When trying to figure out how to get in shape for a particular sport or activity – especially something like MMA that has such a wide need of physical traits – people often will try to determine exactly which of those traits will most likely lead to success.
Simply put, would a fighter be best served by:
• Getting faster?
• Getting stronger?
• Having better cardio?
• Improving overall conditioning?
• Developing more work capacity?
And so on. (Of course, skills are the most important element, but we’ll just consider what it takes to get in shape.)
The problem that can arise with this line of thinking is that it can easily be taken out of context, depending on who the exact fighter in question is.
Specific fighting style aside (what traits might benefit a guy who is primarily a striker might be different than those that might benefit a guy who relies mainly on his BJJ), there can be a very distinct difference in the physical capabilities requisite to excel in MMA, and the ones that are requisite to just perform MMA.
This is because if you don’t have the capability to perform in the first place, you could never really excel. So, if you concentrated on those qualities that would allow you to excel, but didn’t have the baseline qualities in order to train/compete in MMA in the first place, they wouldn’t do you any good.
Quick side example:
Recently, a friend of mine was telling me about some research done by Russian sports scientists on the sport of rugby. Through their experiments with different training styles, they determined that the one physical quality most directly linked to success on the rugby pitch was speed.
In other words, the guys (teams) who spent their workouts getting the fastest and developing the most speed generally ended up winning the most.
When my buddy told me about this research, my first question was about conditioning and where that placed overall in the study. He told me that they found that improving conditioning didn’t help as much, as it didn’t matter if the guys were in better shape if they were never fast enough in order to break away and score.
Yet, speed would do you no good whatsoever if you didn’t have the overall work capacity and conditioning to go up and down the pitch for an entire game without gassing. That speed won’t do you any good if, after several minutes, you’re too tired to call upon it.
Basically, the study went on to basically say that speed was the most important factor, AS LONG AS other capabilities (including conditioning) were at a certain level.
This is the difference between what would be needed to excel versus what would be needed to perform.
The sports scientists found that more speed could help win rugby games, but only if the players were in shape enough to play in the first place.
Therefore, if a player didn’t have sufficient conditioning first, then improving his speed wouldn’t be nearly as beneficial.
It all depends on what context the recommendation is given in.
This sort of idea applies to MMA as well, but on a much grander scale, as MMA has much further reaching physical needs. A good MMA fighter has to be strong, fast, have great cardio, stellar conditioning, and more. It’s not only a sport that requires the best of all worlds when it comes to different martial arts, but it also requires the best of all worlds when it comes to physical capability.
So before you start wondering what sort of workouts would develop which physical capabilities most associated with winning fights, you need to make sure you have enough well-rounded physical capability to even fight in the first place.
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