Ultimate MMA Conditioning and Energy System Development

One of my good friends, Joel Jamieson, from my early days in strength and conditioning at the University of Washington sent me his products a few weeks back.  He is the author of Ultimate MMA Conditioning, as well as The Ultimate Guide to HRV Training.   Joel runs a website at www.8weeksout.com.  It has a lot of great information as well as a forum for those in the sport of MMA to talk programming and trade ideas. 

When you really want to know how the body’s energy systems work and interact with each other, look into Joel’s Ultimate MMA Conditioning.  It’s so much more than an MMA piece.  It covers details and principles on each of the energy systems as well programming principles to get you started.  The great thing about this book is it isn’t a “copy and paste here” program.  He outlines principles so that an athlete or coach can integrate the material into their own program.  Athletes in generally, but especially in the case of MMA training a one size fits all does not, and should not, apply. 

I firmly believe this is the single best source there is on energy system development. The single most visible weakness for interns entering our program is the ability to understand and program energy system training for athletes.  Too often the “strength” side of the “strength and conditioning” is all anybody thinks about but its the biological power of the body to produce the necessary amount force, or speed, recover, and then perform this cycle over and over again over long periods of time that is important. 

Joel gives a great overview of why the aerobic system is so vital to the ability to recover and why it actually is so important to the alactic system in the grand scheme of things.  Another great thing Joel reinforces is that training does not occur in a vacuum.  Skill development as well as the physical preparation in the form of strength and conditioning must coincide and be in harmony together.  Although this is geared towards the MMA athlete the principle remains the same for everyone.  An athlete can’t train “strength and conditioning” with one coach for 2 hours, then go train with another coach on skill work for another 2 hours when coach 1 has no clue what coach 2 is doing and vice versa.  Everything creates stress on the body and when this stress becomes too much, the body breaks, in the form of injuries, sickness, etc. 

I could create a week-long lecture on the benefits of Joel’s manual and some of the issues that it brings to light in the field of strength and conditioning.  I do believe that he’s put together a great resource and recommend it to anyone who really wants to know how the body works. 

I’ve touched on a few of these topics before and here are some related links:
Soccer and Energy Systems

Heart Rate Variability


Low Back Myth’s with Stuart McGill

Here is a great video from Stuart McGill.  Those of you that have read the blog over the last two years will note that I’m a huge Stuart McGill advocate and believe in his spine principles wholeheartedly.  In this video he goes over some of the common myths associated with the back and training. 

Myth #2 may be my favorite.  This is one of the worst problems I see in sports.  When an athlete has a tight back, or possibly injures his back the first thing many physical therapist, or athletic trainers want to prescribe is “we need to stretch it.”  There’s always an underlying cause to why an injury occurs.  Generally in the low back its the hips that are giving us the real trouble.  The lumbar spine will always compensate for movement limitations, and/or activation issues  about the hips and thoracic spine.  I cringe when I hear people advocating stretches for the back and spine when their is an injury.

Throwing to Warmup

A problem I see often is athletes who dismiss the importance of a proper warm-up and none other come to mind more than pitchers.  All too often pitchers throw to warmup instead of warmup to throw.  This is still a huge problem in my eyes at all levels of play. 

Too often I see young athletes do no warmup prior to competition and begin their throwing program to warmup for their bullpen work that will precede their game. 

For years with the Angels as well as at the collegiate level I watched starting pitchers do maybe 5 min of static stretching and a couple of jogs back and forth and then start throwing a baseball at 60 feet.   What was even more annoying was on days they didn’t start they warmed up with the rest of the team which usually included a thorough dynamic warmup.   It has never made any sense to me that on the days they didn’t play the were more warmed up than the days they actually performed their sport. 

I’ve even seen pitchers warm up more for their running program on their “off days” at the professional level.  When I would bring this point up to coaches they would always answer with “They’re on their own.  They know what they need.  It’s whatever they usually do.”   The problem becomes that many of these kids come from not really having a structured program at the high school level.  So they just do what they did prior to games in H.S. 

