Episode #10: A Talk with Ovince Saint Preux’s Strength and Conditioning Coach, Nate Hoffmeister

This weekend, Ovince St Preux takes on Ryan Bader at the UFC Fight Night in Maine.

Ovince is a strong, powerful athlete and is riding a win streak that has landed him in the top 10.

Nathan Hoffmeister was kind enough to talk with us and share some of his tactics, tips and tricks for preparing his athletes.

Click Below to listen to our full interview


Download the full podcast here: Interview with Nathan Hoffmeister

In this interview we discuss:

  • How to add strength and conditioning into an mma training program
  • Pillars of a good strength plan
  • Mistakes that fighters typically make
  • Addressing weaknesses
  • Developing strengths
  • How and when to recover during the week
  • Feathering into a fight
  • and more

This is a big fight for Nate, Ovince and their whole team, so wish them luck and we will all be watching Saturday night.

If you’d like to connect with Nate, you can find him on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.


Full Transcription of Our Podcast with Nathan Hoffmeister

COREY:         Hey guys, this is Corey Beasley with Fight Camp Conditioning and I’m on the phone with Nate Hoffmeister. Nate, how’re you doing?

NATE:            Doing good, how are you?

COREY:         Yeah man, thanks so much for taking the time to talk with us. Guys, Nate is out in Bangor, Maine right now for the UFC Fight Night. Nate trains Ovince Saint Preux and he is fighting Ryan Baderthis weekend. So it’s got to be a pretty exciting week, han?

NATE:            Oh yes, it’s nerve wracking but these are always exciting times for me and my guys.

COREY:         Absolutely. It’s a fun time to be out of those things. Nate just for everybody that’s listening, whether you guys know, you guys have been following Nate or no, some of the stuff that he’s doing but Nate is the strength coach out there. And give them a little background on who you are and where you’re at, what you got going on.

NATE:            I’m a strength coach in Knoxville, Tennessee. Started training. I got my degree in kinesiologyso my background is in Exercise Science. Trained athletes since I graduated college, kind of got into the fight game about four or five years ago. Ovincewas one of my first guys that I got here. He was actually 4-4 when I got him in and now we’re 16-5 fighting in the main event, Saturday night. I’ve been able to work with him and then I’ve had another UFC guy Rafaello Oliveira. And actually as of today, I have my new assigneeScott Holtzman who was the XFC 155 champ just got signed for 4-5 deal. So got three guys that I’ve worked with in the UFC and hopefully we’ll start seeing some more.


COREY:         Very cool man, that’s exciting. So just to give everybody kind of an overview on what you guys are doing; I mean, we were talking a little bit before we got on here just about like the game plan and the attack and mixed martial arts and jiu-jitsu and all this different stuff and how that kind of integrates with the strength and conditioning world. And I know that you had a few things that you’ve been talking about some of the mistakes that you see guys making, not only just in the UFC but in a lot of the seeder fights and things that are going on in your local area. Do you want to talk about some of those things?

NATE:            Yeah. Probably one of the biggest things that I’ve noticed — because I have guys that I’ve worked that I have their amateur always up to the UFC that when I go to these mid level shows or regional shows, it’s just the lack of time that I guess fighters put in the weight room. I watch some of these guys that are pretty good strikers, they got good grappling, they got good jiu-jitsu, good ground game, stand up game, they got that part of the skill but when you look at them physically, there’s no muscle mass, there’s no lean muscle, there’s nothing there, you wonder how many of these punches and kicks and things coming from them if there were some power behind them, how much better than athlete they would be? So those are some of the things that I have found to be kind of quite intriguing, is the lack of the emphasis on strength part of mixed martial arts, especially in those beginning levels.


Now you get to the guys that obviously like Ovince and some of them — even Jon Jones, all the big guys they all have their gambit up and to that point, like I said Ovince was four and four we were fighting and I think the first year I [inaudible] think we fought 10 times, we were all around. But we still found time and he actually just did an interview the other day and saying one of the biggest things that changed his career was being able to have a full time strength coach. A little background on Ovince is he was a college football player at University of Tennessee. So he’s been in the weight room, but it wasn’t tailored towards mixed martial arts. It was just in the weight room, if that makes sense.

