high intensity continuous training

Fight Conditioning: How to Build an Engine that Won't Gas Out

The easiest way to lose a fight is to gas out. When this fatigue sets in, not only are your muscles weaker, but you also make poor decisions because of it. This is why proper conditioning is absolutely essential.

But how do you do it? If you know a little bit of physiology, it’s actually not that difficult to understand.

A fighter of mine recently competed in a tournament, so I’m going to use his case study to illustrate how someone like him would want to prepare for a fight.

INITIAL ASSESSMENT

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First, I had him send me a bunch of pictures and videos to get an idea of his muscle balance/imbalance.

After that, I had him perform multiple conditioning tests.

From this assessment, I can come up with a rough outline for what he needs to work on.

Here are my notes on his assessment (we’ll define these abbreviated terms soon):

  • - Extended posture; obvious need for deep abdominal muscles
  • - Not in pain
  • - HRR to 130 BPM took 1m50s (biggest weakness)
  • - RHR ~58 BPM (not great)
  • - AT = 172 BPM, almost went one mile in 6 minutes (not bad)
  • - Fight rounds are 6 minutes with a minimum of 6 minutes between rounds
  • - Fights are only one round
  • - Has a good training foundation

If you’re unsure on how to do conditioning tests, read this.

We had 11 weeks from when I started with him to the day of his fight.

11-10 WEEKS OUT

Since his fight prep will start 8 weeks out, we have these two weeks to build a stronger foundation (which is always important).

The focus will be on max strength and local muscular endurance using the strength-aerobic method on one day with two different exercises. The strength-aerobic method consists of heavy weight, low rep sets followed by low weight, constant tension sets. This method trains the contractility of the fast-twitch muscles to make him strong, then the size of the slow-twitch muscle fibers to make him more resistant to fatigue while maintaining work output..

We also incorporated some explosive repeats to develop his HRR, which, as you recall, was his biggest weakness in the conditioning tests.

Heart Rate Recovery (HRR) - a measure of the ability for the recovery systems to turn on after a bout of intense activity

Here is how we organized his explosive repeats

  • - 10s:50s (work:rest) x 6-7 rounds
  • - Then a general strength exercise
  • - 10s:40s (work:rest) x 6-7 rounds
  • - This gradual decrease of the rest period is to develop aerobic power

Aerobic Power - how quickly the aerobic system is able to turn on and produce energy

The aerobic system can produce the most energy over a long period of time, but it takes a while to get going. Developing aerobic power is essential for any fighter.

We also used some HICT for fast-twitch muscle endurance (so he can still be fast in later rounds).

High Intensity Continuous Training (HICT) - a training method for making the strong fast-twitch muscle fibers more resistant to fatigue

And we used COD for left ventricle eccentric hypertrophy (so his heart can beat more efficiently).

Cardiac Output Development (COD) - a training method for increasing the efficiency of the heart.

The following image is a graph of his heart rate during COD.

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9 WEEKS OUT

This was a taper week to get ready for a grueling training camp, so his training volume was low here.

8-6 WEEKS OUT

The focus of these weeks was on local muscular endurance.

We used HRI to develop aerobic power.

High Resistance Intervals (HRI) - a training method similar to the explosive repeats we talked about earlier, but the recovery time of each set is based on HRR instead of a fixed time interval.

He had a general strength and movement day.

We also ramped up the difficulty of the explosive repeats:

  • - 15-20s:50s (work:rest) x 8-10
  • - Split squats
  • - 15-20s:40s (work:rest) x 8-10 (made the intervals slightly more difficult than before)

The longer work periods just place a little bit more stress on him, making it even more necessary that his heart rate turn on.

6-3 WEEKS OUT

The focus of these weeks was on cardiac power.

Cardiac Power - the contractility of the heart; how hard it can work.

To make his heart contract harder, I had him do MMA drills for CPI (increased sport specificity)

Cardiac Power Intervals (CPI) - a training method for developing contractility of the heart muscle.

This is how I had him do CPIs:

  • - 60s-120s work
  • - Recover HR to 130 BPM
  • - 10 rounds

The following image is a graph of his heart rate during CPIs.

Cardiac-Power-Interval-Graph.png

He also did the strength-aerobic method from earlier to hold onto his max strength and the hypertrophy of his slow-twitch muscle fibers.

