I came across the idea for this article while being ringside at a high level MMA event that was held at a local community college in the Seattle area.

Do you ever notice how many athletes in sports have an extremely visible drop off in power as the fight/game goes on?

You may say well that’s logical they are tired and it’s to be expected. I’m talking about a drop off where you look like a shadow of your former self because your arms and your legs get heavy, your lungs are on fire and you cannot breathe and you are moving for the sake of moving and just getting done with the game/fight.

Almost every single fighter that lost in the later rounds (not just at this fight but also on the fights I observe on TV) had a significant drop of in power in the later rounds while the winner maintained power, or only had a slight drop off (I have also seen athletes that actually become more powerful as the fight goes on, which also has to do with pacing, mental aspects and off course the training).

This is frustrating for many athletes and it will cause some to quit and others to train harder and longer….many times with the same result. I have seen so many examples where the athlete just ends up saying “this sport just isn’t for me” or “I gave it everything I had and I trained so much…” But what if it was the training? What if you were going about it all wrong?

Many times it has nothing to do with the athlete not being built for the sport or not training hard enough but rather the athlete not training for his specific needs!

What I have found is that the majority of athletes are weak and not powerful at all, so even if they can continuously express power, they do not have much anyway and they will continually express low levels of power!

The second case is the athlete who does have power but loses it as soon as he/she has a couple bursts of explosive actions. An example is an MMA athlete who goes really hard in the first couple of minutes in a fight only to find himself gassed before the second round even starts. For survival reasons this athlete better get the knockout in the first round or he will be in a world of hurt (not the greatest thing to count on by the way).

If this is you, then there is still hope. Actually, if you take an objective look at yourself and see that you have any of these problems and are willing to make a change in your training, then you can take your performance to a whole another level and be as powerful as your potential allows, while also maintaining that power for longer periods of time (specific to your sport).

So what are some of the things that you should pay attention to and fix them:

-          Relative Strength: Notice how I didn’t mention absolute strength? Relative strength is how strong you are for your bodyweight. If you can squat 300 lbs at a weight of 150 lbs bodyweight while your opponent weighs the same but can only squat 225 lbs, then you have a significant advantage! The more relative strength you have the better your potential to produce power (or have better power endurance for that matter). The majority of fighters, and athletes in general, need to focus on improving relative strength, which means doing more compound lifts (squat, deadlift, military press, chin ups, bench press…..with unilateral movements also) with heavier weights in the 3-6 rep range. Two bodyweight exercises that are great predictors of functional relative strength are chin ups/pulls ups for the upper body and pistol squats (one leg squats) for the lower body). No, you don’t have to get power lifting strong but you do have to be strong(er) than you are right now.

Relative strength…..CHECK


-          Power Endurance.  This is concerning the second example I gave. If you are powerful – great. If you cannot produce this power when it counts the most (last quarter, final round, etc.) then it doesn’t matter that much as you are not going to win or be a standout athlete! The truth is that most people think they have power endurance because they do tons of conditioning but most of the time they are really just training to be less powerful for a long period of time! For instance, I know many MMA athletes/coaches that consider long slow runs (even if you are running a fast tempo, you are still running slow compared to your actual specific sport) to be great for conditioning and then they wonder why their athletes get gassed during fights. To be prepared for your sport you need to look at the demands of the sport specifically and train to adapt to those demands. In MMA you want to be able to express powerful moves for 3-5 three minute rounds (depending on the contest) so why would you go for 30-60 minute runs with a slow tempo (they have their place but more for recovery purposes)?!


For most sports are primarily anaerobic in nature and we need to base more of our conditioning on intervals and metabolic strength circuits!


-          Body Composition.  What do you eat? What is your body fat%? I can’t believe how many athletes eat like crap, and look like crap because of it (there is a correlation, who would have thought?!). In all actuality, at least half of the fighters at the event were either overweight and/or had body fat percentages higher than 20%! Either way, do you think that you would be faster, stronger, more powerful and more conditioned if you were the same weight but with a lower body fat %? Very likely. I know there are incredible fighters out there that do not have the most ripped and muscular body but it doesn’t take away from the fact that you could be a more “dangerous” athlete if you paid attention to your nutrition and with that body composition.


I’m gonna guess that he watches what he eats…and pays attention to recovery


-          Balance/Recovery. Balance means focusing on balancing out the muscles to stay healthy/injury free, which considering the nature of many sports, is a must. Do you have postural issues? Are you addressing them with your training? If not, you are exposing yourself not only to injury but also power leaks which will make you less efficient!


Recovery is necessary for the athlete to rest his/her body and progress. Recovery is a huge component in training but it still doesn’t get as much attention as it should. I’m going to put these two together because it’s something that is a lot of times a flaw in the program design, whether it is from the athlete himself or the coach. After talking to many fighters and coaches I realized that many times the training is just “hardcore” all the time and no one is ever conditioned enough so they keep doing “conditioning”.


I ask about massage, ART, sauna/hot tub (not in the context of losing weight for the weigh ins though), foam rolling, etc…and get crazy stares a lot of the time. I’ll ask about post workout nutrition and I get shown a Gatorade bottle. I’ll ask about strength training and it’s usually a random training session with specific weighted movements (punching with weights, etc…).  I assume that there would be more attention paid to these “things”.


I guess I made and ass out of you and……you know the deal.


-          Mental Training. I have started paying more and more attention to the mental training aspect in physical preparation and sport. I realize that many athletes are incredible as far as their physical capabilities go but never truly live up to their potential because of their lack of mental strength. Many times you can look into the eye of the athlete and see whether they are mentally “ready”. And I’m not talking about the beginning of a game/fight, I’m talking about the last quarter, round when they are exhausted and many just wish it was over, the true champion has that look, that mental toughness that will carry them to victory.

 I know I could have been more successful as a pro if I had tapped into my mental strength more than I had. I’m not going to make that mistake with my athletes though!

Anderson Silva

He knows he is the best, what’s your mindset?


So ,are you paying attention to all of these factors in your training? Which one could you improve and make yourself a more dominant athlete? Be honest here and realize that sometimes you have to take a step back to move 5 steps forward. If you are not as successful as you would like to be then you need to change something! Don’t do this tomorrow or next week either, do it now!

This way you will never be gassed in the last round and YOU will be the last one standing.


Let me know if you have any questions that would help you out with becoming a better athlete and post them in the comments or drop me an email at luka@hocevarperformance.com

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