I just finished coming off a fantastic training camp with Edson Barboza and Luiz Cane for UFC 134. The camp could not have gone better for either fighter – great training partners, limited or minor injuries (which often happen in every 8 to 10 week camp) and no major “dramas” in the camps themselves. Post fight I always reflect on the camp and the strength, conditioning, nutrition, and overall camp plan. This allows me to see what we need to improve for the next time! My takeaway for this camp was the delicate dance of keeping the athlete on the razors edge of “over-trained vs. under-trained.”
For this article, please keep in mind both Luiz and Junior are world class athletes. However, the training concepts are something to consider as you prepare for a tournament and schedule your “PEAK” at just the right moment. Being at your “Peak” does not mean being at the top of your fitness capacity…but it does mean being at your best level. Confused? Read on.
The Basics of a Worlds Class Athletes Training Camp
When we go into a camp, we begin working on the foundation of strength with the fighter. The first two to four weeks we work on core strength movements and for the most part we perform these exercises while the athlete is consuming an insane amount of good calories and eating five to six times per day.
The next two to four weeks we will also be strength training, although the movements will be “off plane” adding additional stress to the athletes’ body. Remember the focus will be on moving them as MMA athletes and not as powerlifters or bodybuilders. We will still continue to use resistance training and gymnastics movements as the body of the athletes training work.
During this period the athlete is also working on his BJJ, striking, kicking and punching, ground and pound, and general road work (which can be running, rowing or biking). So the athlete is training hard for 2 to 3 ½ hours a day and still eating five to six times per day.
As we get closer to the fight, the training intensifies yet the duration of the training is reduced. The athlete works to 100% of capacity while we reduce the duration of the training but the output of energy exerted is higher.
In order for the athlete to be prepared for his event, the trainer/team needs to be sure that the athlete is out of his comfort zone in nearly every training session. The training sessions must be stressful and challenge the athletes’ body and mind. This is where the athletes’ body and mind adapts to the stress and becomes more capable of handling even more stress. As a trainer you need to anticipate the stress of the event you are training for and adapt the training appropriately.
Welcome to the Razors Edge…
A product of hard training is fatigue. When the body is put under intense stress you put great strain on the body and all of its systems. You literally change the body chemistry. You rewire systems, pathways, and neural connections. Fatigue is a direct correlation of training and it can be a good thing… but, if you do not fine tune the athletes training, nutrition, recovery, and training curriculum, you will over train the athlete and fatigue turns the corner of “destruction.”
High level athletes need to embrace fatigue… it means growth … it means progress!
If the training session did not tax the athlete physically, neurologically, or emotionally, then there was no growth.
My goal as a trainer, especially for high levels athletes, is to have the athlete at the top of their fitness potential seven to nine days out from their event. This is the ultimate level of the fighter’s fitness and, if we timed it right, it will also be the ultimate level of their fatigue. Now we have to allow their bodies to come slightly out of this ultimate level of fitness and begin healing, adapting, resting, and getting tuned up to hit their event at the 99% mark of perfection.