Balancing Skill Work and S&C Work

Looking at some of the posts here, I realize
that everyone must have rather different ideas of what sort of balance should be struck between skill training and strength and conditioning. Lee's "Wild Squat Workout" particularly stood out in my mind as an example of a kind of training that might be inappropriate for people with a different balance between skill and S&C training. Lee reported 3 days of leg soreness (I think) from doing his 50 sets of 10 workout.

(Lee, I'm aware you're experimenting, not evangelising for a particular workout. I'm not flaming your training methods, just using that workout as an example of something that isn't possible for someone with my recuperative abilities and timetable.)

I train grappling 4 times a week (Mon, Tues, Weds, Sat), weights twice (Mon, Fri), cardio (short intervals) twice (Weds, Sat). If a weights program makes me significantly sore for more than a day, I will simply not do it.
There simply isn't a way of fitting in that much recovery with 4 skill workouts per week.

Back in the days when I trained weights twice and BJJ twice, I could be much more aggressive in the weight room without fear of compromising my grappling training.

What sort of balance do you all strike here? How much soreness is acceptable on skill training days? How often do you train at grappling or striking?


I train grappling several times a week. My lifting
routines sometimes leave me quite sore when it is time
to wrestle, but the soreness often fades as I get
warmed up and into the workout. The only PAINFUL
soreness I have experienced is from having my opponent
straighten out his leg dynamically while I had a
grapevine applied to that leg. The weightlifting
soreness I reported did not debilitate me so as to
cancel my grappling work. I put these intense routines
on the forun in order to spur younger, stronger
trainees toward applying themselves wholeheartedly into
some higher-quality training rather than merely
"putting their time in".

I do, as I have mentioned in the past, consider myself
a "guinea pig" as far as some of these workouts go.
The reason that Scrapper, myself, and others go to
extreme lengths to find "ridiculous" workouts is to
push the envelope in what is possible in conditioning
and strength training as it can be applied to MMA.
Without the willingness to endure a little more
discomfort than you like, the trainee often accepts a
workout that was less than his/her potential. I am
not advocating training to injury levels. One must be
aware of their strength level, etc. in order to
properly gauge the intensity required to ensure

In many of your previous posts, you have shown yourself
to be a dedicated and thoughful practitioner who has a
genuine interest in rigorous training. However, we
must all support an ethic of searching and
experimentation as it could lead to important training
breakthroughs for all concerned. After practicing the
arts for over 30 years, I have come to the conclusion
(as is stated in the opening page of this forum now)
that conditioning is the factor that separates the
champion from the average fighter. Take the UFC for
example. Examine the number of fights that have been
won by individuals who possess less demonstrable skill
than their opponents, yet win the fight. Usually, it
is an overwhelming strength advantage (Tank), or a
conditioning advantage (Williams vs. Coleman) that
allows an otherwise mismatched fighter to be
victorious. To get all the cards in your favor, it
makes sense to examine how much you can improve your
strength/conditioning, since it can be at least as
great of a deciding factor in a fight as is technique
alone. The other guy probably knows the same
techniques (assuming a reasonable opponent), so stack
the deck in your favor with superior ability to use
your technique far longer and more powerfully.

To accept a traditional workout routine as the best way
to progress, and to constantly "save" yourself so as
not to ruin the next night's workout, is holding most
trainees back. There is a definite need to push past
typical previous mental and physical barriers to bring
out the finest performances from each of us. Why not
start today?

I thank you for your obvious serious contemplation of
your training and the priciples behind it. Your posts
are an asset to the forum. Perhaps it is time to
experiment a little more radically with yourself, so
that you may understand a little better what myself and
others are attempting to provide to the fighting arts.
What do you have to lose, except having a little
atypical soreness that will pass? I have made more
progress with my strength/conditioning and grappling
in the past year than ever before. Could it possibly
be that an old man has finally stumbled onto something
of value????



Lee: I'm almost certain that you've "stumbled" on to many things of value in your training, and am grateful that you're willing to endure all manner of unfamiliar new agonies to find these insights. I hope that I didn't seem to imply that I didn't appreciate your efforts in this direction.

In my above post I think I'm guilty of the common error of assuming that the entire world is like me, and shares all my goals. I was assuming that everyone's goals are similar to an inexperienced BJJ player whose S&C is generally better than my cohort, who is trying to improve his technical skills as fast as possible. My training partners typically have two or three times as much experience as I do; my ability to hang with experienced blue belts (as such it is) comes from my willingness to push myself to exhaustion while training.

For myself, I feel that pushing myself to my limits in the weight room earlier that day might result in a 10% faster rate of improvement in terms of strength or power or muscular endurance but might halve the time I can spend that day grappling at a high level of intensity. Obviously, not all my grappling feels like that; drilling, rolling with a beginner or someone much smaller isn't very S&C dependent for me.

