Keeping it All Relative

My dad was a hot rodder back in the “golden age” of hot rodding – the ’60s. Gas was cheap, rock and roll was on the radio, and Detroit was pumping out factory muscle cars.

“Souping up” a car and making it go fast was pretty different animal then than it is today KICKASS.CD. These days, you’ve got computerized fuel injection and ignition, high-revving small blocks, and crazy researched aftermarket parts.  Heck, you’ve got guys with chipped, twin-turbo Supras making 500+ horsepower like it’s nothing.

Back then, the best way to go fast was to find the biggest and most powerful motor you could find (usually out of a big sedan or station wagon or maybe out of a wrecked factory muscle car) and figure out a way to shoehorn it into the smallest, lightest car you could.

That’s what my dad did KICKASS TORRENT. He had a 1957 T-bird that he somehow got a 406 cubic inch (in today’s measurements, that’d be an engine close to 7 liters) with three carbs on into. Big cubic inches + small, light car = good power to weight ratio. Good power to weight ratio = go fast.

There’s a very important lesson that today’s MMAists should learn – especially as it applies to strength & conditioning. And that’s the idea of Relative Strength.

Relative Strength is really just a measure of how much force one can produce at a given body size. Put simply, it’s how strong you are at your current bodyweight.  Get stronger while keeping your bodyweight the same, and your relative strength goes up.  Keep your strength the same while dropping a weight class, and your relative strength has gone up again.

Relative strength is one of the most important types of strength in MMA, MMA is now made up of weight classes. As long as you and your opponent weight roughly the same (even if you both cut weight, you’ll both come into the cage weighing roughly the same), if you’re stronger than he is, you’re one-up on him.

With many strength training styles, gaining strength means gaining muscle. For the MMAist, this can cause some major problems.  First, there are the weight classes we just talked about. Gain a bunch of weight (even if it is muscle), and that means that you’re gonna either have to move up a class (meaning you’re gonna be at the light end of the class, which means you’re fighting even BIGGER guys), or you’re gonna have to do some pretty drastic cutting to make weight.  Neither are good.

Then there’s the fact that even if you’re a lot stronger, if you’re a lot bigger, you’re likely gonna lose at least a little speed.  Bigger dudes just don’t move as quick.  Brock Lesnar and Randy Couture are darn good wrestlers, but neither have a shot as quick a Sean Sherk.  And that’s just b/c Sean can move his body quicker.  And that’s because he’s lighter.

All in all, gaining weight – even if it’s muscle due to a good strength program – can mean bad things for fighters. But that’s where relative strength comes in.

To gain relative strength, you have to focus more on not gaining weight, rather than just gaining strength. The best way to do this is to just keep your diet in check.  As long as you’re not taking in too many calories, you’re not gonna gain weight (fat or muscle).

The next thing you can do is improve body-composition. If you can lose 10 lbs. of fat, and gain 5 lbs. of muslce, you’re losing weight in the end, but give yourself a better chance to increase strength.

Just be sure that you go on a kickass strength building program  (if you need a good program, then check THIS out).  B/c even if you keep your diet and weight in check, if you’re not training right, you ain’t gonna get any stronger…not to mention more powerful, have better endurance, etc.

Most of all, though – and this is the key thing to take away from this, keep your diet in line. Like I said, you won’t gain any extra weight without extra calories. And more strength at the same weight means more relative strength. More relative strength means a bigger advantage for you in the cage.

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