UK Strength Coach, Rhys Jones Joins Us for Episode 78

In this episode:

  • Assessing New Athletes
  • Weekly Training Schedule
  • Structuring a Workout
  • Adjusting on the Fly
  • Coordinating with Other Coaches
  • Mistakes that have been made
  • and more!

Rhys is a strength coach based in Newport, Wales, UK. He works primarily with jiu jitsu and mma athletes in 1-2-1 and group sessions. Rhys currently works with some of the most successful jiu jitsu fighters from the UK such as Jamie Hughes, Lee Simpson, Ffion Davies, Bryn Jenkins and MMA prospect Mason Jones.

Stay in touch with Rhys here:

Instagram –> @arxjones

Facebook –> Rhys Jones

Full Transcription of Our Podcast with Rhys Jones

Interview with the UK Strength Coach, Rhys Jones Talking about his coaching methods

Corey Beasley [00:00:01]: Hey guys, is Corey Beasley from fight camp conditioning. And I’m on the phone here with Rhys Jones. Rhys how you doing?

Rhys Jones [00:00:08]: Yeah, I’m great. Thanks.

Corey Beasley [00:00:09]: Absolutely. And guys, Rhys is a strength and conditioning coach from the UK and he works at the Celtic Academy in Newport, South Wales and a is primarily working with a lot of jiu jitsu guys, but also just has some carry over into some other combat sports like MMA from guys that are going over that direction, but we’re super stoked to have you on Rhys. So to get everybody a little two sense of who you are and what you’re doing, where’d you get your start?

Rhys Jones [00:00:46]: Well I sort of graduate from university, ended up working in retail for a few years, strangely enough. And then yeah, that wasn’t for me. So a bit of downtime to figure out really what I wanted to do and it was a perfect opportunity to really like focus on what I wanted to do and sort of take a jump into it. So to coach it and spent training and then working with and training myself. So couple of the guys at the gym sort of getting injured and things started asking me, what can we do? So I was starting training those guys. And it just snowballed on from there really some pretty good success, individual success from those guys. So just sort of grown from that really.

Corey Beasley [00:01:35]: Now in college, what’d you study in school?

Rhys Jones [00:01:39]: I did something quite unrelated I did sound engineering, so nothing really related to your strength stuff, so I sort of just followed him from that and just did my own qualifications through there after I finished in that. So a bit unrelated.

Corey Beasley [00:01:56]: Yeah. But that happens all the time. I mean, I think, I think a lot of times for kids in school, and I don’t know about you, but when I was 18 years old, I had no idea what I wanted to do. I did quite a few change directions.

Rhys Jones [00:02:12]: Yeah. I mean, I think I just did it because I enjoyed that at the time. So I did it. And then halfway through I know this isn’t really even for me, but I just wanted to finish it. And then it took a few years to really find what I really want to do and I haven’t gone down the traditional route of sort of a university college and the new masters in sports science-based stuff. So I kind of gone about it a different way.

Corey Beasley [00:02:40]: Well that’s cool. And then how long have you been rolling jiu jitsu?

Rhys Jones [00:02:45]: Between now about three years. But it didn’t have like various martial arts, like Taekwondo and as well. But just probably going to be change jiu jitsu now. That’s really helped me like get a good understanding of what guys need kind of what they don’t need most of the time. I think it is quite a lot of that as well.

Corey Beasley [00:03:07]: Yeah, absolutely. I mean understanding the sport, the demands of the sport, what is going to take place and what everybody’s going through. I mean that helps you connect with your athletes for sure.

Rhys Jones [00:03:20]: Yeah, definitely. I mean it’s good. I think it helps buy in from the athletes. So if they asking, asking the guy to do a particular exercise and they’re like, what the hell is this? Why am I doing this? You can explain you can sort of relate it not that was like a specific exercise, but they understand that you’re asking them to do something that you know, it going to benefit them because you know the sport or which particular discipline itself. So as soon as they buy in to it as well, it does help quite a lot.

