Archive for the ‘Strength & Conditioning’ Category

Neck Training

by William Wayland ~ posted July 1st, 2015

This post was inspired after scrambles very own Matt Benyon asked me about neck training, very over due heres a few video’s I like and some rational behind good neck training.

Neck training often winds up being an after thought or a peripheral to squatting and dead-lifting. In contact sports however it may be as important as everything else.

A thick neck and cauliflower ears are often the hall marks of a top wrestler or grappler. Not only does it look gnarly but it also serves a functional purpose. Contact sports athletes need strong necks as “increasing athletes’ neck strength and reducing unanticipated impacts may decrease the risk of concussion associated with sport participation” . Additionally a strong jaw and solid clench can also limit trauma having the ability to bite down or clench on a mouthpiece with force prior to a collision to also limit concussion. There is some evidence also that tired neck muscle can effect locomotion and coordination so having a stronger more fatigue resistant neck musculature may make a difference. For more on this I suggest you checkout Mike Gittlesons neck training article for the NCAA here.

I’ve listed below a few favourite neck exercises that are really easy to implement either with a band a partner or a med ball, no goofy head harnesses honest! We often perform our neck exercises at the end of sessions. It does stand to reason however that if you have had a serious neck injury in the past consult with a physio or doctor before trying this stuff out!

With a Partner

With a Band

With a Swiss Ball

This is an ongoing series of blog posts from guest blogger and Strength & Conditioning coach William Wayland of Powering Through, who works with UFC, Cagewarriors and other high level combat athletes based in Chelmsford, UK. Facebook

Classic S&C Mistakes made by grapplers and MMA fighters

by William Wayland ~ posted May 27th, 2015

On your quest to supplement your BJJ and MMA with strength and conditioning for a stronger, better and healthier version of yourself you will find pitfalls and missteps along the way. However years of experience from strength coaches and athletes can help you in avoid all too common mistakes when it comes to strength and conditioning.

Copying ‘famous’ athletes training program or workouts.

Many athletes share clips on instagram and facebook of what they are doing which is a great insight and often very interesting. Much is made of the workouts of George St Pierre, Rhonda Rousey, Gabi Garcia or Andre Galvo they get a ton of re-shares on social media. But before you breakout the rings and Bulgarian bags consider that these instances, these brief glimpses into someone else’s training are merely snap shots. We have no context for the conditions that have led them to that particular exercise or work out. They key point is here is that you need a program that meets YOUR needs.

Following popular powerlifting programs

When many often set off on their quest for a good strength program they’ll often take to the internet. After a quick google you’ll probably wind up with a ton of recommendations. But more often than not you’ll find a powerlifting inspired lifting routine. Don’t get me wrong some of the more popular powerlifting ebook routines has been responsible for helping people get really strong and make consistent results. However the key flaw is in the intent of they programs, they are for getting better at the powerlifts. Regularly heavy lifting is extremely neurologically demanding and past a point yields diminishing returns (see point 4!). A program like this often won’t take in to account just how draining a full schedule of MMA or grappling practice can be. Lack of variability in intensity fails to account for those type of situations. You may end up getting hurt and no body wants that!

Listening to functional movement guru’s

Biggest driver of strength gain is progressive loading and you won’t find that in a yoga class or from swinging an expensive kettle bell in the shape of a skull. The notion of functional movement seems appealing as it creates a false dichotomy, the idea that anything else (usually some method they don’t like) is some how non-functional.  Often these people speak is flowery anatomical terms which sound pretty convincing and talk about neurophysiology of movement using nebulous concepts or confusing jargon, they are Depak Chopra’s of fitness. They also often violate basic strength training principles, such as progressive overload or argue for over emphasis on stability type training despite the efficacy for such training for healthy athletes not holding up under scrutiny. My other suspicion is that this stuff is the preserve of people who have never really learned to lift properly in the first place. Step off the bosu ball, put down your soy latte and go learn to front squat. If you are dysfunctional see a physio or a decent strength coach.

More is better blues

At over 2.5 x BW I don’t think Arnold Allen needs more Deadlift in his life

I love this term  and it relates to some extent the previous points, S&C super coach Vern Gambetta summed it up in a short blog post “Volume is a seductive trap. At younger training ages virtually anything an athlete does will make them better. The more they do, the better they get – up to a point. That point is something we recognize as the point of diminishing returns. But despite the diminishing returns it is very tempting to continue on that path because that is what got them to that point. This is where the more is better blues occurs in the form of stagnation, performance plateaus or injury. Now what? More is not better, better is better. The emphasis must shift to quality training and perfect effort.” As you adapt training emphasis must change, see how strong is strong enough? post from earlier this month.