Lastly, we introduced some threshold training.

Threshold Training - a training method for raising the anaerobic threshold, allowing for more work to be done at his maximum sustainable level of intensity

His initial tests showed me that his estimated AT was 172 BPM.

Anaerobic Threshold (AT) - the point at which the work being done becomes too much to maintain; where the energy demanded surpasses the energy produced

For his threshold training, he just needs to keep his heart rate around at 172 +/- 5 BPM for as long as I prescribe. We started off 4m:3m x 3 rounds, and progressed to 6m:6m x 3-5 rounds, making the intervals just like the worst-case scenario for his tournament (his rounds are 6 minutes long and he will have no less than 6 minutes between fights).

The following image is a graph of his heart rate during threshold training.

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Constant Monitoring

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In an email exchange, he sent me the above picture and told me that he noticed it takes him 40-45 seconds to rev his heart rate from 130 to about 165 BPM.

What this tells me is that he’s super efficient, but could use some increased contractility of his heart muscle. This made me decide to keep in his CPIs and make that a focus of his training camp for as long as possible.

3-2 WEEKS OUT

The focus of these two weeks is fight specificity.

Basically, everything needs to resemble the fight so that his body is acclimated. As I mentioned above, we decided to continue CPIs.

We also continued threshold training.

  • - 6m:6m (work:rest) x 3 for worst-case scenarios, or
  • - 6m:10m (work:rest) x 4 for better-case scenarios

The reason we didn’t stick to only the 6m:6m intervals is because I wanted him to be able to develop higher intensity during the 6m work period if he was given a long rest time between rounds. The hope was that he would be able to spar at these intervals. If not, I asked him to do drilling on whatever skills needed practice instead.

2-1 WEEKS OUT

The focus of these weeks is rest. This is also known as a taper.

Start taper on 7/10.

Fight is on 7/18.

Intensity and volume both come way down during the taper so that he can recover from the intense 7 weeks he just had.

On one day, I gave him a COD exercise circuit to get some active recovery.

He was allowed 3 easy mat days.

I instructed him to recover as hard as he’d been training (e.g. diet, sleep, compression leg sleeves, acai bowl by the pool).

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He went in to the gym on Friday, did his warm up, then left.

On Saturday, his instructions were simply to go whoop ass.

To measure his recovery, we monitored his RHR.

Resting Heart Rate (RHR) - how fast your heart beats first thing in the morning; can be collected and used to monitor recovery

I had him start tracking his RHR a few weeks before the competition. Your heart rate will usually be lowest in the morning because you haven’t been moving, then it will rise and fall throughout the day.

The following graph shows his recovery (as measured by his RHR) over the last few weeks.

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This is especially remarkable when I tell you that the 46 BPM he measured on July 15th was at 2PM, not immediately upon waking. Plus, this is the lowest his heart rate has ever been, telling me that he is more prepared for this fight than ever.

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This graph illustrates the power of a taper before a fight. Had we not allowed his body to recover from his training, he would have been fatigued going into the competition and would not have been able to perform his best.

OUTCOME

Here’s what he had to say when I asked him how he did:

“All in all - not bad. Choked the guy in first match, lost on points in second. I showed both physically and mentally. Gas tank was for days.

“Not happy with overall results though wanted to bring home some hardware. Next time.”

The second round was actually kind of amazing. He pulled off a great move that would have scored him enough points to move on to the next round… but time expired too soon.

“There is a rule [that the] athlete needs to stabilize position for 4 seconds before getting points. What I did was 5 points move: 2 for take down + 3 for getting to side control. If I initiated scramble 5 seconds earlier - I would have stayed alive in the tournament… Shitty timing on my part. Lesson learnt though.

“Just want to say thank you for the though [sic] and work you put in in [sic] my prep. It changed many things in a positive way. The biggest tournament of the year for me is ***** [removed] in spring and I look forward to getting ready for it with you.”

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REFLECTIONS

  • - This guy is the perfect client and 100% compliant
  • - It was difficult to plan what he would do on the mat
  • - Life stress can get in the way
  • - I'm glad we had good communication because otherwise I wouldn't have known how long it took his HR to climb during CPIs
  • - As he becomes more experienced, he will do better and better
  • - I am 95% happy with his training leading up to the tournament
  • - I wish I had asked him what drills he needed to work on the mat
  • - I wish I had redone the conditioning tests after the fight

The biggest lesson that I want you to walk away with is that your conditioning alone probably won’t win you a competition, but it can certainly lose you a competition.

