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Mike Short 09-27-2013 11:26 AM

MMA Conditioning Program Help
Hey guys,
So I'm new to these forums, I've searched and I didn't see any other forums on this (or obviously I wouldn't be writing this one) but anyway, I'm looking for some help.
I'm an avid martial artist and I'm always looking for ways to improve my functionality and physical attributes. I do BJJ, Wrestling, and I am self trained Muay Thai (yes I know that doesn't necessarily mean much). I've been trying to investigate into using Crossfit to help my strength and conditioning, but there seems to be so much to sift through. I tried following main page WODs but wasn't sure as to how beneficial these were for something as intense as competitions. Anyway, I was wondering if anyone could point me in the right direction as to how to set up my S&C incorporating Crossfit. I have been debating doing the Starting Strength program followed by Wendler 5/3/1, but I'm looking at all my options and Crossfit is one of them.
Any advice, tips, anything?
Much appreciated,
Thanks in advance

Colin McLafferty 09-27-2013 03:54 PM

Re: MMA Conditioning Program Help
Hey Mike,

Some stats would help. Age, height, weight, competition background, and current program, for example. What are your squat, deadlift, press, bench, and power clean at?

If you've never done a linear progression strength program before, I recommend doing SS. Would you be willing to sacrifice conditioning for a few months and dedicate yourself only to strength training? If yes that would give you optimum strength results.

If no..

Your goal seems to be better strength AND conditioning and not just better strength. This can be achieved, but your strength gains will be slower than if you only trained strength and kept conditioning at a minimum or, at most, 10 minutes or less for a few months.

As an MMA athlete, I think Crossfit Football ( mostly WFS) is a good medium between S&C for MMA. SS would be better for you in the long run to build your strength base up, but if you don't have the desire to do only strength for a long time, do CFFB.

Keep in mind I have no idea what your current training is like. If you do intense MMA training, that will interfere with your progress on CFFB. I need to know more to give specific recommendations.

Mike Short 09-28-2013 10:50 AM

Re: MMA Conditioning Program Help
Hey Colin,
Thanks for initial input. Some stats for me are: Approx 6 ft tall, currently 157lbs floating around 11-12% body fat (have not checked this in a few months but last check was 157.2 at 11%). I'm 24 years old, I have competed in BJJ and gone 4-6 in tournament matches. My biggest drawback has been strength. My conditioning is fairly good, however, I seem to be having problems bringing my strength together with conditioning (if that makes sense).
I've done custom programs designed for me in the past for powerlifting, with the goal of improving strength. I have weight lifted for 3 years but it has been mostly in a bodybuilding fashion ( i.e. arms on monday, chest tuesday, back wednesday, etc etc). The program I was doing for strength previously was the following performed 3 days a week with one day rest inbetween
Squats 8,8,8,6,6
Deadlift 8,8,8,6,6
Overhead Press 8,8,8,6,6
Bench Press 8,6,6
Incline Bench 8,6
After this program of approx 6 weeks I did the Bruce Lee 20 minute program which is essential the following
Clean and Press 2 sets x 8 reps
Squats 2 sets x 12 reps (supersetted with DB Pullover x8 reps)
Bench Press 2 sets x 6 reps
Deadlifts (or Rows) 2 sets x 8 reps
Barbell Curls 2 sets x 8reps
** I added Seated Tricep Extensions 2 sets x 12 reps.
I never tested 1R maxes but I did gather the following info 215lbs x 5 Deadlift, 205 x 8 Bench Press, and 225 x 8 squat.
Keep in mind I just got off injury, sickness, and just finished moving so I've been relatively inactive for the last 2-3 months.
I experienced quite extensive strength gains on the following programs as well as when I did a bodybuilding program roughly back in January, however, it didn't cross over well with my conditioning and although I could last for an hour of rolling doing 5 min matches, 1 min rest, the strength wasn't transferring.
I will definately look into CrossFit Football, I've heard it mentioned somewhere else. And as for Starting Strength, would my conditioning suffer or stay level (provided I still trained my BJJ/Wrestling/Muay Thai 4-5x a week).

Colin McLafferty 09-29-2013 04:58 AM

Re: MMA Conditioning Program Help

You're welcome, happy to help. I'm actually writing a comprehensive post on this stuff on my blog soon so I'll PM you when that post goes up if you want.

After reading your post, that was mostly what I expected to see. I did the same thing as you before I got strong--crazy conditioning and intense sport schedule while staying weak. If you continue down this road, you're going to stay at about the same fitness level and success level in your sport. You really need strength as an edge to your competition and your athletic development.

