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Why You Should Re-think Strength & Conditioning

While Onyx has started off as a more traditionalist Muay Thai gym couple of years ago, we also went under the influence of modern day sports science advancement and started exploring the possibility of integrating Strength & Conditioning (S&C) into "traditional" martial arts like Muay Thai.

What initially started out as a pilot test project for the Onyx Fight Team eventually turned into a integrated S&C programme for our staple classes. As Onyx grew, we understood the importance of S&C and placed equal emphasis on the development and growth of S&C vis-a-vis the other disciplines.

As part of my training camp, I regularly engage in tailored S&C prescribed by my S&C Coach, Arab. But I came, and originated from a gym that never believed in S&C training. And because of that, I was oblivious to that effects (and benefits) of S&C. Training back then to me was simple; do more of whatever I'm doing, and just keep going at it.

It was only when I settled in Onyx, that I got a taste of what S&C was (in a regular Muay Thai/Boxing class). Couple of weeks later, as I was going into training camp, my head coach @soonkueh "informed" me that S&C will be a staple, and dedicated item within my training schedule. I'd leave the gory details of that in subsequent posts, but to put it succintly, I've never thought of these "circuit exercises" to be so detailed, and so complex. But I dare testify and say that it has made me a much stronger fighter.

Whilst I was preparing to pen down this post, I spoke to Arab, and got into a deep discussion on his thoughts on S&C, and the application for MMA disciplines, and for fighters like me.

Arab @bin_deezl, (or Muhammad as some others call him) is Onyx MMA's resident Strength & Conditioning coach. Arab plans, implements, and executes all staple S&C programmes within Onyx. He also prescribes tailored S&C programmes for the fighters, all in accordance to game plans and requirements of the various head coaches (Muay Thai, Boxing or BJJ).

Q: Why S&C in general?

To me, the basis of S&C revolves largely around injury prevention. While it is common to think of S&C as "stronger/muscles/fitness", I think it is first and foremost paramount to design a S&C programme that prevents or eliminates muscle imbalances, increases flexibility, and subsequently work on strengthening the tendons and ligaments. All these, as an initial phase of S&C will reduce the potential of injuries and ailments from high exertion and high intensity sports, and is not just for athletes or fighters, but also goes well for those who do sports for leisure. Every S&C program in Onyx, whether for the fighters or for the members, are designed around these thoughts, and varies from week to week.

But I will also add on that an important aspect of S&C is to follow a sound nutritional advice, and adequate recovery. Look at it this way, our muscles get stronger through how we train it (e.g. bicep curls to build biceps) and also what we eat. Knowing this, there should be an innate desire to feed your muscles the best food/nutrition possible. The keyword here is "possible" and not die die must eat healthy every single meal. Like you, I understand how ridiculously expensive or inconvenient it is to obtain healthy food in Singapore, unless you prepare your own. If you're preparing your own healthy food, and is unsure, the internet has huge amount of resources, or just speak to anyone of us. But note, we are all wired differently, what works for you, might not work for me, and vice versa. The best way, is to try it out yourself, and get to know your body better.

Q: We often get comments like "I'm too old for this".

When I design the S&C programs, whether for the staple classes, or for Onyx MAX, it is always done in consideration that there are varying levels of fitness, strength, and/or physical attributes amongst the attendees. The resultant exericses are mostly catered at the generic level, and not to the extreme end, like that of a fighters' S&C. Rest assure that the S&C programs are designed such that everyone will be able to do it based on a best effort basis, and that it is designed with alternatives and is definitely manageable.... but tough.

Q: Design? How do you design the S&C programs?

The design of Onyx's S&C programs will always start off with safety in mind first. For example, to build strength, we can always do sledge hammer drills with a huge tyre. But is that safe in a class setting with 12 or more folks doing S&C at one go? Moreover, without first assessing the individual's strength capabilities, how can we ascertain that the sledge hammer drill is adequate?

After all safety considerations, and depending on the content that I want to deliver that week, the design has to provide for alternatives, especially for those who have existing or unique conditions; back problem, shoulder, etc. The S&C design is meant to be all encompassing; even my pregnant wife attends Onyx MAX. So, you are all in safe hands.

Q: At the elite level, how does S&C benefit a fighter?

Simply put, regardless the discipline of the fighter, S&C prepares the fighter for their training, as well as streamline their fight output and performance. A S&C Coach does not train a fighter how to fight. What we do, is to prepare them so that they can train better, and pave a pipeline for their progression in their diciplines. For example, as a fighter, you're required to "punch harder". That means developing more power, physically (not technically). I illustrate a simple formula of Power. Power output for a fighter, is

Power = Speed + Strength

You may be strong, but without speed, there is no power in deliverance, and vice versa. What I do with the fighters thus look at the broken down aspects of their attributes, and increase each attribute accordingly to achieve the desired levels determined by their respective Head Coaches. Apart from Power, there are many other aspects (agility, stamina, endurance, coordination etc). New fighters that come through the Onyx's selection gate normally gets assessed by me first, and gets "gifted" with a tailored S&C program.

Q: You're TFW certified. What's that, and what is the relationship with Onyx's S&C programs and Onyx MAX?

TFW stands for Training for Warriors. It is a S&C system based on training methods that have been used to physically and mentally prepare fighters. It can also be utilised on other sports as well. The TFW system has been proven over a decade and have been used on countless champions and world class fighters.

The TFW system increases physical strength as well as mental fortitude. I quote Shakespeare,

"We are but warriors for the working day."

Every day is a battle, we all fight our own way our own battles in our head. Overcoming yourself is the first step to having strength physically, mentally and spiritually.

Therefore, it is a good way to strengthen your mind through physical exertion which will boost your emotions by having successfully going through the challenges in the Training for Warriors system.

In Onyx Max, I use the TFW system: The Hurricanes. A hurricane is a brief storm that leaves destruction in its wake that then calls for rebuilding and renewing. Simply put, I break you down, and your body builds itself back, strong and better than before. All that’s needed is make discomfort into a comfort.

There are 5 categories to the Hurricane Training. In Onyx Max, we are currently at Cat 2. I would perhaps bring it up to Cat 3 in the coming months, but it depends on the comfort and fitness levels across the attendees.

Sample of what goes on in an Onyx MAX class

Q: So for the fighters, what, or how is the S&C program like?

For the fighters, I design and tailor every single exercise that they do. They will typically go through <censored>

Errr. Thanks Arab!

Get a taste of Arab's TFW S&C and the Onyx MAX classes every Wednesdays and Fridays 8pm!








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