Strength Basics

Getting stronger, fitter, and healthier by sticking to the basics. It's not rocket science, it's doing the simple stuff the right way. Strength-Basics updates every Monday, plus extra posts during the week.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Book Review: Ultimate MMA Conditioning

Ultimate MMA Conditioning
by Joel Jamieson
Published 2009
164 pages

This book is aimed at strength and (especially) conditioning of mixed-martial arts (MMA) fighters. It's got a laser-like focus on this, and does not address any other conditioning goals beyond that. This book sets out to earn its title. Don't go into this expecting a fast read, unless you are already very familiar with the body's energy systems and adaptation mechanisms. Even then, the collection of tools it provides requires some reading and re-reading before you can assemble them into a program.

Strength & Conditioning - this section deals with the basics of strength and conditioning. The GAS (General Adaptation Syndrome), mistakes MMA competitors make in strength and conditioning, the basic role of strength and conditioning in MMA competition, etc. - the usual "why do I want to do this?" kind of stuff. It's both necessary and well-written, and it's not at all fluffy. Read that and you'll know where he's coming from and why he's going where he goes with the rest of the book.

The general issues out of the way, the book moves on to specifics. The author breaks up conditioning into three sub-systems:

- the Aerobic Energy System
- the Anaerobic-Lactic Energy System
- The Anaerobic-Alactic Energy System

In short, these are a) your body producing energy with the help of oxygen, b) your body producing energy without the help of oxygen but using lactic acid, and c) your body producing energy without the help of oxygen or lactic acid. The author also carefully clears up the misconception that these systems work in sequence. It's often said that your body transitions from one system to the next as intensity and duration of the exercise you are doing changes. Joel Jamieson asserts (and provides references to back himself) that the systems all work simultaneously to provide energy for exertion, but that the intensity of the exercise determines what percentage of the energy comes from what fuel source. Pretty simple, but important - if you think the aerobic system only works for long-duration low-intensity movements, you won't bother training it for short-duration high-intensity sports like MMA. If you think it still provides a boost and aids recovery between rounds or between matches, you're going to put some effort into it.

Each of these systems is discussed in depth. Then each is further broken down into a series of methods to bring up a part of that system. For example, the anaerobic-lactic system has 5 methods aimed at increasing the enzymes involved in anaerobic glycolysis, increasing glycolysis buffering and glucose storage, increases in lactic power, improved ATP production, and increasing tolerance to lactic fatigue, respectively. Don't know what that means, exactly? Don't worry, the book explains them all quite thoroughly.

The methods start with the name of the method ("Method #5: Static Dynamics"), a description of the hows and whys, and then a boxed summation with execution guidelines - reps, sets, intervals, exercises, and so on. At the end of each energy system's chapter, there is an overview table that makes it easy to pick out which system you want to work on and how to do it. These tables are all well laid out and easy to read - lots of whitespace and overall very easy on the eyes. Finally a summary of the chapter goes over the most important points of the system's importance and training.

The final section of the book deals with programming. How do you fit this all together? Joel Jamieson doesn't lay out a generic program for you to follow. He's adamant that you need to find your particular weaknesses and strengths and build a program to address the former and enhance the latter. He does lay out a generic "block" system meant to take you from 8 weeks out (or further still) to the day of a fight, though, so you get the structure upon which to hang all of these methods. Which ones you need will be determined by testing and your own results, not by following a generic blueprint.

Content: 5 out of 5. Complete and detailed.
Presentation: 5 out of 5. Well written, well laid out, and easy to refer back to.

Overall: If you are at all interested in coaching MMA athletes, or if you are one yourself, read this book. Its breakdown of various aspects of conditioning, how to address them and how to program training into a seamless whole is top-notch. Again, this book is not fluff nor an easy read, even though it's well written - it's just that dense. Still, it's packed with more information that you'd expect in 164 pages. Highly recommended.

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