Know your strength – Marco Mastrorocco

One of the things that always puzzled me when competing many years, was the superficial and wrong Strength and Conditioning fighters were exposed to when preparing for a competition and the vast majority of trainer not being prepared to offer the right support for physical preparation.

Look at how much things have changed in the last 30,20,10 years.

There was the old saying: “Weights will slow you down…” Or… “you will gain weight and be out of your weight class…”… and so forth…  All comments that pushed me away from the weight room.

Fortunately things are changing and most sport practitioners, coaches and fans have finally accepted the role of Strength and Conditioning in any Sport (mainstream or not), if Performance wants to go up and injury risks down. Very much like a phone with the years passing by, we (Coaches) keep upgrading our operating systems.

If you are a Coach and deliver programs to your students/squad in order for them to get fitter, then you need to at least have a grasp of basic S&C to get the right tools for safe guidance.

And no, Youtube is generally not the place to look at idea.

It would appear that Circuit training is the preferred style of training when it comes to fighters. Circuits are great, because provide a wide range of stimulus and you can play with the variables more easily.  They are great for Metabolic Conditioning, BUT they are also the territory where everyone becomes “expert” and there is the problem; everyone thinks it is OK to throw a bunch of exercises together as long as they look cool and get the athletes fatigued!

Always ask yourself, what the real goal is. Let’s start finding out.

The Plan

When it comes to training, there are 3 main elements you need to keep always in mind:

  1. Strength (in any of its forms and applications, see below)
  2. Sport Analysis (to better understand which quality your sport possesses and athletes need to have)
  3. Energy systems (they play a major role in how good or bad you perform)

You surely agree that it would not be wise, like often happened in the past, to just train those qualities randomly.

We need a plan. And before the plan we need to understand what we are dealing with.


The Strength:

if anything else fails, just keep in mind the below graph, the FORCE VELOCITY CURVE :

If you are not familiar, it shows how different loads relates to different adaptations and they are all measured/tested and based on percentages of the 1 Rep Max (RM).

Do you need to know all the components?  YES you should… and you will!

Which one is best to help performance in Combat sports? It depends.

Let’s put it this way, there is no right or wrong or a good/bad for a given sport.

All of them have a role in point and time when it comes to Conditioning and they co participate in different ratio to the development.

But with the Force-Velocity graph you have sequence in time of different fitness quality that you should work on.

Let’s translate the curve points into exercises, so you can wrap your head around it.


As you see any muscle skill has a sort of matching type/modality of exercise. You understand that you can’t just randomly mix what you do on the curve, but need some time in each point so to generate adaptations. And generally you follow the curve (from bottom to top or the other way around – we will see what is best)

What Skills do Combat Sports need?

We will make a quick Sport Need Analysis and to have a better idea, we can refer to the “Skill Triangle”:

In the pic above we can see the 3 main Fitness elements on the corners (SPEED, ENDURANCE and FORCE)

Any of the improvements we want (and can) reach with conditioning are generally a combination of the above main points.

Some sports clearly have a predominance of one respect the others, so its training must always take that in consideration.


For full contact combat sports, the configuration would be very similar to Wrestling.

However sport like Light contact or semi contact, of course things change in Training and need analysis, having more to do with the speed and stamina than strength.

Performance protocols must also consider age, sex, needs of the audience, together with the biomechanic of the expression of muscle force.

Strength however is the ground upon which you can build all your other fitness skills.

The good news (and reason why I am mentioning it first) is that Strength is easily trainable, and keeping it simple -with a linear overloading principle- it can give you performance gains pretty fast.

But also creates the right conditions to a less injury prone body.

The development of maximal muscle strength is the most important factor for enhanced performance, for instance there is quite a bit of scientific literature about improvement of the Squat and speed gains.

We will cover how.

In my next article, we will start from the basics and look at athletes’ profiling (but it can be applied to non competitive students too!) learning about different test protocols, to spot weaknesses and keep monitoring athletes,  having a clear priorities in the training requirements.


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If you have any specific question or doubt we will try and get you an answer as quick as possible or even write a blog post about it.


This article was written in December 2017 for the Australian branch of the World Association of Kickboxing Organizations (WAKO).