Common mistakes seen in the gym when BJJ Guys, or ‘Fighters’, or Boxers or rugby guys for that matter, are weight training;
· Training high reps
· Machine weights
· Training arms more than anything else
· Hypertrophy specific training
Lets take each of these, and look at them logically, and then scientifically.
. Training high reps.... some people think this will help their muscular endurance during a fight. I ask, “How many times do you repeat the same linear motion 10-12 times in a fight, and then get a 2 or 3 minute break?” You don’t. Nearly all fighting styles are explosive, ‘a take down, a punch, a submission, a sprawl are all explosive movements that require EXPLOSIVE POWER! You do not get this from high rep training.
You will achieve longer lasting power with better cardio, as you are able to oxidize muscles more readily and repay oxygen debt after an explosive movement, therefore not fatiguing so quickly. A study by Lamb.G.D et al (2008) said “Lactate rises in the blood when the muscle cells are using ATP faster than they resynthesize it aerobically in the mitochondria.” or in simple terms, not enough oxygen to replenish what is needed, so our muscles get tired.
Keep weight training heavy and explosive.
· Machine weights.... in fights, you end up moving at all sorts of different angles, whether it is to escape a submission, look for the angle of the punch, avoid a kick, not much is done in straight line like our body would like. So why train on machines that coach our muscles to work through 1 plain of motion in a fixed and stable manor. Great if you’re a body builder and are targeting a muscles group but fighters require FUNCTIONAL STRENGTH... In the gym we need to try to mimic the actions we do in our sport, using compound lifts, deadlifts, squats, military press, and single arm press... anything that we can apply for fighting. We want to be able to recruit the muscles we use most while fighting, in the gym enabling us to be able to ‘fire them off in sequence’ when we need them. Jones.G.A (1991) “Free weights are popular because lifting movements are not restricted to prescribed planes of motions and prescribed angles “
The use of stabilizing muscles is also enhanced when using free weights, as is, in a fight. If these muscles aren’t worked in the gym, they will rip / tear when called upon in a fight as they won’t know what to expect... rotator cuff is a prime example of the most common shoulder injury. I believe this to be because they are not prepared in the gym enough before an event.
McCaw S.T (1994) - conducted a study on free weights vs. machine weights. The simple version of the results of his study was “there was significantly greater muscle activity in free weight lifts than there was in machine lifts”
Training arms.... we all would like nice thick well rounded arms, lets be honest it looks cool (I do miss my 20inch arms) but looking at it from a scientific point of view, they are not useful and too much time is wasted doing every type of isolation curl in the world to get ‘big arms’
This was the first thing I noticed when I started fighting again, my arms would fatigue before anything else, whether it was boxing sparring or BJJ. In BJJ try to squeeze a guillotine for 45 seconds with big arms, they will gas out!! Try gripping someone’s lapel while they are forcing their weight down on your ribs, it doesn’t work. The more muscles you have the more oxygen it needs, to work and to clear lactic acid, big arms will store more lactic acid than can be cleared efficiently!
I’m not saying don’t have muscles and don’t train arms, I’m saying train weights which are affective for your SPORT not mirror muscles! Train arms in relation to the rest of your body.
If you do 3 exercises for bigger body parts, 1 or 2 for arms will be fine. I recommend straight bar curls and alternate DB curls, shoulders are working here too, to stabilize the origin of the biceps tendon. Isolation exercises like single arm preacher curls put too much stress on the elbows and tendons, not good when you are arm barred.
· Hypertrophy specific training... I’ve said a lot already about the effects of muscle building techniques for fighters and how they are ineffective.
Instead look into SPORT SPECIFIC TRAINING.... explosive power training...
An example of a weeks workouts for me is...
Day 1 - All pushing exercises
- flat stop press 5x5
- inc DB press 5 x 5
-military press 5 x 5
- single arm standing shoulder press 5 x 5
- dips - 4 x failure
Day 2 - all pulling exercises
-partial deadlifts 5 x 5
- pull ups (weighted) 5 x 5
- cleans 5 x 5
- kettle bell exercises
- biceps curls
Day 3 - legs and plyometrics
-partial squats 5 x 5
-jumping weighted step ups
-weighted box jumps
- plyometric leg press
- hamstring exercise
Core is usually put in after every workout and cardio depending on need on the lead up to a comp.
This 5x5 explosive training is done for 6 weeks, followed by 4-5 weeks of German Volume, or 10x10 training. This keeps it interesting and makes the body search for new ways to keep getting stronger.
American football is one of the most explosive sports in the world. Here is a peek of the 5 x 5 training they use in pre-season, which is the type of training spoken about in this article which I endorse and use myself.