Getting in Shape for a Tournament, FAST!

A recent letter from a reader…


Hi Stephan,

I have just read your article on Periodization and found it to be very informative and I have a question that relates to the topic.

I have a grappling competition in 5 weeks time. There will be a minimum of 6 fights, and each fight has the potential to last 10 minutes. My training has not been as regular as I would like and I normally roll for 50-60 minutes at medium intensity twice a week.

Looking at the time period mentioned in your article, I have about 3-4 weeks left of training, correct? Now do I continue with twice a week rolling sessions or is there anything else I can/should do to supplement?

Looking forward to your response.

Kind regards,


Hi there,

When it comes to conditioning in an ideal world, I believe in building an foundation first. Crawl before you walk. Walk before you jog. Jog before you sprint…

In practice, that means that you should probably start with longer, easier cardio sessions. A 30 minute jog, three times a week, say. Then as your joints, lungs and heart become accustomed to the strain of jogging you move on to more intense exercises like track intervals, stair sprints, tabata protocols, etc.

But if you’re impatient and willing to accept a slightly higher chance of injury, going straight to sprint work might allow you to pick the low-hanging fruit, and get some significant conditioning improvements before your tournament.  (IF you manage to avoid injury then you DO tend to get results pretty quick with anaerobic training…)

So ultimately it’s up to you to judge your initial fitness level, your familiarity with anaerobic training, and your resistance to injury. Then make a risk vs reward decision about what kind of conditioning you’re going to do.

So if you do decide to go with sprintwork you’ll probably do very hard and very intense workouts, 2 to 3 times per week.

Here are some ideas and sample workouts you could play with:


Make sure to stop these workouts at least 4 days before the tournament to allow your body time to recover.

(It’s important to note that not everyone agrees with me about the necessity of aerobic training. In fact here’s a lengthy interview with one of the top MMA conditioning coaches who doesn’t let his athletes do traditional aerobic roadwork and ONLY uses sprintwork).

And finally, remember that doing anything is better than doing nothing. So get your butt out there: lifting, skiing, running, cross-fitting, yoga, swimming, gymnastics, rock-climing… it’s all good!

Good luck, and have fun!

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