What Are You Training For?

I’ve been giving a lot of thought to training lately. Over the years as I’ve learned more about physical conditioning, I’ve seen a significant swing in training philosophies. A decade ago plyometrics were the hot new thing in developing explosive power. Five years ago, core muscle development became a hot item for building a strong foundation for any and every sport under the sun (those core muscles will give you a serious edge in your next ping-pong tournament). In the past year, I’ve begun seeing a swelling in BodyPump / X90 programs which integrate strength training into an aerobic paced workout. At the same time CrossFit is pushing for more generalized training away from the weight room, avoiding specialization altogether.

Last week I talked to an instructor after one of my training sessions and discussing the problem with integrating both martial arts training and weight room strength training during the week. His recommendation was to cut back on the weight training and focus on explosive power training via the CrossFit and plyometrics philosophy, if my training goal was to become a better fighter. Not necessarily bad advice.

Most people who have never fought rounds don’t realize just how physically draining every second in a fight actually is. That said, I’m really not much of a “fighter” anymore. Sure, I still spar occasionally and train weekly but I haven’t gone 4 full rounds for points in years. In fact, the odds of me getting into a 4 round fight in the near future are looking fairly slim. On the other hand, if I had to model what my next fight might look like, it would probably last less than 30 seconds total and maybe even less than 10 seconds. What does this mean for the kind of training I’m looking at?

It means that your training should adequately reflect your threat model. Any training is better than no training and more training is better than less training. Most of the training fads are based on sound principles and have their place in a well balanced program. That said, strength focused weight training alone isn’t going to help you go the distance while focusing on aerobic endurance isn’t going to be much good in a 10 second balls-to-the-wall elbow and fist session in a dark alley. Combat will most likely require a mix of both. Something else to keep in mind is that all other things being perfectly equal (which obviously never happens in the real world), the stronger fighter usually prevails. My advice is to periodically ask yourself, what exactly am I training for? Then adjust your program accordingly.

Have I left anything out? Absolutely, mental training hasn’t been mentioned. Unless you know that you’re in a fight, no amount of physical conditioning or martial ability will do you much good. That training unfortunately... takes a bit more initiative than just going to the gym.


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