Training the Lactic Energy System for MMA

You hear a lot about the lactic energy system for MMA.

It’s important for being able to endure tough wrestling or grappling exchanges and get out of those types of situations and still be able to throw your hands.

Some trainers will tell you that it’s the most important system to develop if you want top fight conditioning.

But this one-sided stance is wrong and could set you up to gas faster than you should.

So we’re going to take an in-depth look at the lactic system and see how and when to train it for optimal results.

energy-systems

First of all let’s make sure you understand the 3 main energy systems:

  1. Aerobic – this is the system relied on by distance runners… it uses oxygen for energy and as long as you stay within the aerobic zone, this system supplies you with pretty much an unlimited amount of energy
  2. Anaerobic Lactic – this is the system responsible for the ‘burning’ sensation in the muscles… Glycogen, which is the stored form of carbohydrates in the muscles and liver, is the main source of energy… It has a limited capacity (max 2 minutes) until fatigue sets in and you have to drop your energy output for recovery
  3. Anaerobic Alactic – this is the high power system that gives you maximal strength and power, but it only lasts about 10 seconds until it needs to recover

A big misconception to break through is that while there are 3 energy systems, they don’t work separately – at any given point they’re usually all working at some level, especially in an MMA fight.

Within each energy system there are also 2 components that you can train – the maximum output or power of the system and the capacity or endurance of the system.

Today, we’re going to talk about the Lactic system and how to train both components for optimal development.

By looking at the graph, you can see that the Lactic system starts to really kick in at around 30 seconds and dies off at about 2 minutes.

With this info in mind, how would you go about training the maximal output or power of the Lactic system?

If you said, "30 seconds of high intensity work" then you’d be right!

I generally use 2 different methods to tap into the Lactic energy system: lactic tempo training and high velocity training.

An example of Lactic tempo training is performing a set of 8 reps of Squats with a controlled (1-2 seconds) tempo down and slow tempo on the way up, say 3-4 seconds on the way up.

Concentric muscular work engages the Lactic system heavily and with 8 reps, the set will last between 30-40 seconds, working on the power component.

The key is selecting a weight that makes it very tough to finish the 8 reps at the prescribed tempo.

The other benefit, especially for MMA fighters, is that this will minimize soreness, since the eccentric isn’t too long and that’s when most damage (and soreness) occurs.

High velocity training would be an exercise like Squat jumps, where the resistance is low and you can move quickly and explode. I’d do a timed set here of 30 seconds to get the Lactic system working hard.

Both methods are useful and I generally use the Lactic tempo method farther from a fight and the high velocity method closer to the fight.

Because we’re working on the power of the system, we want to take a good amount of rest in between sets so that each set you do is at full power and isn’t limited by fatigue.

So I’d go for a rest time of 1.5-2 minutes here.

My preferred method of progression is to increase the weight of each exercise since we’re focused on Lactic power. But you can also keep the weight the same and decrease the rest time between sets.

Now I want to challenge your brain a little bit and see if you’ve been paying attention!

Answer these 3 questions in the comments section below.

1. How would you train the capacity of the Lactic energy system?

2. What exercises would you use?

3. How would you progress?

Leave your answers below and I’ll be back with my comments and how I train this ability.

guest
37 Comments
newest
oldest most voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Darrien Srimongkol
Darrien Srimongkol
7 years ago

Just watched your video on the Advanced Energy System Development…Could you still get the same effect on the heavy bag if you did: 10s of max speed/power punching, rest 50s, 10s of max speed/power Thai kicks, rest 50s….or is this strictly applicable to explosive calisthenics?

jalil ahmed
8 years ago

Hy, eric once again you publish very nice topic and remind me my way of coaching and concentration for my clients… i would like to give the answer of your all three questions in one paragraph. as we all now in the aerobic capacity we work for the static and dynamic warm up, shadow of combinations to improve the reaction time and coordination even some core training with flexibility and joint mobility sessions. so, in the anaerobic lactic: we often use to burn the calories and weight loss for fitness, but when we train for mma we practiced the combination or a individual take down or any technique in fast way, cause even we are using the glycogen but we also need to improve the best in technique in speed in strength in power for victory, and the anaerobic a lactic and thresholds or best to improve the vo2 max… Read more »

