Thursday, August 11, 2011

Training Intensity And You

Recently a discussion over on JiuJitsuForums sparked me to write a post about how the training intensity of pro MMA and BJJ guys differs from the intensity of hobbyists. Most people think of pros as training super intensely the way their highlight videos show. For example, Cobrinha training for ADCC or GSP training for his matches. The reality is that those guys aren't training like that 6-8 hours a day 5-6 days a week. Their normal daily training is actually probably LESS intense than most hobbyists 3 times a week training sessions.

I know you're all about to flip out and talk all kinds of shit at me about how stupid that is and how no weekend warrior trains more intensely than GSP and on and on. Well, SIT DOWN AND SHUTUP! Read the rest of the post before you flip out on me.

When you are training three times a week for 90 minutes what do you do? You come in and do your 10 minute warmup, then you do 30 minutes of technique work, then you drill for 30 minutes, then you roll for 20 minutes. How intensely do you roll? Most hobbyists are going to be rolling pretty hard, sparring hard, training hard because they only get to train for 4.5 hours a week and they want to make the most of it.

Do you think GSP trains that intensly for 6 hours? Hell no. He probably trains that intensly for 1-2 hours a week at most most of the time. The key to being able to train 5-6 days a week is to moderate your intensity. If you want to train 4-6 hours a day 5 days a week then here is how you should break your training up:

Warmup with light gymnastic and agility work for about half an hour. Next pick a single technique or combination or specific weakness or position to work on and drill it lightly for half an our focusing on technique and execution and trying to get as many perfect reps in as possible. Next do some light sparring or grappling. Medium paced and concentrating on flow and technique for about an hour.
Now hit an hour of medium intensity cardio. Circuits, elliptical work, rowing, get your heart rate up, but don't go flat out. You've now been training for 3 hours and you shouldn't feel like you're dying.
Now back to technique work, you should be slightly fatigued but not exhausted, so now you want to work your A game. Practice your best guard passes, best sweeps, and go-to submissions. AGAIN concentrating on slow, smooth, perfect reps and DRILLING. Not rolling like you're in the finals at ADCC. So half an hour of drilling your A game. Now another half an hour of some complimentary aspect of your game. If you've been working BJJ all day work on takedowns from the clinch, if you've been wrestling all day work on sweeps from the bottom, something that is different from what you've been working, but complimentary.
NOW you can intensify your workout for the next hour. Half an hour of rolling at a higher intensity, but still not tournament level. Just push yourself a little more. And for the final half hour hit some heavier cardio work. Get your heart rate up high and keep it there.

Do that for two days, and on the third day spend it all doing extremely light work. Light weightlifting, light cardio, very light technique work. Then on your 7th day have a complete rest day.

Your body will adjust to this level of work and gradually you will be able to increase the intensity of your daily workouts, but you still don't want to be going all crazy every day. The majority of your workouts should be light to medium intensity and heavily technique focused.

You'll find you're less sore and can train much more with this kind of structure than training the way you are now because when you only train three times a week your body doesn't really adjust to it. Think about a brick layer, first day on the job you can hang in there pretty good, day two you're hurting, but can still handle it, day three you're flattened and can barely do anything. But if you stick with it your body adjusts and after a year or two you can maintain the kind of pace that makes the noobs weep when they go home at night. But if you worked as hard as you could for two hours one day, then took the next day off, then worked as hard as you could again, then took another day off, and so on your body would never really adjust to the labor.

The bottom line is that those of you that have the opportunity to train 4-6 hours a day multiple days per week should make sure you are regulating the intensity of your workouts to allow you get the most out of them without burning out.


  1. I've noticed these last 2 weeks, when I've taken every other day off, that I've hurt more and had less cardio. So this is what I want to get back to.

    What about 2-a-days?

    What if you're not really given the option to go with less intensity? If all the classes are being run at a high intensity -- because most people fit in the hard-going 3x/weeker category -- and the instructor is always after you to go hard? If you try to go lighter but are told that you're "rolling lazy"?

  2. That's when it's time to COMMUNICATE with your instructor. Talk to them and let them know you are training multiple times per day, 4+ days per week. They should understand that you can't roll at 100% intensity for 16-20 hours a week of training. Talk to them about which classes will be your "intense" classes. For example, Mon-Wed-Fri evening classes you might roll more intensely than your other classes.
    You really have to take control of your training and remember that your coaches are people that are paying to teach you, train you, and help you achieve your goals. If you aren't communicating with them then they aren't going to be able to do that.

    And 2-a-days really work the same way as longer training sessions. Spacing your training out during the day has relatively little effect compared to spacing it out during the week. Pretty much any training you don't sleep between can be considered consecutive training a hours.

  3. When the class goes too intensely for me I take breaks--I am 35, not 18, and as much as I'd like to imagine I can keep up with fit, super athletic guys half my age, the reality is that I can't.

    In other news: I HATE that I can't sign in with my wordpress id here. Is there something you can check that will allow me to use wordpress login?

  4. AHA! Found it!

    If you go to your dashboard and click on the SETTINGS tab and then click on the COMMENTS tab, it gives you these options:

    Anyone - includes Anonymous Users
    Registered Users - includes OpenID
    Users with Google Accounts
    Only members of this blog

    If you select Registered Users it means that people can sign comments from other, non-blogspot accounts.

  5. Heh, thanks. I set it to "registered" for you guys in the future. So now you can use any OpenID supported account you have.

  6. Now let's see if I can leave a Wordpress comment. :) I'd forgotten that I posted a comment in here!