by Jim Smith
While I'm just a beginner at Mixed Martial Arts and Jiu-Jitsu/Submission Grappling, I have been a fitness trainer for over 24 years. I have also trained in Western Martial Arts mainly knifes, swords and staff/sticks for almost that long. In my constant search to make exercise programs more functional (emphasis on FUN) and have a lot of carry over to general preparedness I recently started using the Tabata protocol. I had used it occasionally in the past, but decided to try it again in a different way. The Tabata protocol was designed by Dr. Izumi Tabata,Director, Division of Health Promotion and Exercise, National Institute of Health and Nutrition, Board member of the Japanese Association for Women and Sport (JWS).
A normal Tabata protocol is 8 rounds consisting of 20 seconds of high intensity activity followed by 10 seconds of rest which ends when 4 minutes have elapsed. Sometimes folks have done 3 or 4 exercises so that the entire workout last 12 -16 minutes. For many that know me personally and my quirks it will come as no surprise that I put my own personal twist onto the Tabata protocol. Well I decided to make up a Tabata workout with more of an MMA format. Thus Tabata MMA.
Not quite a year ago I purchased one of the best fitness training devices I have tried. No, it is not the some super expensive piece of equipment, nor is it a very complicated device, it is a simple timer called the Gymboss®. This inexpensive little device is one of the best pieces of "equipment" you can buy, it has 1 to 2 different time interval settings of 2 seconds to 99 minutes, an auto mode that keeps repeating, up to 99 rounds (you will not need that for Tabata trust me), manual mode as a countdown timer, alarm by beep, vibration or both, alarm duration of 1, 5, or 10 seconds, it is pager sized, water & shock resistant. What more could you ask for? What does the Gymboss® Interval Timer have to do with Tabata MMA? I use this timer to keep myself and others honest.Gymboss or not it is very important to have a timer that can be set for two intervals that will also repeat (& count rounds if possible). If you try to use a regular timer you will get a less efficient workout, not to mention very confused/frustrated trying to keep track of time/rounds as you get fatigued.
I take my Gymboss® timer and set the first interval for 20 seconds followed by a 10 second rest*. Next I pick the exercises I will be using. I always start with Boxinga punching bag or some other surface you can actually strike; for 10 rounds of Tabata which equals 5 minutes, I immediately go to Kicking(once again it works better to have something to hit), I have set up two & on occasion even 3 more exercises; they are ready and waiting for me. A typical Tabata MMA last 20 minutes, 25minutes if you are going for a championship workout. The other exercises you use are up to you, but bear in mind that you are muscle/heart/lung conditioning here, so don't use heavy weights or exercises that are too complex for your current level. Most body-weight exercises work very well. Some weighted exercises work, just make sure they are fairly light, so that when you are huffing and puffing like a freight train you can actually get a few reps & not get an injury. Some of the ones I like are bag on floor ground & pound, lateral jump over bag four times then drop down on bag and see how many sit-ups you can get, I'll do some unevenweighted hang power clean and presses (very light), medicine ball slams or oblique tosses, seated ball on rope side chops or kneeling front to back chops and I have many others I choose from. So far I have over 125 exercises to choose from & I adding more in daily. I usuallydo upper body dominate followed by lower body dominant or either upper or lower dominant followed by a core dominant exercise. Either way you decide to workout you will surely get a great training session in. If you go from one exercise to the next exercise non-stop (other than the 10 second rests) you will be drenched in sweat and feeling like you've definitely done an awesome conditioning routine. I would venture to say that if you are a competitor it will be near impossible to be out conditioned, you may get out fought, but I seriously doubt you will EVERbe out conditioned.
Some other tips are to keep a watch on your Resting Heart Rate, as long as it is in a fit zone you should not have any trouble with over-training. If your RHR becomes too high take a couple of days with some easy activity; then as soon as your RHR is in a fit zone go for it. Now you will have a better idea of your body's individual needs and be able to head over-training off at the pass so to speak. Most of the time you can do this type of workout even on days where you have had another workout or practice. I wouldn't recommend it a day or two before competing in any event. But for normal training probably a good three hours from other hard activity will be fine, but listen to your body. To get results you need a minimum of 3 sessions per week and I don't know if you should go over 5 sessions per week at least not on a regular basis. But of course that also depends on what else you are doing. As you become more conditioned you will most likely need to throw in 5 exercises for at least 1 session a week. A normal week has me doing 3 sessions of 4-5 exercise Tabata MMA workouts, but remember I'm also doing 3 strength/power workouts, sprints at least twice a week, jiujitsu & some specialty work. So like I said monitor your heart rate & how you feel. Do both though because sometimes feeling can be deceptive.
Eating a healthy diet will speed results and recovery as always.
There you have it my famous (or maybe infamous) Tabata MMA routine.
As a disclaimer, I will say consult your physician/health care provider before starting this or any exercise program.
*- note when timer is set like so, the round has not finished until 10 second rest is over. Therefore if round counter says 08 & rest is still counting then this means you have finished round 09 and are starting round 10 on the beep. In other words round 00 is round 01, it just will not read it until the 10 second rest is complete. Don't worry you'll figure it out.
August 4, 2009 by Jim Smith
Revised January 18, 2010