Joel Jamieson

  “There is no off-season in most combat sports, especially MMA.”

Joel is not only one of the best in the world at training MMA fighters, but his knowledge and application of energy-system development is unrivaled and has taken the implementation of heart-rate variability (HRV) to another level when preparing athletes. Jamieson explains his performance profile which helps define the sport.  Besides obvious modalities such as reaction rate, joint mobility, and aerobic fitness, he lists three factors that further illustrate the unique nature of combat sports. Here are the main points that Jamieson spoke about.

1. Bioenergetics are different for each combat sport. Energy systems, particularly work-to-rest ratios, can be vastly different among different combat sports. Even between the same sport, the number and duration of rounds can vary significantly. These rounds can last anywhere from one minute (wrestling overtime) to five minute rounds (MMA). The key is to adapt your conditioning protocols based on the bioenergetics of the particular combat sport; specifically, the work to rest ratio for your particular discipline. Even though maximum effort will not be achieved during the entirety of the round, knowing the basic bioenergetic systems for a fighter is imperative.



2. There is no off-season in most combat sports, especially MMA. Fights happen year-round. On any given Saturday night, there are men and women entering the cage in order to succeed at the sport and earn a paycheck. Long-term periodization schemes may not have the same impact, especially when the objective is primarily the same all year.


3. There are weight requirements for competitors. This factor by itself can drastically change the organization of training for the athlete. Factors like hypertrophy, body fat percentage, and hydration can all play significant roles in the modification of training. Training for power and strength while staying in a particular weight class is a factor that Jamieson fully understands and works through when training combat athletes.

Organization of Training

Jamieson lists four main factors when organizing training that make up what he calls his Combat Performance Potential:

  1. High-technical proficiency across a large variety of unrelated skills
  2. Balance between aerobic and anaerobic capacity
  3. Tactical strategy
  4. Mental preparation


Jamieson explains that beginners will concentrate on work capacity from a strength standpoint. As their strength and conditioning levels increase, so will their skill work. Amateur fighters often have less time to develop the technical skills and physical development (they usually have jobs). This is why it is necessary to limit the amount of stimulus they are exposed to in order to improve. While amateurs specialize in addressing weak ares in a strength and conditioning standpoint, pro fighters usually incorporate block training to improve in specialized areas in one month increments.

Weekly schedules are organized with strength on days where striking is the technical skill and conditioning will take place on days where grappling is the technical skill being worked.

Jamieson has been adamant about integrating the High/Low Model to his training philosophy. The High/ Low Model of Central Nervous System (CNS) Sequencing concepts have been discussed in detail by many professionals in the industry including Buddy Morris, Tom Myslinski, James “The Thinker” Smith, and the late Charlie Francis. Basically, this system would split physical activities with high central nervous system demands and low CNS demand activities on separate days. Jamieson has warned against training too often in “the middle” where the day’s training is too “low” to elicit the optimal training effect and too “high” to recover adequately from. Most experts, including Jamieson have classified most training modalities into two separate categories:

This model can be adapted based on sport, training methodology, environment, and situation. Avoiding back-to-back high CNS intensive days can increase performance, enhance recovery, and reduce the chance of injury.

O’Brien uses the same basic model when training military elite, by combining four training session on one day and nothing but recovery and regeneration the next. This High/Low Model can be beneficial for the combat athlete, sports teams, and tactical personnel alike.


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