Don’t let that happen to you. If you need a strength and conditioning coach or any advice on your fight prep, don’t hesitate to reach out.

about the author

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Lance Goyke, CSCS, is a Nerd Extraordinaire and secret admirer of lesbians everywhere whose expertise focuses on the human body. His clientele ranges from other trainers to kids to house moms to fighters to baseballers to anyone who needs to be taught how to exercise. Go invade his home base at www.LanceGoyke.com.

When Training Hard is the Worst Decision You Can Make

Getting after it in the gym is one of the most enjoyable things a man can experience. And probably women, too, since I’m assuming most men leave a lot for women to still desire. Dani, can you chime in on that? I gotta tell you, and some of these other guys on here might disagree with me, but I don’t think training HARD is always a good idea. When I draw off of my experiences, my clients’ experiences, and stress physiology, I can’t always tell you what the best solution is, but I can say with certainty that you need to have (1) a reason for doing it, and (2) an understanding of the potential consequences of your actions.

At the risk of sounding even more like your father, you need to be aware of the decisions you’re making.

Sometimes training ovaries to the wall is the way to go, but not always. Let’s go into some definitions, nuances, and alternative courses of action.

What Does it Mean to Train HARD?

What does it mean to train HARD? It depends on who you ask.

Powerlifters say it’s about picking up a bunch of weight. And maybe screaming. And death metal.

But to Crossfitters, it’s about resisting the urge to puke for as long as possible. It’s about making your muscles burn. It’s about involuntarily peeing your pants and then telling the story to everyone you see.

To me, training HARD is about physical effort. I’ll even call it “dumb” training because you’re usually thinking less in the moment.

What Does it Mean to Train SMART?

SMART training:

- Is goal-oriented

- Respects a person’s individuality

- Manages stress

- Considers recent training history

Ultimately, SMART training acknowledges the individual and how they respond to stress.

Goal-oriented

You need to have goals if you’re training for any real purpose.

A long-term goal keeps your eye on the prize. It helps remind you to stay focused over months/years and gives you a picture in your head of where you want to be when you reach that goal.

Each short-term goal you set is an actionable step towards accomplishing your long-term goal. They are the blocks that build the monster you want to become.

Figure out where you want to go (long-term goal) and then figure out how you’re going to get there (short-term goal).

As a general example, if you want to lift in the national meet next year (long-term goal), start thinking about what things you might have to do along the way (short-term goals):

1. Find a place to train

2. Find someone to train with

3. Learn how to cook without burning the house down

4. Accumulate work capacity and size

5. Build maximal strength

6. Get in competition shape

7. Win

Respects a person’s individuality

“Training age” is used to define how long someone has been training in the gym. The higher your training age, the more experience you have.

A person with a young training age should probably not train HARD as often as a more experienced lifter should. They don’t have the motor control, endurance, and strength needed to do so safely.

Training is all about making you comfortable with the uncomfortable. Your individuality describes your current level of comfort.

Manages stress

More on this soon.

Considers recent training history

If you don’t use it, you lose it.

^^Cliché, but it’s true.

I don’t care what you did back in high school, college, 3rd grade, whatever.

That’s a lie. I do care, but I also care what you’ve done in the last six months. If all of you’ve done is supported side planks on the couch, then you can’t just pick up where you left off in college. Your gains are reversible.

What is Stress?

A stressor is something that alters your body and can be bad or good. The stress-response is what you do to deal with it. Allostasis is this whole process of trying not to get too out of whack. Allostatic load is how difficult the process is.

Gently place your mind back in 3rd grade mode and think of a seesaw. Your friend pushes into the ground to make you start falling toward the ground (stress). You catch yourself (stress-response) and lightly push back so you guys can go back and forth (allostasis).

Now imagine you’re both fighting to knock each other off. You’re going to push as hard as possible so that joker’s ass slams in the ground. You don’t just want him to quit, you want him to run home while screaming for his mommy. With tears in his eyes.

