The Ultimate Fighter LIVE Week 8 – TEAM CRUZ Strength & Conditioning Coach Doug Balzarini

Week 8 started a little rough…we woke up with no running water on Sunday morning. Pipes burst in the complex so we were shower-less for the day. With no practices scheduled in the morning, I worked on my computer and finished up an article for EliteFTS on “playground training”…hoping it will be published in the coming weeks. Dom and I ran to the TUF set to use their shower and then we met up with our Team Cruz athletes at a neighborhood park for a cookout. I mentioned last week that we were giving the guys a few extra days off this week since their bodies badly needed a break. Team chef, Chris Tickle, cooked up a feast and the rest of the team and coaching staff hung out, threw a ball around, and relaxed. The highlight of the cookout was the intense battles of “21″ that took place between myself, Dominick, and 6′ 3″ athlete James Vick. The big Texan played some JuCo ball and it showed in the first game…he put a butt-kicking on us. Game 2 was another battle, however, and I squeaked out a tough one. We thought about a 3rd game, but it was literally 100 degrees out in Vegas that day so 45 minutes of running around was enough for the three of us. I should add that while the Bantamweight Champ didn’t win either game, he can ball. If next week’s “Coaches Challenge” for the TUF show is hoops, Faber will be in trouble for sure.

After the cookout, I hung out in the complex pool for my “shower” since we still didn’t have any water.

Monday morning omelets kicked off the day (after a shower…water was fixed), and then off to TUF practice. Dom showed the guys some cage-control techniques and they drilled for about 90 minutes.

At the morning team practice at Throwdown, I warmed up with the guys…3 5-minute rounds of shadow boxing. This warm-up could easily be someone’s workout. The guys drilled while I did deadlifts and presses. Lunch at home was grilled chicken and veggies and then back to TUF for the afternoon session. We changed up their schedule a bit so I put them through a strength & conditioning session tonight. My plan was first 1/2 strength, second 1/2 conditioning. The session went something like this:

Dynamic Warm-Up with shoulder mobility and glute activation work

Round 1 (strength): Lateral Plyos –> Front Squats –> Hip Thrusters

Round 2 (strength): High-Rep Pullups –> Stability Ball Pushups –> TRX abs

Round 3 (conditioning): Incline Treadmill –> Weighted Tire Push

Round 4 (conditioning): Airdyne Sprints –> SuperBand Snapdowns

It may look like a lot on paper, however, we were in and out in under an hour. We ran home to eat and then back to Throwdown for the night training. Most of the guys were hitting pads and/or doing bag-work. I brought my gi and had the opportunity to roll with Wilson Reis. He’s a long-time black belt and I’m a bright white belt…needless to say, the 60 minute session was not pretty. Not only did I not score a single point, I never even came close to passing his guard…well, maybe one time. He may tell you differently though. It was one of the hardest sessions I’ve had out here to date. I loved it and hated it at the same time. Wilson is a great teacher too and showed me a lot of fundamentals that I need to start working on. I crawled home, showered, and went to bed….too tired to eat.

Tuesday has no TUF sessions so I made a morning Whole Foods run and then met up with the team at the TUF set for a sparring session. The UFC wanted to film Dom and the team training so that’s why we went to their facility and not Throwdown today. I did treadmill sprints and stretched while they had a great sparring session. It’s always awesome getting a front row seat to these sparring sessions. I get to watch UFC athletes Dom, Jeremy Stephens, Ross Pearson, and a bunch of other animals go at it each and every day….love me job. The afternoon had me back at the pool for an hour or so reading some more “Easy Strength”. I hope to finish it up by next week. The night Throwdown strength training session included Forrest, Mark Ellis, and a couple other guys. It was a squat and pull-up focus tonight. Dom and I made it back to the condo around 8:30 and I cooked up some steaks and a big salad for dinner.

