponent up as if they were a bag of laundry. They walk across the cage, and SLAM them down to the mat. It doesn’t matter what kind of position they’re in, or how tired they are. They have this weird kind of power that makes them ALWAYS a threat to pick you up and throw you into next week.
That is just plain POWER at work. (More on power in a minute…)
If you have the power to just manhandle your opponent, isn’t that something you can use to get the upper hand in a fight? And I don’t mean just by going “Rampage” on somebody and slamming them down to the basement. If you have the power to dominate that kind of weight, that will give you the upper hand on the ground, too. Whether you’re on top, and trying to keep your opponent on his back, whether you’re mounted, and trying to flip your opponent over, or whether you’re simply trying to get into better position, if you have the power to take something that weighs as much as you do, and move it how you want, that just gives you that extra advantage when trying to get a better position.
Now, let’s take a quick timeout and look at strength vs. power…
I see the “word” strength used a lot. And it can be a tough word to use, because people many times use it to mean a bunch of different things. But, for our purposes, I’m defining strength as the ability to exert force. For example, the ability to press 200 lbs. for 1 rep would be a measure of strength.
Power, on the other hand, is strength applied over time. Or, the ability to exert force quickly. For example, the ability to press 200 lbs. for 1 rep in 1 second would be a measure of power.
To increase strength, the force exerted has to be increased. So, going from a press of 200 lbs. for 1 rep, to a press of 210 lbs. for 1 rep would be an increase in strength. (The weight used went up.)
Power can be increased by either increasing the force or reducing the time. We said before that pressing 200 lbs. for 1 rep in 1 second would be a measure of power. Well, pressing 210 lbs. for 1 rep in 1 second would be an increase in power. (The weight used went up, and the time it took to lift it stayed the same.) However, so would pressing 200 lbs. for 1 rep in .5 seconds. (The weight stayed the same, but the time it took to lift it went down.)
When it comes to sports – especially MMA – power is the name of the game. Strength is well and good, but if you’re not quick, then it won’t do you any good. You need to be able to use that strength, and use it quickly. Being quick won’t just let you put a move on your opponent before he can counter it, though. Being quick actually takes that strength, and does more with it. Think of it like this – make a fist and push it into a wall as hard as you can, but do it slowly. Doesn’t really hurt you, and, unless you have some sort of hydraulic arm, it’s not doing anything to the wall. Now, actually punch the wall, but don’t do it that hard. Don’t put all your strength behind it, and don’t move your fist as fast as you’re able. Hurts your hand some doesn’t it? And the damage on the wall might now be noticeable. Now, punch harder – but still not at full strength or speed. Hurts more, and even more damage on the wall, huh? Now, haul off and punch the wall as hard as you can…just kidding. I sure don’t want hate mail from a bunch of pissed of wives/girlfriends as a result from new holes in the wall…
All kidding aside, do you see where I’m going with this? You did more damage to the wall, using less strength and decent speed, than you did with all out maximal strength and little to no speed. Now, apply that principle to every aspect of your MMA game, and you see how important power – strength combined with speed – can really be. After all, there isn’t anything slow going on in that cage or ring…
One last example – take a look at smaller guys that don’t weigh that much, and (comparitively to bigger fighters) aren’t that strong. How do they still have that KO power that will knock you senseless? It’s because they’re fast – and being fast translates into more power.
Back to dominating bodyweight…
Now, when I say “bodyweight,” I’m not talking about your body, per se. This isn’t about bodyweight calisthenics (though they make up a big part of the programs I design). This is about taking any object that weighs as much as you do – a barbell, two dumbbells or kettlebells, a sandbag, a barrel, a grappling dummy, a training partner, etc. – and being able to inflict your will upon it as you see fit. Take that object and pick it up. Hold it. Slam it. Flip it. Knock it into the 2nd row. You get the idea…
There’s another element to this, though. Having the power to dominate your bodyweight is one thing, but what about your conditioning? You’ve just fought for a good, hard 12 minutes. Do you still have the power to do it then? Are you sucking too much wind because your cardiovascular system isn’t in as good of shape as it needs to be? What about your body itself? How is your muscular conditioning? Have you spent a bunch of time jockeying for position on the ground, and now your muscles burn and ache so bad that even if you had the wind, you couldn’t move your opponent?
Here’s a little test for you. Next time you’re at the gym or dojo, find a partner that weighs roughly the same as you. See what you can do with him (or her). I don’t mean just simple take downs or grappling drills. Pick him (or her) up. Throw them over your shoulder. Heck, even see if you can put them over your head. Now go do some heavy metabolic conditioning work – do some sprints, run a hard couple miles, or grapple/spar a few hard rounds. What can you do with your partner now?
And remember, when you’re in the cage or ring, you won’t be up against a limp body. You’ll be up against not only somebody who weighs as much as you do, but somebody who is resisting against and trying to counter everything you do. So, now you have that to contend with…
This is the kind of power conditioning I’m talking about. Once you get to the point that you can dominate bodyweight is any way imaginable, and do it regardless of how tired you are, you’ll have a decided advantage over any opponent you come up against.
In coming weeks, I’ll discuss different ways you can increase your strength, speed, power, conditioning, work capacity, and more to help you become the best fighter you can.
If you have any questions, feel free to email me via my site, or ask over on the Soundoff Forum.
Train Hard, Rest Hard, Play Hard.
Matt “Wiggy” Wiggins is a strength coach and author living in Cameron, NC. Having trained 15+ years, Wiggy is a strength moderator at mma.tv, and a columnist for MMAWeekly.com. His site, Working Class Fitness.com has just debuted “Working Class Fitness – The Programs” a series of six, 8-week workout programs dedicated to dominating bodyweight for Martial Arts Strength and Power Training.
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