25 Quotes from Joel Jamieson’s ‘Ultimate MMA Conditioning’

The last week or so I decided to dig back into Joel Jamieson’s Ultimate MMA Conditioning for maybe the third or fourth time. Why am I digging into again? Because I am reminded of something I may have forgot and I also learn something new every single time I read the book – its chalked full of great information on conditioning.

1. There is a difference between building bigger muscles and building muscles that can perform.
2. Strength and power are only as good as your ability to use them.
3. You could have the strength to squat or bench a Mack truck, but it won’t do you any good in the ring or cage if you can only do it for one rep.
4. You can have great strength and power, but without proper cardiovascular development and muscular endurance, you won’t have the energy you need to put your strength to good use as the fight wears on. Likewise, you might have great endurance and be able to run a marathon, but if your weak and have no explosive power, you can end up getting pushed around and controlled by a bigger, faster, stronger opponent.
5. If you want to improve your conditioning and turn it into a weapon then you must work on it year round.
6. The true role of strength and conditioning is to develop the physical preparation necessary for an athlete to effectively utilize their skills as fast and as long as possible.
7. The vast majority of injuries happen because of either A) a lack of physical preparation, or B) a poorly managed training program.
8. What really matters most is not the exercise you choose or the method you use, but rather the adaptations that result from using and applying them.
9. The better your level of conditioning, the more fuel your muscles have and more power they’re capable of generating, plain and simple.
10. Conditioning is a measure of how well an athlete is able to meet the energy production demands of their sport.
11. The goal of training is to increase how fast your muscles can contract and relax (power) while also simultaneously improving their ability to do so for prolonged periods of time.
12. Conditioning is about how fast you can produce energy, how long you can produce it for, how much total energy you’re capable of generating, and of course, how efficiently you use it.
13. Sports that last more than a couple of minutes invariably rely on aerobic energy production and it’s also the system you rely on to fuel your muscles and vital organs in everyday activities and at rest.
14. The aerobic system also serves the role of “refueling” the anaerobic system.
15. Without a well developed aerobic system, your body’s anaerobic systems are also limited because it takes much longer before they are capable of producing energy again.
16. Your goal in training should be to maximize how much power your alactic system can produce while subsequently improving how fast the aerobic system can refuel for repeated use.
17. More important than what exercises you select, is how you choose to use them to create specific demands on your different systems.
18. You always want to use the lowest intensity and least amount of volume that will stimulate adaptation.
19. The more muscle your nervous system can use at once in a coordinated fashion, the stronger you will be.
20. Never use more advanced methods than necessary or you will not get the most out of them and they won’t be as effective later in your training.
21. If there’s one overriding principle I’ve come to learn over the years of coaching, it’s that everyone is different and has different needs.
22. There is no one size fits all program, no sample workout, and no magic exercise that everyone can use to get the best results.
23. The longer you spend developing something, the more stable the result adaptations become and the longer they will stay with you.
24. Developing the heart correctly is an extremely important component of conditioning because it serves as the engine that drives the entire aerobic system.
25. All the training in the world won’t do you any good if you can’t recover from it.

Our ‘Core’ Training

Our ‘core’ training. No crunches. No sit ups. No leg lifts. No quick “core/ab” session to start or finish a workout.

We use exercises that resist extension, flexion and rotation, loaded carries (suitcase/farmers) and get ups. We use exercises that demand core stability not core strength, exercises where the goal is to not move the presence of movement…which is the same demand placed on the core during sport.

Like everything else we do, the overall goal is that these exercises will help build a resilient athlete that can withstand the demands of an entire season…then we progress the exercise in some way each week.

Top Left: DB Plank Row
Top Right: Anti-Rotation/Belly Press
Bottom Left: Body Saw
Bottom Right: KB Drag

Change of Direction

Does your sport require the ability to change direction? The answer is yes. No matter what sport you play, change of direction is going to be a big component of being successful. Whether it is putting your foot in the ground to cut, putting the breaks in quickly to slow down, or quick stops on the ice, you are continually decelerating and changing direction.

