by Matt Wiggins – MMAWeekly.com
Gas in Your Tank
There are two quotes that I’d like to start this article off
with. The first, if you’re a martial artist, you have surely heard (especially
if you’ve read my work):
“Conditioning is the greatest hold.” – Karl Gotch
The other is also well-known, especially if you’re an
American football fan:
“Fatigue makes cowards of us all.” – Vince Lombardi
In many ways, they both drive home the same basic premise
– that to be a champion, you have to be able to outwork your opponent.
Gotch’s quote simply says that no matter what techniques you
(or your opponent) know, if you’re in better shape than he is, and can push the
fight/match longer and harder, then you’ll have the upper hand.
Lombardi’s quote is a little more telling, making reference
to the human psyche and how it breaks down under duress. Everybody stands tall
at first; it’s who can stand tall at the end that marks a warrior.
How this applies to MMA should be pretty evident. We’ve all
seen fights in which one guy lost simply because he gassed. Mark Coleman’s loss
to Mo Smith and Tito Ortiz’s loss to Frank Shamrock are both examples.
Royce Gracie has been involved in fights where conditioning
ended up being the dictating factor (his inability to continue after his fight
with Kimo at UFC 3, as well as his 90-minute showdown with Sakuraba in the
first Pride Grand Prix). And we’ve all seen B.J. Penn seemingly shoot himself
in the foot by coming into fights in what has seemed to be less than optimal
There are many elements to superior conditioning, but one of
– if not THE – most important is Work Capacity.
Work Capacity is a simple concept – no need for
complex definitions, or major pseudo-scientific discussions. Work Capacity is
essentially how much work you can do, and how hard/fast you can do it. The
ability to do more work than your opponent and to do that work harder/faster
than your opponent means you have a higher Work Capacity.
So, that segues into the next question, which would be, “How
do we increase Work Capacity?”
The main way would be to simply just do more work. Yeah,
that’s right – condition yourself to doing more work, by…doing more work.
You don’t have to do a whole lot at first – add small amounts to your
There are a few ways to do this. You could add small amounts
of “active-rest” to your workouts, so that you’re actually working while you’re
resting between sets. For example, say you’re doing your weight training and
resting 60 seconds between sets. Spend 30 of those 60 seconds throwing light
shadowboxing combinations. Or maybe do a couple sprawls/burpees. Or a couple
jumps. Or five sit-ups. Anything like that will work.
Another way to do this is to add in extra work throughout
the day. During your everyday travels, figure out ways to increase your
physical work. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Park a few extra
parking spaces away so you have to walk further. If you’re shopping, carry your
items instead of using a cart. That sort of thing.
Then you can add in small “mini-workouts” during the day, as
well. Five burpees, 10 push-ups, 10 sit-ups, and 10 squats wouldn’t take over
about 90 seconds to complete. Do that 4-5 times during the day.
If you’ve read any of my older work, you’ll know I’m a big
fan of something I called the “Daily Ritual.” The Daily Ritual is a small, ~10
minutes workout done every single morning. It doesn’t have to be a lot –
in fact, it’s not supposed to be. It’s just enough to get you breathing hard,
and maybe break a sweat. You don’t want it to be so much that it leaves you
sore, tired, or drains any of your recovery abilities. An example might be 50
burpees. Or 40 push-ups, 50 sit-ups, and 100 squats. Or walk half-mile. Something
You see, the idea behind this kind of thing is to cumulatively
add up the volume, without over-taxing the body at any one particular time.
Look at it this way – say you did 40 pushups, 50 sit-ups,
and 100 squats every morning. It probably wouldn’t take more than just a few
minutes to complete. If you did it every morning (7 days/week), at the end of a
month, you’d have done 1,200 push-ups, 1,500 sit-ups, and 3,000 squats. At the
end of a year, it’d be 14,600 push-ups, 18,250 sit-ups, and 36,500 squats.
You think all this extra work wouldn’t increase your Work
Capacity? Darn right it would! And the best thing is that you never had to do
any real hard work at any one time to do it.
Another way to increase Work Capacity is to simply add
volume to your workouts. Depending on the individual, and how his workout
currently looks, I don’t necessarily recommend this option that much. Too many
times people go overboard and end up doing way too much extra work. You have to
know when to say when.
Rather, where I would have trainees go first (rather than
adding volume to their workouts), would be to shorten their rest periods. Nothing
drastic at first – just lop off 10 seconds or so per set. From there,
drop more (how much you drop will depend on how much you’re resting now –
somebody using 2-minute rest periods can decrease more than somebody using 45
seconds). Just strive to have no more rest than necessary.
Doing so will increase workout “density” – or how much
work you’re performing per unit of time. Density can be increased two ways
– either do more work in the same amount of time, or the same amount of
work in less time. We’re going for the second option.
After you get to the point that you’ve significantly
decreased your rest periods, you can think about adding some extra volume to
the workout. Increase the rest periods back up to where they were or close to
it. This will seem like forever now, but the added rest will help your body
cope with the extra work you’re now doing in your workouts.
Doing any of these things will help you build your work
capacity, and help you condition yourself to outwork your opponents.
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, columnist for MMA Weekly, and an avid fan of Mixed Martial Arts Training. His site, Working
Class Fitness.com, is dedicated to designing low-tech, high-result MMA
Workouts, Navy SEAL Workouts, and programs for
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