This article made me think about my own MMA training, and the role of strength.
Often, you'll hear people talk strength standards. These may be:
- goals, like Stuart McRobert's 300-400-500 - bench 300, squat 400, deadlift 500 (for a 200-pound drug-free male)
- a chart standard (like these)
- military fitness test strength standards
- the occasional made-up standards, often expressed in some form of "every adult male should be able to (squat/deadlift/power clean/carry) X pounds."
But, really, gym totals don't matter for MMA. Not in their raw, numerical form.
What matters is your ability to use the strength you have efficiently and effectively to overcome your opponent.
This isn't to say what you lift doesn't matter - it's just the measure of success in mixed martial arts or grappling tournaments. Your ability to grapple, punch, kick, choke, and lock aren't relevant when you lift, either.
I'm not bragging when I say I have a 1-rep max squat of 225 pounds. I'm not apologizing for it, either. This is not impressive by any standards, even for an older lanky guy like me. But it's also not terribly relevant. I've been choked and arm barred by men and women who could squat less, and I've done the same to folks who could squat much, much more.
Your ability to leverage your strength on the mat, in the cage, or in the ring, is what is relevant. It's not even measured, except by wins and losses, and judgement calls of "he was in trouble but was able to muscle out."
On the other hand, it's important to note that bigger, stronger training partners have a serious edge over you. A thicker neck or thicker arm is harder to choke or arm bar. A strong back means your opponent can pick you up from a position a weaker opponent could not budge you in. A strong grip can mean the difference between locking that arm down for a joint lock or your opponent slipping away.
Like the author of the other article said, strength isn't unimportant. It's terrifically useful, and a stronger MMA fighter will always be able to accomplish more than a weaker one, all things being equal. Your time in the gym as an MMA fighter must be built around that idea - how can I gain more strength, so I can accomplish more on the mat? When in doubt, try to get higher numbers (reps, weights, or both) in the gym. But unless they translate onto the mat, they aren't helping you as much as they might.
You can't get too hung up on numbers. If your bench, deadlift, and squat stall out, but you do better and better in sparring and competition . . . you are getting stronger for MMA.
In the next part, I'll discuss the concept of what "Strong for MMA" means and what it involves.
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