I feel like I'm pushing past previous mental and physical barriers week-by-week. That doesn't mean that I feel the need to break through these barriers with every workout. I'm used to training while sore from prior workouts, btw - I'm not advocating some sort of "You have to feel 100% or you're not learning" position.

Perhaps a major difference in our attitudes is the fact that you have been training for far longer than I have - I feel that there is still tremendous room for improvement for me through using fairly traditional strength and conditioning methods.

As far as radical experimentation goes, I'm a poor candidate. I firmly believe in periodization and slow, incremental improvement. If someone posts an exciting new sandbag throwing routine while I'm not in a power cycle, or a hindu squat routine while I'm not concentrating on muscular endurance, it goes into my notebook for the next time that phase rolls around. It's not that I refuse to experiment; it's just that I have a set of definite long-term goals and a N-week timeframe for experiments already.

How will I know whether my 5x5's for Max. Strength are doing what I hoped they would if during the 2-month strength phase, I've been doing sandbag workouts, sets of 200 hindu squats, Ukrainian folk-dancing handstand jumps and so on? If my Max Strength improvement meets its goal, was it the 5x5's? Or was it the superior neural activation provided by Ukrainian folk-dancing handstand jumps? If I don't meet my Max Strength goals, what happened? Is it because I'm no longer seeing benefits from 5x5's or is it because I was not sufficiently focussed on them? If I want "statistically significant" (not really possible for the sample size of 1, I know) improvements, I can't test 1RM every week in the hope to see which training variations were successful.

I worry occasionally that the S&C forum goes through faddish behaviour. There is a continuum of this, of course, but I'll give the (possibly strawman) worst case:

A new workout is posted, everyone rushes off to do it, and reports that it really really hurt (always a good sign). They do it a couple weeks in a row. They have a good week in training the next week and come on and post that 43-rep sets of Jumping Uzbekistani Squats really made the difference. Of course, if everyone is really in favor of Jumping Uzbekistani Squats, you're going to see a "confirmation bias": virtually no-one will come on and say "I did them for three months and they didn't do shit for me!". The success of virtually any new workout program will also be reinforced by those who weren't really training very hard before and are suddenly re-energized to train by hearing about the protean benefits of Uzbek Squats (if you aren't training much, any program will offer startling benefits). It will also be reinforced by those who were training the same workout for the last 12 months (pratically any training variation is better than sticking to the same workout continuously). In all of this, it is often very hard to work out whether to follow the way of the Jumping Uzbek.

I did jumping Uzbekistani squats for three months, and they did nothing for me.

I would agree with geoffl on a lot of points. Any workout that leaves with anything more than mild soreness comprimises my skill training. When I'm sore, I have less mobility, less endurance, and simply less enthusiasm. I've also found that anything quickly gained is generally lost just as quickly, so slow incremental gain seems the best way to invest my efforts. If my progress slowed to a barely noticable creep or stopped completely, I'd be willing to do something radical.

Periodization in a more general sense has become very appealing to me as well. I'm not interested in structured six week cycles, but I realize that I can't be in peak condition constantly. My body just can't take maximally hard training constantly, and by working up to a gradual peak I'm able to avoid excessive muscle soreness and burnout.

I still believe there is no substitute for specific skill training, but someday down the road I might give the 100-rep workout a try for a while. I appreciate Lee and Scrapper doing that stuff as an experiment, because I know I sure don't want to be the Guinea pig. I'd also much rather prefer to see an interesting post about a new training method than another post about the best brand of creatine or how to give your "lats a good pump." Like everything else, I'm just trying to learn as much as I can from others so I can imitate other's successes and keep my own mistakes to a minimum.

It's interesting that while Scrapper and I posted many
times regarding the 20 rep squat, and then 20 rep
deadlift, that those routines have now found their way
into the regular routine of some forum members. While
the more exotic routines (100's, 50 x 10, etc.) may not
be suitable for regular employment in a trainee's
schedule, they have a very valuable function which I
feel has been glossed over in the previous posts.

These routines are meant to be extreme physical tests.
I make no pretenses about that. However, completing
one of these workouts successfully leaves the trainee
with a powerful sense of accomplishment. It also
allows one to understand performance outside the
typical routine workout and how that might apply to
performance when "heroic" effort is called for on the
mat. The main advantage of these routines is
psychological! They point out the fact that most
barriers are mental, not physical. This is an
extremely important, and in my opinion, overlooked
component of training by most athletes.

The previous posts suggest that slow, incremental
improvement is a better plan for advancement in S&C.
Overall, I will wholeheartedly agree! I did not get to
the point where I am currently at by doing the
occasional "fad" workout, but by putting in MANY
regular-style periodized routines. We have done 5 x 5,
single set to failure, 20 rep routine, and 3 x 10
(others, too) during our typical 6 week cycles.

