The Ultimate Fighter LIVE Week 4 – TEAM CRUZ Strength & Conditioning Coach Doug Balzarini
Article by Coach Doug Balzarini
Like the previous weeks, this week began on Monday in San Diego with my “general population” clients. This week I decided to fly back Tuesday morning so I was able to relax on Monday night and not have to sit in the car for 5 hours. The flight is relatively inexpensive so I think I’ll be taking the 1 hour flight back instead of the long drive from here on out.
I flew back Tuesday morning with Jeremy Stephens who is out in Vegas with us for his training camp. Great fighter and an even greater kid with awesome talent. After getting settled, I took the afternoon to review all the different training programs I have going on. I think it’s important to review your program design every couple weeks to make sure you are on track and make any adjustments that may be necessary. We didn’t have any filming on the TUF show so my only session was that night at Throwdown Training Center.
We have been to 4-5 different facilities since we’ve been out here and I like this one the best. For me, it has a nice variety of equipment and plenty of open space for me to work with. I had Dominick, Ross Pearson, and 6 other guys. We are outside of camp so it was “foundational strength” day meaning we worked on traditional lifts – heavy sets of deadlifts, hip thrusters, and some single-leg work for the lower body and pullups, pushups, or torso rotation work for the upper body. Dom and I got home around 9pm and I put together a salad and an omelet for dinner (love breakfast food at night!).
Wednesday started with my morning run and then I made eggs over easy with toast and fruit for breakfast. We went to the TUF set where Dom put the guys through a wrestling session while I stretched out Myles and showed him a couple mobility drills for his hips and shoulders. We went to Throwdown after the morning session and Jeremy Stephens and I went through a strength training session together. It was only Jeremy and he has excellent form so I joined him for a deadlifting and pull-up session. We worked on a lot of posterior chain strength as well as shoulder integrity and core work to finish up. The rest of the Alliance guys went through a brutal jiu-jitsu session. After those challenging sessions, I make sure I get a Vitargo shake into Dominick’s system as quickly as possible. It’s the best product on the market that I’ve found for refueling the body after a tough training.
Back on the TUF set for the 2nd session, I was in charge and put our guys through a strength training session. Here’s the basic game-plan:
DWU – foam rolling, ankle cuff work
Power – explosive medicine ball movements
Strength Complex 1 – squats, rows, abs
Strength Complex 2 – 1-leg deads, presses, abs
Finisher – 6 sets of dynamic mode sprints and heavy carries between rounds
After TUF, it was back to Throwdown to put some guys through another strength training session. I’m handling 2 (well 3 really with the TUF show) different training camps so the guys that don’t strength train with me on Tuesday & Thursday, get their workout in on Wednesday. It’s a lot to juggle because there are so many different guys here and most of them have fights at different times. After the training session, it was home at 9:30pm for dinner…wild tilapia with broccoli and sweet potato.
Wednesdays are long ones so I’m not getting my morning run in on Thursday. I slept in and made veggie omelets. At TUF we put the guys through an interval session and I included treadmills, Concept2 rowers, airdynes, and Versa-climbers. I like to mix it up with the “cardio” pieces so we are really challenging the entire body. At Throwdown, Dom and the guys sparred so I did some bag work for 20 minutes and then got my sprints in (definitely not sparring with the guys). We ran home for lunch and then back to TUF for weigh-ins for our boy Myles Jury. He had a great week and made weight without too much trouble. Back at Throwdown for the night session, most of the guys worked on technique and drilling while I put 4 guys through a strength training session. It consisted primarily of squats, pull-ups, pushups, core work, and lots of joint integrity work. We finished up with heavy sled pushes (Ross loves them).
Friday morning I skipped out on the TUF show practice to make a Whole Foods run and load up the fridge….lots of fish, chicken, veggies, and more fish oils and greens. I met the Alliance crew at Throwdown and did some wrestling drills with the team. After that, Danny Martinez and I threw our gi’s on and rolled for a bit. Mike Easton showed us a couple cool submission from the guard and then we rolled live for 10 minutes…for the record, we are tied 1 submission each. We hurried home, had some leftovers from last night for lunch, and then went to the TUF set to help Myles get ready for his tough match -up against Al Iaquinta of Team Faber.
For those that saw the fight know how close it was…split decisions are hard to swallow. An expression we use in the Team Cruz locker room is, “Embrace the war” and both guys did that tonight. Unfortunately, Myles lost the decision after going 3 hard rounds with Al. Being there live and, perhaps being a bit biased, I thought Myles took the first 2 rounds and, therefore, should have one the fight. I watched it again later that night on TV, however, and I could see how they gave Al the 2nd round despite the great take-down at the end by Myles. I gave Al the 3rd round which gave him the fight 2 rounds to 1. It was the first loss for Team Cruz and the mood in the locker room after is not something I want to get used too. Myles is a solid kid and he will definitely learn from this fight. He had never been in a 3 round war before so there are definitely some positives to take away from the night.
Since I flew to Vegas earlier in the week and rearranged my schedule, I did not have to drive (or fly) back to San Diego after the fight. It was definitely nice to just get to head back to the condo and rest up for Saturday’s training sessions.
There’s no “weekend” around here so it was right back to TUF Saturday morning for technique work and drilling with the guys. I helped out a little bit and stretched a few of the guys. We hit up Throwdown after and I put 6 guys through a metabolic circuit that included the Stroops Anaconda, partner sprint work, partner heavy medicine ball throws, and dummy ground & pound drills. Our 6th guy was Forrest Griffin who trains at Throwdown. It was my first time meeting him and he was fun to have join in. He’s a big dude for light heavyweight and super funny too. A quick shower and lunch and then it was back to TUF for wrestling drills with the guys. We left the show and then went back to the condos for a jacuzzi and a couple drinks. It was my first time in over a month having a drink (ok, maybe 3 total)…felt good to unwind and relax.
Sunday I slept in and relaxed most of the morning since there was no Alliance team training and only one TUF show session at 3pm. For that session I put the team through 3 5-minute round circuits. The five stations included:
1. Incline treadmill
2. Heavy rope work
3. Heavy dummy carries and ground & pound
4. Sled pulls
With the warm-up at the beginning and TRX ab blast at the end, the whole workout was done in 45 minutes. Short and sweet. I went back to the condo and cooked up a bunch of food and then hit the pillow by 10pm. Can’t wait to start it all again tomorrow!