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Interview with John Haddad, Level 8 Fitness Instructor

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John Haddad has been working in the fitness industry for around 5 years now but joined level 8 in April of 2013 when it was established. He says MMA fighters just kind of found him which is how he became a MMA conditioning trainer. Arabsmma sat down with this established strength and conditioning trainer to hear what he had to say about training MMA fighters as well as his most recent client, Tarek Suleiman.

Level 8, which might be familiar to many as a destination for Team Shogun’s elite, is a fitness center for conditioning and strength training in Ashrafieh, Lebanon. It is a firm believer in prioritizing one’s health by focusing on personalized training and nutrition for each individual that comes through. With the help of a super team of fitness instructors led by John Haddad along with the newest technology, they work with many of the mixed martial arts fighters from around Lebanon, assisting in improving their all-around physical fitness to take them to their next levels.

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Some of the numerous fighters John Haddad has worked with from different backgrounds include world champion in enfusion Wendell Roche, top Lebanese Muay Thai fighters Nour Salman and Manal Salman, and the Lebanese Jiu Jitsu champion for 2 years in a row Magaly Kochkarian. His training also spans to the MMA fighters such as Desert Force light heavyweight Champion Mohamad Karaki, #1 Welterweight contender Mohamad Ghorabi and #1 Middleweight contender Tarek Suleiman.

Mixed Martial Arts fighters are known to be well-rounded athletes. When asked about the intensity of the training that differentiates MMA fighters as athletes, Haddad had this to say; “MMA fighters have to be the most versatile athletes and their job is to never miss any wrestling, Jiujitsu, or striking class. On the other hand what we do with them is condition their body”. Conditioning the bodies of fighters involves more than the usual gym routine. Level 8 with its team of fitness instructors and nutritional specialist works to “remove any restrictions that their body has accumulated over the years and start working on the proper muscles movements that need to be focused on” through specialized programs for each individual.

Multi-plane Motion
John Haddad says “that we try to give them multi-plane movements to simulate a fight” by including exercises that work in all three planes. The multi-plane movement consists of three specific planes of motion: transverse, sagittal and frontal. The transverse plane is a horizontal plane that cuts the body into an upper and lower division and includes exercises such as Russian twists which use rotational movement. The sagittal plane is the vertical plane, separating right and left into divisions. This works exercises such as back squats or a simple back or forward step, which include movements forward and backwards. The frontal plane is another vertical plane but this one divides the body into the anterior and posterior, or in simpler terms it’s the division of front and back halves of the body. Left and right movements such as jumping jacks or overhead press exercise work this plane. This being said Level 8 works in different ways and has there own set of exercises rooting from Functional Patterns. All of the trainers at level 8 gym have to be Functional patterns certified.

“I believe that any kind of conditioning whether for MMA or any other sport revolves around training the body in the transverse plane”. But how does this differ from training of other athletes? “Actually a lot of sports have similarities, throwing a punch or a kick would activate the same muscle groups as throwing a ball or swinging a racket or even a golf club. They all have rotation and that is the key”.


Mhamad Karaki – Keiser Functional Trainer – Level 8 Fitness Center

Strength and Weakness in the world of MMA training:
MMA fighters not only have to be strong, they have to be flexible, have impeccable cardio and endure intense daily training. One of the problems that these incredible athletes can face is over-training.

“It is very easy for an MMA fighter to over train because they have to go to so many martial art training and also conditioning. But it is the job of the coach to see when one of his fighters had enough for the day and send him home to rest.” The lifestyle they keep also plays a huge part in allowing them to keep up with what is required of their bodies. The type of diet a fighter has will affect their performance. “Nutrition is very important to athletes, it is important that they get enough calories and of course the right ones too”. Staying high on protein and low in junk food may not be sustainable for some of athletes who sometime just want to live a little. “I try to get stricter with them when the fight gets closer, but if the fight is still far away it’s okay for a cheat every now and then”.

Specific Moves for MMA Athletes?
When asked about what strength and cardio exercises that are recommended by Level 8 for MMA athletes, Mr Haddad’s advice was not that there are specific “moves for MMA athletes… it is making sure they actually do it right. There was a saying that practice makes perfect, but if you keep practicing the move wrong you are going to be conditioning your body to move wrong, so my friend and CEO and founder of Functional Patterns Naudi Aguilar said this to me Perfect practice makes perfect. So I have to see with my eyes”.

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Latest Addition : Tarek Suleiman

Tarek Suleiman though a recent client, has been a “smart beast” Mr Haddad has been “looking forward to training”. When asked about this new addition he had this to say:

“Tarek is very very smart and this is something that can’t be taught. When a fighter has smarts he can go a very long way. With the right coaches by his side he will have a bright future. And without question Tarek works with some of the best in the world in Lebanon and in Thailand”. Tarek’s specific program of training consists of “working very carefully with him to remove all of his restrictions” to get him to his next level of physical fitness. Even though Tarek suffered a previous knee injury that might have required precautions, this Level 8 instructor assured us that “his knee is just fine it’s back to original”.

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