Interview with MMA Strength & Conditioning Coach Eric Wong

Interview with MMA Strength & Conditioning Coach Eric Wong

Eric & UFC Fighter Jeff Joslin

Eric & UFC Fighter Jeff Joslin

Thanks for taking the time for this Interview Eric,  Maybe you could give us some quick background about you and your blog.

Hey thanks for interviewing me! I guess I’ll start with the regular credentials stuff – I’m a Kinesiology grad from the University of Waterloo where I got to learn from Dr. Stu McGill – probably the biggest name in low back rehab in the world. I’ve always been into fitness – I started lifting weights when I was 16 doing Bench press and Bicep curls! Then when I was 17 I built a squat rack from wood and implemented some leg training, which was much needed.

Now, I’m a strength and conditioning coach for MMA fighters and have had a lot of fun training them. When I left university I started working as a trainer in a local gym, and also started training BJJ back at my old martial arts school – Joslin’s in Hamilton. I knew Jeff Joslin was fighting MMA, I asked him if he had a trainer and when I found out he didn’t, we started working together. That was in 2006. After working with him for his Apex title fight and UFC fight vs. Josh Koscheck, guys started asking him for help and he’d send them my way, and now I train fighters in person and online via my blog and the programs I’ve written.

You have a big emphasis on Cardio for MMA.  Yet it seems with the exception of the top fighters most of the MMA guys are missing the boat on MMA Based Cardio.  IE The Ultimate Fighter, we always see guys gassing after 1-2 rounds.  Why do you think this is such a problem for fighters?

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Yes, cardio is definitely huge, but I do value all fitness qualities, and depending on the individual will figure out where they need to focus their training energy. Some guys need strength, some need more power, some need local muscular endurance, while others, like pretty much all of the dudes on TUF: Heavyweights, need to improve their cardio.

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So, the problem is different for everyone.

The thing is, one guy may need cardio, but it may be because he’s not strong enough that he’s gassing out. I know this sounds counterintuitive so let me explain with an overly exaggerated example.

Let’s say you can bench press 400 lbs for 10 reps. If a guy who weighs 200 lbs, you could throw him off of you, without any technique, pretty easily, without getting too tired. I mean, you could probably bench press 200 lbs for like 40 reps or something so 1 rep to throw him off wouldn’t take much out of you.

Now, let’s say you can only bench press 150 lbs for 1 rep. If you try to throw this guy off of you like a bench press, you won’t succeed. And if you keep trying, you’re going to fatigue quickly and then it’ll feel like it does at the end of a hard 8-10 rep set – burning and weakness. Then you’re screwed.

So if a guy is not strong, he will gas much quicker, because he’ll be working at a higher percentage of max for any technique.

Now, if a guy is already strong, but he’s gassing out, then it’s a whole different story. It could be inability to recover from engaging the lactic energy system, or it could be that the heart and lungs aren’t developed properly, which would take 2 totally different programs to address.

I guess then that the problem for fighters is that they’re not educated enough to figure it out, and by trying to create their own workouts, they’re probably sticking to their strengths or what they’re used to and missing crucial elements of the puzzle.

What would you recommend for the average gym goer to improve their training and cardio?  Too often we are seeing people doing 45 min plus on treadmills and elepticals at a slow pace and barely sweating!  How would you recommend people change up their workouts & routines to get more benefits?

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I think you said it in your question – change up the workout and routine in any way and it’s better than doing the same old.

If someone’s not sweating when they’re running on the treadmill for 45 minutes – they need to learn to push themselves harder. That’s why intervals have become so popular – because people learn to push themselves harder and actually train with a level of intensity that will get them somewhere.

BUT, 45 minute runs aren’t necessarily bad or useless – if you push the pace, you’re going to sweat and get results.

So, for everyone, I’d recommend 3 fundamental training principles: creating a program, changing the program and always making progression.

Create a program and stick to it for 4 weeks, whether it be steady state, intervals, chasing goats, whatever. Make progress from workout to workout – go a little faster, longer, shorten rest time, chase faster goats, etc…

After 4 weeks, switch the program to something different, and make progress again. I guarantee results.

You helped train Jeff Joslin for his UFC fight.  We were privileged enough to have Jeff here for a seminar this year.  When I rolled with him i couldn’t believe how strong he was for a guy that wasnt very muscular!  Do you find there is a large amount of confusion of people when they see someone who appears to be strong (IE A Bodybuilder) Vs. Someone who is functionally strong Like Jeff or other MMA fighters.  How would you advise someone to train who wants to get STRONGER but not really much bigger?

First of all Jeff is an animal, and because his skills are at such a high level, his leverage, positioning, and technique make him feel like a gorilla. That’s why little guys can beat up big guys.

Now – bodybuilding strength is definitely different than strength in the octagon because of isolation type workout programs. Don’t even get me started on using machines.

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So the typical ‘chest, biceps’ workout gets someone used to training hard, but only hitting a few muscle groups, training at a slower tempo and/or lower intensity level, and really only engaging the lactic energy system.

When they’re in the octagon, all of a sudden, they have to use every muscle in their body from their toes to their jaw and then they have to deal with all of the by-products of lactate, all of the drain on the nervous system, and it’s just too overwhelming for the system.

That’s why full body workouts make up the majority of my programs – to get the muscles and nervous system used to using the full body.

Thanks so much for your time Eric!  I really appreciate it!  Do you have any new books or projects coming up that you want to share with us ahead of time?

No problem Rob, thanks for having me on your blog.

If there are any fighters who are looking for a complete strength and conditioning designed for fighters only by someone who coaches fighters on a daily basis, I’d suggest they grab a copy of my Ultimate MMA Strength and Conditioning Program.

Also if they want to stay up to date with my latest articles and videos, they can go to my blog at

PS.  Eric is having a Seasons Beatings sale right now where you can get 3 free bonus programs when you pick up his Ultimate MMA Strength and Conditioning Program. I’ve had a chance to review it… (It’s a great product I bought it 2 months ago!)… If you’re a fighter looking for a program designed specifically for you, make sure you check out the sale before it ends on Thursday, Dec 17 at Midnight….

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