The bad news: the majority of non-contact injuries occur when decelerating and/or changing direction.

The good news: a well thought out strength program including the following three qualities can go a long way to improving deceleration and the ability to change direction.

Single Leg Strength
Single leg strength is huge for change of direction. When you change direction, you are doing it on one leg…every single time. If you aren’t training and pushing single leg strength hard in the weight room, don’t be surprised when you get hurt or are very slow in your change of direction in competition.

The ability to Decelerate
Eccentric strength might be the biggest key deceleration, especially single leg eccentric strength. Every time you slow down or cut to change direction it requires large amounts of eccentric strength to decelerate your body weight. Add 3-5 second eccentric lowering to your programming periodically in the weight room. A good rule of thumb would be to including some eccentric work for at least 3 weeks during every 12 week block of training. Athletes hate it because it’s hard and they become extremely sore because of it, but it’s better then the alternative; injury.

Stable Landing Technique
This is as simple as it sounds. You need to be jumping, more importantly landing, in a good stable position. Far too often we look at plyo’s as a way to develop more power but they are equally as important a tool in developing the ability to land in a stable position. I actually look at plyo’s as a way to teach athletes to land properly first, and a tool to improve power second.

Remember, if you aren’t training it in the weight room, don’t be surprised when you can’t do it competition.

Benefits of Ring Chin Ups

The biggest benefit to the ring chin up that you don’t get with any other chin up variation is that you can freely internally and externally rotate your shoulder (much like a TRX row), which is great for any overhead athlete (baseball, volleyball, swimming) or anyone that might have a cranky shoulder or two.

A simple and small change like using the rings and allowing your shoulder to determine the path it wants to move through can go a long way for shoulder health.

Static Stretching?

“Stretching isn’t about today’s workout, it’s about preventing an injury six months from now.” – Mike Boyle

A lot of strength coaches have removed static stretching from their program after some of the research that came out many years back that showed a loss of power (though it was minimal) after static stretching. The research is far from convincing.
Some coaches have removed stretching from their programs after some of the research that came out years back showing the static stretching resulted in a short term loss of power, even though the loss was minimal and the research was far from convincing.

We on the other hand stretch every time we come into the weight room. We address tissue quality first via foam rolling then address tissue length via stretching. We follow this sequence with a dynamic warm up and feel that most all if not all the power that was lost is probably now back to normal levels.

Whether or not we actually lose power in the short term if we follow the stretching with a dynamic warm up is up for debate. What’s not up for debate is that I’d take the healthier athlete with potentially slightly less power over the minimally more powerful but potentially injured athlete every single time.

Top Left: Quadruped Adductor Rock
Top Right: Spider-Man
Bottom Left: 90/90 Hip External/Internal Rotation from Dr. Andreo Spina
Bottom Right: 1/2 Kneel Hip Flexor

Diaphragmatic Breathing is Important!

“Your diaphragm is responsible for your breathing, your posture and for stabilization in performance.” Brett Jones

Poor breathing patterns can lead to dysfunction across the entire body. And because of that, almost without fail, the best corrective exercise is teaching people how to breathe properly.


Breathing has a huge neurological influence and is considered our window between the sympathetic (fight or flight) and para-sympathetic (rest and digest) of the nervous system. Most people that are in pain are stuck in a sympathetic state, and getting them into a more para-sympathetic state can do a lot in eliminating pain.

“Breathing is the number one corrective for shoulder mobility.” Brett Jones

From a mechanical standpoint, diaphragmatic breathing can allow for better positioning of the ribcage and pelvis, placing people in a more stable and aligned position, giving you a better base to work off. Diaphragmatic breathing can quickly improve shoulder mobility, hip mobility, help loosen up tight hip flexors, tone down an over-active upper trap and/or activate an under-active lower trap, amongst other issues.

