My Training Philosophy

Before I sat down at my computer to write this blog for you, I was getting prepped to meet up with Mark Bocek for our first training session.

If you don’t know Mark, he’s a UFC Lightweight and he recently came off a decision loss to ex-WEC Lightweight champ Ben Henderson.

Tough fight but these are the things that build true character, no?

He’s also a BJJ ace and has won 78% of his fights by submission. [To give you perspective, Demian Maia, widely considered to be the best BJJ fighter in MMA, has won 57% of his fights by sub]

Whenever I meet someone for the first time, it’s always after lengthy conversation about training history, medical history, and just getting to know each other and outlining expectations.

I talked to Mark about all of this stuff, then we set a time for the first session, which just happens to be today.

The first session is ALWAYS an assessment. Sometimes assessments last 2 or even 3 sessions, depending on the athlete.

This got me thinking about how many trainers and coaches NEVER do assessments

It also got me thinking about my training philosophy and that’s what I’m going to share with you today: 3 of the principles that I base my training on. I have many more, but I don’t want to get you in trouble for dicking around at work. 🙂

If you’re a mixed martial artist, this will give you insight into how I design programs and how to create or distinguish between a quality program vs. a generic ‘workout’.

If you coach or train fighters, other athletes, or just regular folk, it will give you some ideas on how to approach designing your programs.

But please, don’t just follow what I do or say, follow Bruce Lee’s advice, “Absorb what is useful. Discard what is useless. Add what is uniquely your own.”

With that being said, here they are…

“Assess, Don’t Guess”

I learned this little saying from one of my first mentors, Paul Chek.

There are 2 reasons to assess:

  1. To determine weak links and areas to address when creating a program
  2. To track progress and set training goals

As I said before, many trainers don’t do an assessment, they just throw you into the workout of the day and have you go at it.

But let’s say you’re a pro fighter working with me, I’ll assess 10 different areas (eg. posture, power, core balance, lifestyle, etc) and at least 19 exercises/movements/drills to get a full profile as to what I’m working with until ever thinking about what kind of program I’m going to create for you.

If you’re following one of my programs, you’ll be given some kind of benchmarks to assess your progress and truly see how my programs change your body, such as your “Max Fat Bar Hang” from my Python Power program indicating grip strength endurance.

This is one of the favourite things that people tell me about my programs – the actual results they achieve, feel AND can measure.

Once we’ve got our assessments and benchmarks out of the way, it’s time to get programming…

“Spend The Least Amount Of Time And Energy
Possible To Get The Desired Result

This can also be summed up as “Work Smart AND Hard”.

To get results, you’ve got to work for them, but the program you’re following determines if you’re working smart or not.

It’s of no benefit to you to train 4 days a week when you can get the same result in 2 days a week.

It’s of no benefit to you to completely drain your energy stores and nervous system if you can get the same result (or better) leaving some gas left in the tank.

Do you wait until your car stops dead in the road before you fill it up?

Not at all, it’s not only inconvenient, it’s also bad for the engine.

Same goes for your body…

Completely draining yourself takes a heck of a lot of resources to recover from, and taking yourself to the brink is hard on the joints and other systems of the body.

Sure, you need to push yourself (and sometimes really taxing workouts are useful), but always performing “Marathon Circuits” is a quick recipe for reaching a plateau, or in the worst case scenario – injury.

Instead, know what your goal is, then keep whittling away until you find what author Tim Ferriss calls your “minimum effective dose”.

This leads us to my next philosophy…

“Strength and Conditioning Should Enhance
MMA Training, Not Take Away From It”

Many coaches and trainers believe that whatever they teach is what is most important.

Kickboxing coaches want their fighters to strike. Wrestling coaches want their fighters to take it to the ground. S&C coaches believe fitness wins fights.

Here’s the thing, they’re all true, for certain INDIVIDUALS.

Most times, there are multiple paths to the same destination.

Some guys have a gift for the ground. Others for knocking MOFOs out… And still others for just being able to take a beating and keep on pushing forward.

With respect to S&C, I take the position that it’s a supplement to MMA training, meant to make it better, easier, more enjoyable, not the other way around.

If you’re working balls to the wall all the time, you’re going to be stiff, sore and tired.

When you start your MMA training, you might tap out from an armbar before it’s even extended because your workout required an insane number of chinups (making your biceps resistant to extension) and pushups (making the pressure on your triceps unbearable).

With smart training, you can have your circuits and knockouts too, it just takes a little knowledge and remembering that the goal isn’t to workout, the goal is to improve your physical abilities.

These are 3 of the cornerstones of my Training Philosophy.

What do you think?

I’m also interested in your philosophies, not only around training, but also nutrition and even life in general, so please share your thoughts below.

