What is Periodization?

To put it simply periodization is a way of planning, organising and implementing structured loading of a training plan over time to peak for a given situation or event. However there are just as many opinions on how to apply the concepts as there are on fitness itself. In this post I am going to explain some of the basics of Periodization for MMA Training.

Using  Periodization for MMA Training you will be able to understand concepts as they apply to your training. Combat sports as a whole whether it be MMA, Judo, Karate etc are unique sports with unique needs set aside from many of the other traditional sports athletes train and compete in. Many fighters (unless they are stepping in) will need systematic training over the period of their fight preparation. In order to do this any periodization plan needs to follow some specific principles.

Periodization for MMA Training: The components of an MMA Fight

In order to know what nd how we will be implementing our Periodization for MMA Training we must first know the components of a fight in terms of the dominant energy systems and prominent components of conditioning in each fight. The key components of an MMA fight we need to be aware of in our Periodization plan are:

  1. The dominant energy systems are the Alactic, Lactic and Aerobic. The Alactic energy system allows work of up to 15 seconds to be tolerated with periods of rest in between, and in an MMA context this means being able to throw combinations for prolonged periods of up to 15 seconds. The Lactic acid system allows work of higher intensity to be tolerated for duration up to 90 seconds. This equates to having a high work rate during the fight. Aerobic energy systems training that allows for a general level of conditioning s the foundation for the other two energy systems. Fighters always need endurance no matter how small a component it is.
  2. As a break down of percentages for energy system use 50% Alactic, 30% Lactic and 20% Aerobic.
  3. The main energy suppliers are Creatine Phosphate and Glycogen
  4. Key fitness components -Explosive Power, Power Endurance, Reactive Power and Short Duration Muscular Endurance.
  5. Training objectives Explosive Power, Power Endurance,Core Strength and Basic Strength, Power Endurance and Muscular Endurance of Short duration.

Periodization for MMA Training-Key Principles of Periodization for MMA Training

MMA competitors require a number of different training stimuli to cover the uniqueness of the variety of energy systems used. They also need to be able to prepare for fights either in advance or stepping in for another fighter.Before you consider the unique physical needs of competing there are some keys to planning that need to be understood first.

  1. There must be a yearly plan- This should focus on key mini-targets and key events. The min principle of the yearly plan is to build this around your fights. At its core this should keep your fighters in a general level level of conditioning so they can reach a desired level faster.
  2. Keep fighters injury free as priority-once a timetable for the year has been established before any training can be done, you need ensure fighters follow 6 injury free training principles with regard to foundation MMA conditioning. 1) Develop Joint flexibility, 2)Develop Connective Tissue Strength 3)Develop Core Strength in the "Power Zone" 4) Train your Stabilisers 5) Focus on movement training and 6) Only components that appear in an MMA fight.
  3. Variety of technical skill- Constantly focus on skill or technique based conditioning drills. Your training should have an overall theme but should be made up different aspects such as circuit training, odd object training, obstacle movement training, short burst training, change of direction and agility based training should ll be worked and combined with mental training.
  4. Individualise all training- All training should be measured and focused based on the individuals own personal evaluations. Measure and assess fighters at each step then focus this back into session planning.
  5. Specificity all times-This is very simple if it never happens in a fight then don't train for it.

Periodization for MMA Training-A sample of a fighters year

Below is a sample of what could be a fighters basic yearly plan:

  1. Preparatory Phase(June,July and August)-The aim of this phase is to put into place a basic level of conditioning of all energy systems. Over these three months fighters will do smaller micro cycles which will alternate 3 primary themes following a basic "Anatomical Adaptation" phase which is basic reintroduction to work phase after recovery period for the year.Strength  Phase 1 Max Strength, Phase 2 Explosive Power and Phase 3 is a Conversion to fight power phase. During this time energy system training in technical skill and conditioning work will focus on alternating between the Lactic and Alactic Acid system with a Aerobic being performed 1-2 times per week building from round 3 minute technical work to rounds of 5 minutes of technical work.
  2. Competition Peak Phase (August to Mid December-Mid January to Mid April)-The main objective of this phase will be maintenance of the previous phase work but will focus on fight prep. Aerobic drills will be once per week at most, with Lactic and Alactic systems being prioritised. Keeping basic conditioning while keeping a fighter sharp is the min focus here.
  3. Transition Phase- This is any phase that you don't have a fight for. You will be marinating your conditioning and organising test fights to keep your mental conditioning and technical skill. There should never be a rush to fight condition.
  4. Recovery phase(Mid April to June) This phase will be a recovery phase with only very basic maintenance phase to keep a fighter in 70% of his basic condition. This phase will also allow for injury prevention and prehab work to be performed. 

Periodization for MMA Training-Training Sessions the "Building Blocks"

I want to remind you of this because it's a very important and some will Say obvious factor. Within these cycles there will be smaller cycles based on your specific goals. These cycles are your training sessions, and it is the entire quality of these sessions that underpin any of the work performed with your fighter the entire year around.These will revolve around very specific strength, speed and power drills. Traditional drills are of little value if they don't relate anything to MMA performance here. Your Periodization for MMA training should focus only those unique aspects of the sport. Even within your training sessions you need schedule fight camps, recovery time and even training breaks. Take time to produce top quality training sessions and follow the process. Your training sessions will be mini periodized sessions in themselves.


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