This is an ongoing series of blog posts from guest blogger and Strength & Conditioning coach William Wayland of Powering Through, who works with UFC, Cagewarriors and other high level combat athletes based in Chelmsford, UK. Facebook

How strong is strong enough?

by William Wayland ~ posted May 1st, 2015

How Strong is strong enough for Jiujitsu and MMA? Strength addicts will say you can never have enough, smart athletes however need to know if pursuing more strength worth diminising returns and time cost. We are not trying to produce strongmen, powerlifters or olympic lifters. What we want is strong powerful combat athletes.

This is an ongoing series of blog posts from guest blogger and Strength & Conditioning coach William Wayland of Powering Through, who works with UFC, Cagewarriors and other high level combat athletes based in Chelmsford, UK. Facebook

Avoiding ACL injuries in female grapplers and MMA fighters.

by William Wayland ~ posted April 5th, 2015

“Female athletes endure two to eight times more anterior cruciate ligament, or ACL, injuries than their male counterparts”

This quote is from a University of Akron study and doesn’t bode well for female athletes who apparently are at much greater risk than their male training partners of ACL injuries. Hopefully it does come as a message to take better care of your knees and approach injury prevention in the right way. Athletes such as Ronda Rousey, Julianna Pena, Zoila Gurgel, Cat Zingano have all suffered with ACL injuries at some point in their training careers. It also seems many in the female BJJ Blogosphere have also been hit with this particular injury, blogging about post op rehab in the process. And I am sure many of you reading this have ACL Injury stories too!

We are getting closer to finding an answer to what cause this apparent predisposition towards ACL tears in female athletes. Be it laxity, physiological, structural, but the main cause  in increasingly looks like the culprit being hormonal changes.  One recent study finding that “rise in estrogen during the follicular phase decreases lysyl oxidase activity in our engineered ligament model and if this occurs in vivo may decrease the stiffness of ligaments and contribute to the elevated rate of ACL rupture in women.”

With this hormonal joint laxity is the combined risk that comes with larger Q angles. Q angle is the angle at which the femur meets the tiba, in men the femur points largely straight down, in women it often points inwards. This can cause knee tracking issues and instability at the knees. Q angle is what causes nasty valgus collapse (inward caving of the knee) you sometimes see when people squat. According to Bret Contreras “proportionately wider hips, increased Q-angles, diminished hip strength, and in my opinion from being taught to “sit like a lady” (along with reinforcing that movement pattern repeatedly throughout their lives).” Stands to reason that many of the injuries I see are caused in scrambles and or during standing phases when risk of traumatic forces are at their highest.

Be able to make the Shapes for your sport

We are seeing an over swing towards mobility work at the moment which isn’t helping the situation. The female grappler is actively encouraged to get into activities like yoga, which can dis-inhibit protective mechanisms that provide protection again injuries that result from sudden force absorption. people are spending 20-30 minutes mobility work for joints that may not need it. If you play a combat sport consider which joints you mobilise carefully, make it flexible enough to make the shapes you need to for your sport (Comfort being stacked or throwing a de la riva) any more than this and your risk for injury gets higher.

My counter to some of these issues would be get strong, get stable.

Stop Stretching Your Hamstrings! And make them stronger

Martial artists have been stretching the heck out of their hamstrings since forever! And changing a culture of stretching is difficult when it is so ingrained. You have to ask the question “I may have range of motion, but am I strong with in that range of motion?”  What we want is hamstrings that are long ‘enough’ but also strong ‘enough’.

Eccentric strength and injury prevention are now being seen as a key component of training programs. Eccentric strength is the ability of muscle to yield under load, which makes the muscle more capable of absorbing force. You are basically teaching yourself to better apply the brakes. This is why eccentric posterior chain and hamstring work is such a crucial to prevention knee injuries. Below are a few exercise I regularly use with my clients. RDL’s, Zercher GM’s, Ball Curls and Nordic Curls all being great choices for hamstring strength.

Of particular note is the Nordic Hamstring curl or the Ghetto GHR which is increasingly seeing a lot of love in injury prevention programs. Mainly due to more research showing eccentric hamstring training have a huge effect on injury prevention.  Increasing strength of the hamstring muscles helps stabilized the knee by providing “backward” forces on the lower leg. The distal hamstrings help protect the ACL from being stretched and ruptured as the quadriceps muscles contract and pull the tibia forward (knee extension). For more on hamstring stiffness and ACL injuries check out Brian Schiff’s excellent blog post on the topic.

