Outdoor Training for Combat Athletes

by Adam benShea on May 11, 2013

Outdoor Training for Combat Athletes
Adam benShea

A new ad campaign by Merrill Footwear features “The 4-Hour Workweek” author, Tim Ferris, discussing and demonstrating the benefits of outdoor training. This marketing strategy falls on the heels of the outdoor apparel company, REI, praising the benefits of “Nature’s Gym” for outdoor workouts and the numerous boot camps, adventure races, and obstacle courses that are saturating the fitness market.

It is not only the corporate warrior who is emerging from the shadows of his dull grey cavernous cubicle to embrace the light of outdoor training. The combat athlete realizes that diligent training requires spending countless hours inside gyms, rings, and fighting academies. After enduring prolonged periods indoors, a fighter may begin to feel a unique type of ‘cabin fever.’ To prevent your combat training from driving you stir crazy, take your training outside.

The obvious opportunity for getting outside is roadwork. However, due to personal inclination or poor weather, many fighters chose to use a treadmill and miss even this most basic chance for stepping outdoors. With rare exception (think category 4 hurricane), a martial athlete should find a way to get outside.

This trend is being picked up by an increasing number of MMA coaches. Many fighters are mixing up their training by doing activities as diverse as mitt work and plyometrics under an open sky. While unsuccessful in his recent bid for the UFC light heavyweight title, Chael Sonnen greets early mornings in West Linn, Oregon with hill running and coordination training at a local stadium. Similarly, UFC welterweight Carlos Condit prefers to do his conditioning on the grassy field of an Albuquerque community center.

Outdoor training is by no means a recent addition to combat training. For centuries, fighters have used the natural environment to prepare for combat. One example of recapturing the lost art of using the physical surrounding for functional fighting fitness can be seen in Erwan Le Corre’s ‘Mov Nat’ method. Building on techniques from Parkour (a utilitarian discipline based on successfully negotiating obstacles in one’s surrounding environment), natural movement, and martial arts, Mov Nat is meant to develop functional fitness in the natural world .

While Mov Nat is just one expression of outdoor training for combat athletes, innovative outdoor workouts can be a great activity for one’s ‘active rest day.’ In the early days of MMA, old school Lion’s Den fighters Frank Shamrock, Mikey Burnett, and Jerry Bohlander had a weekend tradition of heading to a local reservoir to lift rocks because the uneven weight mimicked the feeling of lifting a human body.

In a more extreme example, Brazilian fighter Ricardo Arona will test his physicality by swimming in the dangerous riptides of the beaches of Rio de Janeiro and climbing the steep precipices of the South American jungles.

While you don’t have to start outdoor training at such an intense incline, you should start. From sprints in soft sand to pull-ups on tree branches, the nature offers numerous ways to enhance your skills and harden your body. So, get to the beach, the mountain, or local park and find new ways to train.

[Previously featured in the Joshstrength.com monthly newsletter]

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