Fight week: how to train a week before a fight

fight weekFight week comes at the end of a training camp. If your training camp is programmed to be eight weeks longs, then this is the eighth week.

The week of the fight separates those who’ve been training hard and following a strict training and nutrition plan from those who haven’t.

One of the biggest pressures during this period is making weight. Many fighters will literally pass out in a sauna trying to drop the last bit of water. Others are able to easily drop the last few lbs simply by cutting their water intake the last 24 hours.

You don’t want to be practically killing yourself  trying to make weight just one day before the biggest fight of your life. Needless to say, fighters who do, do not end up performing their best come fight time.

If you’ve spent the previous seven weeks of your training camp, training hard, training smart and eating right, you will no doubt be close to your peak by the start of fight week. You should be within easy striking distance of making weight, and have only the last few lbs of water weight to drop.

Aside from mentally preparing yourself for the fight ahead, there are three primary goals you should be focused on during fight week:

  1. Making weight
  2. Allowing your body to fully recover from the previous weeks of training
  3. Maintaining your physical preparation

Achieving each of these goals takes some planning and some work, but the most important component to reaching them is making sure you’ve done the right things up to the start of fight week. No amount of training in the final week can make up for poor training and/or nutrition in the previous seven weeks and trying to get in shape and cut a bunch of weight in the last few days leading up to a fight is a recipe for disaster.

Making weight

An entire book could be written on the process of making weight, but to put it succinctly,  cutting weigh in the last week properly is really about having a detailed system that you perfect and refine over time. You should always make detailed notes of your final week preparation, weigh yourself each and every morning, be precise with your nutrition, know where your weight is at relative to where it needs to be, and make changes accordingly.

As long as you’ve done the right things leading up to fight week, you should have no more than a few lbs of water weight to drop in the last 24 hours before weigh-ins. You should also have begun water loading 10-14 days out from your fight date and started drinking 1.5-2 gallons of water per day. This will help your body drop the water weight later when you cut the water.

If you’ve done this properly, all you should have to do is simply gradually cut back on your calorie and carb intake a few days before you have to weigh in, and then cut your water intake the last 20-24 hours and you should easily be able to drop the last 5-10 lbs in water weight. You may or may not have to get in the sauna to drop the last few lbs, but often times if you’ve water loaded and cut correctly you won’t have to be in there for long.

All in all, the most important thing about making weight is to keep it as easy on your body as possible so it doesn’t drain you of energy and resources before your fight. Dropping too much weight in the last 24 hours results in a fighter who is totally flat and fatigued come fight time.

It’s also worth noting that another common mistake I’ve seen fighters make is to eat a huge amount of food, often times junk food, after making weight. The last think you want to do is stress your body with a huge amount of calories to digest and process, particularly if they are coming from unhealthy high fat highly processed foods. Save them for after the fight.

Make sure to stick to foods you are used to eating and eat several smaller meals after weighing in and the next day and focus on your fluid intake. The idea is to make everything as least stressful on the body as possible and this means eating healthy, high energy, high quality foods that your body is used to digesting. This will go a long way in helping to make sure you don’t feel flat and tired even though you may be in great condition when you get in the ring.

Rest & recover

Along with ensuring you’re able to make weight, the next thing you need to focus on during fight week is getting enough rest and complete recovery. Depending on the level you are fighting at, this can be an easy to a very difficult task. In the professional ranks there are often a great many distractions that take away from your downtime and make it difficult to get as much rest as you need.

Virtually all of the professional organisations require their fighters to attend various promotional events, go through medical screenings, etc. All of these demands can take up a lot of time in the week of the fight and this can be compounded even more if you’re in a foreign country or a city far away from home.

When you add in thousands of fans in the area, constantly looking to get a picture or an autograph or whatever, along with family and friends all flying in and wanting to get their tickets and give you their last minute advice on how you should fight, it can make for a busy, hectic and stressful week. This is the last thing you need when you’re trying to relax and let your body get the rest it needs after a long hard training camp.

Even if you’re not a seasoned pro and just an amateur in your first fight chances are you are busy working a full time job, dealing with family or are nervous about getting into the ring for the first time. Fight week can, therefore, be very stressful and leave little room to relax.

You probably won’t be able to get rid of all these potential distractions, but the best way to help deal with them is to make a schedule and stick to it during fight week. Make sure you go to bed at a reasonable hour, wake up at a planned time, eat your meals regularly and try to make things as routine as possible throughout the week.