MARTIN
8 years ago

Hery Eric, I agree with you in the way that you present your training points about this topic. Actually i train many combat athletes in Argentina and my approach to develop Lactic system is: 1. beginning the construction with 2 to 3 min divided in 30 sec 2. performing “my system of work” where i put different excercises in sequence: 3. the sequence is previosly thought to give the athlete the best excercises´s combinantions for him. Here an example of what i do as an option in many others: Alternating Lower Body and upper body: LOWER BLOCK TRAINING —> COMBO 1 —> 25X5 / 1 MIN REST AFTER SETS / 2 SETS TOTAL 25 sec tempo runs Faster as it possible slow down 5sec (using this like a transition excercise) 25 frog squats (Guard stance) stepping forward atlernating legs. UPPER BLOCK TRAINING —> COMBO2 —> 25X5 / 1 MIN REST… Read more »

Eric
Eric
8 years ago
Reply to  MARTIN

It looks like it will work for hitting the lactic system for sure!

Emily
10 years ago

Warm up jogging, then 2 x 10 sec sprints to get heart rate up, jog a little more, do the reps as below, then warm down jogging. All reps at 70% intensity. Running on flat terrain so can focus on the session. Work to increase reps, decrease recovery, increase time of reps. (Eg, something similar to below) Do session once a week. Week 1 – – 1 1/2 min reps running, with 3 mins recovery. (4 reps). Week 2 – – 1 1/2 min reps running, with 3 mins recovery. (5 reps). Week 3 – – 1 1/2 min reps running, with 2 mins recovery. (5 reps). Week 4 – – 1 3/4 min reps running, with 3 mins recovery. (5 reps). Week 5 – – 1 3/4 min reps running, with 2 mins recovery. (5 reps). Week 6 – – 2 min reps running, with 2 mins recovery. (5… Read more »

Terry
Terry
10 years ago

Warm up jogging, then 2 x 10 sec sprints to get heart rate up, jog a little more, do the reps as below, then warm down jogging. All reps at 70% intensity. Running on flat terrain so can focus on the session. Work to increase reps, decrease recovery, increase time of reps. (Eg, something similar to below) Do session once a week. Week 1 – – 1 1/2 min reps running, with 3 mins recovery. (4 reps). Week 2 – – 1 1/2 min reps running, with 3 mins recovery. (5 reps). Week 3 – – 1 1/2 min reps running, with 2 mins recovery. (5 reps). Week 4 – – 1 3/4 min reps running, with 3 mins recovery. (5 reps). Week 5 – – 1 3/4 min reps running, with 2 mins recovery. (5 reps). Week 6 – – 2 min reps running, with 2 mins recovery. (5… Read more »

Norm
Norm
10 years ago

1. 30 seconds of hi intensity work

2. Controlled tempo work

3. Increasing weight or decreasing rest

Darin
Darin
10 years ago

I think I get it but I guess my question is are you just looking for optimal performance when doing this or strength I am unsure.

Sam
Sam
10 years ago

Seems like my response didn’t go through. The jist of the comment was, I didn’t even know there was a contest involved (time is short), but my response was the most accurate, regardless. Face the reality of hardcore, high wattage, intervals, across times, and recovery times, with both lower and upper body, or be left behind. There was no mention made of lactic capacity within small muscle masses when the question was posed. I will graciously accept my tix in another life, BTW.

larry
larry
10 years ago

anyway keep sending those brain teasers they re kool
txs

larry
larry
10 years ago

Eric that reminds me of a vid ya did on anaerobic power inmcluding a variety of exercises such as ,front back squat lunges etc,,,is it sort of the same or different?

Eric
10 years ago
Reply to  larry

Same, assuming you’re referring to a vid in the Advanced MMA power program…

Eric
10 years ago

OK LET ME GIVE THIS A GO AND EXPLAIN MY REASONING… First of all, there is a bit of a curveball here and I didn’t expect anybody to get this from the question, but there are 2 separate concepts, there’s systemic and local lactic training… Systemic is WHOLE BODY, while local focuses on one area, such as the legs. But let’s just focus on Local Lactic training for now… To access the capacity of the system, you need to perform around 90 seconds of work… But, I wouldn’t do 1 exercise for the whole 90 seconds, because it can get boring and you can miss out on some muscle fibers. So I would do 3 exercises at 30 seconds each, mixing different types of training and different exercises. An example would be this: A1) Lunge jumps for 30 seconds (low resistance/high velocity training to ensure the high threshold fast twitch… Read more »

