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Fighter prep: 8-10 week plan

Overview.

This plan describes an 8-10 week training camp. The principles could be used to stretch or compress it. My competitive history has been in Assaut Savate tournaments, for which this plan is fine-tuned, but the ideas could be used in other combat sports, with appropriate modification and safety considerations. Always take the advice of your coach or qualified professional before embarking on an exercise programme. This plan is intended to be reasonably comprehensive, but of course not exhaustive. There will be plenty of considerations I have not had space to address. Comment below or message with your examples or requests for future posts.

Logistics.

Make sure you attend to the following before setting out on your plan. They can be as important as your training regime regarding the event outcome.

  • Registration/inscription in good time. (London Savate team inscription form.)
  • Travel. Check dates/times/location carefully.
  • Insurance. Take out personal accident insurance or (at minimum) ensure you have access to local emergency health care (eg EHIC).
  • Accommodation. Check if you need to book your own accommodation for the event.
  • Equipment. Ensure you have the correct kit for this event in good time to test it.

Weight management.

If you have any history of personal issues with weight or body perception, these factors take precedence over the advice below. Talk to your coach, if you feel you can, or rely on personal or professional support mechanisms. Identify a target fight weight in consultation with your coach. This will be fixed in the inscription. Plan to be at that weight at least 1-2 weeks before the fight. You don’t want to be cutting too severely close to fight day. A body weight loss of 1% per week is considered rapid. The amount you can lose depends on how much muscle training or cardio training you do, your diet, protein intake, prior weight loss, ability to keep a stable regime, and sleep patterns. Your coach can advise on small weight changes, but consult a dietitian for expert advice. In general, high protein, calorie-controlled diets are useful for reaching fighting weight in good shape.

Health and injury.

To be in peak form for the competition, it is also important to to avoid injury, and to arrive in the ring in good health.
Injury. Avoiding injury can be as simple as knowing your limits and training sensibly, whilst still making advances. Put rest days into your schedule. Your muscles need time to recover and to heal any small tears. It is not a sign of weakness to to avoid certain exercises if you know they are risky for you. Identify risks in training and avoid getting hurt during sparring, especially in the last couple of weeks across which a small bruise, twist, or knock will linger until fight day.
Sleep. It can pay health dividends to get into a regular sleep pattern for recovery and overall sharpness. If possible, get used to waking at the same time you will on fight day.
Diet. Eat as well as you can to allow your body to build strong, healthy muscle; eliminate as best you can any food or drink that counteract this.
Doping. It is your responsibility to be aware of the WADA banned substances list. You can be checked at any time.

Your training week.

A well planned training week will help you repeat certain elements and progress through your longer plan. You know in yourself how strict this needs to be to ensure you adhere to it. Some flexibility is useful to account for other events in your life – eg time with partner, time off, finishing a boxset, or being able to adjust when you feel too fatigued or unmotivated to do your scheduled training. Self critique for missed training is not useful if it detracts from your focus and confidence. Healthy self discipline is a learned and moderate skill. You get to decide how much of your week this takes up. The more you can spare, up to a limit, the better your preparation will be. Being a well rounded person with a social life, job, family, friends, and downtime is also important in your planning.
Workout length. Entirely up to you and how effectively you train. In the long distance phase I tend to go up to 90 minutes, sometimes 2 hours (never more). In the closer phase a 30-45 minute workout is sufficient.
Content planning. Consider the gap between where you are now and where you want to be on fight day. What proportion of that is technique, conditioning, and self-control (psychology)? Your answer should reflect how much time you devote to each. For example, if I thought my needed improvements were: 90% technical, 10% conditioning, 0% psychology, I would plan my training week with those proportions. An experienced fighter who reported, for example 1% technical, 0% conditioning, 99% psychology, would likely benefit from much greater time spent reflecting on what they were doing.

Example weekly plans:

Two training cycles per week.

Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday
Light technique. Strength. Rest. Sparring. Light technique. Cardio. Rest.

