Is this too much cardio for strength gains? PLEASE HELP

Matt Thornton

Amateur Fighter
Sep 2, 2004
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Hey guys -

Alright, so my first MMA fight should be sometime between September and October (I turn 18, legal fighting age in MA, at the end of August). I'm in the middle of wrestling season right now, and unfortunately, our coach isn't really educated enough in cardio conditioning for sports, and makes us do lots of distance running. So I could try lifting weights (on top of 3-4 hour practices), but I'm worried I wouldn't make gains with all the LSD cardio.

When I get out of wrestling, I'm going to be training my ASS off for this fight. I'll have 6 months to be the best stand-up fighter, grappler, and wrestler I possibly can be. During spring, I'll be in the gym 4 hours a day, 6 days a week, and over the summer, I'll be training twice a day; once in the morning, and once at night. My priority will be skill development.

On the side, though, I would really like to be stronger for the fight. I'm not all that weak, but I could definitely be stronger. If I'm sparring, rolling, and drilling 3 to 4 hours a day, though, would it be realistic to try to fit in weight training on top of that? Would I make any strength gains?
Thinking back to when I was a young man like yourself I played basketball 4-6 hours a day and lifted. I never saw decent strength gains. The lack of strength gain was most likely due to a lack of protein and calories in my diet. Certainly an in-shape 17-18 year old can take the physical work, else boot camp would kill people.

If you are going to be doing 4 hours of sparring and training a day, and want to lift weights, then you need to make sure you get enough good foods in. That much work will take a toll on your body so you're going to have to eat well and get recovery foods. Protein good, complex carbs good, good fats. Eat tons of vegitables, and not just potatoes. :) Without the right amount of food you'll be wasting your time lifting, sure you'd get minimally stronger but you need to fuel the engine so you can get strong. A young fellow can put on a lot of strength in 9 months. The MMA should be good for your balance (always a concern if you muscle-up too fast). Also, remember to stretch so you get the most from your lifting and gaining muscle isn't a detriment to your fighting.

Look forward to seeing you in fight finder!
I think Datadog makes some good points. If you're 17-18 and not currently lifting your body will respond to it. Probably not optimally given the overall workout volume you are proposing here though. Definately make sure you are taking in a LOT of calories, a LOT of meals, and a LOT of protein while doing this.

I'd encourage you not to make the same mistake I did at your age in a similair situation. During those years I thought I'd make the best gains by doing everything every day (run, fight, stretch, lift, kick, etc.). I worked out 4 to 5 hours a day. I outworked my competition but could have made more gains in more areas with half the training volume.

Just remember that there will be some compromises and you'll have to pick the best overall blend of strength, conditioning, skill, etc. Embarking on the 'perfect' plan for all three and attempting to do them all at once won't yield as good a result as planning the appropriate blend of give and take.

The only thing you won't have to compromise on is appropriate adequate nutrition so make sure to have a good handle on it when overtraining. Just my $0.02
make sure you odn't do overboard with the volume when doing the weight training.
More volume=more rest. If you don't get the rest, you might not over train, but it will be a serious detrimental effect on your skill training
Volume and type of training is most important whilst preparing for a fight.

I'd do short 15min to 35min workouts sticking to compound movements and not worry about isolation movements. I would not be pushing to failure either. And adding in some H.I.I.T. will help with your cardio conditioning. It's great to be strong but there is no worse feeling than being out of gas and being pounded by a fighter that you could of beaten if you were well conditioned.

I usually only hit one bodypart per week, and if I've gone heavy on back then I won't go heavy on squats, for example if I do heavy deadlifts earlier in the week and I am feeling at all fatigued I'll do heavy leg press (I know some guys think that leg press is ghey but I'm an mma fighter not a powerlifter or bodybuilder) So I don't overstress my lower back.

The reason I suggested you only do short workouts is, if you are training that much (3hr-4hr sessions) a day than a long workout will be the last thing you will want to do (not to mention that you may not have the energy to complete it with any intencity).

Best of luck with your fight!
Thanks guys. This is definitely a relief because I still want to increase my strength, but I can't give up valuable skill training time for that.

I know I considered the MMA "cardio" but the reason I want to train 3-4 hours a day is for the skill gains, not the conditioning gains (although I'll enjoy those as a side benefit). But I know all that skill training ends up being cardio, especially the stand up and wrestling portion.

I'm so excited. I can't believe this is the year I finally get to fight!
I would also not really worry about cardio (unless your a couch potato :p ) yet. If your 6 months out, do what you doing and get the skills down and get what cardio you can from the training itself. As long as you can do a 2 hour session you'll be fine.
But when it comes to around 2 months (to 3 again depending on your fitness), starting with the hard cardio outside of training.

My gym's well known for fitness (MT), but even though thats the case, 2 months out like I am, I'm doing the HIIT work now, so I can push harder when its closer to the time for power and last minute pad work.

For the lead up, worry about the skill and weights when and if you can
BabyPhenom said:
What does your routine look like now?

Wrestle, wrestle, run, wrestle. Um. Some Yoga and Capoeira conditioning on my own. And wrestling. Haha. I miss MMA.