InifiniteMMA Article on 'SWOT analysis for the MMA athlete'
Sy Nadji B.App Sc
Kaizen Human Performance
I assume that if you are reading this, you are a competitor, coach or casual participant in some form of fight sport. As such, reading training articles and books and watching instructional videos are a great way to gain the knowledge to enhance your training or that of your students/athletes. There is one simple problem though, there are so many contradicting principles and methodologies that you can end up more confused than before. There are high rep body weight routines, strength programs, kettlebells, clubbels, balance training, circuit training and so on and so forth.
As a result you may get frustrated and take the easy option, use someone else’s program, you know something like Ronnie Coleman’s leg routine or Bas Rutten’s conditioning work out. Hang on, Fedor uses Kettlebells maybe that’s the answer? Or on the other hand Crocop did this machine circuit on his video….. Maybe that’s what you should do.
STOP!!! Take a deep breath. Now, you are not any of those people, your environment, your previous training history and age, body structure and budget are not the same. So, put away all the marketing hype, do an honest assessment of who you are and where you are. This will help you tailor your training program to you. Forget all the marketing hype, no one routine or gadget is the be all and end all of training. Training programs are not like baseball caps; one size does not fit all!
So what is the answer?
Just before I decided to pursue a career in Strength and Conditioning (one of the many titles I will use to try and over-glorify my profession), I had the brilliant idea that I could become a marketing and advertising guru. A full year of my post high school life was spent avoiding lectures and tutorials at RMIT university, what did I come away with? Two things:
A realisation that I was not cut out for Marketing.
Knowing what the acronym SWOT stands for.
OK to those of you who thought I was about to go into an article on some psycho branch of law enforcement my sincerest apologies. The SWOT to which I refer to is a business term, commonly refereed to as a SWOT analysis.
Now you may ask, why are we talking about a business process in dealing with MMA? Simple, this analysis can easily be applied to our training in order to clearly identify the best avenues for performance enhancement.
So instead of giving you an article with a pre designed program at the end, I would like to give you some tools that I use to design programs for clients. I believe it is futile to jump onto a program that has not been tailored to your individual needs, by analysing your current state you can work towards your long-term goals more efficiently.
Think of your SWOT analysis as the “You are here” arrow on the maps you find in large shopping centres. How can you find your way to the food court for your Sunday cheat meal of lemon chicken if you don’t know where you are?
This is usually the most fun and ego pleasing part of the SWOT analysis, what you are good out. Your strengths are what you are very good at relative to your other attributes. These can be both general and specific. For example, you may find that you have great absolute strength levels and gain further absolute strength quite easily. However you find that your upper body pulling strength (absolute) is relatively high compared to your upper body push. So that would be an example of a general quality (absolute strength) and a specific quality (pull versus push etc). You can also get more specific, for example you may find that although your push is weak, some of the prime movers in that movement pattern are stronger than others, for example in your bench press your pectorals and anterior deltoid are quite strong but you lack strength in your triceps.
So by identifying our strong points we can work out the level of priority you give a particular method, movement pattern or exercise. When I refer to priority, I include many variables such as time, load and frequency.
Other examples could be your level of flexibility (dynamic/static), posture (static/dynamic), strength endurance, aerobic fitness, anaerobic power and many more.
We then move on to the “not so fun” part of the analysis. Weaknesses are what most of us like to avoid (you know avoid them like you avoid the guy in your BJJ class that thinks washing his GI once a month is the pinnacle of hygiene).
Facing your weaknesses, addressing them and turning them into strengths are what set the champions apart from the weakened warriors. A weakness can again be general such as a poor range of movement in the body or specific such as poor glute activation in hip extension movements. Be truthful, identify them, form a plan of action and implement the plan, get rid of that weakness.
Weaknesses are often developed, IE they are not genetic pre-dispositions etc. They can be developed in two main ways, lack of knowledge/poor coaching or more commonly due to poor work ethic. To explain further, if you did not understand the importance of external rotation work for shoulder stability and health you would have no reason to source information on it and hence may develop a weakness. On the other hand, if you knew the importance all along, however you found the training boring and avoided implementing it, I would consider it poor work ethic. What I tell many clients is that the things they don’t enjoy doing, will give them the most benefits when they spend the time doing them.
Weakness identification and correction are very important not only in enhancing performance but more importantly injury prevention. I like to emphasise that the goal of supplementary training with resistance training and flexibility work is first and foremost for injury prevention and then for performance enhancement. Keep your body healthy to practice your actual sport skills first, then address performance enhancement. In a future article we will address some Red Flag weaknesses that require immediate attention in order to prevent injuries.
When discussing opportunities, I like to think of both opportunities you have due to your body’s unique capabilities and also the opportunities you have due to environment and circumstance.
An example of an opportunity presented by your body would be an athlete who has a great natural aerobic capacity. Take for example a Lance Armstrong (extreme I know). His hearts stroke volume, which is reported to be twice that of the average person, would allow him to maintain an aerobic power output beyond the imagination of many. An opportunity would therefore be for him to develop a fight style and strategy based on a high work rate and fast pace that would literally allow him to wear his opponent down. Before any rumours are started, no, Armstrong has not been offered a contract to fight in Pride against Gomi; I was just using him as an example.
The other type of opportunity would be an extrinsic one, such as living near the mountains and therefore being able to do some kick ass running programs. Identify this opportunity and capitalise on it. Or you might find that your new neighbour Pyros was a champion Olympic lifter and on his time off would be willing to teach you a couple of things about strength training.
As with opportunities, threats can be both related to your body and/or your environment.
An example of a threat would be a serious injury such as a herniated intervertebral disc in the spinal column. Recognising the limitations of your body as a result of this injury (threat) will enable you to design your program in a way to ensure this threat does not set you further back in your training.
An environmental or situational threat could be your end of year exams for university. Recognising the time limitations you will face due to study time in that particular time of year, will enable you to plan your training load to ensure adherence to your program and successful completion of your preparation.
Well, get a piece of paper and a pen and sit down (preferably with an honest training partner or a coach) and complete your SWOT analysis. It is your first step in developing a successful plan of action.
Remember, you are unique and your training program needs to reflect that.