Ghetto GHR or partner nordic curl below shows, how simple it is to do and requires almost no equipment. Pretty simple to break out on the mats!

As more female athletes take up MMA and BJJ professionally and recreationally the rate of ACL injuries could well spike. Participation in a combat sports can be rough on the joints as we all know. Its the Job of the coach and the athlete to take steps to minimise risk.

This is an ongoing series of blog posts from guest blogger and Strength & Conditioning coach William Wayland of Powering Through, who works with UFC, Cagewarriors and other high level combat athletes based in Chelmsford, UK. Facebook

How specific does your grappling jiujitsu MMA strength training need to be?

by William Wayland ~ posted March 9th, 2015

Sick Threads Bro

The issue of specificity in training is one that seems to bother many practitioners, obviously I want to train in a fashion that will improve my sport, be it MMA, BJJ or other combat sports.

Loaded sports type drills (like weighted punching, barbell open guard playing) seem like the obvious solution to the specificity problem, but it is probable that by doing so the athlete will unconsciously develop compensatory movements in his/her technique in adjusting to the new weight or develop poor movement, other risks include injury from doing these types of things. The other swing is towards functional type training that doesn’t really do much to improve the following;

  • Force absorption and production
  • Power production and rapid force development.
  • Injury prevention.

In the video below I go over some of the basics of why we do S&C and how training should be informed by your training age and strength levels.

Although specificity is important when designing a training plan, most programs will include exercises of a general nature (e.g. power clean, squat, deadlift). These exercises may not relate too closely to the movement of any athletic event but they do give balanced development and provide a terrific strength base upon which more specific exercise programming can be built. My golfers squat, my MMA fighters squat when they start out, however when they peak for sport their end game training looks very different.

Further Reading

Is Sports Specific Strength Training a Myth in this post Mike Boyle talks about general specific being guided by what athletes shouldn’t do instead of the “best exercises for x sport” like many others.

If functional training interests you here is an easy guide on how to become one

Using weighted baseball bat doesn’t increase swing speed.

Weighted Golf Club Myth

Original Specificest Strength and Conditioning Video.

This is an ongoing series of blog posts from guest blogger and Strength & Conditioning coach William Wayland of Powering Through, who works with UFC, Cagewarriors and other high level combat athletes based in Chelmsford, UK. Facebook

Doping and why the fence sitting attitude to drugs doesn’t cut it

by William Wayland ~ posted February 11th, 2015

Huge debate has opened up across forums everywhere in the light of recent failed doping tests in the UFC. I’ve seen advocates, anti-dopers and even marijuana advocates weigh in on the debate, it seems everyone has an opinion. First admission must be that we have a drug problem in MMA, where our athletes perception of what they can achieve in the gym is skewed by unnatural athletes they admire, the top guys with rigorous training schedules who proceed to tell everyone they are natural. Go to a local MMA show and you’ll see plenty of amateur and semi pro’s who are all on the “juice” but when the precedence for the top organisation is ambivalence and failure be decisive what do you expect the trickle down to be?

Recent scandals with GOAT Anderson Silva, Nick Diaz and Hector Lombard, respect is rapidly lost for fighters and their host organisation. I often wonder what effect this has on other athletes and the apparently normalisation of doping in MMA. The UFC’s fence sitting is seriously at risk of tarnishing their product and endangering athlete safety especially when their is apparent lying and covering up. Its something I discuss with the fighters I train with a lot.

GSP himself has come out stating “I am not interested to compete if the sport is not clean, that is one of my major concerns.” It’s important that athletes at the top of the sport make such statements.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I find it hard to relate to pro doping coaches and athletes and their are plenty of them, at that moment you decided to dope our personal experience of training has diverged. Worse yet if you continue to base your athletes training or training/nutrition based opinion off doped experiences then I just cannot take you seriously. You are deceiving people and potentially encouraging athletes to engage in that behaviour too. We know all too well doped athletes who have competed well past their prime, the TRT that was rampant for a long time allowed, the like of Chael Sonnen and Dan Henderson to stay in a sport they probably should quit far earlier.

People in my position as a strength coach know the difference in training stress that can be applied if someone natural vs doping, but often the athlete doesn’t and those who write their own programs and schedules will often try to mimic their heroes to potentially disastrous effect. When there are studies showing that steroid use made non exercisers stronger and gain lean mass without effort (7lbs in one study), plus growing evidence of permanent epigenetic change post use, meaning some positive change will stay with you even after coming off. It becomes hard to buy the “hardwork” required nonsense of those who do dope or are fence sitting on the issue, we all work hard! It’s what natural or not ‘successful’ athletes do!

