mma training

Three Cues to Excel in the Deadlift

Most people who deadlift do so for the great strength and size-gaining benefits that accompany it. Packed in it though, is a great lesson on how to identify your center of gravity from a hinged or bent position. This has amazing benefits for the jiu jitsu fighter or anyone trying to improve their physical quality of life. Much has been written by masters of this lift, and it is one that has a lifetime's worth of detail and exploration. I consider it to be a real art and it is truly my favorite exercise. What follows are the most common cues and reminders I find myself giving when administering the deadlift.

 

Push the ground away

The most fundamentally misunderstood cue of the deadlift is that you somehow have to actively use your back to rip the bar from the ground and quite literally “pull.” I would absolutely call the deadlift a pulling lift, by virtue of it’s high demand on the posterior chain, but it’s an isometric “pull” from the upper body, with a lower body maximal effort from your posterior chain— effectively making it a “pulling motion.”

 

But a funny thing happens when we re-shift the emphasis a little: whenever I have someone who has difficulty deadlifting at a certain load, I cue them to think of their feet and imagine that on the upward portion (concentric phase) of the lift that they are pushing the ground away with their feet, while keeping the upper body rigid. Suddenly, muscles are properly cued that were underperforming earlier, their shoulders drop, traps pop, and they look like hinging perfection.  

 

It may be a pull, but you aren’t pulling with your upper body...

 

Expanding on the point above, the other massive deadlift miscue I see is that athletes will often look like they are trying to pull the bar off the ground with their back, and not using their legs to help at all until they stall with their back. Now, there is an unfolding and a bit of a pull with the back that does take place, but it must happen in conjunction with the legs “pushing you upwards” (as stated above). Moreover, those two things happening simultaneously must happen in a certain synchronicity to really effectively and expertly execute the deadlift.

RDL’s (Romanian Deadlifts) excluded, this is a huge mistake that could possibly end in injury, but more immediately, won’t do you any favors in truly reaping the benefits of the deadlift. 

Instead, take time to feel your lats, elevate your chest, brace your core, drop your shoulders, and take a few practice hinges holding this posture. This is how your upper body will remain as you deadlift. It is not a passive effort in the upper body, it’s quite active.

 

Sit on your heels

 

There’s so much of life that exists on our toes. Most sports, walking around town, and just about everything requires us to “lean in” a bit. This happens so much, that "leaning in" becomes how we are most comfortable balancing our bodies. Add to that the fact that shoes typically come with a heel (even minimalist sneakers sometimes), and you begin to see why people have trouble really getting in touch with being flat to the ground and sitting into their heels.

The problem with being too far on your toes during the deadlift is that the average deadlifter will be unable to properly cue their gluteus maximus and sit back in a nice deep hinge during the lift.   This “toe stance” has the effect of making you more likely to tilt your pelvis forward/under (posteriorly), and thus, killing a true hinge. The reason this happens is because your body is trying to get "under center" to its strong point at your center of gravity. Long term, I have seen this improper deadlift form sideline lifters for a very long time, as it has the effect of adding up to a lot of unnecessary tightness and damage to the anterior hip muscles. Even though in the moment you may feel stronger or more stable in your “toe stance,” long term it will bottom out and you’ll stall. Besides, it’s not correct anyway! 

So, avoid this at all costs by not getting your ego up or progressing too fast. Take time to practice your perfect hinge position, do support exercises, and be sure that the balance is in your heels. You also should keep the bar extremely close to your shins (almost touching, and it's okay if it does sometimes). That's the true way you keep the bar "under center." You’ll know you’re doing it properly when you can feel your glutes and the rest of your posterior chain.

 

Closing Thoughts

I find these three cues to be the most economical in recommendations, and find myself repeating them the most in the gym. These tips are very much aimed at the new deadlifter, but are very good evaluation and reflection questions an experienced powerlifter can ask themselves as well.  I included a video I often share with clients for quick reminders while deadlifting in the gym (see above). 

 

Be well.

Weight Cut Methods for Same Day Weigh-Ins: Ketosis

Photo credit:  The Doppleganger

Photo credit: The Doppleganger

DISCLAIMER: What follows is research and reflections from my own experience cutting weight personally, and with a limited pool of clients and athletes. Nothing below is intended to count as medical advice, nor does it replace the advice of a physician. Nutrition and health are hugely personal and if you require a medical consultation or wish to try any methods below, consult your physician first. These are NOT recommendations.

