The Importance of Tabata Protocol When Training for MMA Conditioning & Performance

The Importance of Tabata Protocol When Training for MMA Conditioning & Performance

In order to properly program training sessions for Athletes, you must look at their sport. More importantly, how individual athletes move, how their competition moves, and what the active and passive timing of movement is involved in the game/event of competition.

Tabata training equipment for MMA

Equipment for MMA Tabata Training and Conditioning

These variables, like so many involved in proper programming, are often overlooked by coaches using one style of training for all athletes.
From a conditioning standpoint, athletes that perform short bursts of intense action followed by short bursts of rest would need different conditioning protocols than those who perform longer, lower intensity protocols. To make this a bit easier to visualize, compare Fighters/Mixed Martial Artists to Marathon Runners.

Fighters utilize a combination of Type 1 and Type 2 (both A and B) muscle fibers by incorporating a combination of high intensity intervals (sprint training) and overall endurance (lower-intensity conditioning over time, i.e. jogging) in addition to proper strength training.
Marathon Runners, on the other hand, utilize mostly Type 1 fibers due to the fact that their sport is extremely aerobic.
Okay, so what does this all mean?
When conditioning athletes like Fighters for competition, you need to at least cover the bases above. What’s a great starting point? The Tabata Method.

The Tabata Method is the brainchild of a Japanese researcher and was originally used for fat oxidation. It basically consists of a 20 second “all out sprint interval”, followed by a 10 second “jogging interval” for 8 rounds. While great for fat loss, its even better for fight conditioning!

It can be used for strength endurance using compound movements like squats or push presses as well as for cardio conditioning such as bag or track work.

How does this apply to Performance Athletes and more importantly, Fighters?
Again, Fighters MUST train for their sport. Watch any MMA bout. How does it unfold? When one side is striking (anaerobic), the other is usually either dodging or countering (can be aerobic or anaerobic). In between strikes and counters, there is usually some movement from both sides while they are deciding their next move, as well as their opponent’s (aerobic).

By training with the Tabata Method, you’re able to hit all muscle fiber types, and in some cases, their aerobic anaerobic thresholds. By using an “All Out Sprint” and “Jog” pace in short bursts, you condition the fighter’s nervous system AND cardio capacity to the pattern they WILL see in a fight.

Can Tabata be Modified?
Traditionally, Tabata is 8 rounds of “20 second sprints, 10 seconds jog” which ends up being a total of 4 minutes. But, like any other training method, Tabata can modified to fit the Athlete. More experienced athletes might be able to accomplish multiple 4 minute “rounds” or different exercises or training types. You can even set up each round of 20 seconds to hit a different type of exercise which allows 8 different “all out” exercises in 4 minutes.

There are infinite ways to use Tabata in your programming for athletes. The bottom line is BE CREATIVE! You athletes might hate you after the session, but they will thank you when it comes time to perform.


Be Stronger.

Coach Lopez

Lopez Strength and Conditioning
Certified MMA Conditioning Coach


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