TRX athlete, UFC fighter and former Marine, the “All American” Brian Stann spared a few moments from training for his upcoming bout against Chael Sonnen at UFC 136 to talk to us about how his career has developed over the past few years, and the role TRX has played along the way.
In the last year, Stann has dropped down from the light-heavyweight division to compete as middleweight, going from 210 pounds down to 185 pounds. Known for his powerful striking (Jorge Santiago, TKO by punches; Chris Leben, TKO by punches; Steve Cantwell, TKO by knees and punches; Jeremiah Billington, TKO by punches), Stann’s weight cut could potentially come at the sacrifice of some power. However, he feels that by changing the focus of his training to incorporate more bodyweight exercise, he has maintained his power while becoming a better grappler and avoiding the kind of injuries that come with overloading.
“Traditionally, I had to work to keep weight on, which required a lot of heavy lifting,” says Stann. “What’s different now is that I dropped a lot of the heavy lifting and was able to focus that time and energy into technique, so I used bodyweight exercise to develop and maintain my strength. You can see the difference in my fights. As I was dropping weight in each fight, I’m technically more sound. Physically, I look a lot better, my flexibility sky rocketed, and I’ve been injured a lot less.” In essence, he says, “I haven’t lost any strength; I’ve just gotten smarter with my training.”
In preparation for his bout with Sonnen, Stann wanted to focus a lot on his lower body. “I wanted more leg power for this fight because I’m going to be wrestling a lot more and I’m going to be defending shots. In order to have an explosive sprawl or defend shots against the cage, you’ve got to have a lot of leg drive because guys are going to dive down at your legs. You’ve got to be able to pull them back up to your upper body on the cage.”
Stann went into this training camp with a significant foot injury, hindering his ability to do a lot of heavy free-weight lifting with his lower body. Working with TRX Head of Human Performance Chris Frankel, he was able to come up with a comprehensive system to build his strength without compromising his recovery by incorporating a lot of single leg suspended exercises like TRX Lunges and TRX Single Leg Squats, often adding a weight vest or dumbbells for increased intensity.
Stann has been using the TRX Suspension Trainer since 2007, after his second tour in Iraq. He was just starting to get really serious about his MMA career and he began running a martial arts course for Marines on base who were suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. Traditionally, Stann was a firm believer in heavy lifting but noticed that he would suffer from joint pain from loading his body so heavily which limited how frequently he was able to train. He also saw that his endurance was greatly limited. “I had great energy for a short amount of time, but for anything that lasted longer than three minutes, I needed at least a minute to recover,” an impractical type of fitness for what he, as a Marine and an MMA fighter, needed from his body.
Now Stann’s training is built around high intensity interval training in which he makes his heart-rate spike for a short period of time then performs a series of bodyweight based movements while maintaining an elevated level of exertion, mimicking the demands of the Octagon.
“In combat and in fighting, there are no timeouts. You can’t yell out the window and say, ‘Hey, excuse me, Taliban can you give me a minute? My guys need some water.’ Same thing in a fight, I can’t call timeout when there’s two minutes left in a fight and I’m getting my face punched in.”
In this sense, Stann’s training philosophy is relatively simple, “You have to train to the same standards that you are competing or you are fighting in.”