Re-blogged from SCRAMBLE

In part one I went over, common issues I see with conditioning for grappling sports and application of TUF methods. This one will focus on planning your conditioning approach and how to effectively work in an “inseason” between tournaments to maintain conditioning. This is more or less a lose collection of thoughts and approaches I’m using with the athletes I work with.

Having a Plan

A plan or periodisation as its know in a sport context, allows us to know when and how long we have to peak for an event. If you decide to enter to a tournament with 4 weeks or less planning, in the words of Saint Kurt “you fucked up a long time ago”. Failing to plan is planning to fail as they say. Last minute HIIT sessions in a desperate bid to get game fit 2-3 weeks out because you hesitated on entering isn’t fun.

In terms of your approach, I like fighters designate an “in season” of sorts where their greatest competition focus is going to be this could be a period of 2, 3 or even six months. Look to build strength in the “off season” and work on conditioning up to and during the in season, strength takes a back seat and is merely maintained. Obviously this isn’t always the way the competition schedule will play out over a year but do attempt to leave at least 3 months where you can focus on strength building. Strength needs a decent build up, competing demands of conditioning and technical training make it a tough balancing act.

In terms of prep we can borrow the “Fast and Frugal Peaking Tree” and “Mesocycle Sequence from TUF can be applied at 4 weeks or so out.

This covers pre-competition, but what about between inter-competition periods which I would argue would be 5-4 weeks or less between events. Basically we move into quality maintenance with the right planning athletes can carry on peaking and improve on an “inseason” template if training is planned and moderated properly.  Maintaining physical qualities is far easier than training to peak them, especially when usually this inter-competition periods involve plenty of hard sparring.

Strength work effectively becomes something like this

Strength In Season

Weeks 5-3 out 2 days

Main movement (bench, squat, deadlift, olift variant) (55-80% of 1RM)

2-3 Prehab, Accessory movements

Main movement (bench, squat, deadlift, olift variant) (55-80% of 1RM)

2-3 Prehab, Accessory movements

Weeks 3-0 out

Main movement (bench, squat, deadlift, olift variant) (-55% of 1RM) (using bands, chains, AFSM, Oscillatory method etc)

2-3 Prehab, Accessory movements

Main movement (bench, squat, deadlift, olift variant) (-55% of 1RM)

2-3 Prehab, Accessory movements

Conditioning In Season

But what about maintaining conditioning between competition? You need to understand the concept the of training residuals, this is the time over which a physical quality lasts after being trained to a high level. Many combat athletes fail to understand this concept and will often try to training all physical qualities all at once often right up a fight.

A number of studies (Neufer et al. 1987; Hickson, 1982) indicated that if the frequency of training is reduced by two thirds, that endurance capacities can be maintained for up to around 14 weeks. So often athletes can get away with as few as one session a week conditioning.

This can take the form of Complexes, running workouts, TUF style workouts, Fartlek. Your conditioning selection depends on your game fitness, fatigue levels and how much intense rolling you may be doing during practice. E.g. if you are beat up from sparring, TUF or HIIT circuits maybe unwise, where as running workouts or Fartlek maybe a better choice. This is context specific and a perceptive S&C coach can help a lot here. Learning to break the addiction to conditioning can be tricky especially when athletes do it year round, multiple times a week.

So for a dedicated 5 day a week BJJer with 4-5 weeks between comps may plan their week like this.

Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday
Strength Conditioning Strength Skills Skills Skills Rest
Pm Skills Pm Skills

We could even reduce load further by having only 1 strength session a week. This obviously depends on variables like schedule, access to facilities, available training time.

Wrap -up

But what is important to understand is most sports are determined by more athletic qualities than can be trained at once. This is the key I feel is often missed with upper intermediate athletes, beginners get caught in the trap of mixed methods, e.g. heavy strength work, power work, hypertrophy work, conditioning all in the same session, means all these qualities will be built poorly simultaneously. Beginners progress doing pretty much anything, because like much an unmolded peice of clay anything you do initially will start to shape it, whether you switch to a scapel later on or keep using a hammer will shape you as an athlete further down the road. Often athletes will succeed in grappling sports in-spite of their S&C because of high variability in opposition/skill ceiling in BJJ.

The key concept is maintenance versus development of physical qualities. Maintenance of strength qualities will require one to two sessions per week depending on your training experience (more advanced athletes need less I often find), whereas developing qualities such as hypertrophy or maximal strength will require the athlete to perform up to three to four sessions of strength training per week. Conditioning is a highly trainable physical quality, where as strength takes years of cultivation aerobic and anaerobic fitness can be mustered in a shorter time frame.

This is an ongoing series of articles from guest blogger and Strength & Conditioning coach William Wayland of Powering Through, who offers online training planning for tournament peaking for MMA, Nogi and BJJ


Hickson, RC, Kanakis Jr, C, Davis, JR, Moore, AM and Rich, S 1982, ‘Reduced training duration effects on aerobic power, endurance and cardiac growth’, Journal of Applied Physiology, 53, pp. 225–29.

Neufer, PD, Costill, DL, Fielding, RA, Flynn, MG and Kirwan, FP 1987, ‘Effect of reduced training on muscular strength and endurance in competitive swimmers’, Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 19, pp. 486–90.


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