UFC 130 Training Camp: An Inside Look

Time Boetch UFC 130 Training Camp

Graph of heart rate variability data for week one of UFC 130 training camp

In this article series, I’m going to be providing an inside look at a component of training that is one of the most often neglected: program management. All too often, people write programs and then mechanically work their way through them without every really managing the process.

A training program is only as effective as an athlete or individual’s ability to respond positively to it and to ensure this happens, a great deal of management should take place. By giving you a look at Tim Boetsch’s training camp for his upcoming fight against Kendall Grove in UFC 130, you’re going to get to see exactly how I manage the many complex variables of training to produce the most effective results.

The way I’m going to show you how I manage training programs is by providing you with a weekly snapshot of the previous week’s training measurements using heart rate variability, along with a discussion of the results and their impact on the following week of training. To my knowledge, nobody has ever shown the heart rate variability response during a UFC training camp so this should be quite interesting for most people to see.

In case you’re unaware of exactly what heart rate variability is and how it works, I’ll be providing a primer on the technology later in the week, but you may want to do a little surfing online to get an overview in the meantime. In short, heart rate variability allows for measurement of where an athlete is on the stress-recovery curve.

You can get an overview of how they are responding to the acute and cumulative effects of the training camp. It may seem confusing and complicated at first, but by the end of this series you’ll have a thorough understanding of the process I use to manage programs and exactly how heart rate variability can be used to make programming more effective than ever.

Looking at the graph I’ve provided above, you can get a weekly glimpse of Tim’s weekly response to training in his first week of camp. In short, the lines representing the stress index and sympathetic index are indicative of the stress response, while the vagal index is more of a measure of recovery. The other line is simply resting heart rate and you can really only look at longer term trends in resting heart rate to determine anything, but the of the data can be analyzed on a daily and weekly timeframe.

Periods where we see increases in the sympathetic index and stress index indicate the acute stress response as a result of training. Accordingly, you can see these are highest on Tuesday and Saturday and lowest on Thursday. This is because Tim had a high intensity day on Monday, when I put him through an evaluation as well to gauge his starting fitness levels.

During this time of the acute stress response, you’ll also see a decreased vagal index as in a general sense, sympathetic and parasympathetic functions are inversely related to one another. When one is higher, the other will generally be lower and vice versa. This is a bit of an oversimplification, but for now it’s good enough.

You can see that by Saturday he was again seeing a higher index of stress response and this is reflective of the workout on Friday as well as the cumulative effects of the entire microcycle. His hardest training days were Monday and Friday and you can see the results of this stress on the following days. Keep in mind that the HRV tests are done first thing in the morning, before he trains, so you’re seeing the results of the previous days efforts, not the day the test was done.

In this microcycle, you can see that we stressed Tim, allowed him to recover, and then stressed him again. This is a pretty typical microcycle construction and is a general representation of the high-low model. With Tim moving down to 185 for the first time in this fight, it’s obviously incredibly important to manage his training to make sure that he does not overreach/overtrain while moving to a lower weight class.

Reflecting on this first week of training, everything looked good. Tim’s initial assessment showed that he’s in the best shape he’s been in so far coming into a training camp and his responses are typical of what I’d expect to see in the first week. Keep in mind volume and intensity will be increased in the weeks to come, so it’s important to build work capacity over time and not start with too much volume or intensity or he’ll be overworked by the time of the camp.

With the fight date of May 28th, that gives us a 7 week camp from when we started. Over those weeks, I’ll be providing a weekly snapshot of his training and recovery and giving you my thoughts as I work with Matt to manage his training stress and recovery. I will not be providing details of what his actual training program looks like, strategies for the fight, etc. for obvious reasons.

My primary goal in this article series is to stimulate thought and provide an inside look at how the body adapts to the acute and chronic stress of a typical UFC training camp. By looking at the daily and weekly changes in heart rate variability, you’re able to see how the athlete is responding and make adjustments as necessary to ensure that they are adapting well to the overall stress of training.

Stay tuned for these weekly articles as well as blog updates during mid week as well. I’m going to be giving you the most thorough inside look at a UFC training camp ever seen because you’re seeing what’s going on from the inside out rather than just seeing videos of the fighter doing various exercises, which doesn’t really tell you anything.

Feel free to ask questions and make comments and I’ll address them below and in following posts…


  1. What would actually indicate (in terms of the HRV) that the athlete is pushing into overreaching or overtraining territory?
    To be a little clearer, how would you decide they need more recovery time/less loading etc?
    Would it be once the various indices hit a certain number? And if so, how do you decide where that is, since at times you might want to push them into overreaching and then provide extra rest for super compensation to occur?

    1. In terms of HRV, yes it’s about norms on the system I’m using. You can see when an athlete is outside the norms that they are not recovering well and pushing towards overtraining. On other HRV systems, it’s more about looking at the trends. As far as managing and wanting to push, that’s just a matter of experience and learning what the athlete is capable of and how long it takes them to recover given how far you’ve pushed them. It definitely takes time to learn how to use HRV as effectively as possible.

  2. Really interesting! Tim is going to be a gorilla of a man at middleweight – it’ll be interesting to see how Joel’s training can prepare him physically for the very unorthodox challenges of Kendal Grove’s body proportions (quite a tall lanky middleweight).

    1. Yes I do think Tim will be better suited towads middle weight and anyone who is a long lanky guy with a solid ground game like Grove can present challenges so it’s certainly going to be a challenging fight.

  3. I know this article is old, but I was wondering what do you think about other indications of acute stress management? I thought about morning 1set to failure of some BW exercises (pull ups, dips, box jumps) (or 20reps of each exercise and we compare the time of execution). Unfortunately, I believe we are far away from private HRV system to every athlete in the world, and I’m thinking about alternatives.

    Beside the topic- you are great, man!

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