Starting fight camp

By Dave 0

Lately a lot of people have been asking about how Paul gets ready for a fight, the interest increases after every win and as his stock rises. The usual questions arise – what are the best exercieses to do? Are sprints better than jogging? What should you eat or not eat? What supplements should you take? How long should a fight camp be? Unfortunately there is never one clear cut answer, there are numerous variables at play.

With Paul and other fighters we have trained in the past, we have found 8 weeks to be the optimal length of time for fight camp. 12 weeks is too long and the risk of overtraining, peaking too early or injury is high. 8 weeks is the best time, less is doable – especally if you are dealing with a fighter that is always or close to fighting weight.

Having said that, in an ideal world those 8 weeks will be uninterrupted but we are dealing with humans here and things happen. Injuries are one of the many variables that can throw a spanner in the works so it is important to be able to adjust and modify slightly if things happen.

When working with an athlete over time, you being to understand them better, their capacity to recover and can usually read the tell tale signs early and make adjustments if needed – this is something that comes with experience.

At this stage we have had the luxury of completing numerous fight camps with Paul and as each one passes its a case of looking at the results – test and re-test, and looking to refine the process each time.

This is especially important for the weight cutting phase of the cycle – each fighter WILL respond differently here, certain modifications made for one fighter won’t necessarily work for another, this is why it is so important to track EVERYTHING.


Building a solid strength foundation


At this stage we normally take bodyfat readings and see where his weight is at. Paul has to weigh in at 70.9kg and at this stage there is a number that I would expect him to be at 8 weeks out from his fight. Depending on this number, the diet protocols may be a little more or less severe but it is safe to assume at this stage that the first thing is to make sure he is keeping adequately hydrated and calories are cleaned up. Portion sizes are not too important at this stage. With regards to supplements, protein, creatine, zma and a mutli vit are usually all that is taken here.

We deal with the 8 week fight camp in 2 blocks.  The first block is about building a solid foundation – strength work, low intensity cardio and low volume interval work. There is no specific end point and beginning of the second block, they will overlap. The theme of the second block will be to increase intensity, become more sports specific, while decreasing the volume of low intensity cardio and if strength is good, looking more at increasing power.

Right now we are looking at building Paul’s strength. Sessions will revolve mainly around resistance training and tempo work. Paul is known for his cardio and good engine and he is usually performing road work a couple of times a week regardless of fight camp – so this saves us time here. But if a fighter is not aerobically fit, this is something that we need to improve urgently. Lately it has been the ‘in’ thing to shun aerobic work and focus on high intensity intervals but this is a mistake for numerous reasons (not to mention fighters have been supplementing their training with aerobic workouts for centuries).

  • Solely training high intensity intervals will not allow the heart to adapt in the same was as slower longer aerobic work will.
  • Longer slower training will allow your body to supply oxygen from the heart to the muscles quicker, thus helping prevent gassing out – more oxygen to the muscles  means that the body has to rely less on the anaerobic processes – again more sustainable work capacity.
  • As your aerobic system improves and becomes more efficient, your heart rate will remain lower while working out at different intensities and this will allow you to maintain this effort for longer
  • Body needs a developed aerobic system to help refuel the anaerobic system (by way of cleaning out the by products of the anaerobic system) – basically your anaerobic system can now recharge much faster – thus better power production
  • As the heart becomes more efficient and stronger through aerobic training – the ability to produce high aerobic power means that the point of tapping into the anaerobic energy system is increased / delayed. A higher % of of total energy production will come from the aerobic system.
  • Improve recovery (when trained correctly)

Again, this is not to say that high intensity intervals are of no use – far from it, but at this stage of the fight camp we need to build our aerobic fitness. Again this is where experience and familiarity come into play, knowing when to focus on one over the other.

With regards to the strength work, we have some tests that we like to perform but as time goes by, I am less for testing all out 1 rep maxes – especially with athletes as it can be too demanding on joints and nervous system. Again, due to the familiarity with the athletes I will know where their numbers should be at and will be able to see if things are staying on track and improvements are being made.


The end product


This is just a small glimpse of what goes on at the start of the fight camp. MMA is a hugely demanding sport due to the numerous ranges and energy systems being fought. It is the ultimate puzzle and one that takes constant refining, not to mention it is a huge balancing act for everyone involved – the fighter has to train various ranges, BJJ, Wrestling, Boxing and then the Strength and Conditioning work is the final piece that should help gel everything together. It should be stated again that it is important to have a plan but more often than not this plan will need adjusting at times and tracking everything is vitally important so that if something unexpected happens, you will have a point of reference and will be able to work through things with as little disruption as possible.

Again a big mention should go to OPT for his work on energy systems training, which I have found invaluable (and ahead of its time) and also Joel Jamieson for very similar work through his 8weeksout blog and book.

author: Dave