Step One When Fixing the Squat

Anyone who has worked with athletes knows that it is not uncommon to see the inability to simply bodyweight squat to parallel with proper form. We could argue over what the issue is. Lack of ankle mobility? Lack of hip mobility? Lack of core stability? Could be one, all, or a combination of the three.

The first, best and easiest fix? Raise the heels. Raising the heels gives you more ankle mobility. Raising the heels causes an anterior weight shift which makes it easier to sit back when you squat.

PS: Powerlifters and Olympic weightlifters have been wearing shoes with an elevated heel for a long, long time. There is no actual research that shows that elevating the heels hurts the knees.

PPS: If someone can’t perform a bodyweight squat properly, loading them with a barbell isn’t all that smart and you could seriously hurt someone. It’s actually pretty irresponsible.

Weekly Articles & Podcasts

Another week, another handful of both articles and podcasts from the last week in the world of strength and conditioning.


Anti-Extension Core Progression

Professional Development: Process vs. Outcome by Eric Cressey

A Letter to My Younger Self by Michael Boyle

Colts Trade Bench Presses for Turkish Get Ups

5 Updates to My In-Season Training by Mike Robertson

The Lats are the Glutes of the Upper Body by Dean Somerset


The Impact Show with Eric Cressey

The Impact Show with Jon Goodman

Physical Preparation Show with Josh BohnotalPhysical Preparation Show with Josh Bohnotal

Strength Coach Podcast #190

Iron Game Chalk Talk with Nick Grantham


Anti-Extension Progression

Looking for a core that not only looks good but functions well, whether your a regular Joe or an athlete? Of course you are, because we all are.

What’s the most important function of the core? I would argue it’s the ability of the anterior core to prevent extension of the lumbar spine. It’s crucial for both everyday life, sport performance, and just feeling strong and healthy. How do you train anti-extension? Through this safe an effective progression that will not only allow you to improve your core strength but keep you from wrecking havoc on your back.

1. Front Plank: Everyone should be able to perform a perfect front plank for 30-45 seconds. What’s perfect? Your body should be a straight line, looking like you are standing. Core, glutes and quads tight.

2. Push Up Taps: Now with the body in a push up position, tap one hand to the opposite shoulder in a slow and controlled manner without the hips/lumbar spine moving. We have now added a small amount of anti-rotation to our anti-extension exercise, making it more difficult. Remember, the slower the better.

3. Ball Rollout: Begin tall with the glutes and core tight with your hands on the ball. With your toes digging into the ground, roll your entire body forward keeping a perfectly straight line from your knees to your shoulders. The key is not allowing any rounding of that lower back as you roll outward.

4. Body Saw: The body saw is very similar to the ball rollout. In a perfect plank position, acting just like a saw, use the shoulder joint to move your body forward and backward. The body saw is essentially a front plank with motion. Again, no rounding of that low back.

5. Slide Board Push Up: Without a doubt the most difficult progression. The combination of anti-extension, shoulder stability, and a rotary component due to the hand being in an asymmetrical position, makes this an extremely challenging and humbling exercise. In that same perfect front plank, reach one arm overhead while keeping the core engaged and resisting extension. Again, no rounding of the lower back.

Weekly Articles and Podcasts

Its Saturday, so that means another round of articles and podcasts from the last week in the world of strength and conditioning.


Contraindicated Exercises: Upright Row

Funky Shoulders?

This is 40 by Bret Contreras

You’re a Coach, You’re Busy, Lets Adapt by Tony Gentilcore

10 Tips for Making Mobility Work with Your Schedule by Eric Cressey

Recap of the 2016 Perform Better Summit by Harold Gibbons

Patience Teaches More Than Enthusiasm by Dean Somerset


Physical Preparation Podcast with Chris Merritt

The FitCast with Michael Mullin

Historic Performance Podcast with Matthew Ibrahim

Historic Performance Podcast with Bryan Mann

The Impact Podcast with Rob Taylor

Power Circle Podcast with Chris Hays