The solution to this is SS.

The "strength" you did before was more a BB program than a strength program and you didn't say anything about progression. Did your lifts go up every workout? That's what we're looking for in a strength program. I'm thinking your squat and other lifts are pretty low (no offense) but I didn't see any lift numbers.

Yes, your conditioning will suffer. No, you will not be able to train Muay Thai and MMA 4-5x/week and definitely not intensely. This is where you have to do a stark evaluation of your goals.

What is more important to you: getting strong or continuing your current MT/MMA schedule while staying at the same level of strength?

You're underweight for your height and need to get bigger and stronger, that much is apparent. From personal experience, a break from conditioning and a switch to strict strength training (SS lnear progression style, not the stuff you posted) will be the best decision you can make in your training at this point and you will thank yourself for years to come for doing it.

For best results, you shouldn't compromise your strength training with any conditioning. However, if you know you are not going to dedicate 3-6 solid months at a minimum of only strength training, this may be more realistic:

SS + Muay Thai/MMA 4-5x a week but ONLY DRILLING. No live sparring or intense rounds, only the drills.


CFFB strength portion only and use the Muay Thai and MMA sparring as your conditioning.

Recovery is going to be a problem no matter which option you choose. Strength training requires adequate recovery and caloric surplus for success. It's best to just do a strength program and only a strength program if the goal is to get stronger.

Mike Short 09-30-2013 09:25 AM

Re: MMA Conditioning Program Help
Thanks for all the input I really appreciate it.
Definitely let me know when your post is up, I'd be interested in reading it.
I do agree that my squat numbers and lifts are relatively low. So far Ive been completely condition minded, and would absolutely love to get stronger.
I'm definitely going to look into SS program. I think strength is my missing link in gaining more success in my sport.
That being said, I also have to agree with being underweight for my height, as when I do compete in BJJ, it's like I'm fighting people the size of children after my 5-7lbs weight cut.
Now my last question. I am willing to cut back on my Muay Thai and even my conditioning (can always get that back right?) but would the following plan be more plausible?
Mon - Wrestling
Tues - SS day 1
Wed - BJJ class
Thurs- Bjj drilling
Fri - SS day 2
Sat - Wrestling, BJJ
Sun Rest
Or is even this too much? I have BJJ provincials coming up at the end of November (30th to be exact) and want to avoid overtraining as if it's the plague. However, I am a white belt, so provincials arent as important to me as getting better just in general. I'd rather go for long term gains instead of gold medals (I'll get those at blue + belt levels).
Thanks again,

Rob Carrillo 09-30-2013 12:06 PM

Re: MMA Conditioning Program Help
personally, I would recommend a 2 day split of 5/3/1 with your schedule. especially, since you have SS listed for only 2 days instead of the programmed 3. something like:

Tues: 5/3/1 squats / bench
Fri: 5/3/1 press / deadlift

focus on the main lifts and don't concern yourself too much with the 10 x 5 sets. maybe throw in a single accessory exercise for each lift.

when I was training Muay Thai / No-Gi, my schedule looked something like:

Mon AM - SS
Tues PM - 1 hour of Muay Thai followd by 1 hour of No-Gi
Weds - SS
Thurs PM - 1 hour of Muay Thai followd by 1 hour of No-Gi
Fri AM - SS
Sat - maybe an hour or two of Muay Thai

some weeks I ran Tues & Thurs mornings which was probably over training on a strength program like SS. I got more than enough conditioning in on the mat; you may need to adjust especially since I believe you are training Muay Thai on your own.

edit - also, I know you keep mentioning how you believe your strength is your weakness in your sport. keep in mind that technique is supposed to trump strength in BJJ (which I don't believe is necessarily the case for wrestling). I'm all for getting stronger, but technique is supposed to reign supreme in BJJ.

Mike Short 09-30-2013 01:07 PM

Re: MMA Conditioning Program Help
Sorry my bad SS is a 3-day routine, I was getting it mixed up with the 2-day split of 5/3/1 (I looked them both up on the same day). I like the routine lay out you have. I believe I could make the same sort of idea work out for me, with the only problem trying to fit in the wrestling classes. How did you find the SS program?
As for the whole strength and jiu jitsu argument, for the most part I'd agree that technique trumps strength, however, when technique is fairly even I found it comes down to strength, and battling for grips, or the metcon of your legs etc, and recently find I have been losing these battles.
I think I will refresh myself with the Wendler 5/3/1 program as well as by the sounds of it, doing SS in the AM and wrestling in the PM would be too much?
BJJ is my main sport/martial art, however, all BJJ matches start on the feet so as much as I'm trying to incorporate as much wrestling as possible, I will drop a class to add a beneficial strength program.

