Boyle MMA Article

Below is an article penned by one of my mentors, Coach Mike Boyle.  Not only do I certainly agree with the below premise, anything I can do to support a fair and legitimate understanding of his messages is something I want to be a part of.  Too many people hear bits or snipets or translate messages by their terms and definitions.  In doing so, they miss that there are typically far more agreements than disagreements on many, many issues.

MMA for Football?
Michael Boyle

“MMA training for an NFL athlete does not only NOT make sense, but would simply be counterproductive. The demands of the two sports clearly could not be any more different from each other. It makes as much sense as choosing to going to chemo therapy because you are sick of shaving your head (Michael Jackson’s doctor said that line, I believe). Taking a multi-million dollar athlete and having him train in such a nonsensical way is foolish and irresponsible… and please realize I am an MMA coach.” Dewey Neilsen, Nationally Recognized MMA Strength and Conditioning Coach

A couple of NFL strength and conditioning coaches have written to ask about NFL athletes using MMA training techniques to train in the off-season. I guess my reputation as a person with an opinion is following me. I can start the controversy right off. In my mind it is foolish and short-sighted for an NFL player to train like a mixed martial arts fighter. I watched a recently released NFL quarterback on Youtube engage in a sparring session with an MMA trainer. Trust me, I don’t want to get beat up by an MMA trainer, but I don’t think this is a good idea. The only guys on the field who really can’t operate without their hands are quarterbacks and receivers. If I’m paying a guy a few million dollars, I would really prefer he doesn’t punch anything. I was really surprised that one NFL GM actually endorsed the idea. Seems crazy to me.

To further draw on the controversy, let’s ask ourselves, what is MMA training? The majority of what we see on the web as MMA training seems to be muscle endurance stuff that doesn’t appear to be good for anyone except combat athletes, and certainly does not seem appropriate for an NFL player. I’ve seen guys training with snorkels in their mouths for oxygen deprivation; I’ve watched a guy literally throw rusty barbells in a field. So I will qualify myself and say that if we view MMA training primarily as sparring with mitts or kicking, I still can’t see how it has a place in training for a football guy.

Let’s look at the basics. A football play lasts approximately five seconds. An MMA round lasts five minutes. Right away, do you see a problem? The rationalization I listened to in the Youtube interviews revolved around the mental toughness developed in pushing through fatigue. I do not doubt this type of training is difficult, however what they are describing never happens in football. Plays last five seconds and the rest lasts about 30 seconds. This in no way resembles anything in the martial arts.

Moving on from the obvious energy system issue, an MMA fighter wears almost zero equipment and is able to punch and kick his opponent. An NFL player wears pads on most exposed bodyparts, and it is basically illegal to punch and or kick an opponent. Running is a huge part of football; in MMA, running will not win many matches and too much running will damage an athlete’s reputation as a willing opponent.

To add even more complexity, the best MMA strength and conditioning coaches probably train their fighters more like NFL players than the opposite. Jon Chaimberg’s and Dewey Neilsen’s MMA programs are not typical MMA programs. Instead, they are scientific programs based on the current science of performance enhancement. If an NFL guy told me he was going to train with Jon or Dewey, I would endorse it wholeheartedly. However, what they would do is train like a football player. The best MMA strength coaches realize their athletes get plenty of work with their MMA coaches. Much like NFL strength and conditioning coaches, the good MMA strength and conditioning coaches spend lots of time on basic strength training and power work.

The truth is, training like an MMA fighter is cool and trendy and might get a player featured on ESPN. What it might not be is intelligent or effective for conditioning for football. Football players and MMA is a lot like athletes and actors. MMA training means ringside seats at fights, pretty girls, nights out in Vegas. Sorry, it still doesn’t makes sense for highly paid athletes who participate in a physically violent sport six months out of the year.

If I’m an NFL strength coach, I’m not happy if my guys are missing workouts for sparring sessions. I’m less happy if they are using this type of training instead of the football specific routines I have taken years to develop. If you are an NFL executive, you are undermining the credibility of your strength and conditioning staff, and pretty soon your off-season program will be an MMA free-for-all you’ll need to rein in. I know I’ll get some negative feedback on this, but I owe it to my NFL colleagues to state an opinion that they can’t.

Look at it this way: How would position coaches feel if a player said he wanted to skip practice to go to MMA? The position coach’s feeling is, “This is my time with you—we need this time to get better.” The strength coach feels the same way. The off season is his time to do his best work. If a player is off sparing in an MMA gym, that is time away from the important things that really need to be done.

  • September 17, 2010

Leave a Reply 12 comments Reply

As usual tell it like it is…can I get an Amen!

Scott Reply

Great Post. Not only is MMA training not specific to football far as movement patterns, but in regards to EST, these football players are going to recruit their glycolysis systems predominantly; that is speaking on behalf of all the strength coaches who train their athletes continuously above AT. Reply

“…throw rusty barbells in the field.”

I think I saw Paulo Fihlo do this…and not sure it even makes sense for MMA training. But if Rachelle Leah is doing the commentary, you tend to dismiss the foolishness of it.

Charlie Reply

Has Paulo Fihlo won any matches recently? Reply

The last time I watched a Paulo Fihlo fight, Chael Sonnen abused him…

Charlie Reply

I enjoy watching Almeida get his ass kicked time in and time out. 🙂 Reply

Almeida trains with our mutual, ummmm, friend?

Almeida trains with the the guy who, I suspect, just makes stuff up and gives it fancy names.

I wouldn’t call what they do MMA training either.

Charlie Reply

I believe he trains with Martin Rooney, who is not an individual I have found useful for elite information and growth. I am typically offended by his bravado and foolishness. And I don’t believe him that push-ups with hip ER and a neck turn are really from China or Japan or whereever the hell he says they’re from.
It’s a freakin’ push-up. Stop with the foolishness. Reply

Well I was going to say that he trains with the guy at the place that rhymes with Greasies Creed Pool, but you put it out there.

Charlie Reply

Opinions are like whatever, right? Everybody’s got one.

Mitch Deringo Reply

Ouch, with the way most in the fitness industry talk about “him,” it is rather eye opening to see someone of your caliber present your unvarnished opinion. It makes me wonder how many other big names would make the list of having major name recognition and status without actually delivering what would be considered elite-level information (since almost every big name will inevitably package his work in a manner so as to present it as cutting edge stuff, even if many guys just recycle and conglomerate other people’s stuff).

Even the vaunted Perform Better circuit seems to suffer from having some questionable presenters, albeit it mixed in with plenty of high-quality folks. But for someone steadily building up from scratch, it can be maddening trying to get my BS detector finely tuned.

Charlie Reply

Disagree without Disrespect

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