Full training (cardio + technique + strength) every other day.

Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday
Full workout. Rest. Full workout. Rest. Full workout. Rest. Day off.

Evening training, planning around 2x per week classes and work schedule.

Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday
Class. Cardio. Rest. Class. Strength. Rest. Shadowboxing / day off.

Self-control (psychology).

(Note: I prefer the term ‘self-control’ as it directs you exactly to where the issue is. For example, maintaining motivation, staying confident, managing anxiety, developing focus, without distraction. The term ‘psychology’ treats your mental or spiritual state as an object ‘over there’, rather than this problem I have right here as a subject, a self).

I recommend spending the first few weeks on goal setting and motivation. Then move to imagery and control planning. In the final few weeks, work on mastering anxiety and excitement. Rest days are good times to put in a few minutes of self-control exercises. These methods will all be elaborated on in future posts.

Goal setting – What small goals do you want to reach in training and which do you wish to set for yourself at the tournament? You may find vague ‘go out and do my best goals’ are too open to interpretation and will not focus you very well. Goals that depend too much on external factors – eg. winning gold, which has to do with your opponent and your judges – can frustrate you, as they depend on what fortune throws your way. Consider calibrating your goals rather to how you respond to fortune – eg fighting without fear, implementing certain techniques under pressure, working until the final bell, feeling a certain way.

Imagery – using the theatre of your mind to imagine and practice how you wish to behave, feel, and think on fight day. This can be applied to all sorts of situations in and out of the ring.

Excitement management – as fight day approaches, it is normal and universal to feel your anxiety and excitement rising. Investigate whether you are the sort of fighter who needs to be pumped up, or calmed down in order to reach your optimal arousal state. Explore relaxation techniques, motivation, music, and use of aggression to direct you towards your best flow state.

Conditioning.

Many different exercises can be utilised to get into top form, (so long as you can do it safely). YouTube and Instagram are highly useful sources of training inspiration and practical exercise advice. Some exercises you can do at home, some outdoors, some you will need a gym and seek professional advice to complete. Exercises should be in service of your conditioning aims. If a particular strength is lacking, train that more often. If your muscles tire too quickly, add more cardio and endurance. Some ideas:

  • Cardio/endurance – long jogs, interval runs, boxers’ ‘roadwork’, sprinting, treadmill, hill sprints, skipping, cycling, swimming.
  • Strength – maximal weight training, lighter kettlebells, bodyweight (squats, burpees, press-ups, hanging exercises, crunches, plank), holds, abdominal exercises, etc.
  • Flexibility – dynamic stretching after warmup, isometric stretching, relaxed stretching.

(There is a self-control element to making your conditioning hard. Fatigue makes cowards of us all. Practice being exhausted, out of breath, tired, and learn how you deal with it. The answer may not necessarily be to engage in more training, but maybe to learn how to relax, stay focused, or depend on different techniques appropriate to each fatigue state).

Technique, Tactics, Strategy.

  • Techniques are individual movements, for example a particular kick, punch, escape, or defence.
  • Tactics are slightly broader, a cluster of techniques, eg a particular counter attacking set move, or an engage-disengage routine.
  • Strategy is broader still, how you manage the whole fight. eg: start hard; finish each round with a burst; switch lead during the the middle round(s); push your opponent to frustrated mistakes late on.

Technical training happens every time you go to class, shadowbox, or spar. Remember that improvements always creep in, even when it feels slow. It is important to set realistic technical ambitions for a short training camp. For example, if your guard has been too low for many years, this will not be fully corrected across a few weeks. Select one or two foundational techniques, and be content with small improvements. Remember also that every champion won using flawed technique; nobody is perfect. You can win any fight with a partial set of abilities.

Videoing your sparring or shadowboxing is a great way to spot improvements and get useful feedback.

In the final few weeks identify what makes your style unique and effective. Get used to being happy and and flowing. Better technique is one half of your training; creating your own style is the other. Especially in the last few weeks, engage in more tactical and strategic thinking.


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