Same day weigh-in success is a hugely contested, and a poorly understood topic.  It is a subject that deserves quite a bit of attention though, as the popularity of sports that practice this type of weigh-ins are growing massively in popularity: from jiu jitsu to weightlifting competitions, there is a definite growing need for us to better understand and take the same day weigh-in seriously.

If you're still waiting until 10 days out and proceed to starve yourself and drink distilled water, you're probably doing more harm than good. You can be tough and do it- sure- many have. Why not be tough and smart though? That's the stuff "double-gold" dreams are made of.

The "safe" popular advice is often to stay near your weight, so the "cut" involved is not difficult at all. The other advice you hear is to not cut weight for same-day weigh-ins at all, as there is too much risk involved. In other words: fight "up."

I won't even bury the lede here:

If you're purely looking to engage recreationally in jiu jitsu or any sport that requires same-day weigh-ins and have no interest in optimization or maximizing your potential, then the latter advice is perfectly valid (ie: don't cut weight). If you're perfectly happy with your body composition and are one of the rare individuals who fall right on a weight class at any point during the year: weight cutting may not be for you. Chances are, you may not be used to performance enhancing diets. There's a learning curve and some days of discomfort.

However, if you're training for a tournament or fight of any note, the chances are that you want to win. After all, you put in quite a bit of effort to prepare, train, and even more sacrifice into your diet, sleep schedule, etc. If you're a professional or aspiring professional, you need to optimize your performance. You need to do this with care and a plan.

Chris Weidman making weight before a UFC event. He's famously known for his large weight cuts. Photo:  Peter Gordon , 

Chris Weidman making weight before a UFC event. He's famously known for his large weight cuts. Photo: Peter Gordon

If you fall into this camp, you may be 10 lbs or more away from your target weight class. It's just life: training, diets, stressors in life and lifestyle habits all influence and fluctuate your weight. Even those with the "luxury" (and I use that word VERY lightly) of 24-hour prior weigh-ins will tell you: staying at your fighting weight all year-round is not usually practical.

That's why today, in what will be a series looking at different methods to cut weight for any sport that requires same-day weigh-ins (jiu jitsu, submission wrestling, powerlifting competitors, Olympic style lifting competitors, etc), I want to share with you my research findings, first-hand experience, and experience of athletes and experts using a ketogenic diet as a means to make weight for competition. 

What is Ketosis?

Ketosis is the state the body finds itself in when it's using ketone bodies or fat as its primary source of energy. Most people who are not in ketosis are in a state of glycolysis, where energy is derived from glucose in the blood, or blood sugar. Ketosis, is the opposite. (1)

To get your body into a ketogenic state, you need to consume as little as 30g of carbohydrates per day, and can go as high as 100g in some individuals. To put it in perspective, two slices of Ezekiel bread would put you at 30g roughly, and a single large banana will bring you close as well.  This variation in how many carbohydrates you can consume to start ketosis, in my view, is usually due to the size of the athlete or individual and how much glycogen they have stored (or can store).  Thus, the exact number it takes to get you ketogenic is hard to quantify, but is often very low (my own number was 50g of carbohydrates or less per day, starting at a weight of 157 lbs).

The other limiting factor in ketosis, and this is key for anyone who wants to better understand their carbohydrate intake, is that it can take multiple days to burn through your glycogen stores, even while in a ketogenic state. When beginning a ketogenic diet, it may take up to 5 days to burn off your circulating blood glucose and glycogen stores to the point where the body preferentially (or out of necessity) turns to ketone bodies. 

This is important to point out too for the non-keto crowd, because there is a misconception among athletes that they need to hit "x" amount of carbohydrates per day, no matter what. Even if you're on a ketogenic diet, nothing could be further from the truth. The day's activities, training and sport demands drastically change the body's energy requirements. You'd be surprised how little glycogen you're actually burning off in a single workout (sounds like heresy I know, but I'm speaking from experience). Therefore, a professional or high level athlete should contact a knowledgable individual, nutritionist or dietician to help them work out the nuances of their daily carbohydrate consumption. The truth is, it should change frequently.

Your body isn't a total stranger to ketosis though: depending on your daily level of carbohydrate intake, you likely switch to this state while you sleep. You "snap out of it" once you consume enough carbohydrates the next day. 