Why anti doping? Why not just legalize it all?

To quote Ross Tucker for the excellent“As for the complete legalization of doping, that is a post or a series all of its own.  What I will say is that I’m not fond of the idea of watching sport when the result may be determined pharmacologically.  The problem is that drugs don’t affect people the same way.  Just as some people respond well to sleeping tablets, or pain killers, the effect of doping on performance is likely to be highly variable.  Now, if a drug improves performance by 0 to 5%, and the natural/physiological differences between athletes is 1 to 2%, then you have a situation where a drug can make a bigger difference than the normal differences between athletes.  It would be much like Formula 1 Motorsport, where the difference between cars is larger than the difference between driver ability.  The result is that the best (human, anyway) is often undiscernable. Then there is the matter of those who don’t wish to dope.  “

Lets face it most people don’t understand steroid usage for performance especially when contrasted to sports like athletics where the impacts of doping are obvious resulting in faster times and greater jumps or bodybuilding where the result is extreme hypertrophy. Sure doping won’t effect skill set, but it allows you to get through those 2 or 3 a day training schedules. You may say ‘its their body they can do what I want’ if you are an influencer just be aware of the ripple effect you have, the same goes with those who just say “everything should be allowed”. But in the case of sport like the UFC it is fighter safety of both the doping and opponents of doped athletes that are at risk. And that is the Key point the way we train in MMA and the way we approach drugs needs an enormous culture shift or this will keep happening. I am in favour of 2 or 4 year bans, enough for an athlete to really consider the risk of their doping activities. Some have called for lifetime bans this is probably too much as it takes an athletes livelihood away from them.

To Quote Vernon GambettaNo shades of gray regarding drugs, you cannot walk the line. You either are on the side of drugs or opposed to it. For me there is no place for performance-enhancing drugs in sport or anything that remotely resembles them.”

At the end of the day we want a sport that is clean, fair and safe. Being pro drugs or ambivalent about them is being pro rule breaking and you would let someone who was blatantly soccer kicking, head-butting and eye gouging get away with it.

This is an ongoing series of blog posts from guest blogger and Strength & Conditioning coach William Wayland of Powering Through, who works with UFC, Cagewarriors and other high level combat athletes based in Chelmsford, UK. Facebook

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One of the best deadlift variations you aren’t doing

by William Wayland ~ posted January 30th, 2015

What you need to know

  • The snatch grip deadlift is a quality, low back friendly alternative to the conventional deadlift.
  • Provides more ROM and time under tension than a standard squat or deadlift
  • Excellent stimulator of posterior chain due to Increased ROM and tension
  • Uses all the back muscles for building that yolk that can help with injury proofing

Why Snatch Grip deadlift.

Both Dan John and Charles Polquin have referred to snatch grip deadlift with much esteem. To quote Dan John he uses this a few other exercises to promote “”Armor Building”, I maintain that quality fighters need to deal with contact, snatch grip deadlifts, Zercher squats, biceps curls (especially with a thick bar), and bench presses. That protocol will answer the call better than anything else.”

Snatch-grip deadlifts are similar to standard deadlifts except that the grip is much wider, how wide? I usually regard anything wider than the out smooth rings on the bar, longer armed lifters will be closer to the collars shorter armed lifters nearer to the smooth ring. Olympic lifting purists may moan about grip width but Im after increased ROM and time under tension, not building a better snatch. Upper back and grip development I find come real fast when performed diligently. In most cases, lifters will need to use straps to maintain grip with heavier snatch-grip Deadlifts. The wide grip places the traps and lats under constant tension.

Posterior chain development and improved hip and back extension are another posistive, I have written in the past how grapplers are often chronically over flexed. The wider grip forces you into a lower position, almost into a full squat. This lower position also changes the position of your torso, thus requiring more of the emphasis on the entire back, hamstrings, and glutes forcing good extension.

Word of warning how ever those with poor mobility should probably skip this deadlift variation.

Personally I am a big fan of this in combination with heavy front squats as the two compliment each other well placing larger emphasis on posterior and anterior chains respectively. For programming purposes usually the Snatch Grip Deadlift sits about around 70-80% of  Conventional. However we rarely do less then three reps.


This is an ongoing series of blog posts from guest blogger and Strength & Conditioning coach William Wayland of Powering Through, who works with UFC, Cagewarriors and other high level combat athletes based in Chelmsford, UK. Facebook

Alactic Sprint Conditioning

by William Wayland ~ posted January 15th, 2015

Scrambler, do you like to sprint?

