As the above image of the heavyweight MMA fighter enigma Fedor Emelianenko suggests, looks can be deceiving.
At first glance you wouldn’t think he’s a very physically strong or conditioned human being, but anyone who’s seen him fight would attest otherwise. Have you ever rolled with an opponent who, before clashing, you thought you were going to be able to manhandle – only to discover he’s freakishly more stronger then you anticipated?
What about the other way around? If you train in MMA or some kind of grappling art long enough, I’m sure once you were intimidated by the muscle size of your opponent, and then realizing right after you start grappling that he isn’t nearly as strong as you thought.
Some people naturally have better looking builds then others, and some people are naturally strong but don’t look it. And then there are those gifted with both, such as the case with Georges St. Pierre. However, there are some people who can train as hard as GSP and for as long as he has (though I seriously doubt that many do) but will never have the physique of the Canadian welterweight.
Again, everybody’s born with different physical genetics, and everybody develops at a different pace then each other both looks wise and strength wise.
The point is this: for combat athletes, it is much more important to develop one’s strength and conditioning in your MMA workouts and not gauge you progress on how you look.
Of course, any athlete , any MMA fighter who follows a solid MMA workout and has a good diet will most definitely develop a better physique then if they sat around on their asses all day eating Twinkie’s, but this should just be a by-product of your MMA training, and not the end goal.
If you’ve read any of my past stuff, you’ll know how I emphasize power endurance as the main physical attribute MMA fighters want to develop to be in optimal fighters shape.
Power exercises means moving resistance quickly. When you are moving resistance quickly, you are not necessarily building the muscle fibers that are ideal for muscle mass and definition. This means you can be very powerful, but not look physically imposing (i.e. Fedor).
Now, I’m a guy, and I like having a fit and muscular and lean looking body just like the next guy, so I’m not saying that working out with the goal of looking good from your MMA workouts is necessarily a bad thing.
What I’m saying is that if you are planning on fighting or competing in some kind of martial art or MMA competition, remember to follow the advice of Pat Riley, “the main this is to keep the main thing the main thing.” And the main thing in a MMA strength and conditioning workout is to further develop your MMA strength and conditioning.
If you want to throw in an extra set of curls every once in a while or do a couple ab exercises that have absolutely no use other than building a thick muscular six pack, go ahead, especially if it’s the beginning of your “MMA training camp” and your fight isn’t for a while. But the closer it gets to your MMA fight or competition, you’d better be focusing on your performance in your coach’s eyes rather then how you look in the mirror.