Now as hard as you try, you guys aren’t going to break this seesaw, so you will maintain some semblance of allostasis. The cost, however, is much greater. You will both incur more wear and tear during the process. So will the seesaw. You have increased the allostatic load.

Coming back to exercise, the act of lifting weights or going for a grueling, week-long run through the Gobi Desert (people actually do thatI know a medalist) is stressful. Exercise is still good for you, though, because your body learns to adapt and grow from the experience. Rinse, repeat, gains.

On the other hand we have psychological stresses. You know, the thing that makes you take a crowbar to the RAV4 who just cut you off. Or the one that makes your heart race when your girlfriend tells you she’s late (and I’m not talking about dinner).

These types of stresses are relatively harmless in the short-term and they’ve evolved to keep us passing on copies of our genes. When you get startled, you’re better able to react. Even nowadays, when you get cut off while driving, you get alert because, for a few seconds, you’re more likely to be in an accident. Your alertness helps you look for danger.

Problems arise when these stresses (1) don’t require physical action, and (2) keep happening over and over and over again.

All of these different types of stressors need to be managed. If you have too much on your plate at work, you can’t train as hard. If you trained HARD last week, then you probably won’t be able to do it all again this week.

The ebb and flow is constant. And remember: everyone is different. More on that later.

Stress can be bad or good

Stress is not inherently a bad thing. Stress hormones help you wake up in the morning. Stress keeps you alive by helping you react when a lion (either a literal or metaphoric lion) enters the room.

Problems arise when the lion never leaves the room. You’re always reacting to stress and you’re never resting from it.

Not all stress is the same

Lots of life stress--a big project at work, for example--can wear you down.

A heavy training session also wears you down. But as long as you remember to eat and go to bed before tomorrow starts, chances are you’re going to recover from it.

Necessary vs unnecessary stress

The act of waking up is stressful, but without it you have no life. Literally.

Another, more complicated example: worrying about what your boss is going to say about the project you’re working on is also stressful. And it drives you to be good at your job. But worrying about it for 6 hours straight is crippling and unnecessary.

A hard training sessions is stressful, but you grow from it. Do it for 3 hours and you’re probably beating yourself down unnecessarily.

Again, not all stress is bad. It is necessary to have a purpose in life. But ask yourself next time you’re in traffic if getting cut off is worth the freak out.

Overreaching vs overtraining

Overreaching is meant to represent the act of stressing yourself out enough that it brings you down a little, but your body can still recover from it. This is like a carefully placed HARD training session.

Overtraining, on the other hand, is about breaking yourself down over and over and over again until your body forces you to take a break. You get tired and weak. You don’t think as well.

Now, it’s not like there’s a switch that’s flipped and all of a sudden you go from overreaching to overtraining. This is why I try to teach everyone I work with to pay attention to their body. It will send you signals. Sometimes it’s best to ignore them, sometimes you need to listen.

I need to make one thing clear: I’m not demonizing hard training. I’m just trying to illustrate that it isn’t always the most appropriate decision.

Individuality

Everyone is different. And that means everyone will respond differently to stress.

What is your training age?

The longer you’ve been training, the longer you’ve had to develop your physical and mental qualities. Pro athletes have accumulated a lot of movement experience, so I can expect them to be better at that. They’ve also been playing and conditioning for years and years, so I can expect that they will have a certain level of work capacity they can use when training. A CEO who has trained 2x/week for the last year does not have that same capacity. These two people cannot be trained the same: the CEO’s training load would be too low for the pro athlete and vice versa.

Another example: kids are NOT just little adults.

- They don’t know how to perform lifts without massive compensation (that’s why Youth Nationals is only a good idea if you want to make sure your athletes peak too early)

- They can’t maintain high intensities for longer periods of time

- They’re still growing

- Their bones are softer

- Their brain is less developed

- They usually don’t comprehend healthy eating and sleeping habits

Main point: you and your training partner don’t have the same training history and won’t respond the same to the same type of training. So customize! All you can try to do is keep improving. The training process (and management of stress in general) works best if you be like water.

Reversibility

Even former athletes get fat.

Like I mentioned earlier, being a star athlete in high school doesn’t mean a thing if all you’ve been doing for the last six months are sidelying supported couch planks and remote clicks.

So even if you have years of training under your belt, you can’t just jump right back into doing what you did back in your prime.

