MMA Strength and Conditioning – Is That Fighter in Shape?

“That guy can’t be a fighter, he doesn’t even look in shape!” There has probably been a time when you where watching a MMA fight and either your or your friend said or thought something like this. Here are two fighters, one of them completely cut and chiseled out with the six pack abs and all, while his opponent looks like he just got off the couch and finally put the beer and potato chips down for the first time in months.

As you or your friends are placing your bets on the fighter that looks in better shape, you end up learning a lesson and a thinner wallet by the end of the fight. Let’s remove the fact that the “less in shape” looking fighter was just overall a more skilled fighter and talk about how a fighter that looked so out of shape actually pushed the pace the whole distance without looking half as tired as you expected.

You see, so many people today are ingrained with the “body building mentality” in that they judge a persons results and effectiveness in the gym by how they look. This is a big mistake. When training your strength and conditioning for sport specific purposes, you are developing your body to optimize a particular level of performance, and how you look is only a by-product of your training.

Think about the strongmen competition. When you look at their bodies, they just look like a bunch of extremely overweight lumberjacks. But they don’t lift weights year round to look good, they lift weights so that they can lift more weight then 99% of the people on planet earth, and if they can accomplish that, then they are getting results.

For MMA strength and conditioning, again, fighters aren’t training to look good; they train to develop high levels of strength and power endurance so that they may continue to exert maximum strength and power over a relatively long period of time. When they train, they don’t follow workouts designed to make their biceps look bigger and to have evenly cut six pack abs, they train with the thought in mind of not gassing out and being able to execute a powerful take-down or to throw a vicious combination of powerful punches even in the later rounds of a fight.

Now, of course we’ve all seen fighters who have I guess what you can call the “complete package,” where they not only have superior strength and conditioning but they also look the part. But the point to remember is that how they look is a by-product of their MMA strength and conditioning, not the main goal and certainly not how you should judge their ability in the ring or cage, at least in terms of their conditioning. But because of the way MMA fighters train, they are often more prone to also look good since part of their training is to build maximum levels of strength, endurance AND have low body fat.

But then there are those fighters who are already strong naturally, but just train the hell out of their conditioning and power, and this type of training won’t always give you the best “body builders look,” but as we’ve all probably seen before, they can still get the job done.

If you can only judge a body builders results through training by how he looks, then judge a martial artists’ MMA strength and conditioning training by whether or not his hand is raised at the end of the fight, and how much it took away from him physically to do it.