Practical Application

My own goal during my most recent cut was to stay under 50g carbohydrate per day. With the exception of re-feed days, I was always under this amount. A true ketogenic diet, much like the one Tim Ferriss shared once, and many describe, is a ratio of approximately 15% Protein from Calories, 80% Fat and 5% carbohydrates from fruit mostly. My own diet was closer to 25% protein, 70% fat and 5% carbohydrates. You can debate the merits of that as truly ketogenic or not. 

Ketosis Friendly Foods: Healthy, fatty salmon and bok choy.

Ketosis Friendly Foods: Healthy, fatty salmon and bok choy.

Regardless, I was completely gluten and grain free during this time as well. I ate no rice or potatoes during the cut, not even on re-feed days. This was a rather extreme version for some, but most ketogenic diets have no room for these foods either.

While on the diet, it's important to understand there is a need for "re-feed" days. This means you have one or two days per week where you go over the maximum carbohydrate intake parameters in an effort to refuel glycogen. Every 3rd or 4th day is a good practice for this. Personally, because I was in a total experimentation mode, and have a penchant for deprivation and pushing my limits, I did not necessarily follow a strict guideline of "3 to 4 days" but rather, would be very mindful of how my body felt and "re-fed" accordingly. Coincidentally enough, this was usually every 3.5 days. So I would say this recommendation holds in my experience. I haven't seen a ketogenic diet that advocates skipping a re-feed day for athletes, even if the scheduling of these days is different (like Dr Mauro Di Pasquale's Anabolic Diet for instance)

Re-feed meals are best done after a particularly glycogen-depleting workout, like heavy weight training, high intensity intervals, short duration, alactic-type workouts or bouts of exercise. This is when you'll feel it (and want it) most, but it's also when your body is most ready to "accept" carbohydrates for the sole purpose of replenishing glycogen.

Benefits

My firsthand experience with a ketogenic diet was largely positive. I did it for 5.5 weeks prior to the IBJJF New York Open at No-Gi to make featherweight. I dropped from 157 lbs to 147lbs, weighing in officially with my gear on at 146.6 lbs. That meant I could eat a small breakfast that morning, drink reasonably to keep my body hydrated and even scored a few handfuls of an omega-3 nut mix before my match.

The real benefit to the ketogenic diet for the athlete is the body being physically and mentally ready to perform with what seems like small amounts of food or even in a relatively fasted state. By the time you're at competition day or fight day, you're used to 5+ weeks of food that is small in portion and dense in fuel-giving calories. You're also very familiar with the body using ketones and fat as energy. Thus, if you're right on weight and don't have much to eat the day of the competition, this probably won't affect your performance nearly as much as the person who lives on a steady stream of blood glucose from a diet that calls for more carbohydrates and lower fat.

Anecdotally speaking: the athletes I've worked with who possess the best endurance are good fat metabolizers, and tend to be some of the best at training in these relatively "deprived" states. The science on this is that they've effectively lowered their insulin resistance and through training and fueling with moderate to high fat diets, have been able to stabilize their blood sugar and have "re-trained" their bodies to begin burning fat and ketones as fuel during exercise. (2)  

Drawbacks

In my experience, though some will report differently, when you come off a short-term ketogenic diet, you tend to gain the weight back that you lost pretty quickly. This may seem like common sense, but upon getting off the diet, I shot up to 155 lbs in roughly 10 days. After eating a large "celebration meal," I was at 152 lbs the next day.

For that reason, I believe it's an effective "athlete's diet," but maybe not so great at making long term body composition change, unless you plan to keep up the lifestyle. There is much debate about how long-term you can keep up a ketogenic diet safely however. There are some dissenters though, like Dr Peter Attia, who claims to have been on one for over 10 years. 

There are also many factors that influence your body's readiness to take on a diet like this. Some people genetically have a polymorphism that makes them inefficient fat metabolizers and could actually do a great deal of harm and suffer from weight gain if they go on a high-fat diet. Dr Rhonda Patrick described this on the Joe Rogan Experience #672 if you'd like to learn more about that.