SalmonWednesday morning’s TUF session was sparring. Sparring sessions are fun for me because I get to watch, listen, and learn from the other coaches on our Team Cruz staff. Another solid training session in the books…we left and the guys went to Throwdown for a wrestling practice. I’m personally taking the day off so I just did 10 minutes of mobility work and watched the practice. We ran home for lunch, and then back to TUF for an afternoon wrestling session. Another quick turnaround and we were back at Throwdown for a strength session with a group of guys. This wasn’t the same group as the guys I trained on Tuesday night so there were a couple repeats movements…the primary lifts were shoulder mobility drills, deadlifts, pullups, and heavy carries. Dinner was some salmon, potatoes, and veggies, and then I worked on some program writing for the rest of the night.

Thursday started with big old omelets and then it was on to TUF for morning sprint work. Our fighter for the week, Sam Sicilia, was already on weight for his big fight Friday night. Sam is one of our hardest workers and definitely one of my favorites on the team (have I said that about every one of our guys?!). At Throwdown, the team boxed and I worked out with Colleen Schneider, a female MMA athlete who trains at Throwdown. We worked on squats and pullups, and then did a bunch of partner sprints as a finisher.

Back at TUF, the fighters, Sam and his opponent, Chris Saunders, weighed in (both at 155), and then Team Cruz drilled for 90 minutes. After practice, we were back to Throwdown for session #2 of the day. I rolled with Wilson again and only lasted about 45 minutes this time.

Wilson Reis and Doug BalzariniI tweaked an oblique muscle trying to hip escape during a scramble. The hip escape was unsuccessful and my oblique is still bothering me as I type this (5 days later). I must have pulled it pretty good. At home that night I iced up quite a bit and went to bed.

Friday – Fight day!! It’s so sweet to have prime seats to a UFC event every single week! I’m so appreciative of this opportunity out here. The morning TUF practice was drilling for the team and eating for Sam! It’s always funny to see how much weight the guys put back on after weigh-ins. Sam looked good and was ready to rumble. At Throwdown, the guys grappled and I did a real light workout…my oblique was really bothering me was I wanted to take it easy. My plan is to actually take the next 3 days off completely to try and rest it up. I’ll be home in San Diego training clients and running around so it will give me some much needed rest.

In the Team Cruz locker room, Sam seemed calm and confident. I stretched him out, he hit pads with Coach Eric, and worked on some ground techniques with Wilson. They called us in and it was go time!

Sam SiciliaThe next 10 minutes were a war. Saunders earned a lot of respect from me…I thought Sam was going to walk through this guy, definitely not the case. Saunders took the first round in a big way. He connected on a solid leg kick that would have had me still on the ground today. Sam recovered from it and actually pushed the action. Sam dropped Saunders in the second and I thought he easily won round 2. Unfortunately, as the sign above the locker room door states, “Never leave it in the hands of the judges”. They awarded a split decision to Saunders. I’ve re-watched every fight so far this season and I’ve agreed with every decision the judges have made; except this one….definitely felt it should have gone to a third round. It is what it is. The two guys put on a hell of a fight…and Saunders got the better of it tonight. I hate leaving the locker room after a loss, but I had to catch a flight home. I gave Sam a hug and told him to keep his head up high…he should be proud of his performance.

The weekend back home was busy. Saturday started with clients in the morning and afternoon and then I finally got to spend some time with my better half. We went to dinner and then caught a Cirque du Soleil show, Totem, at the Del Mar Fairgrounds.

Cirque du Soleil TotemI’ve seen about 10 Cirque shows and they always deliver for me. I am always so impressed and amazed at what the human body is capable of. Truly awesome stuff. If you’ve never seen a Cirque show, do it!

Sunday started with more clients and then brunch at one of my favorite spots in town, The Naked Cafe. After brunch, we hung out in Solana Beach for a little bit and then checked out a possible new condo in Carmel Valley. We are looking to move this year and the Carmel Valley area is #1 on the list. Rest and relaxation for the rest of the day.

Another busy week ahead…details coming soon. Keep rooting for Team Cruz! We need the Wolverine to win this one so we can tie things up 4-4!

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