To achieve optimal results, you must integrate flexibility movements into your program.
In this 6-part series, I will briefly explain the essential pieces that comprise a complete strength and conditioning program for a MMA athlete.
Having talked through dynamic warmup, explosive medicine ball movements, and strength training, let’s now move onto an often overlooked aspect of training: flexibility.
Everyday I see someone following up their strength workout or cardio session with a couple shoulder rolls and maybe 2 or 3 toe touches before running out the door. What benefit did that effort provide? Did they lengthen their muscle tissue out to aid in recovery? Did they reduce muscle soreness with their half hearted 30 second routine? The answer, should you be wondering, is absolutely not!
An overlooked element of fitness, flexibility plays an integral part of our complete training system. Flexibility is a joint’s ability to move through a full range of motion. Clearly this is important for all activities, from grocery shopping, to golfing, to mixed martial arts. Flexibility training also aids in injury prevention and allows for proper movement execution, both of which are significant characteristics when it comes to training MMA athletes. Try to throw a head kick with tight hips…you simply can’t fully extend and generate full power.
Like other aspects of fitness, flexibility training should be customized to the client or athlete. We are all unique and we all have different imbalances (some more than others) throughout our bodies. A proper assessment is valuable here to help pinpoint any “problem” areas someone may have. Having discovered them (imbalances), we can determine the best movements to get positive results.
Having said that, I will say that based on my experience, many of my clients share many of the same flexibility issues, albeit for different reasons. My busy executive who sits at a desk and flies every other week has tight calves, hip flexors, chest, and shoulders. I think it’s safe to say that sitting frequently contributes to these issues. With an MMA athlete, he’s constantly on the balls of his feet with his hands up and chin down during his stand up training. For his ground work, he’s in forward flexion for much of the practice. While these two case studies differ in their causations, their flexibility concerns and imbalances are generally very similar.
One issue with flexibility training is there are many methods to choose from. There is static stretching, dynamic stretching, isometric stretching, ballistic stretching, PNF stretching, AIS stretching, even yoga. I’m afraid I can’t claim to know one will work better for you than another, for we’re all unique, but below is a sample flexibility routine we have the athletes complete after a strength training routine. We typically perform each exercise for 30 seconds.
Sample flexibility routine
Downward dog (cycle feet)
Wall-assisted hip flexor
Leaning lat pull
To achieve optimal strength gains, prevent injuries, and give yourself the best chance of reaching your true potential, make sure flexibility movements like those in the routine found above are a staple in your complete strength training program.
Doug Balzarini is currently the strength and conditioning coach for the Alliance MMA Fight Team in Chula Vista, CA. He is also the founder of DBStrength.com, which provides fitness-related articles and education. Previously, Doug worked at Fitness Quest 10 for 6 ½ years as a personal trainer, strength coach, and Operations Director for Todd Durkin Enterprises (TDE).
A Massachusetts native, he earned his Bachelor’s degree in Exercise Science with a minor in Business Management from Westfield State University. Since moving to San Diego he has completed some graduate work in Biomechanics at SDSU, obtained an ACE Personal Trainer certification, the NSCA-CSCS certification, TRX instructor training, EFI Gravity instructor training, LIFT Sandbag Certification, Spinning certification, FMS training, and received his CPR/AED instructor status. He has also appeared in dozens of fitness videos, written numerous fitness articles, completed a MMA Conditioning Coach certification program and has competed in multiple grappling tournaments.
Prior to working at Fitness Quest 10, Doug worked for the American Council on Exercise as the Continuing Education Coordinator where he was responsible for managing over 400 continuing education providers.
For more information please visit www.dbstrength.com.