– Eric

P.S. For those of you interested in upping your submission % and strength, you can save $10 right here until Friday at midnight (extended deadline).

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9 years ago

my philosophy for the weight room is super sets all the way. i bench press, then barbell curl and so on. on the mat, it’s all about lock and flow. i was amazed how fast my escapes came up when i was given time to work my way out of a bad situation. for sparing, keep it light and work out the technique. you can’t learn a thing if you are knocked out or too afraid of the other guy. in the kitchen it’s all about the protein and carbs, steak and potatos baby!

Kevin Crockett
Kevin Crockett
9 years ago


Kevin Crockett
Kevin Crockett
9 years ago
Reply to  Kevin Crockett

Eric, I really enjoyed this article. I think assessing yourself is the only way to know were someone is at and to know if they are improving so it is crazy to me that trainers do not do that. I was wondering if you would be able to share specific exercises for a fighter to assess them. I am an amauture fighter but i work fulltime and have a family so i can not afford a trainer. I make my workouts with books, and the internet with sites like yours. I would like to accurately asses myself but am not sure exactly how. Also i have a cologue of workouts for sport specific, plyo’s, weight training, ect. but i am not sure how to put it together can you help? I know if i want big biceps to do 4 sets of 6 reps of curls but i am not… Read more »

9 years ago

After losing 20 pounds last year cause I suffered an injury and got terribly sick at the same time, I decided I was never going to train as I used to. I lost “everything” I have worked for through several years and long-exhausting gym sessions in less than two weeks. Man, I got depressed, but then I went with my martial arts instructor, I had already recover from my illness but still culdn’t walk because of my injury… Anyways he gave me a chair and made me sat in the middle of the dojan (or dojo) and said, “I want to see how you train without your leg, imagine that it will never recover, that you had lost it”. It was like magic, with those words he reminded me that in someway we are all warriors. He reminde me the reasons for me to train, I train to beat myself,… Read more »

9 years ago
Reply to  Eduardo

Eduardo, thanks so much for sharing this man. Really powerful stuff and it sounds like that injury/sickness really opened you to building this warrior spirit! Awesome!

9 years ago

Hey Eric great info this makes me think now you have several programs the strength and conditioning the oapus wich im currently following I email you about it , and now the python one so how do we choose wich one to follow first wich one second or how to combine them, all look great and might be difficult to choose one because i personally want to work them all lol Also after finishing for example the strength and conditioning one what`s next? to start it again but with heavier weight? what would be better? My philosophy now is prety much yours haha I mean I started the Strength and Conditioning and after the first stage I notices my core was weaker so to apply your philosophy I started the oapus so i could even out my limbs and core strength after finish it I will continue to base conditioning… Read more »

9 years ago
Reply to  Josemm


Good to hear you’re following a sound philosophy. 🙂

First, there is NO RUSH… Always, always, always complete a program before moving to another…

The path I told you to take is the one to follow until the end.

Once you’ve finished that, then you can think, “What do I need next?” and choose the correct program.

9 years ago
Reply to  Eric

You are absolutely right thanks Eric I forgot to mention is not a philosophy is more an addition if you may, Im using the training logs but I have added a punctuation system so to speak, What I do is along with all the info on the training log I choose a punctuation from 1 to 5 of each exercise even in each set from 1 to 5, 1 is like the exercise was too easy 5 was too hard or Max so that way I can track how difficult the exercise (or if effort have significantly increased in the last set) was so If one in particular I had trouble with I know exactly since when it was that way then be aware than that part of my body is weaker so i can address it further later on is like a continuos assessment I guess Very often helps… Read more »

9 years ago

Eric, I agree with your philosophy and it is something that I have pondered for a long time. Work smarter not harder. I am a 42 year old fighter. I started wrestling when I was 12 and have pretty much worked out and trained my whole life. Now at 42 years old, the only thing I find hard is that it seems as though I have to work harder at tricking my body and finding new and creative ways to achieve results without plateau. I find your philosophy’s and information very helpful and useful!

9 years ago
Reply to  Wade

Hey Wade – yeah man, instead of ‘tricking’ your body, listen to it…

As a wrestler, you were taught to go HARD, harder than most athletes and to ignore pain…

It’s like if you ignore your wife all the time and don’t listen – first, she’ll stop talking, then she’s gone.

But since you’ve been ignoring your body for so long, it’ll take some extra efforts.

Try spending more time warming up and less time working out and see what your body says. 15-20 minutes of dynamic mobility drills followed by a 30 minute workout, with a lot of rest between sets.

Your joints will jump for joy and your body will think, “Hey, this workout is something I can adapt to”

Omar Omar
Omar Omar
9 years ago

“How bad do you want it”

9 years ago
Reply to  Omar Omar

Nice video Omar Omar!!!

How’s everything going?