I was part of the record sell-out crowd in Montreal on Saturday night for UFC 97 – Redemption.
It was my first time going to one of these events, and although I just have only a slight interest in the UFC scene, I had a great time. Unfortunately, the fights were not as good as many expected, but there were some fat loss lessons to be learned!
I had a chance to talk to a bunch of coaches, trainers, and “handlers” of fighters, and found out a few tips for fighter fat loss that you can apply to your program immediately.
After all, I’d say 80% of the fighters were less than 9% body fat for their fights. A few guys were 12-13% fat, and a few guys were even as low as 7-8%. The most impressive physique of the night clearly belonged to XavierFoupa-Pokam. He could easily step on stage at a bodybuilding show and place in the top 3.
But more importantly, here’s what the trainers were saying about fighter fat loss tips…
1) Fighters are using interval training more than they are using long, slow cardio training.
Even though I hear some sports like boxing are slow to change, MMA coaches are using all types of interval training methods to burn fat while building match-specific endurance.
But they were not just doing treadmill sprints, and I don’t think anyone mentioned using the elliptical machine. Instead, they were using a wide variety of interval training and circuit training methods to build fitness.
They were using kettlebells, tires, sledgehammers, and a lot of modified grappling and throwing to simulate the fights.
So you should follow their lead and use non-traditional interval training methods to burn fat. Plus, it will help you build life-applicable fitness.
2) They use the toughest exercises.
I always keep notes about each of my clients and the exercises they dislike the most. And guess which exercises I try to put in the programs as often as possible? That’s right!
For example, most clients hate dumbbell rows, split squats, and bulgarian split squats. But that’s why you see those in the workouts so much! (However, I also know a few TT members who LOVE those exercises!)
Turns out that the exercises you dislike the most are the ones most likely to give you the best results.
So pick the highest quality exercises and you’ll get more results in less time…even if you don’t necessarily love doing the exercises at the time…at least you’ll love the results!
3) Bodyweight exercises
Even though these fighters had tremendous physiques, not a lot of them were doing a lot of weight training. Instead, there was a bigger emphasis on bodyweight training. After all, at the end of the day, these guys don’t care about how much weight they can lift. They only care about having their hand raised in victory at the end of the fight.
The bodyweight training also improves mobility, dynamic flexibility and torso strength better than weight training exercises lying on your back.
Now don’t get me wrong, there’s a time and place for weight training, and sometimes folks use bodyweight training when they should be lifting, but in most cases, you can use bodyweight exercises to help you build the body you want while losing belly fat.
4) Always trying new things
We talked about why some fighters continue to do well as they age and why some eventually just get beaten by all new-comers, and they often said it came down to one thing. The guys who win with age always seem to be open to trying new things…from technical fighting to training and conditioning.
If you only rely on the techniques you used in the past, you might miss out on a way to get faster results.
For example, if you only do long, slow cardio, and insist on ignoring the science and application of interval training, your results will stall.
Or if you don’t change your workout on a frequent basis, you will hit a plateau.
Bottom line: Your workouts always have to change if you want to keep getting more fat loss results.
You knew this was coming, right?
Of course, these guys have found out that you can’t out-train a bad diet, know matter how much or how often they train. It was interesting to hear the specific regimens fighters used, and frankly, the plans were all across the board (including a wide variety of supplement use and meal plans).
But the bottom line was consistency.
These guys planned and prepared for all meals during the final weeks coming up to the fight…and it showed.
So take care of your diet, change your programs, use a wide-variety of training methods, and you can dial in your fat loss workout programs and results just like a professional UFC fighter.
Craig Ballantyne, CSCS, MS
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