Sam
Sam
10 years ago
Reply to  Eric

You did not mention anything about “local” lactic training. Obviously, with smaller muscle masses, approaches change. I answered the questions as posed, in the only reasonable way, if the reader wishes to succeed as a professional athlete, in this particular sport. I didn’t realize there was a competition involving UFC tickets at stake (time is short, after all), but my answers were … umm … the most accurate, regardless. I will graciously accept my tickets in another life. It is my hope that a team of athletes trained by myself, faces another team of equally gifted athletes coached by anyone else in this forum, be it in another life, or in heaven. The results are a foregone conclusion. Face the reality of hardcore anaerobic intervals, across multiple spans of times, recovery times, involving both the upper and lower body, with very high wattages involved, or get your ass handed to… Read more »

Eric
10 years ago
Reply to  Sam

Ummmm… the UFC tickets were a joke dude… UFC 113 happened the week before this post…

But yes I didn’t mention local vs. systemic and neither did anyone else…

Your answer was good yet incomplete as it didn’t specificaly state time of work, time of rest, as asked for in the question…

It does change when working systemic lactic, which I might talk about in another article.

Eric
10 years ago

@ Sam,

Some good advice for guys indeed. Thanks!

@ Larry,

For sure, longer sets is it… You’re on the right track.

@ Nick,

Tabata’s are a different animal – because the work segment is short (20s) that would indicate they work on Anaerobic Power… But because the rest intervals are short (10s), power cannot develop since recovery is incomplete, so they end up working on Anaerobic capacity…

@ Greg,

You’ve pretty much got it dude! You win the UFC tickets. I’ll mail over 2 UFC 113 tickets immediately – just send me your address!

@ Philip,

Kinda close, here’s my answer…

Phillip
Phillip
10 years ago

If I’m not wrong the lactic system works with the fast twitch fiber type II I believe… With this system you work the resistance of your muscles: maximum capacity of working the muscles with a prolonged time. After the alactic system runs down, the lactic system strats to work so that means that you need to work with your resistance training. Example; Circuit training of squat with a weight that you can do more than 20 reps, scarecrow drill for grappling… with a 3 min. round something like that. The lactic system runs down at 2 minutes. The starts the aerobic training full cardio capacity. So resistance training helps you drain the lactic acid in your muscles. maybe training the super pump system and the exhaustion-set system helps you, because you keep putting the bloood to flow in the muscles and new oxigenated blood helps you drain the lactic acid…… Read more »

jose
jose
10 years ago

I WILL WORK ON CONSTRUCTION AND THEN I WILL TRAIN FOR 2 HOURS!!!!TRY THIS AND THEN TELL ME ABOUT TRAINING METHOD´S!

louis raimo
louis raimo
10 years ago

i go along with sam 5-13 0150;24 aproach i would make sure my glycogen level is stoked take in good carbohydrates before and after training

Sam
Sam
10 years ago
Reply to  louis raimo

You get it Louis. As far as the carb thing goes, I agree, near (?) training time, and especially after, because glycogen whipeout is almost a certainty if training with enough intensity. The rest of the time, though, it’s important to keep the starch and sugar contained, going instead for the protein, vegetables, and small amounts of fruit, with high quality fats (nuts, avocado, olive oil, fish oil, etc) in small, frequent meals. It’s important to avoid the trap of a carb-addicted metabolism, which causes a state of inflammation in the body, blood sugar bouncing, and other negative effects.

Greg
Greg
10 years ago

Additional comment on weights- obviously you wouldn’t do 2 mins of bench for example – so I’m thinking a set of slow tempo bench, immediately jump to another set of something else, then another – until you hit 2 minutes. Short rest then repeat. Did I win the UFC tickets??

Greg
Greg
10 years ago

Since the lactic capacity as you state usually dies out in 2 minutes, I’m guessing we want to work 2 minutes or more in order to increase it. I’m a little unsure about the rest though, but I’m gonna guess less rest…since we aren’t so concerned with power at this point. The exercises will be anything that burns-so a longer tempo comes to mind. Spin bike also but sounds painful!