So you got that part and you got guys who try to train like bodybuilders, who put on all this lean muscle but there’s no flexibility in there and then you have that part of mixed martial arts that I found. So it’s trying to find that balance to be able to build off your strength of what you possess as a fighter but then also integrate the other parts of the strength and conditioning part just to kind of make the total package.


COREY:         Awesome. So Nate, when a guy comes to you, you got a new fighter that has come in and he’s looking to get an edge on a competition. He walks and he says, all right Nate, you’re the man in the area. I want to talk to you, you got to help me. Where do you start?

NATE:            You know, usually I throw them in with some of my guys. There’s two things I do. I throw them in, I want to see if they’re going to quit or not because if I’m going to invest my time in them I need them to invest their time in me. At that point, I don’t really care where their skill level is as a fighter, if they can make money, if they can’t make money. It’s do they really want this? Because this is a tough game. It’s not like any other sport. You play basketball or any other sport you get crossed over you make a mistake, you make a mistake in mixed martial arts, you may be going to sleep some way. So I get to find their heart and see how much they’re willing to invest because, honestly, the training part I think is the hardest part. It’s mentally fatiguing as much as physically fatiguing.

Then I have to see – [inaudible] part is what is their commitment levelto train. If you’re only going to train one day a week or every other week, I question that because the more time you put in, that’s how you’re going to build as a fighter.

COREY:         Yeah, they got to be consistent over a long period of time to make some progress.

NATE:            Right.


COREY:         So when you are working with your guys and you’re trying to build that strength and you talked a little bit about flexibility and mobility, different things like that, what are some of the big pillars of your program that you’re using with your guys. I mean, if a guy comes in and he has played football before and he’s explosive and he got that 10 yards in [incomprehensible] power, what else are you looking for with your guys? I mean, you start from mobility, flexibility, strength, what are some key points that you’re working with?

NATE:            Usually, I wouldn’t call an interview but most of my guys are — such family because you spend so much time with us, so I try to get to know them on their level. So I’ll talk with their coach and I’ll talk with them individually, where your weakness is, what in the past has been something that has hurt you; for example, when I got Ovince, cardio was his biggest thing. I mean, he’s powerful. We’ve [inaudible] him on the VL to max, his power output 98 percentile, he’s up there in that part, but we’re lacking in other aspects. So that’s where we were.

So I’ll find out what their weaknesses were because those are what I want to bring up. The second thing is, then I need to know what their most important part of the game is. So like for Ovince’s, one of his big attributes is his power. So I want to keep keying on those things that make him who he is and makes him unique but while trying to build up the other things. And now we’ve gotten to the point, like with my professional guys, now we start looking at the little bitty things, what can I do that makes you just 3% better than the guy you’re fighting? Because that 3% maybe what changes the outcome of the fight. So, is it mobility? Is it flexibility? Is it stability?

So then we start adding in bounce stuff. We start using the agility drillsand stuff more for just footwork but for other things, reaction type stuff, tennis ball type stuff. If we’re tight in the hips and the glutes and some of those parts, well, if we can unlock that area, well then we might be able to produce more power. So if we’re already in that 98th percentile in power but we can unlock more, what type of creation and beast could he be at that point by just being 5% more powerful.

So those are some of the things that once we kind of get the overall of when we are weak, I got weak upper body I got strong lower body, I’m not very explosive, those types of things, then we start — one of the big things I do every workout is neck, the stability of the neck, maybe it comes from playing football I know for him, but having that strong neck stabilizes the head so if we can stabilize it a little bit more and we get rocked with opponents and bring that mile around maybe that’s the little bit of a change of getting a flash knockout or knockout at that point and still be able to be in the game. So it’s little things I think you go from the big and then you kind of follow in with those little ones.


COREY:         Right on. You were also talking about people training like a bodybuilder, boxer different things versus training specifically for their sport, whether it be mixed martial arts or jiu-jitsu or wrestling or boxing or whatever it is. When a guy comes through, how do you kind of determine what they’re doing specific for their sport versus general strength and conditioning? How do you kind of work that?