Corey Beasley [00:03:53]: So let’s just say you have a new guy that comes in, maybe buddies that you know, when you’re starting to help the guys, your rolling with, where do you kind of start when a new guy walks in the door?

Rhys Jones [00:04:06]: The first thing I do usually is, is ask them what they’re doing day to day. Because I find especially the guys who may be doing their own training and they’ve just sort of carried on what we’ve been doing since they were a teenager in the gym and they’re just doing far too much. So I try to get a grasp, an idea of what they’re doing day to day and week to week. And then generally to see how they can move, if they can squat, if they can hinge they can do a basic like deadlift, what the process is like. And then a bit of some like basic cardio tasks, but that’s it. Just super simple. We’re going to have any big stuff like find space equipment and measuring kept there. So we just have to kind of make some of the basics. And I think just to get like a really good base level understanding.

Corey Beasley [00:05:01]: Yeah. You get a good snapshot of where they’re at physically, right?

Rhys Jones [00:05:06]: Yeah. Just on that, I’m doing basic stuff and I find that the majority of the 90% of the guys come in to start camp, they can’t do a basic squat the knees all over the place and things like that. So usually they’re pretty good they understand what their body’s doing how to control themselves because they have to do that and they just spend anyway, so it takes a little bit of time just to get people on the right track and know what they need and what they don’t need. So I can build on that and then from what I can get from that first couple of sessions.

Corey Beasley [00:05:43]: Yeah. So you assess them, you get a good idea. What if that physically you get an idea of their schedule, like, how much they’re training, when they’re doing what that type of stuff. How many times a week do you typically your guys?

Rhys Jones [00:05:59]: Majority of the guys I see twice just cause like their schedule. I mean, jiu jitus is not a very well paid sport unless you’re fighting on big shows and things like that. So the guys can’t really, they have to work full time and the majority of them do, so twice as optimum for me. And then I got a couple of guys that come in three times. Most serious guys at the MMA guys can come in three times a week because they’re in a position where they can train full time and then they need to as well. So it’s sort of balancing really trying to get the best of both worlds you don’t want to push them too hard in a short time you see them, but you’re just going to get most of that time.

Corey Beasley [00:06:42]: Yeah. And from my experience, I mean I see most of my guys two days a week as well and they got two skill sessions usually every single day and I think that’s pretty common, pretty common across the board for a lot of people. So for you, are most of the guys that you’re dealing with, are they from the school where you trained personally?

Rhys Jones [00:07:14]: Yeah, the first guys that started training were, and then sort of word spread from the guys had I being training for my gym for the guys like the local guys and then there’s pretty small jiu jitsu community like where we are, so everyone kind of knows everyone, even if you with different teams in UK the same, I guess. So it kind of spread out into more sort of local guys. And then everyone sort of speaks to you over the competition. So I ended up branching out a little bit and just sort of doing a bit of programming for some other guys who when you, I could trust you when you would be sticking to that program as well that’s gone quite well as well.

Corey Beasley [00:07:57]: That’s good. I mean, it’s cool that the community is open enough. I mean because this niche, this world is very small it’s pretty tiny. But cool that people are open, that you’ve had an experience where people are pretty open to what you’re doing. Have the head coaches, the skill coaches has been pretty open and communicating with you?

Rhys Jones [00:08:24]: Yeah, I really lucky with that. And I mean the coaches have been really good with that because they know that we can almost sort of to trust me to not be slugging the guys not to hammering them. So they go into their skill sessions or their heavy sparring sessions and they’re already dead from doing a hard gym session. So we kind of buildup that trust and relationship that way. And then the guys all see you’ve got a couple more coaches to sort of communicate. But then I just think really lucky with them. So the boxing coach that one of the guys of primary team Mason is coach boxing coach is really open minded, our jiu jitsu coach, really open-minded back. So we were quite lucky with that, the coaches are buying in as well. And I think just on the communication, it’s not thinking those guys they don’t know what they’re doing and they don’t understand the gym. So it’s just sort of getting away from that attitude really, and to really speak into each other. It just is a quick text or a quick email or a quick phone call. They know how are they looking in training and are they tired? And so we can adjust it or redefine or they need to work on this specific area. So it’s good. I think that it’s just something simple that can make a huge difference.

