MuscleMag, May 2014
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Fighting, Fitness and Functionality
By now, the phrase “functional fitness” has lost nearly all coherent meaning. I’ve heard the functional fitness argument used to defend some circus-act nonsense involving a wobble board and a medicine ball, and I have witnessed its invocation as a reason not to train any version of the snatch. Both are ridiculous. Since functional fitness can be so broadly defined as to be anything, or capriciously compartmentalized as to be almost nothing, it ceases to have meaning. Except in the case of MMA, that is.
Fighting is a primal movement. Humans have been doing it since before we stood upright. And the kind of fitness you see in the UFC’s Octagon is the epitome of functionality: multiplanar movements, rotational acceleration, lifting loads that are unbalanced (and punching you in the face). When former welterweight champ Matt Hughes would pick up an opponent, run him across the Octagon and slam him on the mat, no one said, “Do you think that guy is actually strong?”
It’s that kind of strength that made us want to explore the training of some of the UFC’s best fighters. We’re not interested in choking anyone out (well, maybe one or two people), but it’s impossible to deny the impact that MMA has had on strength training. When the UFC debuted in 1993 a lanky Royce Gracie tapped out a bunch of muscleheads and left a generation thinking that maybe hitting the gym wasn’t necessary for being tough. But a few years later, collegiate wrestlers invaded the UFC and everyone ran back to the gym to keep up with those strength-and-conditioning monsters. After that, it just became a question of methodology.
Today we have new-breed fighters who are lean, muscular and athletic. Guys like Tyron Woodley, Hector Lombard and Stipe Miocic have great physiques and lights-out power. There is a lot to learn from them. Fighters are trying to increase their strength while minimizing inflammation and overtraining, and they use nutrition to fuel their workouts and feed their muscles without adding body fat. It sounds like bodybuilding but with fewer accidental groin shots.
We hope you’ll learn something from this look into the world of MMA training. Maybe you’ll add a Pallof press to your workout like UFC lightweight champion Anthony Pettis does or some chia seeds to your protein shake the way our Guest Editor Mike Dolce recommends. In the words of Bruce Lee, the original bodybuilder/fighter hybrid: “Adapt what is useful, reject what is useless and add what is specifically your own.”
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