Do you know the difference between optimal and peak fight performance? Too many fighters don’t, and it’s costing them!

I see many pro and hobbyist fighters alike, rightly working incredibly hard in their training, but mistakenly believing that every session must push them harder than the last.

“Go hard or go home” has its place. However, this attitude is regularly misplaced and over simplified.

Fight performance chuck Norris go hard or go home

Understanding when this kind of maximal effort is needed, and when it’s not, is what separates those that become the best they can be and those that boom and bust!

In this episode I’ll explain what the difference is between optimal and peak fight performance training, and how to use both approaches to best effect as a fighter. Let’s get right to it…

by Don Heatrick
@donheatrick

What Peak Fight Performance Really Is

To achieve your own highest level, it’s crucial to understand that peak performance is a temporary window. And if you try to hold it open too long, you lose.

Timing your peak performance for a fight date, or periodically (for those that don’t compete), is how you’ll achieve an ever increasing rise in long-term performance.

Fighter Performance Gap

Peak performance is short-term. It can only happen when conditions are at their best…. 

When you’ve built athletic qualities in the right order, converting one into the other from a general athletic base into fight specific power, speed, and relentless endurance. And when you’re perfectly rested and fuelled, ready to unleash hell, free from fatigue and distraction.

To peak, your training workload should temporarily overreach, and immediately follow with a training taper that drastically reduces your workload.

What Optimal Fight Performance Really Is

Outside of these short-term peak performance windows, the rest of your training should develop optimal performance… Optimal performance is long-term. It strives for the best you can do given less than ideal conditions.

Consistent effort over the long-term makes the biggest difference to your performance. And to do this, you must bend but not break!

It’s useful to think of each training day’s intensity as falling into one of three categories; either developmental, stimulating, or restorative. Or as coach Charlie Francis would describe them, high days, low days, and rest days.

These distinctions are important for fighters, because fighters are a demographic who love to push hard, and typically see less value in anything that’s not maximal!

But understanding how to program training for optimal gains in long-term performance gives permission to push hard on certain days (high/developmental days), maintain momentum on other days (low/stimulation days), and to recover when needed on other days too (rest/restorative days).

That’s how the days within your training week should shape up. However it’s also important to scale developmental weeks and restorative weeks too.

Each new block of training introduces training at a lower intensity, then progressively turns up the intensity to maximal, before deloading to allow restoration before repeating the cycle at a higher level again. Effectively you take 1-step back in order to take 2 or 3 steps forwards again.

Disciplined Fight Performance

Adopting this incremental loading and unloading approach will see you striding past the performance level of less disciplined fighters. You can ride continuous waves of intensity that wash ever higher as the training phase rolls on.

And it’s important to understand that “developmental” loads aren’t all maximal! They simply sit above the threshold that stimulates improvement. You don’t need to overdo it here!

burnout and minimum effective dose

For example, when using resistance training to build strength, on “low” week, I’ll prescribe a load that is lighter than you can handle. You’ll finish the set feeling like you had 3 or 4 reps left in reserve.

This is enough to create a developmental stimulus, but also gives you room to push harder next week and force your body to adapt further. This way, the “medium” week that follows will feel like you’ve got 2 reps left in reserve.

Next, the “high” week is maximal! You can only just complete the number of reps prescribed – there are no reps left in reserve!

The following “deload” week will back off to allow you to recover, it’s restorative. That way you feel like you have a good 5 reps left in reserve.

For example, when using resistance training to build strength, on “low” week, I’ll prescribe a load that is lighter than you can handle. You’ll finish the set feeling like you had 3 or 4 reps left in reserve.

This is enough to create a developmental stimulus, but also gives you room to push harder next week and force your body to adapt further. This way, the “medium” week that follows will feel like you’ve got 2 reps left in reserve.

Next, the “high” week is maximal! You can only just complete the number of reps prescribed – there are no reps left in reserve!

