Strength and conditioning coaches who are successful within the domain of MMA understand that no one “perfect” program exists and that numerous obstacles will arise during the 8-12 week span that typically leads up to a fight. Injuries incurred over the course of training (both acute and chronic), endorsement or sponsor related travel, budgetary limitations and the juggling of timeframe centered logistics surrounding the countless training sessions that range from sparring, technical/tactical skill refinement and development, and strength and conditioning work, require a long-term performance plan that is less based upon strict, overcomplicated or idealized periodization schemes and more centered on strong foundational constructs and adaptability. Everything from how the individual training phases themselves are laid out, to the unveiling of the weekly and daily plans must allow for maneuverability since technical/tactical sessions can often run long, change in an instant from either a timing or intensity standpoint, and even turn into impromptu sparring sessions depending on what that particular coach sees or decides that his/her fighter needs at the time. This reality, amongst others, often leaves us as strength and conditioning coaches scratching our heads and needing to have a “Plan B & C” at the ready so that we can best abide by and adapt to both the bioenergetic and neuromuscular demands that the athlete has already been subjected to within not only the previous strength and conditioning sessions of the week but also the preceding or subsequent technical/tactical sessions that occur within the same time frame. This obstacle is compounded by the fact that the vast majority of technical/tactical or sparring related training sessions are rarely planned out or objectively measured in a highly specific or organized fashion which would otherwise allow us as strength and conditioning coaches to effectively plan around and even complement within our own training sessions. Thus is not only the complex nature of being a part of a multi-disciplinary “fight team” which can include upwards of 6-10 coaches (depending on fighting style, strategy, fighter skill strengths and/or deficiencies) but also a sporting culture that is still learning how to effectively “share” and function as seamlessly integrated unit.
For these reasons, amongst others, you will notice the provided templates favor ranges, simplified programming adjustments for selected exercises, and multiple energy system development based “menu items” that can be strategically inserted in a “plug and play” type of format in order to ensure that irrespective of the situation that a strength and conditioning professional may find him/herself in, that they can confidently move forward with a plan that constantly adjusts to the needs of the individual athlete him/herself, while still managing the complex physiological variables that can determine the outcome of both their level of preparedness for the bout as well as their subsequent recovery upon it’s completion.
The templates provided are actual examples that were created and used by me during the fight preparation for a number of elite level Mixed Martial Art athletes within the UFC. For the purposes of this text, certain aspects and timelines have been adapted to enhance clarity for you the reader, and to provide better insight into the realities that you yourself may face should you decide to pursue a career training MMA fighters. Please keep in mind that these are only examples, and are not intended to be strictly replicated or considered as the primary or “only way” in which you could approach the physical preparation for MMA athletes. The methods that you choose should be based off of science based principles and the unique characteristics or needs of your own fighters.