There is one common thread amongst all MMA fights. If one fighter gases, he usually gets beat up pretty bad from that point on.
My experience says there is no feeling worse than being man handled by a professional MMA fighter. As a strength coach, I like to actively train with the fighters I work with. Well I used to.
As long as I live, I will never forget the feeling of working out and wrestling for the first time with Lew Polley, Jesse Taylor, Thierry Sokoudjou, Dan Henderson, and Tarec Saffiedine.
My first time working at Quest as a strength coach had me learning a lot about wrestling. I took part in an "easy session" and at the end of the15 minute warm-up, I got teamed up with Hendo. I was tired, he was just starting. At 20 minutes I had been tossed more than 20 times, and had tapped to his clinch.
There was more.
Next stop was Sokoudjou. At 21 minutes into practice, my "friend" tossed me about three feet with the fastest hip toss I'd ever seen. I laid on the mat in a pool of sweat, needed a minute to love life again. While I took some deep breaths Sokoudjou skipped.
We got a new partner ever five minutes. I was everyone's "break". It went on like this for 39 more minutes, one beating to another. Single leg takedown drills, wrestling for top position.
I never once threatened anyone for position. I did however, threaten to throw up on Jesse.
I think back to that practice every time I train in the gym. I realize that no matter how physically fit I get, it's a whole different world to be on a mat and working with pros. The sport of MMA is unbelievably physically demanding. To this day, four years later, I have not been able to mirror the intensity. There is one solid trick to try to get as close as possible.
Disrupt your breathing.
If you have never played sports with a mouth guard then you have missed out on something special. However, the athletes I work with in MMA are using a brand new guard by SISU and it's a game changer. The athletes can actually breath, talk, and drink while it's in. Putting in a mouth guard while you run is the most basic way to change your breathing, and raise the intensity.
If you jump to YouTube, you can see some of my videos where I train with the "Training Mask". The goal is not to create high altitude training, the goal is to make it tough to get a full deep breath. That forces your intercostal muscles, and diaphragm to work harder.
It's the same situation as having a 200 + lbs MMA superstar on your chest, or with their arms digging into your ribs. When that happens, you can't get a full breath.
When you do your sprint training, try putting in a mouth guard or incorporating a training mask device. That was the focus for me this week. Tuesday and Thursday I did my cardio sessions with a SISU mouth guard, and they went like this.
10 minutes to warm up on the treadmill, adjust to the mouth guard.
- 8 x 20 second on 10 second rest sprints on the treadmill. 10 on incline, and fast as safely possible
- 8 x 30 second on 30 seconds of rest bike sprints
- Then back to the treadmill
- 4 x 30 second of back peddling 15 seconds of rest. Incline at 6 and as fast as safely possible
- Then a 5 minutes jog without a mouth guard, and then 5 minutes to cool down
Takes roughly 30 minutes to get it all done. It feels terrible while it's going on, but the recover and energy burst from finishing will be a huge boost to your entire day.
I said it before in this article, you can't boo any athlete until you try the basics of the training. Most pros can do this type of cardio with their eyes closed. They gas out because there is nothing that can prepare them for the entire event, and the intensity of being in a real life fight.
Try this in your training, and get just a small taste of what it's like to be as fit as a fighter. Add a mouth guard, or a training mask. Next week, I'm breaking out the weight vest. It's time to get to the next level.