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Dave’s Gym Agrees with Martin Rooney and Bryan Krahn: When it comes to fighting train smart not stupid


I read this article recently and thought it reflected a lot of the ideas we have about training here at Dave’s. Martin Rooney has been involved in MMA conditioning since the late nineties and has trained with several UFC champions in recent years.
Martin’s biggest concern is with the “evolution” of training. Coaches are always looking for the next new training method in order for their fighters in better shape than the fight before. I can personally say that MMA is probably not the only sport that is guilty of this, team sports are just as likely to over complicate routines and programs as individual sports. Let me make it clear that i don’t think looking for new methods or advantages is wrong in earnest; however I agree with Martin when he suggests people are just doing things for the sake of doing them. What’s wrong with reformulating the old tried and tested stuff. Simply put,
“It’s like sushi: you go to Japan and sushi is beautiful simplicity, just fish and rice. And it’s incredible. Go to your local sushi chain or restaurant in the USA and you can order the Hackensack roll, which has 10 ingredients and 15 sauces. It’s more complicated, but it sure isn’t better” (Martin Rooney)

Let’s get down to the myths
Myth #1: Training for MMA should be all circuit-style high-volume training.

Circuit training does not build a better fighter; training like an athlete does. Guys love circuits because of the fatigue and feeling like you are pushing yourself to the limit. In reality people adapt to the circuits. What you end up with is a weak fighter that is good at circuits.

“It’s pursuing fatigue and not improvement, all part of the idea that you’re not a man unless you’re getting your ass kicked in the gym as well as in the ring.”(Martin Rooney)

The right way he says, and you guessed it, the exercises Dave’s is a massive fan of: Squat, Bench, Dead lift, Rows, Push Press, and Power Cleans. Why? Because they are the best ones, end of. For Joe Public: If you want to burn fat and improve your conditioning, use circuits sparingly. Think one, maybe two sessions a week, with the remaining time spent on basic heavy lifting. Doing mental circuits every session means you are high injury risk and you are burning out. Longevity is the game here you want to be able to train for as many years as possible because you enjoy it.

“You can lift weights forever, but good luck hitting those circuits in 20 years.” (Martin Rooney)



Myth #2: Fighters need a minimum of 8 weeks to get ready for a fight.

Rubbish, just stay in shape all year round. Eight week training camps are just an excuse for fighters to get really out of shape plus they have to work twice as hard on condition and can’t focus so much on tactics and techniques.

For Normal Norman: Don’t take unnecessary breaks. Do something, anything, to keep you in the game. Immoveable commitments exist in everyone’s life, but you should never have to quit training completely. Have periods where you train less and periods where you train more. But never just do nothing.



Myth #3: If I follow fighter X’s program, I will be fit like him.

I don’t want to waste your time, so if you think like this, give up MMA. Studying techniques is great but denouncing your own individuality as a fighter is just stupid.



Myth #4: MMA is tough, so the training needs to be even more strenuous.

The logic behind it is simple: if a fight is 15 minutes and the fighter gets his or her heart rate up to 160 BPM, why not push the fighter to 30 minutes and 200 BPM? It’s a neat theory, but physiologically, all that’s accomplished is the nervous system and the adrenals get cooked. No wonder fighters show up fatigued.


For Regular Dudes: We’re not saying never perform hard work, but don’t make training an ego-driven process. Destroying yourself day after day makes you weak, not strong. Trying to mimic a fight doing circuits is firstly impossible and secondly defeats the object of fight specific sessions. Train smart so that when you enter the ring you feel fresh and well prepared not tired and with a plan.



Myth # 5: MMA fighters are supposed to be injured and beat up all the time.

Again this is more stupidity, thinking you are bulletproof is arrogant. Going into a fight under 100% is ill advised.


For Regular Dudes: It all boils down to pursuing positive indicators of training, not fatigue.




Myth #6: Throwing up during a workout means the trainer is tough.

Seeking this out work out after work out seems a bit counter intuitive. I don’t know about you but when I throw up something is usually wrong and the same should be true in the gym.

For Plain Peter: It all boils down to pursuing positive indicators of training, not fatigue.




Myth #7: Strength work shouldn’t be done too often, especially for fighters trying to cut weight.

This stems from the old school myth that lifting weights and building strength will make you gain significant amounts of bodyweight. Rooney blames that on muscle-head marketing and small-minded folks who confuse getting fat with building muscle. The truth is that lifting weights burns fat and makes you strong. If you want to knock someone over you have to overcome their ability to resist.


For Mortal Murray: Kettlebells, battling ropes, and sledgehammers are effective tools, but they should be used accordingly. The point is, getting stronger in the basics is the foundation of any smart program.




Myth #8: Fighters can eat what they want since they train so much.

Often the fighters with the best genetics eat the worst, something Martin finds frustrating. He also knows just who to blame:

“I blame Michael Phelps for this myth. Look, a guy like that is the exception, not the rule. If you truly believe that you’re a genetic super freak and can reach the top eating garbage, good luck to you.”(Martin Rooney)

Rooney says that to have a superior body, you have to feed it the best possible fuel. “I’m huge on whole foods, lots of fresh produce, and plenty of water,” he says. “Supplement wise, I’m big on protein powders, vitamin D, fish oil, vitamin C, and glutamine.


For Standard Stefan: A lot of guys still think you can out train a lame diet. ‘I did a grueling circuit today and threw up all over the floor so I can have this Big Mac on the way to work. Nonsense! “Elite athletes can’t do that, and you can’t do that,” says Rooney.




Myth #10: The best way to train for endurance is with endurance work.

Maximal strength work will also work the aerobic energy system fact.

“Between rounds, I’ve never had a fighter say, ‘Wow, he’s got really good endurance.’ But I do hear, ‘Man he’s so much stronger than me’ all the time,” says Rooney.

Circuits won’t develop significant maximal strength so you get guys who gas in the middle of a guillotine lock. Frankie Edgar is known for his incredible motor. His secret — tons of strength work.”


For Typical Tim: At the risk of sounding like a broken record, heavy basic lifting combined with some sprinting and stretching is a near perfect combination for the average guy looking for an above average physique.



Myth #11: You can train MMA and still have your high power lifting numbers.

Although there are strong MMA fighters, none of them are watching their bench or dead lift go up as a fight approaches. It boils down to deciding what you want. If you want to have an elite total, great! Go for it. If you want to have veins and abs and bring up your brachialis, more power to you. Just don’t think you can excel at those things and excel at fighting. No boxer has ever been famous for his bench press.


“Deciding to be an MMA fighter could and should be one of the most serious, life-changing decisions you ever make. Respect it as such.”(Martin Rooney)

For Ordinary Otis: As the old saying goes, pick a goal and work backwards. It’s highly unlikely that if your goal is, “Compete in bodybuilding in 3 years” that, “Submit Ricky from accounting” is one of the targets along the way.

“Pick a goal, own it, and become it.”(Martin Rooney)



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