Things You Should Know

You will get the "low carb flu." After about two days in my experience, you'll start to feel sluggish, cravings will arise and it will be difficult. These can last for as few as two days, and as long as a week (in my experience). There are many reasons for this, some debated, some more accepted:

  • Your body is adjusting to using fat as its primary source of energy.
  • There's a "die off" effect going on internally (note: this effect is best noted and studied with antibiotic administration, not dietary or probiotic changes necessarily, but it's often been hypothesized as a reason for discomfort).

If you're under 8% body fat (and possibly even as high as 10% in males), you may not find this as an effective means to cut weight for competition, as you have very little "useless" weight to lose. You would still likely benefit from adopting many of the principles, as ketogenic diets would arm you to feel more satiated on less food before competition, you'd lower your insulin resistance, and in turn, retain or build more lean muscle. Chances are though, if you're a healthy 6-10% BF male, you likely possess many of these qualities already.

Addressing Misconceptions

Ketogenic Diets will make you "bonk," hurting performance and induce sluggishness.

This is a really loaded assumption because it's true: if you do it wrong.

I did it wrong at first: once my body got past the "low carb flu," I initially neglected to respect the power of the "re-feed" days in fear that it would "retain too much water" for me to make weight. In my final 2.5 weeks of prep, I adjusted this notion and never looked back. Do it right and you'll never feel sluggish.

You will lose muscle and lean tissue as your body needs it for fuel.

I have never found this to be true in my experience at all. The body, through gluconeogenesis, is able to metabolize protein and lean tissue for fuel, but this just does not seem to happen in a significant enough number to be a concern. In fact, most people report gaining muscle: I did myself while on this diet: increasing my muscle mass >2% in 5 weeks. You are quite literally consuming your body fat to put on lean tissue. 

A loose, but appropriate comparison here is to intermittent fasting. Many of the disciples of intermittent fasting herald it for its body recomposition and lean tissue building properties. Ketogenic diets lend themselves well to pairing with intermittent fasting

You risk dangerously elevated cholesterol levels, obesity and possibly diabetes from a diet so high in fat.

This is only true if you were to eat a high fat diet, but also kept up a high carbohydrate intake. Dr Rhonda Patrick very succinctly explained this on a recent appearance on the Joe Rogan Experience Podcast. Essentially, chronic inflammation from a poor diet high in carbohydrates, mixed with high fat foods is an equation that equals cell damage.  Cell damage often ends in illness or disease.

Bottom Line

If healthy and able to do so, using a ketogenic diet for a weight cut is very effective, as you will likely lose weight if you have weight to lose (if you're above 15% body fat as a male, you will likely be very successful). It is a "weight cut" for competition in the truest sense of the word: once you break the ketogenic nutrition program, you do tend to gain weight on the scale. This can be mitigated through a proper transitional diet, but it's important to remember that this is probably not a state you should be staying in long term. It makes sense to bring yourself  out of it. Always do this under the supervision of a professional or physician if in doubt with regards to its safety to your health.

If you're looking to cut weight for an important competition or event, I invite you to check out my Weight Cut Coaching services, or to contact me if you ever have any questions. 

 

Other useful links not already linked in this blog:

Ketosis and Athletic Performance: More Than Fat Loss (Four Hour Workweek Blog)

Cyclical Ketogenic Diet: The Best Ever Bodybuilding Diet?

 

Have you ever used a diet like this to make weight for same-day weigh ins? Let me know by commenting below or sending me a message. I'd love to hear your experience.

Next time, we'll discuss Same Day Weigh-In Cuts using a different method of dieting. Check back soon!

- Mark

Bulletproof Your Shoulders for Combat Sports (and Life)

Your neck hurts, your shoulders are tight. Maybe you had one of those "rotator cuff tears" years ago. You try to massage the sore spots, maybe throw around some dumbbells and do some shoulder exercises here and there. You find a popular rotator cuff exercise and do it.

No relief?

That's because you may be treating the wrong area. If your issue is scapular stabilization: it's all in the back. Specifically, the area and muscles around the scapula. 

As a "scapular sufferer" of many years myself, the following workout and video came from years of picking up little tricks from trainers, athletes, fighters, instructors and physical therapists.  What you see is a weekly little routine of mine to stay flexible, strong and healthy.
 

What's In A Scapula

The scapula refers to your shoulder blades, essentially. It's connect to the humerus (upper arm) with the clavicle.  In Latin medical terminology, it's referred to as "omo." (Probably where the word "omoplata" comes from, too.)

