By: Josh Bryant MS and Adam benShea MA
When preparing for the physical demands of a mixed martial arts (MMA) fight, one should focus their training around exercises that are most relevant to the unique movements associated with MMA. One such exercise is the deadlift. Deadlifts are, both, highly effective for building power and one of the simplest modalities to enhance rate of force production (RFD). Rate of force development refers to how quickly a person can develop tension in a muscle. This is extremely important for any type of striking or grappling movement and many situations specific to the cage.
The nature of the average mixed martial arts bout is one in which a participant will alternate between extended periods of moderate energy output and short bursts of explosive activity (when a fighter must quickly develop tension in a given muscle). For example, the majority of an MMA match is spent jockeying and trying to create openings to implement one’s technique. This jockeying for position is seen at all ranges (striking, clinch, and grappling). From the striking range a fighter may be feigning to set up an overhand right, from the clinch a fighter may be looking to establish a deeper underhook, and from the grappling range a competitor could be slowly adjusting his hips to set up a sweep from guard. These activities of continuous moderate energy output are disrupted when a fighter must quickly develop tension in a muscle by throwing that overhand right, using that underhook to attempt a takedown, or exploding from the bottom position to go for a sweep. Therefore, enhancing rate of force is crucial for the successful execution of all explosive movements found in MMA.
One way to really increase RFD via the deadlift is compensatory acceleration training (CAT), popularized by Dr. Fred Hatfield in the 1980’s. In layman’s terms, compensatory acceleration training means to lift sub maximal weights using maximum force, performing the lift as fast as possible after the movement is mastered. Weight as light as 30-40% of the fighter’s one rep max can be used to develop RFD.
It should be noted, CAT training does have a big draw back: the negative acceleration phase .The negative acceleration phase is the deceleration of the bar over the final portion of the lift. Studies have shown that the bar can start to decelerate by up to 50% of the range of motion during CAT training. If you pull a deadlift as fast as possible, the final 50% may be decelerated because of your body’s built in safety mechanism.
Accommodated resistance is a way to circumvent the negative acceleration phase. In this case, accommodated resistance refers to the use of adding resistance bands and/or chains to the bar. Both of these tools will increase tension as the weight is lifted off the ground, so the resistance is heaviest at the top where most people are the strongest. Additionally, accommodated resistance complements the strength curve of the lift, which allows for maximum strength to be built.
However, if the athlete decelerates too much, he will not successfully complete the lift because the tension is increasing. Think about a Thai kick, a double leg takedown, or an arm bar from the bottom. In each case your hips accelerate as you progress through the movement, so clearly there is direct transference from accommodated resistance.
Deadlifts are a great way to develop deadly speed and power in the cage. Include them in your holistic approach or get left behind!
Some guidelines on the deadlift:
• Push through your heels
• Middle of the foot should be directly under the bar, the shins must be touching the bar
• The back is in extension, don’t round
• The shoulder blades should be directly over the bar, the shoulders are actually in front
• The elbows must remain in full extension throughout the entirety of the movement
Lower the bar in the opposite way the bar was lifted in terms of hip and knee angles
About the authors:
Adam benShea is a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt under Ricardo “Frajinha” Miller (Paragon Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu). Adam has won the World, Pan American, and California State Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Championships. He is a graduate of UC Santa Barbara and holds an MA from Indiana University. Adam is the Joshstrength.com Grappling/MMA Advisor
Josh Bryant is one of the fastest rising names in the fitness industry. Currently Josh is a strength coach who works successfully with many clients, both in person at Metroflex Gym and via the Internet. By using the Joshstrength Method, he has trained world record setting powerlifters, women fitness competitors, Olympic athletes, professional fighters, NCAA champions, and a host of high school athletes who have received collegiate scholarships. As an athlete, he won many national and world titles in both powerlifting and strongman, and at 22 years of age was the youngest person in powerlifting history to bench press 600 pounds raw. He squatted 909 pounds in the USPF, officially bench-pressed 620 pounds raw, and officially deadlifted 810 pounds raw. In 2005, he won the Atlantis Strongest Man in America competition. Along with ISSA certifications in fitness training, nutrition, and conditioning, Josh has been awarded the prestigious title of Master of Fitness Sciences (MFS). He was also recently named the ISSA Director of Applied Strength and Power. In addition to being certified by the NSCA as a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) and by NASM as a Performance Enhancement Specialist (PES), Josh completed his master of sciences degree in exercise science (July 2010). He has been published in numerous magazines, periodicals and websites. Josh Bryant is the founder and owner of Joshstrength.com and The Joshstrength Method. To learn more about Josh Bryant or to contact him visit www.joshstrength.com.