Conditioning and tracking conditioning

Its Funny as i sit here writing this, a question that is on the tip of a good 98% of combat athletes tongues during fight week is:

“Have I done enough in this fight camp to go 3/5 rounds”

The Answer is complex. It is not Black or White its grey REALLY grey. so before we get into exactly how or what conditioning is i want to first talk about mindset of conditioning.

Patrick McAllister collecting Gold at the IBJJF European Championships earlier this year

Patrick is one of the athletes i train and is one of the best grapplers in the world. This isn't because he is the most talented guy out there but its his bulletproof mindset. He is off to Los Angeles in a few weeks to compete at the world IBBJF Championships. we had a discussion in our last track session about conditioning and it simply boils down to this simple statement.

“if you have undoubted belief that you are ready, then you are ready”

Think about it like this. if you get up for work which is a 10–15 min drive away and your start time is 9am, you dont just get out of bed at 8.30 and rush like a tazmanian devil and fall into work at 9.01. you have a system.

  • probably rise at 7/7:15
  • take a shower/brush teeth
  • get some breakfast if you have not already prepped the night before
  • get dressed for work
  • go to your car and commute to work
  • arrive in work in good time ready to start your day

All these bullet points are done with minimal thought. that is because you've done this routine so many times you could perform it with your eyes closed. so lets correlate back to our mindset topic — if we can program our mind to perform a daily routine like going to work we can program our mind to Believe that our conditioning will be a peak come fight day.

I am the type of coach that likes a blend of Old school vs New School and Theory vs Experience. Some of my methods are a mixture of all 4 and then some. one thing I will say is this. if you are a fighter who believes doing circuits or HIIT(High Intense Interval Training) will get you fight ready then think again. It will have a place but if you solely depend on this method all you are doing is getting better at circuits. i mean circuit training has been in place in the industry for a number of years but someone partaking in circuits 5x per week isn't going to last an intense grappling class if we are being honest.

So then how do we get better at conditioning?

  • Test — Identify the areas that need to be worked on and build a program around it.
  • Track — Monitor the performance of the program using certain tools to analyze the program and see if your conditioning is improving.

One of the simplest and cost effective ways to analyze conditioning is through a heart rate monitor and the heart rate recovery method. (a Heart rate monitor is a must have for any fighter wanting to improve their conditioning)

Heart Rate Recovery is a great indicator for the coach and the athlete to see where the level of conditioning is currently sitting. there are obvious factors such as the autonomic nervous system - Sympathetic(fight/flight) and Parasympathetic (rest/digest) response affecting bouts of aerobic and anaerobic activity. For example it will take someone who is doing 5 x 400m sprint longer to recover than someone running a mile

Heart rate recovery is easily track as we time how many bpm an athlete drops in 60 seconds. the further away from a competition elements such as treadmill, rower, prowlers are great tools to use and get a great indication of the athletes HRR. as we come closer to the competition more specific exercises like grappling,sparring etc is used and the athlete during rest should be in the position they will be in during rounds whether it be standing or seated.

Another tool is tracking power output. As conditioning improves HR decreases and the power needed will also decrease This method is done once a week using a treadmill. guildlines are set a treadmill at 7–8mph and run it for 5 mins.

examples of progress are on average

  • Week 1 165bpm
  • Week 2 160 bpm
  • Week 3 157bpm
  • week 4 152bpm
  • week 5 149bpm

The goal is to have constant progression. if it stalls for more than 2 weeks we need to make a change in the program and adjust accordingly.

These are just a couple of methods i use in my conditioning programs. there are many more specific elements also incorporated. i have a few spaces that have opened for the RIGHT people who want to bring there conditioning to the next level and be ready for fight day.

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Kyle McClurkin, Leah McCourt, Patrick McAllister, Conor Quinn — 4 top athletes going to the big time

I hope you enjoyed reading this article and be sure to let me know your opinions and thoughts

Coach Sean