What is important to you?

This is, in my mind, the biggest question everyone has to ask (I talk about this more in The Pyramid Method).

What are your goals? Are you willing to do what it takes to accomplish those goals?

If your goal is to be a monster, you need to train HARD often. That’s why every video you see of Triana and Zach Hadge gives you nightmares. They are pure savages.

But what if someone would rather focus on their career and just look good? They don’t need to train balls out nearly as often. Training stress competes with their goals of killing it at work.

I just had a conversation about this with a recent Rebel Performance contributor. He asked me to help him do some movement preparation for his upcoming powerlifting meet. He told me that this will be his last meet because he’d rather fight off a knee replacement for as long as he can. Powerlifting has just become less important.

What is important to you?

When You Shouldn’t Train HARD

When are some times that you shouldn’t train hard?

- When you’re sick

- When you’re really low on sleep

- When you’ve been eating poorly or not enough

- When your morning resting heart rate is way higher than it normally is

- When your subjective readiness to train before your workout is low

- When you’ve got other goals or life stresses

- When you’ve been training HARD lately and need a break

- When your training age is young

What to do Instead of Training HARD

Not training HARD doesn’t mean not training. Just turn your training session into an active recovery session.

Train easy

If you have a workout planned for the day, but you’re just not feeling it, then turn it into an easy circuit workout.

- Halve the number of sets

- Lower the weight 10-20%

- Shorten the rest periods to 30-60 seconds

- Try to keep your heart rate between 120-150 beats per minute

The goal is to keep moving, get the blood pumping, and get a sweat in. This is going to move nutrients around in your body so that you can recover.

Other low-intensity exercise

There are a few other options here

- Go for a walk

- Go for a jog

- Go for a hike

- Have some other workout planned

- Ride a bike

Get your heart beating preferably somewhere between 120-150 beats per minute so that you can maximize the efficiency of your heartbeats.

High Intensity Continuous Training

High Intensity Continuous Training (HICT) is a method from Val Nasedkin of Omegawave fame.

You have two types of muscle fibers: slow-twitch and fast-twitch.

The slow ones are really good at not fatiguing.

The fast ones fatigue quicker, but can contract more forcefully.

HICT attempts to make the fast-twitch fibers more resistant to fatigue. This focuses on your aerobic energy system and doesn’t fatigue you like a more intense conditioning method would (e.g. Tabata intervals).

HICT is usually more appropriate when you’ve already planned a rest day in your training week. It is a much more advanced method, so I would not use it unless you have a solid movement foundation.

How to perform

Get something that you want to do at a really high intensity over and over and over again for 5-20 minutes. My two favorites are HICT Step Ups (HICT Cycle Jumps if you don’t have a weight vest) and HICT Spin Bike. Videos for each are above.

Perform one rep every 3 seconds. Alternate sides. This gives you plenty of rest so that you can produce as much force as possible on each rep, but not get that “burny” feeling of fatigue in your muscle. If you start to feel that, you should slow down.

If you notice your speed is dropping off, cut the set. This is an example of when pushing through is not the appropriate decision. Train smart, not just hard.

Get a coach

Honestly, there’s a lot to this management of stress, fatigue, and training. There’s no way one article could discuss everything. And even if it could, most of it wouldn’t even be relevant to you anyway.

I’ve written more programs and seen more rundown people than non-trainers. And I’ve studied this for years and years. It is my job to make people enjoy training by helping them effectively manage their stress, fatigue, and training.

When in doubt, refer out.

Summary

- Training HARD is not always training SMART.

- Pay attention to your body to learn when to push forward and when to back off.

- Try out some low-intensity aerobic training or high intensity continuous training when you need a recovery day in the gym.

- Get a coach if you need it

Agree? Disagree? Let’s discuss it below in the comments.

For more Lance, go to www.lancegoyke.com.

P.S. If you liked this, send it to your training partner.

about the author

4bef86476243332d0681848e16f1df8b.jpeg

Lance Goyke, CSCS, is a Nerd Extraordinaire and secret admirer of lesbians everywhere whose expertise focuses on the human body. His clientele ranges from other trainers to kids to house moms to fighters to baseballers to anyone who needs to be taught how to exercise. Go invade his home base at www.LanceGoyke.com.