Elifa
Elifa
10 years ago

Built by alternating periods of work and rest not always the same
some indications of capacity effort are difficulty breathing, or difficulty sustaining the effort
It needs to be build on the aerobic base, and need to challenge the upper level of lung capacity with a cobination of anaerobic activities like weight training, sprints, jumping, interval training, training at various speeds or training at a defined pace

Strong
Strong
10 years ago

I would train the lactic system, by doing 30 seconds of work with
exercises like squats, bench press and deadlifts, etc but decrease the rest time between sets from the 1.5-2 mins to 30 sec – 1 min to help increase lactic acid capacity.

Eric
10 years ago

@ EVERYBODY,

I’m going to give a little hint before I chime in with my answer…

The question is…

How would you train the CAPACITY of the Lactic System?

The answer is not in the article, so any cut & paste responses aren’t correct. You’ve gotta think! 🙂

Nick
Nick
10 years ago

After reading this I am curious what your thoughts are regarding g Tabata intervals. It seems like they would they could be used with high velocity training, but with a 20/10 sec work rest cycle they don’t quite fit the list 30 sec work with longer rest cycle.

larry
larry
10 years ago

oh and circuits mixing interval training (running) sprinting and other body weight exercises such as burpees clap P-ups etc,,,

larry
larry
10 years ago

do longer sets maybe ?
progression,decrease rest time increase weight?

rocci
rocci
10 years ago

I would use the NRG system training program, and progress by adding an extra set with say 30 seconds rest, closer to competition keep the sets to 3 and back up to 1 min rest period!

Sam
Sam
10 years ago

I remember our conversation from before, Malai… In short, competitors in MMA, by and large, do not yet train at professional/Olympic/Div I standards of intensity. Looking for some kind of shortcut that avoids the severe pain of hardcore anaerobic intervals is a big joke. It sounds like you overdid it in your day, got injured as a result, and yeah, it sucks. Personally, my dreams ended on a basketball court, playing pickup without proper footware, sad but true. Anyway, I appreciate the value of periodization, and not overtraining, but the truth of extremely painful, focused intervals remains. The body simply cannot become accustomed to this reality in any way, other than by experiencing it regularly. Train in this manner, in a systematic way, build up to your true potential, or be left behind. It is that simple.

malai
malai
10 years ago

same answer…..

Sam
Sam
10 years ago

I would emphasize carrying the body, (the way animals “train”). Say, for example, explosive repeated stadium running (and similar style for the upper body – challenging, to say the least, BTW). Ideally, these intervals would vary in intensity, and duration, as to create a cross-section of ability that cannot ever be realistically challenged within the competitive event itself, a goal that is attainable within MMA. In other words, at that point, it becomes a technical exercise at all times, rather than a conditioning limitation. If this approach is used in a consistent manner, it will eventually lead to uphill sprints with (small) amounts of weight, sled-pushing, one-arm pushups, full body planks, and other forms of activity that others cannot realistically compete with, the vast majority of the time. If they are choosing to look for some shortcut, and not training in that way, 2 times per week (to start), you… Read more »

Jay
Jay
10 years ago

performing a set of 8 reps of Squats with a controlled (1-2 seconds) tempo down and slow tempo on the way up, say 3-4 seconds on the way up.

The preferred method of progression is to increase the weight of each exercise. But you can also keep the weight the same and decrease the rest time between sets.

Steve
Steve
10 years ago

Compound exercises like squats,presses, deadlifts. Increase the 30 seconds of work. Then increase the weight and the tempo on the concentric phase of the rep.

paul sumsion
10 years ago

what he said
you would train the lactic system, by doing 30 seconds of work
exercises i would do, compound movements like squats, bench press and deadlifts but do lactic tempo training 1 sec down 3-4 on the way up,
the way to progress increase the weight of the exercise

Fredy
Fredy
10 years ago

you would train the lactic system, by doing 30 seconds of work
exercises i would do, compound movements like squats, bench press and deadlifts but do lactic tempo training 1 sec down 3-4 on the way up,
the way to progress increase the weight of the exercise

trackback
10 years ago

Training the Lactic Energy System for MMA | EricWongMMA.com…

I found your entry interesting do I’ve added a Trackback to it on my weblog :)…