by Matt Wiggins – MMAWeekly.com
This week’s column is going to be a rant of sorts…
In the current issue of “Muscle & Fitness” (a magazine
dedicated to professional bodybuilding), there is a story covering Sean Sherk.
It discusses how he came to train in MMA, a little about his athletic history,
his time in the UFC, and of course, his training regimen.
Now, most of the time, I take anything I read in a professional
bodybuilding magazine with grain of salt, due to all the ghost-writing that
usually takes place. However, I’ve seen Sean discuss his S&C training a
little over at the Underground Forum, and comparing what I saw there, with what
was printed in the article, I tend to believe that it’s legit.
Sean’s training is pretty much completely bodybuilding-oriented.
It’s a split system in that each day is for certain bodyparts, his sets/reps
scheme is mostly 4 sets x 10 reps, he uses quite a few machines, and he heavily
Now, this style of training is completely contradictory to what
you might see other professional athletes – especially MMAists –
doing. There are no full body workouts, no olympic lifts, no complexes, no
“sport specific” exercises, etc. Just plain old bodybuilding.
This has certain people in internet S&C circles all in a
tizzy. I know, it’s hard to believe – people on the internet up in arms
The consensus among many (not all, but quite a few) is that
it’s almost beyond belief that he’s using a bodybuilding program. Just how good
could Sean be if he used Program X, Program Y, or Program Whatever…
Let me tell you something that might have slipped past a few
Sean Sherk is the UFC Lightweight Champion of the world.
He’s lost only twice in his career. He has 31 wins to his credit, with over 20
of them not going the distance. Although he lost, he was the first fighter ever
to take Matt Hughes a full five rounds.
Now, I’m not the sharpest tool in the shed, but I just gotta
believe that he’s doing something right…
Many of the internet quasi-gurus will say, “Well, this is a
perfect case of somebody succeeding in spite of his training – not because of it.”
Listen, I’ve heard the whole “in spite of” quote, and many
times, I highly agree. However, to determine that, first you have to take a
look at what the trainee is doing, and analyze why it is (or isn’t) working for
him/her. Then, take a look at other training methods, and determine then
whether or not other training methods could improve on how the athlete is currently
EVERYBODY can improve, so don’t go down that route with me.
But, if something is working – and working well – should a fighter
want to be so quick to change it?
It is in vogue to not like bodybuilding. As MMAists, we care
about how we can perform on the mat and in the cage or ring, so the idea of
training just to look good is ludicrous. But you know what, I’d bet that most
bodybuilders think that rolling around on a mat between another guy’s legs is a
little…well, you know.
MMA and bodybuilding aren’t alone. Most “cliques” in the
S&C world – powerlifters, Olympic lifters, strongman competitors,
kettlebell’ers, crossfitt’ers, S&C coaches, etc. all have somebody (and
some training method) that they don’t like and/or don’t agree with. And most of
the time, it’s everybody besides their own little clique.
And that sucks.
I’m not a fan of the sport of professional bodybuilding. I’m
not going to get into why, because this is not the time or place. However, this
doesn’t mean that bodybuilding training is not useful.
When I say bodybuilding training, know that I mean training
programs/methods that can be employed by natural trainees for the sake of
looking better. The programs that the pros use are pretty much useless to the
“regular joe” because one would have to be on insane amounts of drugs for them
to work effectively.
Do I think bodybuilding training is optimum for MMA? No. I
think there are plenty of ways to train that are better. But that doesn’t mean
it can’t work. Sean Sherk is a perfect example. So is Matt Hughes, Andrei
Arlovski, Michael McDonald (from K1), most of the MFS camp, Frank Shamrock
(until recently), and a whole slew of others.
In the end, know this and this is what I want you to take
away from this little bitch-session:
Before you start dogging somebody because of their training
program, take a look at not only what they do, but why they do it. Are they
successful? Why? And if not, why not? Only then can you begin to ponder ways to
improve training methods.
Try to learn something before you start telling somebody
they’re automatically wrong…
Train Hard, Rest Hard, Play
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 Martial
Arts Strength and Power Training and
designing low-tech, high-result fitness plans for "regular joes."
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