A good piece of advice is also turn your cell phone off at night so you don’t get late night or early morning calls/text messages that disrupt your sleep. If you’re staying in a hotel, take the phone off the ringer as well. Chances are, you’re already having trouble sleeping at night because you’re thinking about your fight and you’re stressed, the last thing you need is to be woken up in the middle of the night by a phone call or text message.

It would also be a good idea to have a “coaches only rule” where your friends and family essentially just leave you alone the last 24 hours prior to a fight to concentrate and focus on the task at hand. You don’t want to be stressed and completely distracted dealing with family and friends who all want a piece of their time leading up to the fight.

Overall, getting enough sleep and rest throughout the week while avoiding mental stress as much as possible will help make sure you are in peak condition come fight time. The seven weeks of intense training prior to fight week are enough to wear down anyone, not to mention you have to deal with making weight, so it is absolutely crucial to your performance that this last week you give your body the time it needs to heal and completely recover from training. The more you can avoid physical and/or mental stress during fight week, the better your body can recover and be in absolute peak condition when you step in the ring or cage.

Maintain

The final goal of fight week is to make sure you don’t lose any of the adaptations that you developed as a result of the last seven weeks of training. Most training adaptations are fairly stable, but the aerobic system in particular will start to decline if it’s not worked fairly consistently.

You also want to make sure you fight skills and techniques stay crisp and sharp so you need to get in a few light, low volume/moderate intensity workouts during the week of the fight. These workouts must obviously be specific as well, so the most appropriate activities are things like shadow boxing and footwork drills, light grappling, bag and pad work, etc. You can also incorporate things like calisthenics, riding a stationary bike and swimming as well.

The idea is that you want to get enough of a workout in to maintain your conditioning capacity only, but not enough to place any real demand or physical stress on the body. A good general guideline to follow along these lines is to do about 20-40 minutes of work. You want to get your heart rates up to your anaerobic threshold, but not significantly above for any length of time.

You should do this on two-three days during fight week toward the earlier and middle days of the week. If you have made the mistake of coming in too heavy and have a lot of weigh to lose, you will have no choice but to do a bit more work than this in order to help drop the weight, but keep in mind that doing too much work the week of the fight will definitely impact your recovery and how well you’re able to perform.

If you get in two-three light workouts, this is enough to make sure you don’t lose any adaptations and should even help stimulate your body to recover fully. Make sure to listen to your body and end up leaving the workout feeling good and refreshed, not tired and run down or sore.

Remember, these are basically active recovery type workouts so be mindful of not overdoing it. Work on going over tactical and technical strategy, mentally and physically going over what you expect to encounter in the fight and how you’re going to react. Get in the gym, get your short training session done, and then get out and go home or back to your hotel room and rest.

Summary

Fight week is typically a hectic and nerve wracking experience for most fighters. If you’re traveling to another city for the fight, or fighting for one of the bigger pro organisations, in particular, it can be easy to get overwhelmed with everything that has to get done and lose sight of the big picture.

If you don’t have many fights under your belt, chances are than you’ll spend half your waking hours thinking about your fight and the other half feeling like you need to get some last minute training in. However many fights you may have behind you, it is important that you realise that the last week before your fight needs to be about rest, recovery, maintenance and making weight; not about making last minute improvements.

To perform your best, your body needs to be in its peak physical condition. All your body’s many different systems, cardiovascular, neuromuscular, CNS, detoxification, etc. need to be fully recovered and ready to work at their maximum capacity when called upon to produce the energy you need throughout a fight. If any of these systems are still fatigued or still run down from training, you will not be able to fight up to your potential.

Because of this, you absolutely must focus on getting enough quality rest and keeping yourself as stress free as possible throughout the week. Write out a schedule and stick to it. Go to bed at a set time, turn your phone off, and get as much sleep as your body needs. Work on developing a step by step system for cutting the last few lbs to make weigh. Each time you fight, stick to your system and refine it until it’s like clockwork.

Just as with anything else, the more times you fight, the better you’ll get at managing fight week. You’ll become better at judging how much weight you can lose in the last week, you’ll get better at being prepared for the distractions and demands that invariably come up, and you’ll learn that all the hard work you’ve done in the previous seven weeks pays off when you get the win.

Checkout Joel Jamieson’s excellent book on MMA training as well as a whole chapter devoted to what to do during fight week:

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

%d bloggers like this: