This article came from http://www.veloforce.net/MMA_conditioning_II.html
This article was written with MMA in mind but I think it has some good points that transfer to the sport of wrestling.
Conditioning for MMA, Part-2: Training the Energy Pathways
by Mark Ginther
(First appeared in Full Contact Fighter magazine, 10-11/02)
When preparing for a major competition fighters will often start relatively out of shape, and over a period of 2-3 months gradually increase the volume and intensity of training. By the time they are ready for competition, they are on the verge of being overtrained. Following the event, they’ll often take some time off, and end up back at the same starting point when preparing for the next competition. Other fighters try to maintain peak condition year round are chronically overtrained, often prone to injury and illness.
Ideally fitness levels should increase from one period of competition to the next. Obviously, unlimited linear gains would be impossible, and peaks are always surrounded by valleys, but the trend should be towards improvement, not merely regaining or maintaining existing levels of conditioning.
There are two main energy pathways, aerobic and anaerobic, which can be subcategorized into: The phosphate system (ATP-PC), which supplies intense energy, but for no longer than 15-20 seconds continually. The lactic acid (glycolysis) system, supplies energy for events of up to 1.5-2 minutes uninterrupted, and glycogen burned in the presence of oxygen for events that are longer than 2 minutes. These times assume the event/activity is uninterrupted, and cyclical in nature, not stop-and-go.
MMA, like most sports encompasses all of the energy systems, and the amount that each contributes depends greatly on the individual’s fighting style, and the number and duration of the rounds. Likewise, the amount of training time devoted to enhancing each of the energy systems will vary depending on the upcoming event, and the individual’s given strengths and weaknesses, and even the fighting style of his opponent.
Many fighters employ methods for training these various systems, however few give much thought to the specific adaptations these methods will develop. More problematic is the fact that most fighters use endurance-training methods may train the correct energy pathways, but are not specific enough in dynamic structure to have much carryover to the ring. Renowned Canadian Strength Coach Charles Poliquin writes:
The most important is that if the ultimate goal is the development of endurance, training has to be done in the specific motor units. In other words, a judoka [or other grappler] can do as many running sprints as they want, it will have respectively very little transfer on competing on the judo mat.
To properly develop the various systems, highly specific work like shadow boxing, bag/pad work, and sparring must be given priority, and to be able to control precisely which energy system to target, the work/rest intervals must be carefully manipulated. The method of using round/rest intervals that are either longer or shorter than that of the event can be quite useful.
One of the systems that is often a weakness is the phosphate system, which is important for being able to repeat explosive, high speed/intensity movements like throws. Fighters who, after the first round or two, are unable to strike explosively, just pushing at their opponents, need to increase phosphagen stores in the muscles. Running sprints, as often prescribed, will help increase ATP-PC in the legs, but not the torso and arms.
Drills to develop the phosphate system should be of 4-15 seconds in length, performed at over 95% maximum speed, with long recovery intervals. If recovery isn’t adequate, the body will not have time to replenish creatine phosphate, and will use anaerobic glycosis instead. This will cause the accumulation of lactic acid and cause a reduction of speed.
For sparring practice, with the focus on improving the phosphate system, keep the duration of rounds shorter than the in the event, the rest intervals longer, and the total number of rounds performed higher.
The system that probably gets the greatest amount of use in a given fight is glycolytic/lactic acid system. The buildup of lactic acid caused by this process can cause nausea, burning pain in the muscles, and energy inhibiting acidosis. Fighters that can tolerate the pain of acidosis, the effects of lactic acid buildup, will perform better. Increasing the ability to buffer, increase removal of lactate from the working muscles, and increasing pain tolerance, both physically and psychologically, is the goal of lactic acid training.
Lactic acid training drills should be longer, 2-3 minutes providing the fighter can maintain speeds high enough to cause extreme lactic acid buildup. Rest intervals for lactic acid training should be long, up to fifteen minutes otherwise acidosis will be so severe that the reduction in energy metabolism will cause speed to drop below levels necessary for lactic acid buildup.
Obviously, sparring is as close to real competition as can be accomplished in the gym, and encompasses all the abilities required for competition: Technical, tactical, speed, power, coordination, strength and endurance. Sparring practice can focus on one or all of these abilities, but when the priority is endurance, Charles Poliquin writes:
The best way would be to pair up with 5 other fighters that each take turns to fight you. Since they are fresh, they will give you a run for your money. Depending on the system you want to develop you would manipulate the work /rest interval. For example 6-10 minutes work on fighter 1, 2 minutes off, 6-10 minutes work on fighter 2, 2 minutes off, etc. The permutations of that type of work are staggering. Twice a week should be plenty. What is good about it is that you will be forced to make decisions in conditions of fatigue, which is a determinant in MMA fighting.
Most fighters already employ this sort of training in one form or another, but what Poliquin suggests is fine tuning it by manipulating the work/rest intervals to develop a particular attribute or strengthen a given weakness. This method, if properly manipulated, would be excellent for lactic acid training. Since each successive sparring partner would be fresh, the fighter would be forced to perform at a higher speed and intensity, causing a greater increase in lactic acid accumulation. However, total number of rounds would be lower than in the actual event.
