Being in top shape is one of the most important components of a fighter. If you look at any of the top fighters in the sport–GSP, Jon Jones, Cain Velasquez, Chael Sonnen, Frankie Edgar, or Jose Aldo–there is one thing they all have in common: great conditioning. While each fighter may have their own individual style and way of moving, every single fighter needs to be in excellent shape. It doesn’t matter how good you are if you’re unable to move due to exhaustion. That’s one of the worst ways to lose a fight.
Here are five tips to help you improve your conditioning for mixed martial arts in ways that’ll make you a bonafide threat in the cage.
1. Do deadlifts. The increased strength and anaerobic capacity from doing deadlifts will make you a force to be reckoned with. Widely considered to be the absolute best strength training exercise (some people will say squats), deadlifts are great for building explosive power in the hips (think BJJ) by working the glutes and hamstrings tremendously. No MMA strength and conditioning routine is complete without some quality deadlifts. Do them. Now. Seriously.
2. Run long & short distances. Most people know that running helps improve cardio. That should be a no-brainer. It’s the classic aerobic exercise. Recently (especially during the past 15 years or so), people have been advocating using running as an anaerobic exercise, primarily through the use of interval training. This is great, but the problem is that a lot of people then forego long distance running under the assumption that it can reduce muscle strength due to an increase in slow twitch muscles.
While long distance running shouldn’t make up the core of you workout, doing it once or twice a week will only benefit you, just as doing interval training once a week will. Interval training will help increase your VO2 max and anaerobic capacity, while long distance running will help you recover inbetween rounds and teach you how to pace yourself – something that just isn’t learned from interval training, and a thing that a lot of fighters need to learn.
3. Be sexually active. Regular sexual activity is known to increase testosterone levels, in addition to promoting good general mental and physical health. Depression is a great way to gas out; being under stress puts, well, additional stress on the body, so make sure you’re getting some. Don’t listen to that nonsense about not having sex before a fight; GSP doesn’t, so why should you?
4. Spar frequently. Sparring is one of the best ways to simulate a fight. A lot of fighters spar, but they don’t do it as frequently as they should. Low intensity sparring should be used several times a week (4-5), preferably against different opponents for different rounds. I don’t recommend doing high intensity sparring more than one or two times a week due to the possibility of injury and problems with recovery and overtraining. When you’re sparring, make sure to work on your pacing.
5. Stay hydrated. Being dehydrated will significantly decrease your overall energy levels and ensure that you gas out in the first round every-single-time. If you’re cutting weight, I suggest using pedialye to replenish your fluids after the weigh in. If you’re not cutting weight, make sure you keep your body full of electrolytes and water. I recommend drinking about a gallon of water a day while keeping sodium intake up in order to stay completely hydrated. You’ll feel better and last longer (no, not that way.)