NATE:            All sport I think comes down to speed, power and strength. So there is some common things that the different sports have but — you take a boxer for example, both MMA guy and a boxer are going to punch but the boxing guy stays on his feet the whole time. The MMA guy is up, down, on his back, on his stomach, it’s all over. So being able to train the systems in the bodies to do that type of thing, bodybuilding, everybody wants to go for the lean muscle, the big muscle, but are we gonna be able to move at that point? So I think it’s just understanding the game and understanding that every athlete is different and just kind of trying to build him from that.


COREY:         Right on. Yeah, I mean you got to take a look at the guy standing in front of you how they move, what are their strengths, what are their weaknesses, what are their goals, how long do you have to work with them, all that type of stuff comes into play, han?

NATE:            Right. I mean, I may get a guy that we’re trying to go to a lower weight class or say so I got a 185er who’s shorter [incomprehensible] have as long as reach really needs to be able to 170 but that’s not really — but he also lacks in strength because this actually is one of the guy that I actually worked with recently, he had both of those things. So how do we balance getting him stronger without adding too much lean muscle to where he can’t make 170?

So I mean, it’s a huge — then you got to start playing with diet, you got to start playing – but we need to make sure that he has enough ability to go three rounds. So now at some point cardiohas to come in it. So you have all these different things that you’re trying to juggle in, one athlete be able to compete in the best weight class possible for him. And sometimes you get it right and sometimes you got to go back and say, hey this didn’t work.


COREY:         I know, Nate, maybe you can give somebody some insight. I know these days there’s a lot of talk between doing strength work and getting guys strong and then also developing enough cardio or their gas tank to be able to maintain intensity for those three rounds or five rounds or whatever it may be. Right?

NATE:            Correct.

COREY:         In planning a program or planning your week or planning your fight camp for your guys, how do you differentiate or incorporate both Strength and Conditioning for your guys?

NATE:            Well, depending on how far out we got, typically you usually find out fights 8 to 10 weeks down in advance. For just coming off a fight, I like to try to keep my guys about 80%. That’s where I want them to be cardiovascular wise. That way, if we get a short notice fight or something like that, then we’re not having to start at Ground Zero. But if we have eight weeks then, for like Ovince, the first couple of about three or four weeks, we can focus a lot on strength three days a week, two days of cardio. You also got to remember that he can still be in boxing class, he may be boxing, he may be doing some type of jiu-jitsu. So he’s going to have other workouts throughout the week.

As we get closer to fight time, if cardio is something that we’re trying to bring up, then that’s going to intensify, and to lay that out in your plan, we may lift on a Monday for Ovince he loves to lift that’s his favorite thing to do. So we start the week off right, let him go and swing some weight around and kind of set the bar for the rest of week.


Tuesday’s a hard day at the end of [incomprehensible] so we have more maybe a recovery, longer duration. Wednesday he’s off from the MMA gym. So that’s our balls to the wall. We’re going to get after it, it may be circuits, it maybe prowlers, it may just be whatever I want to throw out in that day because it may be as much physical demanding as it is mentally. I know there’s one workout we had not too long ago he said he came in, he solely did the board and he just shook his head and in seven rounds or something he knew he was gonna suck but he’s like, it’s just part of it. So as much mentally that day that it was physically. Then we come back, we’ll throw another day of lifting in and then have another cardio day maybe on a Friday, and then depending how far we are from fight time, we may add a Saturday recovery day back in.

So it’s all kind of how I lay out. Now that all I’ll change it sometimes as we start getting closer to fight, you start getting banged up, you start getting tired. So, I’m a big proponent of rest. So you got to figure out, all right, we’re two weeks away, if I’ll push him in the weight room, if he gets 5%, 10% better, but it could be a risk of injury or stronger but it’d be a risk of injury, is that much beneficial to the fight that’s coming up? I think there comes a point to where you put in all the work you can if you’re a week or two out, there’s not going to be much significant increase. So at that point, we got to look for safety. I want him going in as healthy as he possibly can, with as few injuries as possible so that way, he’s as close to 100% as he possibly could be when he steps in that cage on that night.


COREY:         Right on. Yeah that’s good advice. I think the rest portion and then varying intensities throughout the week so that guys are prepared, they’re healthy, they’re strong, they’re not overtraining, I think that’s a big piece of the puzzle that a lot of guys are missing these days for sure.

