Combat Sports Performance Summit 2018

What a start. After a night spent on the train, I had to learn my connection train that’d take me from Cracow to Lodz has been cancelled. I hate being late, even more so when it comes to learning and training. Still, when I finally came to the venue (VeraSport), I was happy to see I haven’t missed too much yet.

Phil Daru (https://www.instagram.com/darustrong/), head S&C coach at ATT, was just taking the class through a series of assessments, including medball throws, cm broad jumps, rotational jumps, and pull ups. Rate of force development seemed to be of more interest to Phil than elastic properties. I agree with that notion in the context of MMA.

 

After the assessments, we went on to do a Mobility session that was rather heavy on FRC, which Phil is a big proponent of. Following that, we did a dynamic warm up that was very similar to what EXOS (https://www.teamexos.com/) is doing. Lots of skips, hops and bounds, i.e., low level plyometrics. Finally, we went on to do strength work, consisting of a Zercher Squat, a single leg glute bridge single arm floor press (that’s a mouthful), a bird dog dumbbell row, a kettlebell halo and a band resisted bear crawl. That’s a squat, a push, a pull and two core specific exercises.

The attendees are primarily strength coaches for combat sports and grappling skill coaches, with a couple crossfitters, power lifters and even a basketball coach thrown into the mix. On average, the level of athleticism is astounding. This is so much different than in Austria. That’s something I’ve already noticed during the ADCC – the big, strong, buff guys were all from eastern Europe. I especially enjoyed talking to Carmen Bott (https://www.instagram.com/coachbott/), another presenter from Canada. Carmen works (amongst other athletes) with high level wrestlers and teaches kinesiology classes at SFU. I really liked her no-bullshit attitude. Always nice to meet someone with an inquisitive mind, especially I an industry that is full of dogma and ego. I also met Kamil Wilk (https://www.instagram.com/wilku_bjj/), two time ADCC Europe silver medalist. Actually, he teaches BJJ classes at VeraSport.

In the morning of the second day, Phil went over his programming considerations in a talk under the title „combat sports performance: optimizing fighters physical preparation“. He covered different periodization models and showed us video footage of some of his fighter’s S&C sessions. The second lecture of the day was held by Dr. Jakub Chycki (http://www.jakubchycki.pl/) on the topic of programming for adaptations. Jakub works with some pro boxers and showed us case studies from their training. The key point I took away are that adaptations are highly individual, i.e., the same stimulus will yield a different response in different athletes. Mladen talks a lot about this. Dr. Chycki presented on different diagnostic tools that allow adaptation to be monitored on a hormonal level. Also, he talked about dominant compensation, i.e., the fact that combat sports are poly factorial, bioenergetic demands are not set in stone ( think early stoppage) and no single physical quality stands above the others in combat sports. The block on training was concluded by Prof. Carlo Buzzichelli (https://www.instagram.com/carlobuzzichelli/), co-author of „Periodization“ and „Periodization for sports“. In his lecture, Prof. Buzzichelli put a distinct emphasis on the fact that periodization is a pure model and everything depends on proper implementation. I liked the idea of always implementing both overtime and undertime sparring and having the two converge on the real thing.

ptfs

The second block was on combat sports nutrition. Marek Fisher (https://www.instagram.com/fitmaker_fischer) did a solid talk on the basics of proper nutrition, very similar to the stuff I present on during my talks. After that, Jacek Feldman (http://feldmannutrition.pl/) did a lecture called „Fight Week“ which, as the name implies, focused on making weight and rehydrating for optimal performance. Both presenters were heavy on the supplement side IMHO, but the information was solid and both can back up what they’re doing since both work with pro and amateur level fighters. Success leaves clues as they say.

At the end of the feast we had a Q&A session with Phil and Carmen. It was interesting to hear Carmen talk about her periodization model and why she says that despite differing opinions, concurrent training does allow all qualities to be developed simultaneously. Some of Carmen’s reasoning reminded me of Mladen’s line of thought and his notion of employing a one over n strategy.

The third day started with an excellent talk on alactic speed endurance training for grappling sports, presented by Carmen. Specifically, Carmen briefly talked about how acidity impairs performance and then went on to show five alactic protocols that aim at increasing the oxidative capabilities of type II fibers. The biggest point for me was that my lactic tolerance blocks might be too long. Phil followed up with a presentation on programming, auto regulation and the art of coaching. Staying on the topic of auto regulation, Mikael Liimatainen (https://www.omegawave.com/) explained the omega wave system and presented case studies, highlighting how HRV may not be sufficient for proper monitoring. Finally, the block was concluded by Adrian Hoffman (https://www.instagram.com/hoffmanadrian), who shared his thoughts on functional training for combat sports.

Finally, the last block started with a talk on the physical preparation model for sport karate (piotr Szumilo, https://karateblog.pl/) and ended with a presentation on surgical and non surgical therapy of the knee joint (Michał Adamczyk, https://ortomedsport.pl/). Another scheduled talk about the role of the PT in an athlete centered environment was scheduled but apparently cancelled.

Overall, it was a good summit with solid presentations. In an industry where „it depends“ is the answer more often than not, it’s unrealistic to expect very concrete information. Still, I wish there has been more actual training protocols and case studies. Carmen did a great job in this regard and not only gave out protocols (correctly cited and attributed of course, as befits an academic), but even had attendees go through them, if in an abbreviated form. Prof. Buzzichelli, in my opinion, had far too little time. I would have loved to hear him talk more. Definitely have to keep my eyes open for future presentations.

In a nutshell, here’s what I took away

  1. It always depends. Uh-oh. So far, nothing new. I use to say that myself all the time. It’s nice to see though that other people don’t have definite answers either.
  2. My glycolitic blocks were probably too long in the past. I’ll experiment with effectively cutting them in half. This will make my fighters happy. We’ll see if it makes them fitter as well.
  3. Periodization is a flexible concept. Since fighters aren’t particularly strong, fast or enduring (in a grand scheme), you can have it all, as Carmen put it, with concurrent training. Actually, I’ve written a couple articles on this matter on my blog, so it was nice to have my thoughts backed up by someone as highly knowledgeable and experienced as Carmen.

Now, it’s time to put that new knowledge to good use. Interesting times are ahead. Speaking of education, I’ll do a workshop on nutrition on June 22nd at the Shinergy Base Vienna, so if your six pack isn’t quite showing yet and you want to fine tune your habits, be sure to drop in.

So long, don’t get hurt

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