Ability to produce high power outputs, repeatedly, whilst maintaining low amounts of fatigue especially during rest (stalling and holding periods) in grappling/MMA matches is crucial to good performance.

MMA and BJJ conditioning often takes the form of simulated rounds, doing non-specific exercises in order to build what is perceived to be match specific fitness. Think athletes doing 30s sprawls, followed by 30s swings followed 30s tire flips and so on. This however amount to nothing more than 5 minute grind. Just ask the athletes and they’ll tell you it’s far more frenetic than that. This grinding approach is thankfully losing ground. Shorter sprint intervals with longer periods of rest are starting to receive the attention it deserves.

Alactic sprinting merely a 100% effort where the body is able to use its ATP and phosphocreatine store without drawing on oxygen to deal with metabolite build up. If we can increase our capacity for this type of work we can recover faster between each sprint.

Alactic Power: Maximum output in one endeavor, trained by full recovery alactic drills, like sprint jump explosive throw…

Alactic Capacity:  same drills, but with shorter rest periods (dictated by the sport so in this case MMA and BJJ)

Going back to our physiology text books we know that power and capacity of the main energy systems looks like this.

  • Anaerobic-alactic power — < 8 seconds
  • Anaerobic-alactic capacity — up to 20 seconds
  • Anaerobic-lactic power — 20 to 30 seconds
  • Anaerobic-lactic capacity — up to 90 seconds
  • Aerobic power — 90 sec to 2 min
  • Aerobic capacity — > 3 min

We want to work largely on Alactic power and Alactic capacity. I find this in conjunction with work capacity from sparring and training works extremely well for building conditioning for the rigours of grappling and MMA.

While there are numerous options when it comes to planning sprint intervals here is what I usually use. I like the use of battle ropes, sprints and sled pushing as the main means, sometimes you have to get creative depending on your equipment options. Special mention goes to watt bikes and rowers where you can track power in watts and track for drop offs over time if you are not taking enough rest between bouts.

Alactic Power Sprints

-       <8s : 2min+ rest for 6-8 reps

-       1-2 times per session @ 90-95% of max speed / effort

-       1-2 times p/week usually after heavy lifting sessions

-       Sprints, prowler/ sled pushing, agility, explosive jumps

Alactic Capacity Sprints:

-       10-15s : 60-90s- rest for 6-8 reps (possibly even shorter when peaking)

-       1 times per session @ 85-95% of max speed / effort

-       1-2 times p/week usually after moderate lifting sessions

-       Sprints, prowler/ sled pushing, agility, explosive jumps

After these types of sprints you shouldn’t be on the floor sucking air it probably means you’ve pushed too hard for too long or not had enough rest between sprints.

This is an ongoing series of blog posts from guest blogger and Strength & Conditioning coach William Wayland of Powering Through, who works with UFC, Cagewarriors and other high level combat athletes based in Chelmsford, UK. Facebook

Video: Grapplers Five

by William Wayland ~ posted December 12th, 2014


One of the questions I get asked is about what can I do for strength training after BJJ class. Now most BJJ gyms don’t usually have a olympic bar or squat rack. However on my travels I do notice most gym’s usually have Kettlebells, a place to do pull-ups, willing friends and bands of some sort. I’ve set this “Grapplers Five” workout for a few people who despite minimal time and equipment, move and feel better for doing this routine 2-3 or more times a week.

Grapplers Five 20 Min Session

Partner GHRs 4-5 sets of 5-8 1-1:30 rest between sets
Goblet Squats 4-5 sets of 5-8
Push-ups (with band) 4-5 sets of 5-8
Pull-ups 4-5 sets of 5-8
Plank 1 x 3:00 or 3 x 1:00

or Circuit style

Partner GHRs
Goblet Squats
Push-ups (with band)
Plank x 1:00

repeat 4-5 times
20-30s rest between each movement

The objective is to get all the work done within 20 mins. I suggest alternating the GHR and a KB swing between sessions.

This is an ongoing series of blog posts from guest blogger and Strength & Conditioning coach William Wayland of Powering Through, who works with UFC, Cagewarriors and other high level combat athletes based in Chelmsford, UK. Facebook


Video : Dan John on Joint Mobility

by William Wayland ~ posted November 11th, 2014

Dan John discussing joint mobility for collision sport athletes, yes thats means you scrambler, aging and stretching. When this man speaks listen!

This is an ongoing series of blog posts from guest blogger and Strength & Conditioning coach William Wayland of Powering Through, who works with UFC, Cagewarriors and other high level combat athletes based in Chelmsford, UK. Facebook