The following “deload” week will back off to allow you to recover, it’s restorative. That way you feel like you have a good 5 reps left in reserve.

Every training block in a fighter’s program works through progressive cycles of loading and deloading in this manner, to ensure optimal performance and productive gains over the long-term.

For those that fight very regularly, true performance peaks are reserved for the most important fights (for titles or where rankings matter). Whereas, optimal is true for the majority of other fights. The objective is not to merely peak your current performance level for every fight, without ever getting better.

The objective is to build long-term performance, so that in a year you’ll be a different fighter. And in a few years you’ll be untouchable!

This is very different to the flat, cyclic progress the vast majority of fighters make with their athletic performance between one fight and the next.⁣ Investing time and effort into developing and using a solid training program pays back in a way that may not be hugely noticeable in the short-term (a month or two)…⁣

But holding your focus, keeping with it for longer periods, compounds your progress incredibly – while others slip back (and are doomed to repeat).⁣ I’m looking to work with fighters that understand this, and are hungry to make a real difference to their training.

You can download the Optimal fight camp blueprint from the resources below, or join one of my online programs if you want to get started right away. Doors to my flagship Heavy Hitters program open twice a year with limited spots. If enrolment is open right now, you can grab your spot right away here. Otherwise, you can join the VIP waitlist to get early notification next time doors open.

Every so often, an opportunity emerges that can redefine how we train, fight, and thrive.

Today marks one such epic day! The coveted Heavy Hitters Barebones program is swinging its doors open – a golden chance that surfaces just twice a year.

Heavy Hitters Barebones

Doors Remain Open For…

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If you purchased either the S&C Accelerator or Minimum Equipment Program (or both) in the past, here’s the deal:

Email me with your login username (email address), and I’ll send you a coupon code to take that amount off of your Heavy Hitters purchase. Commitment has its rewards!

Why does this matter for every western Muay Thai enthusiast, fighter, or coach?

Why Heavy Hitters is Different:

  • Streamlined Efficiency: The life of a Muay Thai enthusiast, coach, or fighter, especially in the West, is brimming with demands. Heavy Hitters understands that. No need for endless hours. You need potent, impactful hours. This program is your answer.

  • Real-world Results: From enthusiasts in Australia to champions in the USA, the feedback is unanimous – Heavy Hitters changes the game. Take it from Paul Banasiak:

     “From broke and broken to moving and competing better than ever. Since working with Don 3 years ago, I haven’t had a single major issue. Don gave me the confidence that has translated itself into three straight knockout wins and a WBC title.”

  • Holistic Training: It’s not merely about more power in your punches or lasting longer. It’s about cultivating a body that’s nimble, powerful, and resistant to injuries.

  • Be Part of Something Greater: Beyond the program lies a fraternity, a global assembly of like-minded souls, all driven by the singular passion to redefine their Muay Thai boundaries.

If tales of triumph intrigue you, delve deeper into Jonathan Lane’s saga – from grappling with an ACL recovery amid fatherhood to clinching the MTA NSW State Title. His secret weapon? The Heavy Hitters program.

Seize your golden chance to level up your Muay Thai journey. Remember, the doors to Heavy Hitters Barebones will shut on midnight 31st May and won’t swing open again until November 2024…

But here’s the silver lining – even if you’re not geared up to start immediately, you can reserve your spot in this cohort and start your training whenever you’re ready.

Discover Everything About Heavy Hitters Here!

Don Heatrick

Founder of Heatrick Strength and Conditioning

Don Heatrick is a family man from the UK, former mechanical design engineer, European Muay Thai silver medallist, former pro Thai boxer (ranked 4th in UK while aged 40-years), a Muay Thai coach, podcast host, and the go-to expert on Muay Thai performance training with over 25 years of coaching experience.

Don helps ambitious fighters and coaches take their game to the next level by bridging the gap between Strength & Conditioning, Performance Science, and Muay Thai.

Follow Don Heatrick on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/donheatrick/

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