Corey Beasley [00:09:47]: Very cool. Now from your experience, when you’re working with a lot of these guys, are there any common mistakes or things that you’ve had to adjust for guys pretty consistently with all the different people you work with?

Rhys Jones [00:10:02]: Yeah, I think with everyone would be workload. I think everyone does. So it comes in and they say, I’m doing four sessions a day, five sessions, some of them. So that’s the big common thing. Everyone does too much initially and then you just see everything dropping off and then not sort of like finding people to getting injuries and little niggles and then there’s little niggles don’t have to go away. So I think that that’s always been the biggest struggle for me if a new guy comes in as the three to understand that you can’t be doing four, five sessions flat out full every day, they need to be balancing them. So just getting across in that they need that viewing the intensity every day and having a rest.

Corey Beasley [00:10:50]: From your experience, what are some ways that you’ve communicated with your guys to get them to not do that? What are some tricks or ideas that you’ve had that have helped them kind of understand like two sessions a day is plenty, right?

Rhys Jones [00:11:09]: Yeah. I mean, when they come in, it’s sort of like their diary and almost sort of color code is to a sense of that, like aspiring session is going to be red and then if a drill session might be little orange just sort of intensity levels and you can say, look, all this is red or this is too high, you’ve got nothing, like they look at and go, Oh yeah, I’m in the red zone far too often. So we kind of use that as like a time point. And that really helped. So then we can plan it together. I mean for me to just say like, you need to do this and this, and to send it off to them and say you have to stick to it, they’re just going to look and say I can’t do that. So I always tried to work with them to try and compromise as well to find the best schedule for them so they can buy in to it as well.

Corey Beasley [00:12:09]: All right, well that’s good. I mean, I’ve heard quite a few people talking about that just using a simple color code system. It’s not as simple as a good visual. But you do, if you lay out a whole week and you have red, yellow and green, it’s pretty damn easy to see like where you’re hitting it hard where you’re recovering, where you’re doing all these different things and you’d get a snapshot. I think that’s very smart to do.

Rhys Jones [00:12:40]: Yeah. I mean that’s one of the biggest things that work and got that from a friend who is a football coach. So that really helped. And working with the guys that’s one of the main things as well. So they know I’m not just telling them what to do and I’m really getting their feedback as well. So I’m listening to them, not just telling them what to do.

Corey Beasley [00:13:04]: Nice. So on a typical week you see in these guys twice a week what’s a week look like, guys come in and see you, what happens?

Rhys Jones [00:13:14]: Yeah, everyone do like a basic warm up. We do always try to start off with a little bit rolling, depends on what they’ve done and some of them come straight from a skill session. So it pretty warmed up anyway. So we try not to go too mad on that. But it depends on what they’ve done previously helped what they’re going to do afterwards with sort of what we did warm up wise. And then, I’ve always got a program written out for them so I know what we’re doing each session. So we’re going through that depending on what they need to do. But it’s always just the case if I’ve a sort of a plan B, just a session, because sometimes the guys say, I forgot to tell you. I ended up doing an aspiring session this morning and they come in to their left hand and they got a few black eyes and things of that sort of like we can’t do that the session we plan was too hard for today. So just having a lot of plan B as well helps. So just following the program, what we’ve written up.

Corey Beasley [00:14:18]: Cool. I mean it’s a now the type of work that you’re doing with your guys, I mean from a training perspective, are you primarily working on certain guys are you working on endurance other guys, strength, power development? I mean, what kind of tools and stuff like that are you using when you’re in the gym?

Rhys Jones [00:14:40]: Yeah. I’m just sort of go from what we do and we usually chat about what each person needs specifically and when a guy’s line and start working with these super. But he hasn’t been able to keep it up through the running. So that’s something we’ve been working on a lot is that endurance, being able to keep that power going into the third round if it gets tougher. And I find like everyone has something slightly different, but I generally go of I been using a basic plan and then use in the second half of the session to really focus on what they need and whether it be a specific injury prevention or if a specific area they need to work on. But between basic trophies program.

