Engaging in the workouts listed above will result in very fast metabolic and physiological gains, but you cannot train at these high intensities for very long, because it takes a long time to recover from each session, and will generally result in over-training.
Over-training can end a fighter’s career before it starts, so it’s important to understand how your body responds to training, how to recognize the signs and symptoms of over-training, and most importantly, how to lower your risk of over-training and optimize your adaptation to training.
How your body responds to training
It doesn’t matter how fit you are, your power output will fall as you perform repeated bursts of high intensity effort in the cage. After this kind of fatigue sets in, it takes a while to fully recover. Depending on the intensity and type of workout that you completed, full tissue recovery can take up to a week. But in most cases, you will completely recover after a few days of rest and your body will be ready for another hard session.
If you follow an appropriately designed training plan that incorporates the right amount of rest, your body will recover from this kind of training-related fatigue and over time you will grow stronger; this is called supercompensation. This whole process of training-fatigue-recovery-supercompensation is shown below. It is often called the training effect, although some call it ‘the general adaptation syndrome’.
The important thing to remember here is that if you don’t take sufficient rest between workouts, or if you train too hard too often, you won’t recovery, and you’ll likely enter a state of over-training. If you consistently avoid recovery your body will not undergo supercompensation and your performance will steadily decrease over time.
Over-training is very common in MMA because the sport demands a high degree of technical ability in multiple disciplines. Not only this, but fighters must develop a high degree of strength, power, agility, aerobic endurance and anaerobic endurance. Add in work, study, social and family commitments, and you have a perfect recipe for over-training.
Understanding the training effect and how your body responds to training is the first step in avoiding over-training. The second step is about recognizing the signs and symptoms of over-training, so let’s look at this next.
Recognizing the signs and symptoms
There are two types of over-training, one is called sympathetic over-training and the other is called parasympathetic over-training. If you want a full description of what each is, consider checking out this article. Sympathetic over-training generally occurs first and is characterised by an increase in sympathetic activity during rest and exercise. With sympathetic over-training, the signs and symptoms you need to watch out for include; an elevated resting heart rate (HR), a slow HR recovery after exercise, decreased appetite, loss of body mass, excessive sweating, and disturbed sleep pattern.
On the other side, parasympathetic over-training generally occurs after sympathetic over-training and is characterised by a decrease in sympathetic activity and an increase in parasympathetic activity. With parasympathetic over-training, the signs and symptoms that you need to watch out for include; a lower resting HR along with a lower HR during light exercise, you may also fatigue sooner and might not be able to work as hard. You might also notice yourself getting sick easily and often. You may feel apathetic (having no interest, no feeling or no concern) or have a depressed mood, decreased self-esteem, emotional instability, restlessness, or irritability. Note that some of these psychological signs and symptoms may present with sympathetic over-training as well.
How to lessen your potential for over-training
Unfortunately, Scientists have yet to find a reliable marker for monitoring over-training. But don’t worry, there are some things you can do to lower your potential for over-training. First, you’ve got to test yourself regularly using a physical and psychological testing battery (we’ll cover this below). This will help you monitor your performance and your adaptation to training. Second, you should use a daily training log to monitor your health (sleep, mood, resting HR, body weight), physical performance (training loads, soreness, fatigue) and nutrition (appetite). The MMA Training Bible has provided you with an example template of a training log, download it for free here (Training log template).
Separate from regular testing and keeping a training log, one of the biggest factors that influence your potential for over-training is the organization of your day-to-day training plan; this is also referred to as periodization, and this is what we’re going to discuss next.