Common mistakes, Misconceptions and Using Technique Under Fatigue
Conditioning is often the poor relation in “STRENGTH and conditioning” it is hard, it mocks you, where as training for strength allows for a resplendent display of your badassery and curious looks from the folks on the eliptical. Where as conditioning belittles you, turns you into a sweaty exasperated mess, its general unpleasantness makes you groan about it to anyone with in earshot. Conditioning is often a victim of the too much, too hard, too soon approach to training, people often “deep-end” themselves and do high intensity work before they have built the capacity to handle this kind of work, general fitness is key. Get fit to train as they say.
General fitness for grappling is what I define as the ability to complete training sessions of a reasonable (RPE 6-8) intensity without fatigue becoming so bad it impedes your ability to complete a practice, cutting rolls or rapid technical training short etc.
Hopefully you have a resting hear rate of below 60bpm, if this isn’t the case then you probably need to work on your general fitness. This can take the form of moderate intensity rolls of a longer duration (you still get to practice sport that way), running, cycling rowing, barbell complexes or HICT. If your general conditioning is of a reasonable level then you look at getting specific in terms of round times and intensity when preparing for a tournament.
Now down to nitty gritty, often our technical coaches while meaning well have little understanding of energy systems or neurological demand of exercise and thus often issues arise in conditioning sessions
Common flaws I see;
- Too much standing work.
- Too much focus on concentric muscular action.
- Not enough active rest.
- Misuse of plyometrics.
- Training longer than needed.
Work to rest ratio’s for BJJ are important to replicate, in a 2012 study Del Vecchio et al in a Brazilian study found that effort:pause ratios from other combat sports ranged from 10:1 (Brazilian Jiu Jitsu), 2:1 (judo and wrestling), and 1:3/1:4 (taekwondo) and 1:2 and 1:4. A 10:1 ratio is dramatic and I can understand why based on my own observation, as soon as two grapplers make contact there is rarely any let up in activity and the two are actively working with very few breaks in play. While judo for instance there is often a slow down with grip fighting, sudden frenetic activity and pauses in contact to reset fighters and so on.
BJJ has a lot of isometric action, by isometric I mean positions that are held where muscular contraction is maximal but movement is minimal. Such as holding a top side control position with really tight head and arm control, fighting to keep an opponents posture broken or gripping up for passes and sweeps but holding the position. These isometric actions should be replicated because it is exhausting, whereas most conditioning is repeat concentric (explosive action). Often athletes when very fatigued doing this kind of activity will merely go through the motions all that explosive intent is gone, where as an iso-hold at the top of a pull up is hard to fake.
Pull up holds with scramble grip trainer make for a challenging isometric hold
Misuse of plyometrics is a massive problem in fitness right now, there is a certain fitness movement that thinks that box jumps for time are an intelligent training approach (enough to make a dead Russian sports scientists spin in their graves). plyometrics are a neurological bulldozer, short contraction times and short ground contact times are great for improving power output. However fatigue caused by excessive plyometrics destroys explosiveness and kills coordination, basically an accident waiting to happen.
Because of nature training culture in martial arts we often think more is better when it comes to conditioning. Coaches will make athletes do 8 or 10 minute rounds when you may only be a purple belt and require 7 minute rounds. Humans are excellent unconscious pacers and we will spread our selves energetically if we know we have the luxury of time. If your match last 7 minutes then train for 7 minute rounds, but make those 7 minutes as high a quality as possible.
Adding in more conditioning from the floor is also important, hip thrusts, floor presses and the addition of high intensity drilling intersped with formal conditioning work can make a world of difference, being tired on your feet is different to being tired on your back with someone on top of you. The very action of getting up off the floor repeatedly is tiring in itself.
Technique Under Fatigue
This where the introduction of TUF or Technique Under Fatigue training is important. I credit Brendan Chaplins writings for exposing me to this flexible method. My next point only at the sharp end 4 or so weeks before competition should formal conditioning in any start to resemble grappling, this is when we introduce TUF.
Examples of TUF would be;
30 second KB swings
30 seconds Pummeling (pummelling here works as active rest)
30 seconds of Sprawl to Deadlift
30 seconds of mount escapes (mount escapes again working as active rest)
30 Seconds of Hip thrusts or burpees
30 Seconds of Shrimping under top pressure
30 Second pull up hold
30 Second back escapes (the person who just did the hold tries to stop his opponent from escaping)
Complete for a total of whatever your round time is. 3-5 Minutes Rest and Go again.
Sprawl to deadlift combined with pummelling makes for a favourite combination of mine
Bodyweight combinations work well in group settings but we can do more intensive work with small group or one to one settings. While I do like as a precomp method it can be used as general method if need be. Exercise and technical selection requires athlete coach cooperation.
Practising fundamental skills while fatigued allows us to sharpen those skills while under duress, smart coaches can come up with combinations that would be best for their students trying to eliminate weaknesses. The method is also more enjoyable than straight conditioning which is often high volume and does’nt allow for active recovery which generally will occur in game scenario. Advanced and intermediate level grapplers will get more out of this method than novices who may not have motor skills or the general fitness to derive a benefit from this type of training.
All out conditioning for prolonged periods does’nt work otherwise usian bolt would win the 400 and 800 meters it simply violates basic biology. I see this often in conditioning videos as fatigue sets in the quality of effort takes a nosedive, because no one is capable of sustaining high power outputs for prolonged periods of time.
Chaplin describes “the key points for TUF conditioning as this:
- Integrate conditioning with technical/skill work
- Be specific with the conditioning to suit the skills being trained. This requires collaboration with the coaches.
- The conditioning needs to be progressive just like general conditioning. The goal is to build technique in a fatigued state, not obliterate the athletes.”
Thats all for part 1, in part 2 I’m going to discuss periodising and planning your conditioning approach and how to effectively work in an “inseason” between tournaments to maintain conditioning.
This is an ongoing series of articles from guest blogger and Strength & Conditioning coach William Wayland of Powering Through.
Who offers online training planning for tournament peaking for MMA, Nogi and BJJ