Corey Beasley [00:15:33]: I had talked to a Cal and it must’ve been a year ago I think He’s such a nice guy.

Rhys Jones [00:15:45]: Yeah. I mean much great information from him and he’s really good at also putting a lot of information out there and then picked up loads of stuff from reading William stuff. I got a friend who works out in Sweden with a soccer football team and he uses that a lot with his team there. Mark Reed, he’s using that with his Academy team and it’s like really good I think for combat athletes it’s so good because it just builds that robustness and really just solid base I think. And then it just allows you to go off and do so many different things if it’s just needed.

Corey Beasley [00:16:28]: Yeah, absolutely. Just build that foundation and guys are just, they’re strong head to toe?

Rhys Jones [00:16:34]: Yeah, absolutely. And a bit mental as well, if you’re at the bottom of the squat or you’ve got to high up on the top of a poll up for six seconds on your face, it’s tough to build a mental strength as well for them I think.

Corey Beasley [00:16:51]: Yeah. I remember Cal saying he’s got guys that do like safety bar, split squat, they use centric safety bar split-squad and he has guys that are doing it with like 550 pounds it’s a huge load just to have on your shoulders for a young kid that playing hockey or whatever.

Rhys Jones [00:17:15]: Yeah. I mean that’s the good thing about it as well that I like using this as a basis that you can play with it in so many different ways. I tried to do it with some quite low impact exercises and try not to get a bar in the back if we can help it. They’re doing something like a squat instead or just an alternative. Just because I think if they got a 200 pound guy on their back and trainers national day and the last thing they want to do is come and have to some heavy squats with the bar on their back for example. So I try to keep it quite low impact exercises I think that helps as well, but just keeping the intensity down but still getting a good, really good sort of reward from it. So like the risk of award benefits are quite good that way.

Corey Beasley [00:18:07]: Yeah. You’re stimulating the system but you’re not annihilate and I take a beating on the mat all day anyway. Now for jiu jitsu guys, I know it’s very popular to do a lot of specific things. Sports specific things that look like what they’re doing on the mat and stuff like that. How do you address that with a lot of your guys and is there anything that you do specific for jiu jitsu guys? As they kind of are preparing or leading into a competition or anything like that?

Rhys Jones [00:18:40]: Yeah, in front of guys, everyone sort of comes and they sort of seen this either they replicates the jiu jitus movement with weights and not a massive fan of it because I think they’re doing that maybe a hundred X amount of times in a fashion anyway, and then they don’t need to come to me and do that they need to learn that from the black belts, so they come to meet to the inner progressed on their strengths. I try to get exercise that relate to jiu jitus but not too closely. I mean, I think this is better ways of building strength for them, but maybe getting the most specific we might do would be like putting sprawls in an intervals on sort of sled sprint, things like that. That’s the most I wouldn’t replicate jiu jitus technique for example. But they find that they always kind of want to do that. I think at first because it makes sense for someone who sort of trains that think, Oh, that makes sense to do that. I could do a specific exercise with weights because we’ll get back to that exercise. So I usually use the analogy of sort of sprint, it was a study back in the 90s where sprint as well, you an ankle weights and then they started adapting the technique to run with the ankle weights. So when they take the ankle weights off, their normal running techniques has gone right. It’s going all over the place and they’ve then they ended up slowing down. So when they finally associated that they think, yeah, okay. And that kind of makes sense. So that just you spools and things like that. But I think I use a lot holds like hold at the top of pull-ups or things like that process that kind of just replicates it a little bit of just getting that blood flow in their arms that you get when you’re trying to hang on to a choke or your arms.

Corey Beasley [00:20:49]: Right. Isometrics. All those isometrics are killer. They’re so good.