Our starting pitchers at TCU have a specific warmup prior to their start centered around their movements and needs as an athlete.   It begins with a general body warmup but progresses to increasing movement and mobility throughout the hips, thoracic spine, and shoulder as these areas become highly important in the throwing athlete. 

We start out around the hips creating movement on the front side to the back side.  From there we will move into our thoracic spine progression.  Towards the end of our warmup we move up the kinetic chain to the glenohumeral joint and create warmth and mobility here.  Our kids are sweating heavily by the time our 12 minute session is completed. 

When I first began implementing this warmup with our staff it wasn’t uncommon to see our starting pitchers velocity up by 2-4 mph. 

The problem was that they previously weren’t preparing their body for movement, and explosive movement at that.   Even though they had thrown for 20 minutes their bodies weren’t really that prepared.

Training the Rotator Cuff to Failure

I found a couple of interesting studies done on the effect of fatigue on shoulder proprioception.  The rotator cuff has essentially two functions: to stabilize and depress the head of the humerus in the glenoid fossa.  The following studies show how fatigue can create dysfunction in the shoulder. 

Effects of Muscle Fatigue on and the Relationship of Arm Dominance to Shoulder Proprioception

The first study displays how the proprioceptive ability of the shoulder decreases with muscular fatigue.  This should really come as no surprise to most coaches out there.  The authors state that muscular endurance without overly fatigue should be the priority in training. 

In the second study the authors demonstrated that fatigue in the rotator cuff caused superior head migration.  In other words the ability of the rotator cuff to depress the humerus was compromised.  Allowing the humerus to move upwards decreases the sub-acromial space which isn’t a good thing.   This space was decreased by up to 40% which is hugely significant. 

The most interesting thing in this study is the authors had subjects perform one set of prone T’s with the thumbs up to failure.  Failure was noted after the subject couldn’t raise the weight past 45 deg. and at least 40% decrease in strength was noted.  Overall, the average degree of fatigue was indicated by a 54% reduction in prone horizontal abduction.  The average weight used for the protocol was 3.94 kg and the average time to fatigue was 84 seconds. 

The second study should open eyes as after one set of 90 seconds, the cuff can be fatigued enough to create sub-acromial impingement.  Now think of all the athletes with shoulder problems that get blasted with 40 sets of RTC exercises everyday in an effort to strengthen their shoulder. 

The problems are not only in a single workout but can carry over to outside of the weight room.  If the cuff is constantly fatigued stability fades and we don’t want to lose its strength and stability when a pitcher is throwing 94 mph off the mound in the 7th inning.

The problems with training the cuff to failure is that you create instability, which is something we’re trying to eliminate.  Allowing the head of the humerus to move in a joint that is already having dysfunction may eliminate all the positives that are created with actually training the RTC.

Movement Screening

I got a question this past weekend from an athletic trainer on my article he saw in the December 2010 Training and Conditioning Magazine. 

Special Delivery

I read the article that you wrote in December of 2010 about the screening process and conditioning routines that you put your pitchers through throughout the year. We utilize a similar process that I started this past year. I also utilize Gray Cook’s FM screening, but I read that you have modified it and changed the order to fit more specific needs of a pitcher. Is there anyway that you can send me a basic outline of your program so I can compare it to what I have come up with and share more information with our pitching coach to try to improve our performance and technique. Thanks for your time and help. Good luck for the rest of your season.

Thanks for your question.  I include tests for lat length, pec minor length, scapular stability, ankle mobilty, and the Thomas test for psoas and rectus length.  We measure internal and external rotation at the hips and shoulders.  On top of this I do breakout sessions which are dependent upon score.   Often times a perfect score on certain parts of the screen will negate the need to search for more issues.  If an athlete scores poor we will go deeper with a breakout seession, as Gray Cook calls them I believe, and look for a more specific issue.  All in all it depends on the athlete as to how much we look at and how deep we probe.  