If you bust out an anatomy book or are familiar with anatomy yourself, it probably just clicked as why your scapula is involved with your shoulder pain: it's directly connected to it all.

Most importantly though (read carefully long-term shoulder injury sufferers): the rotator cuff muscles are indeed involved in scapular issues, but most of the time, they're only relevant in issues of internal and external rotation of the humerus/arm. Pictured above are the muscles responsible for scapular stabilization: the trapezius, serratus anterior, levator scapula, and rhomboid muscles. These are the muscles, if weak, cause you day-to-day issues because they physically cannot complete the job of maintaining your posture.

When the scapula can't be in a nice relaxed position, or better yet, in a nice state of retraction during movement, you begin to take on the T-Rex or Velociraptor pose. If your shoulder blades were wings, and you wanted to open them, you wouldn't stay hunched-over in those dinosaur poses, you'd be puffed up, chest out, shoulders back and proudly opening those suckers. 

This is how you want to think of your posture. If you're a forward head sufferer, internally rotated shoulder sufferer, are a boxer or kick boxer, or play a lot of butterfly and open guard in jiu jitsu/combat sports, you need this program.

Perhaps even more importantly, if you're a runner, you need a strong, stable upper back. You are physically unable to run with proper form without it. Ever have lower neck pain after or during running? My money is on this as the culprit. 

Let's talk solutions (I could talk science and anatomy all day, but most of you don't care/need that).


The Program

I've written out what you'll find in the video below for your quick reference, though I recommend watching for proper form demonstration.

Warm Up:

  • Indian Club Shoulder Rotation (straight arm) -
    • 3 x 12
      • If you do not have Indian Clubs, you can easily get them these days and they are well worth the investment for the constant shoulder-pain sufferer. HOWEVER, 2.5 dumbbells can be used for similar effect, but it's not the same asymmetrical weight distribution which really causes the deep stretch and work.

Workout:

  • Kettlebell Arm Bars
    • 3x/side, 30 second holds minimum
  • "Scapular" Push-Ups 
    • 3 x 10 
  • "Scapular" Pull-Up 
    • 4 x 10
  • Deadlift
    • 3 x 10 to start*, light weight (~70% 1RM)
      • When using a main/major lift in a corrective manner, you're going for stability, not 1RM record setting days.  Let's be honest, your "record setting form" is shitty. Here, we're trying reinforce the positive attributes of proper deadlift form: retracted scapula, strong and stable trapezius muscles all stabilizing the load.  Aim for that. Secondly, we're after good, strong postural endurance. We have a higher rep scheme to test the integrity of your postural endurance. Start slow.

All of these exercises are demonstrated in the video above. You can also easily add this sequence to existing strength programs up to 3-4 times per week.


Say good bye to omoplata-like pain while you're laying on the couch and let me know how these exercises are helping you.

Finally, I'll close by saying I recommend following my Instagram and Facebook page, as I give daily updates on performance enhancing tips through simple, achievable measures. I'll always blog (I have the heart of a writer), but if you want more "constant attention," you'll find it there.

Take care.

The Number One Conditioning Mistake Every Jiu Jitsu Athlete Makes

Photo credit:  Leon Maia

Photo credit: Leon Maia

Sensational headlines deserve instant gratification. So I'll give it to you:

The number one mistake every jiu jitsu athlete makes is:

RECOVERY

 

That is to say, they (we) don't value recovery as part of the training method. That's really the core issue here; recovery isn't something you do instead of training, it's a part of training.

You've heard it endlessly, and probably groan at the thought of hearing the following: "take a day off," "give your body a break," "don't run yourself ragged."

The sentiment is nice and intuitive, and comes from a place of concern, but the truth is: if you just stop dead in the water and do nothing as your only means of recovery, it's probably not doing you much good either. In some cases it may do more harm than good. 

Now you're probably starting to see why everyone does "recovery" wrong. Let's try to make it right.

The Basic Science of Recovery

I. Lymphatic and Immune System

The body has two organ systems that work synergistically: the immune system and the lymphatic system. The immune system is the one many are familiar with: it helps us fight infection from bacteria, viruses, fungi, and all other pathogens that may cause illness or disease to the body. The lymphatic system can be thought of like street cleaner and the enforcement wing of the immune system: it's what does the actual cleansing of the body. Through the flow of lymphatic fluid, the lymphatic system cleans the body of waste product, abnormal cells and other unwanted byproducts of our biology. I'll be the first to tell you, an hour of jiu jitsu per day (or an hour of weight lifting, running, etc), produces a LOT of waste.