Rob Carrillo 09-30-2013 01:32 PM

Re: MMA Conditioning Program Help
I enjoyed SS. I just wish I would have eaten better and not drank as much milk... be sure to incorporate a good nutrition and sleeping regimen or else you will just end up overtraining and not reap the full benefits of any strength program you attempt.

I enjoy 5/3/1 a bit more than SS. I (try to) add 2 more sets to my final working set (except with deadlifts) when time, energy, and motivation permit. 5/3/1 is definitely a slower path to progression than SS, but I am fine with that, I am not in any hurry, and I've been plagued by injuries that I don't think would allow me to keep up with SS anymore.

feel it out. 1 rest day isn't bad, so long as you take a 3 on, 1 off apporach rather than 6 on, 1 off, but 2 rest days may be optimal. maybe even take a 2 a day approach with strength in the AM and wrestling or BJJ in the evening one day to afford yourself a full rest day. try little tweaks like that and see how you feel.

SS is a 3 day a week program with no condinitioning recommended IIRC (4 rest days). according to Rip, if you're not drinking a gallon of milk a day, and you're deviating from the program, then YNDTP... been a while since I read through this, but definitely recommend checking it out if you are seriously considering SS

http://****************.com/articles...n_rippetoe.pdf (WFS)

Wendler also has his own version about whether or not you are following his program correctly posted somewhere online.

edit - what I really love about 5/3/1 is the recommended percentages for warm-up sets and working sets, and the breakdown in weight / plates the calculator gives you. there might be a similar template for SS, but I remember just picking weights as I warmed up and worked up to my working sets telling myself "this looks good," whereas the 5/3/1 calculator lays everything out for you.

Mike Short 09-30-2013 01:50 PM

Re: MMA Conditioning Program Help
Thanks for the insight. Im definitely going to look into both programs but I think I'm going to give SS a try and 2-a-day template and try and get 2 days of rest in.

Dakota Base 10-06-2013 11:07 PM

Re: MMA Conditioning Program Help
I'm likely going to take a lot of flack for this


Originally Posted by Colin McLafferty (Post 1197689)
SS + Muay Thai/MMA 4-5x a week but ONLY DRILLING. No live sparring or intense rounds, only the drills.

Really against the philosophies of BJJ, wrestling, and MT...

It really depends what you are training, and what you are competing in. If you're wrestling competitively, not just wrestling in the interest of MMA training, then your wrestling philosophy, as you should know already, is converse to BJJ philosophy.

The advice you're going to get here will be "drop the fighting, train strength" or "train crossfit". Take it with a grain of salt, because if you ask the same question over at Sherdog, you'll get "drop the weight lifting, focus on fight training". Then the pure BJJ guys are going to say "BJJ has nothing to do with strength."

My background: I wrestled for 15yrs through HS and college, picked up kickboxing and a little boxing after college, then started doing Judo off and on then BJJ a few yrs ago. In HS and college, I was also a powerlifter, then spent a decade along side competitive fighting as a professional bull rider.

Strength matters, but absolutely do not focus on it. Fighters need volume, not just raw, one rep power. SS is fantastic for strength (as are outlaw, 5/3/1, OPT, Westside, PP, etc), but it's honestly going to be counter productive based on your training time. More time on the mat is hugely more valuable than more time under a barbell for a fighter.

Crossfit WOD's are fantastic for fighters. Functional strength is worth far more than raw power. Pull ups are HUGE (re-read that: HUGE... HA-YOU-JAH.... HUGE) for grapplers. Rope climbs also. Powerful drops into the hole on Cleans are also big for wrestlers/MMA fighters, being able to change levels is a critical skill, and driving up out of the hole like shark hitting a seal is invaluable. This change in hip elevation is also critical for developing power behind front kicks and forward knee strikes.

Core strength, and the ability to twist your body powerfully is critical both for grappling and striking. Whether you are sweeping on the mat or delivering an angle kick, you need powerful hips and core to create the necessary torque.

So spend time moving heavy weights, but don't let that detract from your fight training. Any strength training should supplemental, you're a fighter first, not a weightlifter.

There's nothing more satisfying for a BJJ player than making a "bull" (big strong guy) tap or fall asleep.

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