Taking a step back from the recent introduction to the world of MMA (MMA 101
) it needs to be stressed that the majority of non-skill training in this sporting discipline is far removed from the demands. In the oddest set of circumstances, while the MMA sport has grown rapidly in the last twenty years, the non-skill training aspect has regressed to the point where it is seemingly more driven by marketing rather that coaching science or practical experience.
A number of years ago when I began to introduce notions of weighted General Physical Preparation, non-conforming objects and other notions identified as "functional training", to the coaching community, I had no idea I would beget a generation of "experts" who would make use of the exercises without truly understanding their impact. Unfortunately few of us in the early 1990's, much less the decade before, could forecast a world where the internet's "information super-highway" would create scores of "training experts" with only pedestrian practical experience but well versed in SEO (search engine optimization) and the re-writing of others' work as their own. As maddening as that is for innovators in the training profession, for combative athletes a worse impact would occur, as they would be handed exercises for any number of reasons but none with a clear understanding of the sporting demands. It is hard to keep track of the fads in the training world as it has drifted from gleaming machines on one side of the perspective, to cardio-laden factions that consider endless repetitions as the answer to a lot of wheelbarrow pushing, sledgehammer wielding athletes on the other. Though it may have "sex-appeal" to center advertising and marketing campaigns around tire-flipping tests of strength or weight room endurance work, it is almost always misguided and a testament to the lack of coaching aspect in the sport.
A unique aspect of MMA training is, as I noted in a recent speaking engagement, that unlike other sports where misguided training leaves the athlete playing below their ability, a combative athlete is likely to suffer through a very stern and painful lesson of being ill prepared. If there is any confusion on my phrasing, I make no light of this situation but stress that a poorly trained MMA combatant is in a dangerous situation that they are not prepared for. Precisely the situation occurs with many in the law enforcement community who are often suggested training measures that are suited towards (police) academy tests but not the true measure of "survivability". Sadly, much of the military suffers from not only similar poorly directed training measures but also from a citizenry with deplorably low standards of conditioning. I will save that "treatise" for another time but when twenty pull-ups and holding a six-minute mile pace over three miles is the epitome of conditioning, there are some problems. Those points aside, when not prepared properly a combative athlete can suffer very grave harm and should never get into the ring / octagon or on the mats without the guidance of a training professional who specializes in the sporting discipline.
Of the topic at hand, the major weakness in combative sport training is that is they are burdened with high repetition sets that do not take into account the sport's need for:
(i) high force production
(iii) speed-endurance and
(iv) confuse work threshold development with cardiovascular work.
In a very broad condemnation of this poor training habit, much of the program designs are channeled towards slow twitch muscle. Ignoring the basic understanding of the sports demands, along with characteristics of slow / fast twitch fibers and pattern of recruitment most programs cause very dedicated athletes to perform endless repetitions never once realizing that they are creating the same training effect as your standard aerobics ("grapevine to the right") class. Despite the knowledge, assuming the modern "trainer" is aware of this, training work that focuses muscular endurance will cause the balance of muscle type to shift to slow twitch fiber, while the dedicated, albeit poorly coached, will be left to pay the cost of inappropriate training. Running abreast of this problem is the practical observation that the majority of this low intensity work is performed in the manner where the, once again well intended athlete, squeezes out rep after rep with poor form thus solidifying poor posture and movement patterns.
In another typical poor training habit, athletes have been inclined to make use of non-conforming objects exclusively. Very typically, athletes are using these approaches far too early in their long-term training plan. Unfortunately, in this situation the athlete's good intentions get the best of them because they are not ready for such work to become the mainstay of their program, as they do not possess the baseline strength to maintain posture and project, accept or re-direct force under the duress of destabilized environments.
In summation, I should first like to point out that I have enormous respect for the broad sporting discipline under the MMA umbrella and in-fact have always found a "home" with those in the discipline. Through no intention of my own, the MMA community is likely the first group to embrace my ideas back when much of my training was done in a run-down, dirty beach town that over the last quarter-century somehow became a "resort destination". Contrary to the all-too present "bad-boy" portrayal of much of the sport, puffed out in another c-note t-shirt, athletes in this discipline are generally some of the best people you will meet and know what it takes to "get the tough job done, any way, any how." As I write this extensive article series at ProSource, my hope is that, the series they help take the sport to a much higher-level long past my days.