A healthy lymphatic system is obviously beneficial to you. One thing that keeps the lymphatic system healthy and functional is movement. If the body is stagnant, the lymphatic system is compromised (1). The waste that your body is meant to be expunging is just stewing in purgatory without some movement.

So, as you may have surmised: it's not the most effective means of recovery if your "off day" consists of sitting on the sofa for 12 hours. It's also why sitting at your desk at work isn't a proper recovery either.

 

Autonomic Nervous System

The autonomic nervous system acts largely in the background, controlling function of various organs and regulates heart rate, digestion, respiratory rate, and most of all is home to the "fight or flight" mechanism in the human body.

It has two "divisions":

  1. Parasympathetic 
  2. Sympathetic

Wrestling, jiu-jitsu, sports of any kind, strength training, and any tough movement are sympathetic dominant activities. They get you in a state of "fight of flight," and ready to roar.  Sympathetic dominant activities are largely catabolic, meaning they break down the body in order to honor and fulfill what you ask of it. This means it breaks down energy stores, and sometimes even muscle, to do what you ask of it.

Parasympathetic activity is more synonymous with the "anabolic" activities of life: consuming, resting, regeneration, healing. The parasympathetic nervous system calms the nerves and brings them back to normal function. It's often called the "rest and digest" mechanism (2). Quite simply, recovery happens here.

We as athletes are really good at flexing our sympathetic nervous system muscles. Five 10 minute rounds on the mats last night? Sympathetic. Great deadlift and leg day? Sympathetic. Awesome mile time? Sympathetic. Boss pissed you off at work, or subway was late? Sympathetic.

You need to induce and help the body get back into a parasympathetic state. It's not that hard, but you'd be shocked at how many people are unable to get there.

What You Should Do

There's two simple ways to look at recovery and how you can apply it to your training regimen:

  1. Daily Practices
  2. 'Recovery Day' Practices

Daily Practices

It's hard to say one is more important than the other, but if I had to put weight on one, it would be to "Have daily recovery practices." These are little practices and lifestyle modifications you can incorporate into your daily training life.

The little tiny things you do daily add up to be big contributors to your success and sustained high performance.

Most athletes have busy lives. Between work, family, and other obligations, having a day devoted entirely to recovery is probably not always a guarantee. I'd much rather have you take 10-15 minutes a day to do a few things that will benefit you hugely in the long run. We live in a world of realism, not idealism, so start making a few minutes for some of the following.

They include:

  • A proper cool-down after rolling (to reset the autonomic nervous system to be a little more parasympathetic dominant to start the recovery process).
  • Eat real, good food
  • Limit the sugar intake in your life
  • Prioritize sleep
  • Meditation (in its many forms)
  • Foam Rolling, lacrosse ballin', myofascial release of any kind
  • Deep stretching in conjunction with breathing
  • Epsom salt baths*
  • Look into recovery oriented vitamin/mineral supplementation like ZMA.*
  • Look into incorporating probiotic foods into your diet or supplementing with a probiotic. 
  • Take a walk
  • If you sit a lot, stand up every 10-15 minutes and pace around.
  • Find what may be causing you emotional or life stress and address it (don't underrate this, it will always kill you).

A Proper Recovery Day

If you have a day devoted to recovery, which I highly recommend, you'll further reap the benefits of injury prevention and sustained high performance. Good practices include everything listed above, but with the extra time not taken up by training you can:

  • Go for a long walk (3 miles or more) or a hike
  • Get a deep tissue massage
  • See an ART or other muscle activation specialist for any ailing/nagging issues.
  • Put together a proper mobility routine and do it from start to finish
  • Do any sport or activity leisurely that is relatively non-contact.
  • Acupuncture 
  • Floatation/isolation tanks
  • Experiment with new recovery technologies like cryotherapy (though I do warn you to always do your research and know the efficacy of these methods may not be proven given how new they are).

 

If you take nothing else away from this:

Listen, I know that jiu jitsu, like many sports, is a contact sport where freak injuries happen. I know this as well as anyone. However, I'd wager that 4 out of 5 injuries that happen are not freak injuries and could have been prevented. How? Preparing your body the right way.

