Mixed Martial Arts is one of the fastest growing sports in the world. It’s also one of the fastest ways to get into the best shape of your life. Put on your wraps and get ready for the bell.
There’s Only One Gear
If you slow down or coast in MMA, you’ll quickly end up eating canvas – which is just like life too, there’s no gain in half-measures. “I pride myself on being able to go at the same an all-out pace for all the rounds. I’ll huff and puff but I don’t slow down, and I think that’s my biggest advantage,” says Don Madge, former EFC Africa Lightweight Champion.
“It’s the same for training, you should focus on quality, not quantity .” EFC Africa Middleweight Champion, Garreth McLellan, also puts everything he can into his training. “He’s relentless in whatever he puts his mind to, he puts his time in in the gym and grinds it out,” says Richard Quan, McLellan’s coach at Fight Fit Militia.
Use The Right Kind Of Fuel
“I have checkmarks with my weight and I tailor what I eat to suit what weight I’m at,” says Madge. “I always eat to feel good, not for aesthetics. It’s about making sure my body has everything it needs.” Madge focuses on whole foods, but also uses supplements. “I’m big in to glutamine, and I prefer whole foods rather than shakes, but sometimes they’re more convenient.” If you want to overhaul your own diet, see a dietitian to create a monthly meal plan.
Talent Is Just A Starting Point
These two share a dedication to training that sets them apart from the young upstarts. “There’s nothing worthwhile that you can achieve without hard work,” says McLellan. Improvement is key. “If you understand that you have an edge over any opponent – every time you step back into the cage you have to improve from your last performance,” says Quan. “Garreth gets used to suffering so that it doesn’t become a defining element.” Madge’s hallmarks are both his conditioning and his willingness to work harder than anyone else. “I tend to overwork,” says Madge. “Hard work beats talent when talent refuses to work hard. If you have both, then you’re pretty much unstoppable.”
Be Ready To Adapt
The success of these two fighters relies on their mental tactics in the cage; their ability to outwit their opponents in a bloody game of chess-like strategy. “Garreth is a smart fighter, he isn’t stubborn in fights and adapts to the conditions that allow him to out-think his opponent,” says Quan. “He always finds the path with the higher percentage of winning, which is hard to do as every fighter steps in with a game plan, but once the fight starts it can go out the window.”
Madge does research before a fight, but also likes to freestyle in the moment until he finds the chink in their armour. “There’s always a breaking point in a fight, and you’ll see it in the body language, you know when he’s broken. That’s when everything seems to flow naturally and click into place,” says Madge. It all comes down to physical and mental preparation. “If you just focus on one thing in MMA, you’ll get hammered: when guys are good at MMA, they’re almost six athletes in one,” says Madge.
Get MMA Muscle
Harness the training wisdom from McLellan and Madge’s coaches to become a fast, hardened, fat-free fighter. Choose 1, and then do the 2 sessions below s for a 3 day weekly workout plan (with one day for rest in between sessions).
A) Soldierboy Strength – Here’s a strength and conditioning workout that Richard Quan uses to get McLellan into fighting fitness. “Educated violence means educated training,” explains Quan. “I place huge importance on programming, each fighter gets a customised programme.”
- Strength Component:
- Deadlift 10 sets of 2 reps (160kg)
- Hang cleans 5 sets of 3 reps (70kg)
- Bar muscle-ups 5 sets of 5 reps
- One arm rows 5 sets of 5 reps (65kg)
- Hill sprints 10 x 100m 5 rounds 10 ball slams (20kg)
- 20m sled push (100kg) 1min rest
B) Don’s Magic Plan – This is one of the conditioning sessions that Madge is put through by his strength and conditioning coach, Charl Malherbe. “My goal is to improve him as an athlete as the rest of his training is sport-specific to improve him as an MMA fighter. I put a big emphasis on energy systems development, which is what will ultimately get him through a fight.”
- Speed Endurance Session: Use a field which is at least 100m long.
- Run 200m Finish in under 40sec with 20sec recovery, then…
- Run 100m Do it in under 20sec, rest for 40sec recovery. That’s 1 set, do 20 of them.
For the 200m, it includes a turn as the field is 100m long. These are starting guidelines, as Madge adapts to his training, the times would be made shorter and tougher. “It’s very important to have a time limit on all training to challenge the athlete,” says Malherbe.
- Hypoxic Pool Session: 25m pool:
“Hypoxic pool work is a good alternate session to use a form of low-impact training,” says Malherbe. It can also help with recovery.
- Step 1 25m underwater
- Step 2 25m freestyle swim
- Step 3 25m underwater
- Step 4 Walk back to the start as recovery
Repeat 20 times. “If you surface before completing the underwater length, take a quick breath and continue underwater,” says Malherbe.