Because of the intensity and stress, both physiologically and psychologically, lactic acid training if performed too often can quickly lead to overtraining, and therefore shouldn’t be done more than once or twice a week.
During the preparatory phase of a training cycle, the focus should be on developing nonspecific endurance, traditionally building an aerobic base, then progressing to anaerobic interval training, and then specific endurance training. There is however, a small but growing group of innovative trainers and coaches (Ian King of Australia; Charlie Francis of Canada) that oppose this model, believing that over emphasis on aerobic training negatively affects speed and power, and ultimately detrains the athlete.
In his book--Winning and Losing: Lessons from 15 Years of Physically Preparing the Elite Athlete, sites the example of Australian rugby players, who spend much more time on aerobic conditioning than their European counterparts, and although “fitter” according to given tests, display inferior speed and power on the field. He goes on to describe experiments with various rugby, basketball and Olympic skiing teams in which he dropped his athletes’ aerobic conditioning, but suffered no losses in aerobic capacity or performance on the field.
Some might argue that MMA differs from basketball or rugby. Figures on MMA are practically nonexistent, but according to Periodization: Theory and Methodology of Training, by Tudor Bompa, both boxing and wrestling require more anaerobic power than rugby, and are both comparable to basketball for aerobic and anaerobic requirements.
King advocates a system of training which he terms Reverse Periodization of Endurance. Rather than starting off with high volume, low intensity aerobic conditioning (which trains mostly the slow-twitch muscle fibers), and shifting towards higher intensity, and lower volume as the competitive season approaches, he recommends starting at a given speed/intensity and then adding time or distance.
This can be easily applied to MMA conditioning, whether it’s running, rope skipping, bag/pad work, or sparring. Some coaches will insist on their fighters to do, for example, ten rounds on the heavy bag or pads, no matter how much the deterioration in speed, power, and technique.Rather than choosing a number of rounds, and completing them at all cost, it would be more productive to do only as much work as can be done at 90-100% of maximum speed/power output. When output falls below around 90 percent, back off (but continue moving) and only resume when able to perform at 90 percent or higher. As fitness is gained the amount of work per round will increase, as will the total number of rounds able to be performed, but unlike the former model, will develop a high degree of anaerobic endurance without sacrificing speed/power.
There are no absolute rules, but generally a training period will begin with a higher percentage of non-specific training: Skipping rope, running stairs, swimming, etc, are all nonspecific exercises that could be done during the early to middle preparatory period. A variety of times and intensities should be employed, not just from day to day, or week to week, but even in a single training session. Obviously, one doesn’t jump right into high-intensity training at the beginning of a new training cycle.
In the later preparatory period, the focus would shift towards more specific endurance, giving a higher priority to bag/pad work, sparring drills, and free sparring. The late preparatory period, and the early competitive period would be the best times for training specific energy systems, employing work/rest intervals longer or shorter than in actual competition.
With the approach of competition, the focus would be on training that is as close to the actual event as possible, with free sparring being the priority, and the work rest intervals the same as in the actual competition. Since the body recovers from fatigue more quickly than it loses fitness, a tapering period in which training volume is scaled back one week to ten days before the fight is vital to facilitate recovery from accumulated fatigue.
The most important thing when devising a conditioning routine is to honestly assess your weaknesses. Because of the specificity of conditioning, many grapplers tire quickly when forced to do stand up, and likewise, many strikers are quickly exhausted when fighting on the ground. Plan your training around your weak areas, and strengthen them; don’t simply do what you’ve always done, or what others have done. People often find that a previously neglected area, once trained in earnest, responds remarkably well, and rather than a weakness, becomes a newfound strength.
Bompa T, Periodization: The Theory and Methodology of Training 4th Edition, Champagne IL, Human Kinetics, 1999
King I, Winning & Losing: Lessons from 15 Years of Physically Preparing the Elite Athlete 2nd Edition, Toowong, Qld, KSI, 2002
Poliquin C, Ask the Guru charlespoliquin.net 6/28-7/25 2002
Zatsiorsky V, Science and Practice of Strength Training, Champagne IL, Human Kinetics, 1995
Fleck S. & Kraemer W., Designing Resistance Training Programs Second Edition, Champagne IL, Human Kinetics, 1997
About the author: Mark Ginther has over 20 years experience in sports, martial arts, and strength training. He has worked with numerous athletes including Michael Hawkins (formerly of the Boston Celtics), as well as several pro and amateur boxers. In 1999 he became the Strength & Conditioning Coach for AMC Kickboxing & Pankration.
He's recently returned from 6 years in Tokyo, where he was highly respected in both the fitness and martial arts industries. He trained K-1 Champion Nicholas Pettas for his comeback, and has written for, or been featured in several of the industry’s top publications. His monthly strength & conditioning column has appeared in Full Contact Fighter for 4 years, and ran for 2 years in IRONMAN Japan. He was featured in a cover story in Tokyo city magazine, Metropolis, and interviewed for the Japanese bodybuilding magazine, BODYPOWER. His fitness column ran in Tokyo’s Player for 6 months.