This advice is more relevant than ever. For the first time, there are a large number of professionals and people who make their living from jiu-jitsu competition. To act like the demands of jiu jitsu aren't that of MMA or football is simply silly. Jiu Jitsu athletes who make their living from it are professional athletes. You need as much care as LeBron James or the New York Giants.

I know that jiu jitsu, not unlike wrestling, is notorious for "grinding it out," and having a mentality that nothing else matters except jiu jitsu.  There may be nothing I can say to change your mind. You may think I'm just a shill because I'm a trainer, acting out of self interest. It's just not true; I believe this with every cell in my body. I urge you not to wait until you're hurt and in a compromised position to seek out the help of a professional. 

Start a proper strength and conditioning routine, work some of the tips stated above into your life, and start to take care of your meat wagon, and you'll stay on the mat. You may even get some hardware.

 

 

 

 

 

Newton's Second Law in MMA (and why Dan Henderson can hit so hard at any weight)

I like physics. Admittedly, like most, my understanding of it gets very convoluted very quickly, but I do enjoy it. To be a successful strength coach and performance trainer, you really need to at least understand the basics, specifically Newton's Laws; they're EVERYWHERE in sports.

This was especially true at UFC Fightnight 68: Dan Henderson vs. Tim Boetsch. So much so, that I decided to make a little video breaking it down.

If you're not a video person, or for the sake of notes: let's use our (written) words and talk a little about what I mean.

Applying the SCIENCE

What should you take away from Newton's Second Law and what it has to do with strength and conditioning?

If you recall, Newton's Second Law is:

Force = Mass (x) Acceleration

 

or more concisely:

F = MA

 

For a very long time, strength coaches and trainers in nearly all conventional sports tried to build the biggest, largest, most hypertrophied muscle-bound athletes they could, operating under the idea that manipulating the mass (M) in this equation would deliver more force. They were right in many cases too. If either number in the equation is larger,  you get more force (F). Simple math.

Well, this can present problems for a fighter. One of the biggest problems is that fighters have to weigh-in. A linebacker doesn't have to hit the scale to get access to the field, but a fighter of any combat sport does.  They have specific weight classes and they have to be as strong as possible at that particular weight. How do you make someone strong without putting on (too much) weight? The answer is in the "A."

Acceleration (A) is a tricky one to train. Strength trainers and coaches, in increasing numbers, are beginning to consider it more and more as a vital variable in producing more striking and takedown power in conditioning programs.

It's also the answer as to why a 135lbs man can brutally dish out a knockout punch, and why a guy like Dan Henderson can crank out incredible blows at any weight he fights at (even down 20+ lbs from his "prime years"). 

When Dan Henderson winds up to deliver a straight right, like he famously did to Michael Bisping, he's effectively putting the optimal amount of force into the punch by how effectively he accelerates via his technique. If he committed too much (or too little) of his weight into the punch, he no longer has the optimal striking power; his "M" is reducing his "A"/acceleration. 

Combat sports are a great example of acceleration in athletic performance because both fighters are roughly the same size. Their weight class ensures and defines this, so any talk of a "size advantage" (or Mass advantage) goes away quickly. 

The Takeaway

So there you have the theory as to why we want to manipulate and put a premium on acceleration in strength training. Now, of course, we have to answer the "how do you train for increased acceleration in generating force?"

 That's a topic for a future blog or article (something I think we'll do very soon- how's that for a tease?), but for now I want you to consider something:

4 of the 5 fights on the main card ended in knockouts. The only heavyweight bout ended in a submission victory for Ben Rothwell (go figure!). All other fights were under 155lbs, and two fights were at 135lbs. Two knockouts in a row from men weighing 135lbs certainly isn't just because of size.

Let me know if you guys like breakdowns like this, and I'll do more of them. If not, I'll stick to my long-form posts on programs and techniques, like the How to Build a Better Gas Tank (if you're a Jiu Jitsu or Combat Athlete)

- Mark

 

PS:  I know some of you will say this is all relative: if each fighter weighs the same, the force (and their tolerance to absorb it) is relative. You're right. However, you are generating much more than your body weight in force if you're properly striking. If I weigh 135 lbs and deliver a punch that only has 135 lbs or less of force, the chances of that punch being a knockout blow are probably pretty low.