Build Your Engine for MMA Fitness with Dr. Rick Kattouf

Fight Medicine / October 3, 2013 - 8:35pm

Courtesy: would like to welcome Dr. Rick Kattouf, a world-reknowned MMA conditioning specialist. Here Dr. Kattouf introduces us to the science of building our bodies’ engines.

Whether you compete in MMA or you just want to train like an MMA fighter, it is important to properly train your energy systems in order to be in top form. I want you to start to view your body like a car engine and your heart is your tachometer. I am no car mechanic, but I think we would all agree that it would be more challenging pull 600 horsepower out of a 4-cylinder engine as compared to a V-10 or V-12. So, let me show you how to build and then tweak your human engine for maximum horsepower and performance so you can take your fight game and fitness to the next level.

Determine your Lactic Acid Threshold

Maximizing cardio conditioning is a key component for the MMA fighter. Step one is to determine your lactic acid threshold (LT). Lactic acid is a produced by the muscles burning glucose or glycogen. Lactic acid tends to get a bad rap, but, through proper training we can teach the body to become more efficient and buffer lactic acid and utilize it for energy. Lactic acid threshold, which we will also refer to as anaerobic threshold (AT), is the point at which lactate products are being produced faster than they can be removed.

If you do not have a physiology lab to determine your LT, no worries; you can get a good estimate of it on your own in training. You first want to perform a 1 mile run gradual warm, then you want to run 3 miles at the maximum effort you can sustain. Be sure to wear a heart rate monitor so you can get your average heart rate for your 3 mile max run effort. Let’s say your average heart rate is 170 beats per minute (bpm); this will be your LT. If this is your first time assessing your LT, I recommend reassessing it every 3-4 weeks over the next 12 weeks. After that, you can reassess every 8-12 weeks.

Aerobic Energy System

Now that you know your LT, it is time to train your aerobic energy system. Aerobic training means that we have oxygen being delivered to the working muscles. This is where we start to build your engine. If you are currently at 4 or 6 cylinders, let’s build it to a V-10 or V-12. During the majority of your cardio training (running outdoors or on a treadmill, stationary cycling, etc.), your goal is to train at 85-95% of your LT. Be sure to wear your heart rate monitor during cardio training. In order to determine your proper heart rate zones for training, multiply your LT by 85% and 95%.

170bpm x .85(85%) = 144.5 (let’s call this 145bpm)

170bpm x .95(95%) = 161.5 (let’s call this 162bpm)

During your cardio training, your goal is to train at 145-162bpm. By following your heart rate (hr) during cardio, you are paying close attention to your human tachometer.=

Aerobic Assessments

One time per week I want you to assess your aerobic conditioning. This assessment will consist of a 3 mile run either outdoors or on a treadmill. Be sure to use the same method each time. Your goal is to perform this aerobic assessment at 90-95% of LT. We already determined your 95% level, so let’s determine your hr at 90%.

170bpm x .9(90%) = 153bpm

For each assessment you will run 3 miles and you will keep your heart rate between 153-162bpm (90-95% of LT). Be sure not to exceed 162bpm. Following each assessment, record your time and average heart rate. Let’s say your total time is 27 minutes and your average heart rate is 158bpm. Over time, you will find yourself running faster at the same or lower hr. One of the greatest signs of improved cardio fitness is when you can go harder, longer, faster, at the same or lower heart rate.

Continue your aerobic cardio training and assessments over the next 12 weeks. Keep an eye on your tachometer, and keep building that engine. It is now time to tweak the engine and produce big horsepower.

Anaerobic Energy System

Congratulations on building a solid engine, now it is time for high intensity cardio training. Step one is to determine your hr levels at 103-105% of LT.

170 x 1.03(103%) = 175bpm

170 x 1.05(105%) = 179bpm

Your anaerobic hr training zones will be 175-179bpm. Once every 7-10 days, you want to train your anaerobic energy system. By design, we are training above LT in order to teach the body to more effectively and efficiently buffer lactate products and utilize lactic acid as fuel. Here is a sample run workout; perform a gradual warm up for 1 mile, then include 5 hard run efforts for 90 seconds each, keeping your hr at 103-105% of LT. In between each 90-second effort, run easy and drop your hr for 2-4 minutes.

Over time, gradually build these run efforts from 90-seconds all the way up to 5 minute efforts. In time, you will be performing 5 x 5 minute efforts at 103-105% of LT. This will help prepare you for your 5 round championship MMA fight!

Whether you are looking for amazing cardio to outlast and dominate your next MMA opponent, or you are looking for that next level of fitness, be sure to build your engine before you tweak your engine. Enjoy the journey!

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