NATE:            Yeah, we got out of the camp. We got out of a fight we find you come back on — that was on a Saturday, flew back on Sunday and Monday morning, we get a phone call, Tuesday we’re signing a contract. We literally went from eight week camp fight back into an eight week camp. So I mean, you got 16 weeks of banging, there’s going to be something that’s going to be nicked up.

So I tell him all the time, actually, I actually saw Ovince the other day and he was with me and he actually made the comment that I know his body almost better than he knows his body just because of how much time I spend with him. I can tell when he walks in at the end of the day if we need to change it completely. Or if I had to say hey, look, we’re just going through a lot of mobility stuff today because your body just can’t handle, you need rest because if not we’re gonna break it down.

So for three weeks out we over-train and now we’re set back two weeks, that’s not gonna be beneficial, by the time he recovers he’s the week before the fight. So I agree, the rest portion of the fight game is crucial. And I’ve seen it guys who think they have to train, train, train, train all the time because that’s what’s going to get them to the top. Yes, but then there comes a point to where that becomes detrimental.


COREY:        Yeah, absolutely. So speaking of that, you’re out in Bangor Maine right now and it’s Thursday. When do you guys weigh-in?

NATE:            We weigh-in tomorrow about 4:00 or 4:30.

COREY:         Cool. So give everybody that’s listening. So you flew out there, the UFC Fight Night, it’s a big deal, it’s a huge event, a lot of guys all over the world dream of being in the position that you’re in right now. Ovince is like — the guys fighting in the UFC and Bellator and all these different big time shows, I mean that’s the cream of the crop. And for every one guy that’s in that UFC there’s probably, who knows 10,000 other guys that are out there training their butts off trying to get to that place. So can you give everybody an idea like you guys flew out on what day?


NATE:            Actually I flew in today. My fighter flew in on Tuesday. And since for the main event, it’s just been media frenzy the whole time we’ve been out here. Yesterday I think they start at nine in the morning, they got 9:11pm last night from this phone calls and having to be places. Today I flew in, it’s pretty cool you get picked up by the UFC, you’re either in a black Cadillac or a limo like today we got in a black Mercedes to take us to here. So that’s pretty unique. And you go to the hotel, they always have the nicest places to stay and then you walk in and there’s just people everywhere that want autographs. So he’s [incomprehensible] done actually. When I got here, he had just come back from the University of Maine and he had done a q&a with the football team there at University of Maine which is really cool. Came back, we hung out for about an hour and then it was open workout time.

So we actually just got done with open workouts. He’s on weight right now, so that’s good. One of the unique things that our team does, everybody does everything together. So if Ovince doesn’t eat, I don’t eat. So when we cut weight we cut our weight together and it’s just that camaraderie, that brotherhood, this family atmosphere that when weight cuts really suck then everybody’s like cutting together so everybody understands the grind of it.


So we’ll go to bed tonight, wake up tomorrow, hopefully we’ll be 210 or under, have to cut five pounds and it’d be an easier weight cut force, there’s been times that have come in or guys have come in 20 pounds and you drink green tea the whole time. That’s it. But it’s pretty unqiue, I mean, it’s a definitely unique experience. And this town where the main event is, there’s posters everywhere, there’s his faces everywhere, everybody wants to be around him. So definitely this one is by far one of the coolest ones we’ve had.

COREY:         Very cool man. That’s exciting, man. It’s a cool position that you guys are in. I hope you guys enjoy it.

NATE:            Well, thanks. I appreciate it.

COREY:         And Nate, the fight is on Saturday, correct?

NATE:            Yes. Saturday night starts at 10pm Eastern on Fox Sports Oneso it’s a free one. So if anybody’s got cable, over the app, you can get the Fox Sports Go appon iPads, whatever log on you can catch a fight pass if you got fight pass you better see some interviews and some behind the scene things that are going on up here. So there’s an opportunity for this hit the mass market that people kind of get to see the inside world of what we do behind the scenes and also the fight that is coming up.

COREY:         Very cool man. Well, thanks again so much for taking the time to talk with us and share some of your knowledge and kind of the behind the scenes look. And we’ll all be watching on Saturday. We wish you the best bro.

NATE:            Thank you. Thanks for the opportunity.

COREY:         Later bud, have a good day.

NATE:            Thanks, you too.