Supramaximal Training with UFC fighter Arnold Allen

By William Wayland

Supramaximal training is one of toughest methods out there, using numbers in excess of your 1 rep max always put fear into the heart of the seasoned lifter and athlete a like. Supramximal training like it implies means using loads above your maximum usually a percentage. The reason we can do this is because the body can usually accommodate loads in excess of our concentric maximum during eccentric and isometric movements.

There are a number of acute physiological changes that supramaximal training forces on the body which is the biggest justification for this method. Physiological and neurological response from supramaximal training is enormous. It kicks tissue remodeling and neural changes into overdrive. We see improvements in maximal muscle recruitment, maximal fast twitch recruitment and even potential for very controversial hyperplasia. Below is a slide from Cal Dietz (FFC interview here) NSCA coaches talk on triphasic UFC fighter training where he highlights the benefits.

 In this post im going to go over how I applied supramaximal work to UFC fighter Arnold Allen. There are a few catches, I had only three weeks with Arnold Allen coming off his UFC London win before travelling back to Canada which explains my main reason for using it, the 'Compressed Training Effect'. Arnold is immensely strong (checkout his family) and very tolerant of high training stress.  If I could pack what would normally 6-8 weeks training into 3 weeks. and have Arnold walk away stronger as a result it would mean Arnold could focus on power and speed work while at Tristar. The other thing is Arnold's MMA work taking a bit of a back seat, I would not normally use this method with combat athlete as soft tissue stress is just too high!

The Program

For 1-2 weeks you will perform eccentric squats at 120%-110% of your max on Monday, perform normal 90-97% squats on Wednesday and 110-105% eccentric squats on Friday. Deload for 1 week and perform the same with isometric squats. This is then followed by two concentric weeks at 80/90/72 as per normal triphasic training undulation.

  • Weeks 1-2 Eccentrics @ 110-120%
  • Weeks 3-4 Isometrics @ 110-120%
  • Weeks 5-6 Concentric @ 80%
  • Day 1 2reps with 7 seconds of time under tension.
  • Day 2 Doubles or Triples @ 90%
  • Day 3 1 Rep with 10 second of time under tension.

Arnolds Program - Supra Maximal Hands Assisted Back Squat

  • Week 1-2 Eccentrics @ 110-120%
  • Week 3 Isometrics @ 110-120%
  • Day 1 2 reps with 7 seconds of time under tension. 110-120%
  • Day 2 Work up to 80% measure velocity and use that to determine what weight we do doubles with. The change in velocity (using PUSH band) on this lift being a good way to track improvement over the cycle.
  • Day 3 1 Rep with 10 second of time under tension. 105-115%

Cal Dietz recommends single leg safety bar squats in his program outline. Check out my post on those here.

Despite the fact we have done this before we decided not to use these for Arnolds current out of camp trainging. Athlete buy in is crucial and Arnold hates doing the split squat variation so we found a compromise that reduced the need for spotters in the hands assisted back squat.
On each rep We assist the lifter out of the hole. After each work set on triphasic days (mon, fri) we followed the squat with french contrast.

Eccentric Supramaximal Squat

Isometrics Supramaximal Squat

Back Squat Doubles 

Rest of the Workout
The rest of the UFC fighter training session involved submaximal eccentrics and Isometrics on Day 1 and Day 3. Such as eccentric/isometric Bench, Pull-ups, Rows and Romainian Deadlift all at 65-80% of 1 RM.  Day 2 is an opportunity to go heavy submaximally, so we did heavy rows and board presses for bench, all the while keeping volume low. Because supramaximal training is so punishing the athlete will want to aim for brevity with the rest of the workout.

William Wayland is a strength coach and owner of Powering Through. William works with UFC fighters and other high level athletes.