Let’s face it, CrossFit gets a bad rap from the more “hardcore” factions of athletes. They’ve been in the gym for years, and many for decades. They pioneered the place. They built it, literally and figuratively. They were hitting the iron back when the iron consisted of sand/concrete filled Weider weight sets. They were on the mats in high schools twenty years ago, long before the new corporate, commercial gyms with sanitized everything and name-brand “MMA-style” classes for housewives and newbies. They were in the gym killing it, long before it was trendy. The experienced MMA athletes don’t need any fly-by-night fads like CrossFit telling them how to train and get the most out of their bodies. They’re old school, and they get results the old-fashioned way- Hard, consistent work!
Well, times they are a changing. And in the next five minutes of reading, you are going to be challenged to abandon this old-school approach. It won’t be easy. But you want to get better, so you’re willing to give it a chance. The last thing you want to do is put on a “WOD 4 Life” t-shirt and take selfies with a bunch of newbies who were doing scrapbooking the Saturday before, and just felt like CrossFit would look cool on their Facebook walls. But you DO want to improve, and provided you find the right kind of serious, devoted CrossFit environment in which to train, you might just be open to it. Why? Because you want to push your body to perform at the highest level possible. You check your ego at the door and you learn to improve, even when it’s not easy. All kidding aside, CrossFit can help you to do that.
There has been a lot of research put into CrossFit style training. A great deal of trainers realized it was the hottest thing going, and learned the ropes, figuratively and literally. Alternatively, many athletes, fighters and personal trainers did their best to dissect it and find its flaws. Many grew very well-versed and qualified in CrossFit basics, and others developed very negative attitudes about it. Most of the bad rap CrossFit gets from experienced MMA fighters and trainers is due to two major factors. First, they just outright dislike the “trendiness” of CrossFit and the mainstream commercial appeal that goes with it. Understandable, right? Secondly, and more importantly, they dislike the risk of injury that is involved. However, when done correctly, CrossFit is quite safe. It’s only those pushing their bodies using extremely heavy weights in very awkward positions that end up injured – and you’re smarter than that. As are qualified CrossFit training situations.
Getting back to basics… You want to be the best MMA fighter you’re capable of being, correct? In that case, you are going to want to check out CrossFit training, and for a lot of very good reasons. Let’s check them out.
Whether you know it or not, the firing of fast-twitch muscle fibers is often the difference between winning and losing a match. Explosiveness is very useful when trying to execute a double leg takedown when your opponent is quick on his feet. CrossFit training involves some seriously explosive moves which activate the fast-twitch muscle fibers of your body. These fibers become more responsive as a result of being trained, and as a result, they will fire in greater numbers when you are in the ring. Advantage: You… thanks to CrossFit.
Lower Body Fat
There’s really no sense is carrying more body fat than you need, particularly when you are an MMA fighter. The greater amounts of fat you carry, the higher your scale will read, and the bigger your competitors will be that you have to face. So the wise athlete scales down the body fat as much as possible – and CrossFit is great for helping you to lose body fat. Don’t starve yourself and run for miles and miles to burn the fat - strengthen using continuous lifts. This high intensity circuit-training nature of CrossFit ensures your heart rate is pumping away at 120 or 130 beats per minute, or even faster as you push yourself more and more. That leads to fat burning, and a lighter you as a result!
Some fighters don’t like to lift weights, but you can rest assured, the man/woman you will face next in the ring is probably in the weight room right now. So you have to do it too, like it or not. CrossFit delivers a great way to knock out the major compound movements (bench press, deadlifts, squats) for overall muscle strength development and it really doesn’t take much time at all. Suck it up, hit the weights and hold your own, strength-wise, against anyone you face.
Nothing is worse than gassing when you’re just about to get the upper hand in a match. Okay, maybe one thing is worse… actually having the upper hand to an inferior fighter and ending up on the losing end because he/she just outlasted you. Love it or hate it, CrossFit employs the AMRAP, or “as many rounds as possible” protocol, which means your body learns to last longer through continually being forced to train just a little bit longer. As your CrossFit performance capacity increases, so do your MMA cage capabilities.
When you employ circuit training in a CrossFit workout, your muscles become filled with lactic acid, a waste by product of training. This is why you experience pain after 8 or 10 reps of an exercise. Lactic acid levels rise. Pushing yourself through it in the gym requires you to work through the pain and create a new pain threshold which you are now capable to reach before failure. Crossfit training continually pushes you to this ceiling of performance – and this leads to the ceiling slowly but surely being raised. When it does, you can train longer and harder. Additionally, this discipline doesn’t check itself at the door when you’re done training. You take it with you to your job, to the table when eating better meals, and yes, to the mats when it’s time to unleash some pain on your MMA opponent. Your newly ingrained sense of “work longer and harder” obtained using CrossFit is very useful in MMA fighting as well.
There is no denying the importance of core strength for the MMA fighter. Once you get on the ground, it becomes very obvious, very quickly, which fighter has the greater core strength as well as the greater core stamina; In other words, the competitor whose torso muscles are weaker and whose fail first is usually NOT the competitor claiming the win. CrossFit training focuses a great deal on core muscle group targeting and training and muscle fibers that standard MMA drills cannot always target. If you want to cover all of your core bases, CrossFit can be very useful!
Muscle Confusion Principle
Finally, one thing that CrossFit training does is mix things up. Just as no two MMA matches ever play out the same, given the chaotic and sporadic nature of even planned CrossFit workouts, the body is always forced to adapt to new and changing demands. This works well to keep the body guessing - and growing stronger and faster to meet these demands. The most effective workout is the one you’re not currently using, remember? Training CrossFit style ensures you are always mixing it up, which means you’ll be ready for anything in the ring!
Greg Brady is the Managing Partner at Clinch Gear. Clinch Gear is a Leader and Innovator in Performance Apparel. Established in 2003, with their roots in amateur wrestling and MMA, Clinch Gear created the High Performance Board Short that you see today being worn by many athletes who train and compete in amateur wrestling, MMA and CrossFit. Clinch Gear is located in San Diego, CA.