UFC and Men's Fitness

January 20, 2009

Just in time for one of the biggest fights in UFC history, Georges St-Pierre has landed himself on the cover of February's Men's Fitness Magazine (on stands now) to teach us all how to get those "chamipon abs" that girls just can't resist covering in whipped cream, then licking clean. In addition, for all you true fitness buffs, Men's Fitness has released their 2009 Fitness Guide, where you can find the training secrets of such champions as Matt Hughes and Matt Serra, along with some tips from Mac Danzing. Men's Fitness editor Sean Hyson was kind enough to sit down with me to talk about all this. Hit the jump for more sexy pictures of George, find out exactly what "hurricane training" is and learn the difference between getting strong and getting bulky.

SP: How do MMA workouts differ from workouts you've seen from other athletes across different sports?

SH: The MMA workouts in general are just wildly inclusive. There are a lot of different styles of training; you'll see aspects of the strongman training, you know, the kind of stuff you see on ESPN's World's Strongest Man show with the tire flipping and sledge hammer swings. You'll also see conventional weight training like pull-ups, bench presses, squats and then there's gymnastics training. I've seen guys do work on balance rings; body weight training is important. Basically, MMA seems to pull from a multitude of fitness styles to makes these guys as complete and well-rounded athletes as possible. I think on top of that, the ultimate emphasis of MMA training is always going to be anaerobic endurance; the ability to punch and kick and grapple and wrestle at a high intensity for long period of time.

SP: Did you say balance rings? That's interesting, I've never heard of that being used in MMA before.

SH: Yea, you know, those rings we used use in gym class or whatever. Guys will use that or variations of that.

SP: What's so special about your "2009 Fitness Guide"?

SH: Well the Fitness Guide is a distillation of a lot of our best material over the last couple years. You're going to find a lot of cutting edge stuff as well as some of the older material that has held up very well.

SP: So you've spent a couple years putting this book together?

SH: Well it's more a compilation of a couple years' worth of material.

SP: Can you give us a quick look at this "Hurricane Training," which is highlighted in the Fitness Guide?

SH: Hurricane training is the brain child of Martin Rooney. He's the head trainer at the Parisi School in New Jersey. He trains a bunch of MMA guys. Basically, it's creating a kind of hurricane effect in the body. You do some weight training and alternate it with cardio, then alternate back and forth with little to no time in between. What that does is create a very tumultuous effect in the body of intensity, and with very little rest, you get quite a bit of fat burning effect as a result. When you're not lifting, you'd think it would be a rest period, but you're still being active, so you're still burning calories at an increased rate during your down time.

SP: How have you seen MMA training evolve over the years?

SH: I think all martial arts training is still evolving quite a bit. A lot of the strength and conditioning work that martial artists have done in the past is really in the Stone Age. Long distance running is where they got their cardio, they would hit the bag for hours and work on skill training but they never really did much weight training. Now the top athletes are reaching out to guys like Martin Rooney and other professional strength coaches who work with different athletes. They're making sure that they're trained in every aspect of the game and conditioned for every aspect. That means strength work, speed work, flexibility. All that has to be taken into account. So the evolution has gone from very basic training with a total lack of understanding on how exercise science really works, to some very sophisticated programs that are on par with any professional athlete.

SP: Georges St-Pierre is known as one of the most finely tuned athletes in our sport, so can you give us a little idea of what kinds of things he'll have for us in this issue of Men's Fitness?

SH: His own personal story kind of goes along with what I was just saying about the evolution of training in general. He used to just do a lot of specific kinds of skill training, whether it was wrestling, kickboxing or jiu jitsu. He did some weight training too, but it was very much body building basics, you know, just sustaining one body part a day and wasn't really progressing. Didn't really know how to progress. Eventually he started working with Jonathan Chambers, who is a trainer up in Canada, and he's gone from doing 55 lb dumbbell presses to 120 lb dumbbell presses now. He went from not squatting at all to squatting 270 lbs in just a few months. His training has been incredible. Our focus with him is to get him a lot stronger, because when you make an athlete stronger, speed and endurance tend to follow.

SP: Aren't you concerned about getting him too strong, to the point where he's bulky and actually loses speed?

SH: Well there's a difference between getting really strong and getting really bulky. As long as his diet is in check and training volume overall is low to moderate, in terms of his weights, he's not going to get that inflated body builder effect. He's just going to get strong muscles and not really gain too much weight. It's really in his diet.

SP: Do you have any predictions for his fight with BJ Penn?

SH: Well we're certainly hoping he (GSP) wins, we put a lot of stock in the guy (Laughing). Yea, I think that he'll win. He beat BJ before and this is not BJ's natural weight class. BJ may be the most naturally talented fighter in the world, but he's biting off more than he can chew with GSP.

SP: Well that's all I have. Thanks so much for your time.

SH: Thank you, have a great day.