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Exactly what is the best way to cut weight for a fight? Whether that be for a MMA or Boxing match up or any martial arts competition, a simple equation must be fulfilled; you need to use more energy than you consume. Simply aim to burn up more calories than you eat, particularly those stored as fat and you will cut weight fast. One way to boost the burning of fat is by utilising the Tabata method, although that was not always the method of choice.
In years gone by the general idea was to plod the calories away doing a lot of roadwork or spending hours on a stationary bike. This low intensity continuous exercise has the advantage over the higher intensity equivalent of burning a higher percentage of fat and is one reason why fighters mistakenly thought logging up the aerobic hours along was the best way to cut weight.
Despite this, research comparing low and high intensity protocols has shown that the fat burning potential of high intensity exercise is greater than that of low intensity exercise. One study showed that although a low intensity group performed more exercise sessions, for longer durations and expended twice the amount of energy during training, the high intensity comparison group had a nine times greater loss of body fat! Incidentally, both low and high intensity groups improved aerobic capacity by around 30%.
When cutting weight for competition, high intensity exercise is clearly the way to go, but the problem then becomes exactly how to achieve that. I believe the answer lies with Izumi Tabata. Sports scientist rather than Karate master, Tabata’s team devised a simple yet versatile and extremely effective high intensity exercise protocol.
This methodology involves a warm up followed by 8 sets of 20 seconds effort and 10 seconds rest. Critically, the effort intervals have to be maximal, and that does mean flat out, no cruising allowed!
The beauty of the Tabata method is it’s versatility; almost any exercise can be included in the protocol, you are literally limited only by your imagination. One way would be to sprint the sets running or on an exercise bicycle. Any kind of cardio exercise will do but why not make it applicable to MMA? You have up to eight stations in the circuit (some can be repeated), use your imagination and go at it hell for leather.
For example, why not employ the heavy bag, blasting away with kicks, punches, knees and elbows. You could use single techniques or a mixture, so long as the intensity is very high it will work. Below is a potential example
Left Round Kick
Right Round Kick
One advantage of using this protocol is that the stimulation to the working muscles is very high meaning that the chance of muscle loss during the cutting period is reduced. Furthermore, the Tabata method has been shown to dramatically improve both aerobic and anaerobic capacity, your cardio will go through the roof! Given the many advantages of the Tabata Method, over continuous steady state exercise, clearly it can be a key part of your weight cutting strategy when preparing for a fight.
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