Remember we’re always looking for dysfunction in movement patterns.  If there isn’t a gross dysfunction don’t go searching for problems.  I get asked often as to why I measured one athletes ankle mobility but didn’t measure another.  Its most likely due to the fact that the other athlete didn’t have a dysfunctional movement pattern that could be caused by an ankle restriction.  They may in fact have a restriction or limitation if we dug deep enough but since it doesn’t affect their movement, we really have no reason. 

A lot of the shoulder portion of the screening is determined by the athlete’s injury history, and / or pain.  We do a fairly thorough evaluation for internal and primary impingement is there is has been or was a recent problem. 

If you do a lot with movement screening, Gray Cook has a new book out titled Movement: Functional Movement Systems: Screening, Assessment, and Corrective Strategies.   It deals a lot with his breakout sessions and where to go when a certain pattern produces a dysfuction.  I’m still working on it but I’ve heard great things about the material within.

2011 CSCCa Conference Review

The CSCCa National Conference was this past week in Kansas City.  Our staff had a good time and it was a much-needed break from the grind of the semester.

I spoke on the topic of Training Considerations for Rotational Athletes.  I thought it went great and received some great feedback as well.  I enjoyed the opportunity and had a fairly large crowd for the time slot I received.   Those that are interested, the CSCCa is putting all the lectures on DVD.  I don’t know when they will be available or the price, but its a question I’ve been asked several times today.   I posted a link to some of the concepts I spoke about this weekend.  There are obviously a lot more on here than than sprinkling but its just what I came up with in a quick search. 

Rotational Movement Series

The best speaker of the weekend was easily Lee Taft.  His topic was Coaching Linear and Mult-Directional Speed.  I had never heard of Lee but one of our other coaches had and liked a lot of his methods.  I didn’t have that high of expectations but was definitely blown away.  I don’t feel like there are many people who have a strong grasp on speed, change of direction, deceleration training, but Lee definitely does.  He has some great progressions to teaching multi directional movement.   We actually have and use a lot of the same techniques, and methods. 

He extensively broke down the “false step” during his presentation.  The false step is the quick jab step backwards to get the body going forward from an athletic stance.  His take on it was right on. 

The false step is somewhat required to get going quick.  It creates the positive shin angle that creates the platform for acceleration.  So for those of you who try to eliminate that step, you may want to think again. 

Coach Taft went over the crossover step, retreating acceleration, the shuffle vs. the lateral running.  All in all it was a great talk.  One of the better ones I have seen at the CSCCa Conference. 

Another highlight of the conference was the chance to listen and visit with legendary Bulgarian Weightlifting Coach Ivan Abadjiev.  For those that don’t know, Coach Abadjiev basically created the most successful weightlifting program in the history of the sport and did that by essentially creating the true Max Effort Method. 

Coach Abadjiev basically scrapped the Soviets program when he took over the Bulgarian National team.  The Soviets at the time utilized sub-maximal percentages, lots of assistance / special exercises and around 2.5-4 tons loading / day as quoted by I.A.  He eliminated all the assistance exercises and began only performing the competition movements, nothing else.  He also took the loading from 2.5-4 tons / day to 20-60 tons per day.  They did this by spreading out the training over several small blocks throughout the day.  They were professional athletes at the time so all they did was train. 

The best part of the afternoon was actually the chance to meet and talk with Coach Abadjiev after most everyone had left.  Mind you he doesn’t speak English so everything was through a translator.  One of my questions was if they utilized the assistance exercises when teaching younger less advanced athletes.  His reply was they never used anything but the competition exercises, and said it was actually easier to teach the full lifts to youngsters as they hadn’t developed large technical problems yet.  His analogy was animals in the wild teach their young exactly what they need to know to survive, not a bunch of extra stuff.  Then that’s what he will do is teach athletes exactly what they need and not confuse them with extra. 

All in all it was a great week to be away from the office and with “family away from home.”

Sports Training for Coaches, Athletes, and Parents