By Mike Brooks
In recent months many of you have requested more information on martial arts training, specifically preparation for kickboxing competitions. We contacted personal trainer and amateur kickboxer Michael Brooks and asked if he would be willing to share with us some details about his own strict training routine – he said yes! Mike won the British Title at the age of 18 and continues to teach kickboxing and train for competitions. This is the first of his fitness posts – we hope that Mike becomes a regular contributor to MotleyHealth.com
Michael Brooks’ Training Stages
Hello fitness enthusiasts! If you are reading this I am guessing you share some of my interests – kickboxing, fun, and the kind of training that gets you real results. Whatever your reasons are, I hope reading this is rewarding and interesting. My aim in this first post is to roughly outline the kind of training I do to get in shape for my kickboxing fights.
I fight predominantly at Light Heavyweight (usually between 78-81kg / 171-178lbs) and stand at 6’5’’, meaning I am taller and slimmer than most of my opponents. This means that my training must allow me to work on my weaknesses (i.e. the power and intensity associated with more muscular builds) whilst improving my own strengths – things like speed and cardiovascular endurance. In short, I need a programme that allows a skinny guy to compete with the big guys, without putting on extra weight or losing any current levels of strength. What follows is a rough idea of how I structure my training in the 3 months before a fight.
Training in Stages
So, knowing what we want to achieve, we now have to decide how to achieve it. My preference, both as a personal trainer and as a competitive kickboxer, is to form my training in stages. These stages are taken from the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM).
Stage 1 – Stabilisation, Endurance and Corrective Flexibility
If your body is a temple, it makes sense to build it like a temple – starting with the foundations, making sure it will endure over time. Obviously in a training sense this refers to laying the foundations for movement – including:
- Posture – which defines the balance between muscles and decreases risk of injury;
- Joint strength – in other words, making sure they can function over a longer period of time without damage;
- Muscular endurance – which ensures the correct muscles are working over a long period of time, not only to prevent injury but to help with recovery and training duration in later stages, and finally;
- Cardiovascular fitness.
Kickboxing is an intense sport demanding a great deal from the body’s energy systems. Before training these various systems you need to be sure you can maintain a moderate level of output over a longer period of time. Once again this helps with recovery and later stages of training.
This stage is vital. If not done properly, it can have vital implications later on. I like this stage to last 4-6 weeks, and I will frequently refer back to it to make sure my posture and inner workings are improved throughout the cycle. This is also a great period of low intensity to enter into if you are recovering from over training, or coming back after time off, as it ensures you do not jump in at the deep end of your training.
Stage 2 – Strength Training
With the foundation set, you can start to fortify things. The strength stage aims to improve your performance in various areas.
Strength-endurance aims to bridge from the first stage to the second stage, adding some harder resistance exercises into the endurance and stability training of the first stage. Typically, resistance training will superset one strength exercise (8-12 reps) with an endurance exercise using the same muscle group (15 reps), usually in a slower and less stable manner. This process is greatly challenging, and is also a great means of fat burning and toning.
Hypertrophy is the stage concerned with tearing tiny muscle fibres in order to stimulate muscle growth. This is the stage used in body building. Although a great hobby and a fun way to train, this has no real use to the combat athlete unless one is trying to move up to a different weight class. As British bodybuilding champion Kerry Kayes once pointed out, bodybuilders are experts at gaining and losing weight.
The third and final step in the strength phase is the development of maximal strength, i.e the most external force your body can exert in a short period of time – usually no more than six repetitions, and sometimes only one or two. The aim is to avoid fatiguing the muscles in the same way you would for the previous stage (Hypertrophy). The key thing here is that muscle strength is NOT a product of muscle size; while the two are related, strength is more a result of the neurological ability to recruit as many muscle fibres together in a concerted effort. This is a great stage to be focusing on the big lifts:
Depending on how many parts of this stage you use, this stage will last 4-12 weeks for me as a kickboxer. I tend to skip the muscle building when I am preparing for a fight so I spend 4-6 weeks on Strength Endurance and Maximal Strength. During this training cardio develops to involve intervals of higher intensity.
Stage 3 – Power Training
Power – without a doubt my favourite form of training. Now that the muscles are working in a well co-ordinated manner (thanks to the stabilisation and corrective posture of stage 1), and also due to the fact that muscles now produce more force (thanks to stage 2) it is time to add some power. Power is basically the ability to exert as much force as possible in the shortest possible time. The difference between strength and power can be demonstrated as follows: think of someone performing a few reps of their heaviest squat, and compare it to a hurdler performing a single jump. The key difference is the speed of the exertion.
So, in the power stage of training you can expect lots of explosive movements, such as jumping, throwing, punching and kicking, as well as Olympic lifts like the clean. Also, training can involve pairing a maximal strength exercise with a power exercise, to get the benefits of both areas of training. These methods prime the muscles to contract as quickly as possible. When you are in the ring, you do not exactly get time to wind up a punch with all your strength – you get milliseconds.
Cardio training becomes more intense and features less predictable periods of interval training, to simulate the true unpredictability of Combat Sports.
We have studied in brief detail all the areas involving my training for fights. We have not even begun to look at my kickboxing-specific training, which is vital. If I were not visiting 5 elements (the kickboxing gym I train at) regularly, I would not be in any position to fight whatsoever. My instructor and my training partners form the most valuable component of my training. In a future article I will discuss these other training methods in more detail, and also discuss the importance of core training. In the mean time, I am open to any feedback and questions you may have.
Thank you for reading.