Mass Made Simple

I have been trying for a couple of days to upload a video from here in Napa, but youtube and I aren’t talking it seems. Well, the video was funny, I made fun of Lonnie Wade and I talked about important things.

So, Mass Made Simple is out! It fits into a lot of what I try to teach. People ask me “when” to do MMS and tell them: “It depends.” Well, it does. If you are a football player, do it now. If you are in-season, DON’T!

Here is something that gives you an idea on how I do plan things:

Not long ago, everybody I ran into at the gym was a “bodybuilder.” Every guy was trying to figure out the next best machine movement to peak, scorch, taunt, or blitz their bicep into submission. Today, though, we have a new issue and I squarely put the blame on UFC and the movie, “300:” everybody in the gym now is a “fighter.”

I first heard about this a decade ago when a former student told me he was really into “grappling.” I asked him what this was (I knew wrestling and boxing, but this was a new one) and he told me that is when you roll around a lot on mats. I said: “Ah, yes. I remember being single.” He then informed me it was with another man and perhaps I misunderstood him. Certainly.

It’s a rare gym that doesn’t have dozens of guys doing a myriad of high velocity, high rep circuits that leave them battered and bruised all in the name of “fighting.” Most, though, have never taken a punch in the mouth and that is a big first step.

That’s not what we are going to talk about here. Chris Shugart asked me a good question recently: an elite top-level fighter asks me to help prepare them for a major bout in six month. What kind of program would I outline?

I agreed to do this, but with some stipulations:
1. We are talking “elite.” A top ten fighter who puts food on the table by fighting.
2. I demanded a fair amount of support in terms of people, time and resources.
3. It is “real.” In other words, much of the training would be boring, repetitive and lousy to look at on paper. If you want excitement, go to a movie. If you want success, do this. Over and over and over again.

Now, let’s expand on one important point. What is an elite athlete? Here is my classic list:

1. The athlete no longer is on a steep learning curve. The athlete, in other words, is no longer improving in quantum leaps from year to year, or season to season. Lifts, for example, no longer double over two years. Improvement is slow.
2. The athlete has a year-round approach to one sport.
3. The athlete uses some form of intense training camp or focused training of some kind each year.
4. The athlete uses high levels of strength training before the competitive periods. Save for lifters, as strength levels go down, performance should improve.
5. The athlete has made a personal choice to be elite.

These are the five points I made in 1987 when a dad wanted his son to be an NFL player. He waived a fair amount of money under my nose to “train” his boy to this goal. As everyone knows, you can’t train someone to be a professional athlete. Genetics is unforgiveable here: you have to be taller, faster, bigger and better than everyone else you encounter literally all the time. I can show you how to squat, snatch and sprint, but I can’t make you 6’ 5.” Yes, I am good, but not that good!

To train an elite fighter, that whole list is “given.” There are so many givens that I can’t honestly list them all including the fighting skills, ability to take a hit, the ability to hurt and keep hurting another person and a pain threshold that most people can’t even imagine.

Let’s look at the principles behind my suggestions.

First, let us define “success” in this plan. “Winning the match.” That is it. Please, I don’t want to hear that our fighter was in better shape and lost or that our Bench Press and Deadlift numbers indicated victory. We win…we are right; we lose…we are wrong. Honest to God, I don’t want to hear any other crap or indicators.

Second, I am the strength and conditioning support guy in this endeavor. That is all. I monitor that edge of the training. I get twenty percent of the total time dedicated to training. So, “Rule One:” 80% of the training is the sport. The bulk of conditioning is going come from training in the sport. If our athlete is “not in shape” to fight, it is because we are failing to condition him on the mat. Mat time is the single most important factor in the success (defined as “winning the match” six months from now). There are times that the strength and conditioning work will hamper the fight training, the technical work. It must be carefully crafted and planned for the right time. We can NOT have an exhausted athlete fight for the money. So, globally:

Ten hours training a week: Eight hours on the mat/two hours with me.

Twenty hours training a week: 16 hours on the mat/ four hours with me

Forty hours training a week: 32 hours on the mat/ eight hours with me

If you are training less than ten hours a week…you are not elite.

Third, I am going to break the Strength and Conditioning training into two large 13-week blocks. Assessment and Reassessment will be the cornerstones of the start of each of these large blocks. Thirteen weeks gives us a lot of time to address shortcomings and issues built up over a career and we have a chance to rethink and readdress these issues in the second block. It also gives us enough time to train hard in the weightroom which may or may not affect the fighting for those weeks and have lots of simple maintenance training. There are going to be weeks that we are going to train hard enough in the twenty percent allotted to me that we will impact performance. This is a given. So, we must plan this intelligently.

Fourth, I get twenty percent of the training time. In that time, I will split the work evenly between areas we perceive as strong and issues we perceive as weak. As Mark Reifkind, Master RKC, pointed out: “Work on your weaknesses, but compete with your strengths.” I have no issues with an athlete having imbalances in their training profile, but it is my job to force them to attempt to bring the weak points up, whatever “up” might mean in each circumstance.
So, Rule Two: we are going to “dance with the girl who brung ya.” In the initial assessment, we are going to recognize the strengths of the athlete and keep them honed. It will be my job to address the weaknesses in strength training, conditioning work and mobility and keep bringing those “up.” We will divide the training into two halves (in the weightroom) to deal with this goal. We will NOT lose the strengths that the athlete has built up.

Let’s get started.

The “Master Plan”

Two 13-week cycles

First Cycle:
Weeks One, Two and Three: Assessment, Learning, Basic Adaption
Week Four: Deload
Week Five: Heavy Training Load in the Weightroom
Weeks Six and Seven: Minimalistic Training; Focus on Correctives
Week Eight: Heavy training load
Weeks Nine, Ten, Eleven, and Twelve: Minimalist Training, Focus on Correctives
Week Thirteen: Competitive Test. Reevaluation and Reassessment.

Rule Three:
Weeks 1, 2, 3, 5, 8: It is okay for the Strength and Conditioning work to impact mat work (tired, sore, whatever).
Weeks 4, 6, 7, 9-13: It is a program failure if the Strength and Conditioning work impedes the mat work.
(I will address the second thirteen weeks later)

The sport of fighting has gone through an interesting dance with weight lifting. Like many sports, it was avoided for a long time from fears of “tightening” the striker or taking the punch away. The Soviet boxers at the 1972 proved to me that a weight trained boxer could do some damage. It is really interesting to read the progress of one fighter’s progress with lifting. Frank Shamrock’s books, especially, “Inside the Lion’s Den,” gives us some basic ideas like Bench Press, Squats (up to 500 bodyweight squats just to kick things up), Clean and Jerk, Curls and a variety of abdominal moves as well as various rolls, cartwheels and tumbling ideas. You can see his transformation from basic split bodybuilding to a more athletic training in these two articles (well worth the time):

http://www.bodybuilding.com/fun/mahler9.htm
http://www.dragondoor.com/articler/mode3/366/

Why do I even bring this up? The answer is Weeks One, Two and Three: Assessment, Learning, Basic Adaption.

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