MMA 101 – Conditioning

Hands on knees, head down, chest heaving, sweat drops forming a puddle drip by drip on the mat between your feet, breathing like you’re trying to recover from water boarding while your mouth tastes like copper pennies coated in sandpaper. I’m talking about that post conditioning feeling. It’s awful, really awful. It’s also one of the most important, least addressed parts of being in fight shape. ‘Cause it sucks. Seriously. It sucks. It’s soul searing.  It’s also the deciding point in a lot of fights. For those of you who are into winning, here are some ideas on how to improve your conditioning.


Roll harder:

Seems simple, but anyone who spends any time on the mat knows how to roll hard, and how to play and have fun. If you’re trying to improve your conditioning, roll harder, for longer.  Obviously, talk to your partner and tell them what you’re doing. No one likes being attacked full clip by a spazztastic spider monkey apropos of nothing. Once you’ve explained what you goal is, get at it. Don’t rest in guard, don’t settle in in mount, get and keep moving. Doing this intentionally will force you to breathe like you’re being chased by a bear.  



The word ‘burpee’ sucks. It sounds like the noise you make right before you huck up whatever was in your stomach… ‘bur…peee’  *vomits* It’s gross. Consequently, burpees are also one of the best, and simplest ways to help improve your conditioning. You can do them when you’re watching TV, when you wake up in the morning, at the water cooler at work (solidify that ‘he’s a weird one’ opinion at the office). For burpees to be effective they need to be done in volume. Don’t be a pansy – start with 100. Break them up into whatever sets you need to, but you’re not going to move on till you get 100 done. Do that consistently, and your conditioning will improve.  



Another solid, simple way to get that metabolic condition up. When I think of sprints, I think of a potbellied gym teacher in short shorts and long socks blowing some damn chrome whistle at psychotic intervals. I’m not sure if they suck more or less without the presence of that guy, but I digress. Sprints can be done over whatever distance you have available or on a treadmill. It’s simple, run faster over a shorter distance, wait a little bit and do it again till you can taste lunch coming back up. Quick pro tip before you blow a hammy doing these – you should be warmed up well before you sprint, and if you’re of a certain age, you should stay away from that all out ‘running away from hornets’ effort. They’re effective at 80% speed, trust me.  



For some unknown reason, a lot of BJJ academies don’t drill a lot of takedowns. If you want to add to the tool box and make breathing harder, drill takedowns, hard. Specifically, shoot doubles and singles to completion. Find a partner, and proceed to take them down, and get taken down. Don’t mess around, don’t add a bunch of resistance. Simply shoot, take ‘em down, get up and repeat. You’ll be breathing like an out of control bellow in no time. Takedowns are hard. And because they’re hard, they work well for conditioning.  

Conditioning is no fun, and it shouldn’t be. Conditioning helps win fights, and winning is fun, so work on your conditioning. Even though it sucks.

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