This is the first in an ongoing series of articles from guest blogger and Strength & Conditioning coach William Wayland of Powering Through. If you have any questions about this post or S & C in general as it relates to MMA and BJJ then please leave a comment below!
Caught in the trap
When we start out in MMA and BJJ more appears to be better, initially as many classes as we can get in appears a powerful stimulus for adaptation. When this slows we look elsewhere; “strength and conditioning” brings its promise of increased fitness and power to augment our abilities. Most practitioners and fitness buffs mean well but often fall victim to the most common mistake I see in fitness work for MMA and BJJ. Excessive volume loading or “The Volume Trap” as Vernon Gambetta puts it.
Volume at its most simple is the total amount of work you do, thus equates to the amount of rounds, sets you do during a training session. Generally as volume increases intensity (how hard you work) goes down, but as volume decreases we can increase intensity. Sprinters would represent the ultimate intensity athlete and marathoners low intensity. But some try to have their training cake and eat it. For beginners volume is a terrific stimulus for improvement, because like an unmolded piece of clay anything you do at first will shape it.
So we establish a relationship between work and improvement, the temptation is to pile it high “a little got me here so surely more must be better”. We start to mould ourselves the wrong way, we become an athlete that becomes a circuit master a low intensity wizard, all the time we chip away at our strength and ability to recover. We have to take a moment and consider what the needs of the sport are. Great you can do a gruelling 40 minute circuit! But is this what my sport asks of me? Training is not an end unto itself it is a means to an end.
Volume loading is easy, 6 minute rounds instead of 5, 4-5 rounds instead of 3, 15 reps instead of 10. When progress stalls the temptation is only to add more. This is the easy route of increasing the difficulty of your workout, just more and more no thought required. You feel you need to do more to get better, more of the same. This is the quick path to decreases in performance, micro injuries like tendonitis, stress fractures and burnout. MMA fighters and BJJ athletes have an addiction to work more than any other athlete I know, this is testament to the strength of spirit they have. But an objective athlete or coach needs to take an objective look at what they are doing.