Knowing what I know now, though, I wish I had performed
more of these "challenge" routines on occasion earlier
in my conditioning career. The advantages of these
routines outweigh the drawbacks even for less
experiences trainees. I now consider the trainee who
commits to a completely planned, nonspontaneous routine
as locked into a cocoon of complacency and fear. A
well known human psychological behavior has one falling
into a comfortable "routine" so that less stress is
introduced into the system. This rut, even if the
trainee works very hard, does not provide the same
"spark" of enthusiasm and commitment that the "exotic"
routines do. I would recommend that any trainee with
a few years of lifting behind him try one of these
routines once per month or so, in order to challenge
himself psychologically (and physically).

After all, you're posting on the S&C forum! If you
wish to follow nothing but a recipe routine, then you
have probably gotten enough information to furnish your
workout plan for life. If you wish to make larger
gains, then occasional use of an exotic routine will
test you more completely, and measure your ability far
better than a 1RM, etc. ever will. The combined
effects of a severe cardiorespiratory/metabolic/
strength challenge will let you know where the
weaknesses in your training regimen are with acute
accuracy. You may then plan your next periodized
routine to address the shortcomings you discover.

I hope this has clarified my position on the "wild
workouts". They are an augmentation to a solid,
scientific training regimen, not a replacement!



Well written, insightful and informative posts gentlemen. Thanks for the varying viewpoints. This is what this forum is about.

Best in Health and Training, J. R.

Bravo, Scrapper!

You have eloquently restated my point regarding exotic
routines. It is the willingness to go beyond the
comfort zone that separates champions from the also-
rans. While it is certainly preferable to be a
dedicated trainee using ANY routine as opposed to not
training well, it is by taking the next step that we
find out about the person inside us. This is how we
develop "heart" and courage in the face of adversity:
by embracing the chances we are given to test ourselves
in "heroic" challenges. It is a very real and
benevolent byproduct of this mentality that others may
be motivated by your actions and go on to discover new
inner strength and courage. It is always the pioneers
who take the arrows, for they are the ones with the
fortitude to step forward away from the safety of the
crowd. However, the greatest advances in history have
been made by individuals who did not feel the need to
conform to rigid dogma. It is the excitement and
thrill of participation in new and adventurous
undertakings that inspire us and others. This is part
of what being a martial artist is about: Being leaders
in a world of sheep who wish to follow the orders and
ideas of others in a blind fashion. This mentality of
"initiative" carries over into other phases of one's
life! You only get one chance to experience much of
what life has to offer, what good reason is there to
pass it up?



We have just witnessed the strength of street knowledge!

My vote for another thread for the archives!

Good dialogue guys!


Ugh. Just lost a too-long post to my browser lossage. Ah well, probably a good incentive towards brevity. Here are some points to consider:

A "test of character" is not the only criteria for success. Virtually all exotic workouts can meet that criteria (well, maybe not the "bench press 45 pounds once a day for a week" exotic workout). I was not advocating 1RM or 5RM as an ideal measurement of strength for grappling; merely advocating _measurement_ in general. I would hazard a guess that the reason that we have the abovementioned successful experimenters in powerlifting is exactly because you can measure success and that it's clearly defininable. Just because it's harder to do for grappling doesn't mean that it's impossible.

You might object at this point, pointing out specificity of training. That is, 100-rep sets are probably better for 100RM than 10 rep sets. However, that's not always true; sometimes some strategies turn out to be far better across a range of criteria. If we found that (I'm not saying this is true, by the way) doing 50-rep sets were better than 100-rep sets for both 50RM and 100RM (or something close to that - my stomach shrinks at the thought of trying to measure 100RM the way you measure 1RM), then wouldn't we have a persuasive case for 50-rep sets, instead?

I also raised that Japanese study about doing 20 second sprint / 10 second rest repeats. That was an interesting case where the "test of character" criteria might run counter to effectiveness. I don't know whether the apparently tiny (5-7) rep range is optimal, but not long after the 2.5-3.5 minutes of hell that 20/10s cause me, I feel fine. I'm sure that 20/10s would be more of a test of character if you did 10-14 of them, but would they be more effective? I don't know, and neither do you, unless you've got a bunch of athletes and a second bunch for controls (or a reference to someone's paper who did).

As it stands 20/10s are a dainty little morsel that I can slip in all over my workout schedule without much worry, and I can cheerfully report that they appear to be doing wonders for my anerobic _and_ aerobic endurance, as advertised. We have just witnessed the strength of academic knowledge!

There was a pile of other junk, but I'll leave it at that, aside from thanking Scrapper for his inspirational words. I think I might be that guy with the ego problem, always feeling like I have to turn up fresh so that I can wow 'em on the mat. I think it's easy to get like that if you're usually rolling with much more experienced people - it's not the ego problem of "not smashing whites" but more "surviving blues/purples" that gets me...