Rhys Jones [00:20:54]: Yeah, absolutely. I think you’ve sort of shared stuff with that where you’re doing like [Inaudible 00:21:00] I love using that kind of stuff and I thought that works. Like it’s such a huge thing in jiu jitus and MMA as well. It’s grip strength.

Corey Beasley [00:21:16]: Yeah, absolutely. Just a grip strength and endurance to be able to hold over time is tough, especially when your heart’s beating the harder your heartbeat and the harder it is to hold on.

Rhys Jones [00:21:25]: Absolutely. Yeah. Especially like towards the end of the round or the end of fighters, if you can choke, I mean the difference of being held the hang on those few seconds can mean the difference between winning and losing a fight. So I think that’s quite important. We just had that actually with one of the girls in training and she just fought in EBI last night and a bit late notices, we’ve got two weeks’ notice. So we had to sort of change our program really quick and we did load the time holds and grip stuff. So anticipating and hoping she was going to get to the final and if she had to do some overtime runs where she’s trying to squeeze a choke in at the end or trying to pull the arm up from the arm bar from the spider cage position. So we did quite a lot with that foot with her for the short time we had to prepare for it. I mean that helped because again like this low impact you’re not going to come out of the session too subtle. But that really helped with them with preparation for that.

Corey Beasley [00:22:38]: Cool. Now those guys are getting ready for a competition. I mean, I know like you just said, two week call to get last minute notice and stuff like that it happens. There’s really not much we can do about it hopefully that athletes is consistent over time and then when they do get a call, it’s not such a big shock or overwhelming that they have to get in shape. They’re already in shape, they just need to fine tune some things. As you are fine tuning for an event, whether it’s jiu jitsu, MMA or anything like that what are the last couple of weeks look like? Are you changing things up or staying pretty much the same?

Rhys Jones [00:23:17]: Yeah, we try to keep them generally the same, but so just start changing. So one session at a time or we just try to keep, if you’re doing sort of like a strength session and try to keep the same exercises all the way through the camp, the last few weeks and then start shortening the rest periods so that’s the variable, that’s the progression rather than increase in load or increase in reps. So the almost know it can come in, they know what session they’re doing, they can just get in, switch on and they know each week there’s the recipe of initial warning that’s happening prepared and the competition in that way. So it’s keeping it low impact and they know they’re not a hundred keep pushing heavy weights all the time. And then it depends on if they’ve got to come in the same day as aspiring session. Then just sensing a bit more of a recovery based session. I’m quite lucky we’ve got access to a nice swimming pool we can use swimming sessions as again like a low impact session. So that’s worked really well is I’ve quite lucky in that sense.

Corey Beasley [00:24:33]: Yeah. Having that pool is gold. I mean that’s a huge deal for a lot of these guys because they just so banged up just no intensity at all.

Rhys Jones [00:24:42]: Yeah, it’s great. I mean I think it’s the sort of classic things, especially with like with boxers that they have to be out on the road, have to be out running and again, like this impact is pound in the legs all the time when they didn’t really need to be doing that, perhaps not everyone’s obviously got access to a pool like that, but we’re fortunate enough where we can use that and we’ve got real saunas and things like that there. So that’s pretty good for our recovery. And we can, yeah, we can use the pool is instead of running out and doing 5K or however many miles, it’s sort of stuck in in mind that you have to be on the road doing, working hard. So doing those school sessions, it has really helped.

Corey Beasley [00:25:28]: Very cool. Well, Rhys, it sounds like you’ve got a good thing going over there. If people wanted to reach out, learn more about what you got what’s the best way for them to do that?

Rhys Jones [00:25:40]: Get me on either on Instagram my usernames @arxjones, or alternatively, I got a page strength or jiu jitsu or just send me an email Rhys.Jones and especially if you’re holding of me.

Corey Beasley [00:26:02]: Cool. Awesome. Well, thanks again. I really appreciate you sharing with us and talking and stuff like that. And we look forward to hearing you, hearing from you again very soon.

Rhys Jones [00:26:13]: Yeah. Thanks I really appreciate it.