Originally Posted by Matt Wiggins
If you didn't see the latest “UFC All Access” about Sean Sherk on Spike TV, you missed a helluva show. I've been around the block a few times, and I've seen (and done) a lot of training. I'm not lying nor exaggerating when I say that the workout(s) that Sherk did on All Access were some of the toughest I've ever seen. If you haven't seen it, then you'd better watch the replay. It'll be well worth your time.
Here is a brief rundown of what Sherk did on All Access:
–Grappling: 9 rounds @ 5 mins each, 45 secs rest
(Yeah, you saw that right. Not 3 rounds or 5 rounds, but NINE. Sherk rotates through 4-6 partners so that he's constantly rolling with somebody fresh.)
–Striking/Muay Thai: 5 rounds @ 5 mins each, 60 secs rest
–“Caveman Training”: 2x/week, 5 rounds @ 5 mins each, 60 secs rest
(This was varied odd object training which included tire flips, sledgehammer strikes, crawling upside down on a suspended cable, tornado ball work, plyometric pushups, ab wheel, bear crawls, cable-resisted punches on a heavybag, lateral shuffling on all fours, time on the air dyne bike and upper body ergometer, and more.)
–Striking/Focus Mitts w/Takedowns: 2x/week, 9 rounds @ 5 min rounds
(Sherk would hit the focus mitts in combinations and then shoot in for a takedown. This was repeated for the entire round without rest. Notice again, that he's going for NINE rounds.)
–Weight Training: 4x/week, 2 body parts/day, supersets done throughout
(On a side note, this does vary slightly from the article that was printed a few months ago in “Muscle & Fitness.” Everything is the same for the most part, save for the fact that the M&F article stated that Sherk trained with weights 6x/week – not 4x.)
–Stairs: 16 flights @ 13 stairs/flight, 8 trips up
(This is roughly equivalent to 128 stories. Sometimes Sherk does Farmer's Walk with two dumbbells up the stairs. Between trips, he does rows with resistance tubing and dumbbell curls as active rest. Sometimes he skips the stairs and just crawls up the side of the hill they're on, which seems to be almost vertical.)
I don’t know about you, but I'm tired just typing all that...
*drinks protein shake*
After the show aired, of course, many of the Internet (MMA and strength/conditioning) forums and boards were ablaze with discussion. The show brought up a ton of comments and discussions ranging from overtraining, to possible drug use, to effectiveness, to whether or not that much strength/conditioning work was really even necessary, and a lot more. I'm going to address some of these items here.
More than once, I saw questions about whether or not Sherk was overtraining by doing that much work. Of course I've never trained with Sherk, nor do I know him. But from what I see, Sherk is more than likely not overtraining.
You see, Sherk has been training and competing in sports since a very young age. He has led a very, very active lifestyle for quite a number of years. Because of this, Sherk is bound to have built up a huge work capacity (work capacity is basically your gas tank for all physical activities you perform in your life – just how much physical movement is your body capable of). This means he can do more work (and recover) than most people.
Sherk is a very highly trained professional, who takes his job as a fighter very seriously. As such, he is also sure to get plenty of rest and fuel his body with good, clean, nutrient and vitamin-rich foods. As he said in the show, “I don't eat for taste – I eat for performance.” These things increase his recovery rate, thereby decreasing his recovery time. This means he can do more work.
Don't think, though, that you can jump into this much training. Just because Sherk can do it, doesn't mean you can. If you dedicate yourself with years of hard work and discipline, you may be able to, so don't think it's impossible. Just don't think that you can jump into it with both feet, though.
I have no idea if Sherk uses any sort of “performance enhancing” drugs and I will make no claim that he does or does not. Some have commented, however, that based on the sheer work volume Sherk performs, and with the intensity Sherk seems to perform it with, would indicate that he is on something other than legal supplements. Based on these two characteristics, I'd say one has no way of telling whether or not Sherk uses. So, quit saying he does when you don't really know.
If you can't tell by looking at Sherk and his fights that what he does works for him, then you're blind, a fool, or somebody who just doesn't like the “Muscle Shark.”
Could his program be better? Sure, Sherk is not a perfect person and virtually anything can stand some amount of improvement. Does that mean his program could stand a lot of improvement? I don't think so. I think Sherk's results speak for themselves.
I've seen quite a few people say that he shouldn't do that much strength/conditioning work and that he should spend more time on technique and/or skills training. I'll put it like this, at the time I'm writing this article Sherk is the UFC Lightweight Champion of the world. He's only lost twice in his career (to Matt Hughes and Georges St-Pierre, both of which are former champions and both losses in a higher weight class). He was the first to take Hughes the distance in a fight and took Hughes down multiple times (something that had never been done before). As for his lightweight championship fight, to say that he “only” beat Kenny Florian is a joke and highly discredits Florian's abilities as a fighter. As an aside, Sherk also sustained a shoulder injury in the fight.
I don't want to turn this into a “nuthugging” (excuse the term) article. But to think that Sherk hasn't had a very successful career is crazy. Sherk's strength/conditioning program has helped him to have that career.
Is All That Training Really Necessary?
There is no blanket answer to that question. For Sherk, he believes it is and his results show that it's paying off.
For the rest of us (i.e. fans of the sport and those not fighting at the elite level), that much work probably isn't optimal. It would not only be hard to do and recover from, but most of us wouldn't have the time to get that much work in.
What most of us would be better served doing is taking many of the principles and/or ideas from what Sherk does and scaling it down to our own needs, capabilities, time, facilities, etc. For example, my “Working Class Fitness – The Programs” was designed with many of the same sort of principles in mind. Program #1 for instance (you can get a two week trial at my site for free), utilizes strength and power training, sandbag work, and density conditioning. This could serve the same principles as Sherk's weight training, Caveman Training, and stairs.
That is just one example. There are literally endless ways to do it. One thing to think about is to simply reduce the volume that Sherk does. The Striking/Focus Mitts w/Takedowns work might really serve your training well. Instead of 9 rounds @ 5 mins/round, you might only need to do 3-4 rounds. Or, you could do 5 rounds @ 3 mins/round.
Whatever you end up doing, there is one thing of Sherk's that we could all stand to emulate and that is his intensity, drive and work ethic. You might say that there are bigger, stronger, faster, more conditioned, more technically sound, or whatever guys out there, but you'd be hard pressed to find a harder worker.
Train Hard, Rest Hard, Play Hard.
Matt "Wiggy" Wiggins is a strength coach and author living in Cameron, NC. Having trained 15+ years, Wiggy is a strength moderator at mma.tv, columnist for MMA Weekly, and an avid fan of Mixed Martial Arts Training. His site, Working Class Fitness.com, is dedicated to designing low-tech, high-result MMA Workouts, Navy SEAL Workouts, and programs for "regular joes."