The UFC’s Alexey Oleynik – How the 40-Year-Old ‘Boa Constrictor’ Stays in Elite Shape
By Vinnie Mancuso
At 40, Alexey Oleynik is one of the oldest fighters competing in the UFC. But it’s a different, far more impressive number that earned Oleynik his “Boa Constrictor” nickname: 45, the record-breaking tally of submission victories the Ukrainian grappler has collected over his 20-year MMA career.
The heavyweight — who holds an overall MMA record of 55-11-2, 4-2 in the UFC — took a moment away from training for his May 12 bout against Junior Albini at UFC 224 to chat with MensHealth.com.
SO HOW EXACTLY DOES THE 4O-YEAR GET INTO FIGHTING SHAPE?
“In reality, I’m already in top shape year-round,” Oleynik said through a translator. According to the fighter, the months before entering the octagon is more of a fine tune-up than anything. “It’s like a train. It’s already moving, you just want to get on the right rail and move in the right direction.”
That direction doesn’t involve as much maxing out as you’d expect from UFC’s heaviest weight class. “It’s concentrating more on endurance of the muscle than the size of the muscle,” Oleynik said.
He added that because he’s a “submission artist,” he doesn’t want to “put on big muscles, to look like an Adonis. If I develop a very big chest and look like a bodybuilder, it would be hard for me to choke somebody out.”
Oleynik’s training camp consists of 14 to 16 sessions a week, broken down into hour-and-twenty-minute periods. The first 30 minutes is always dedicated to cardio, with a focus on keeping up explosiveness over a long period of time.
CARDIO (30 MINUTES)
For strength training, Oleynik focuses especially on repetition over weight. “If I’m doing 6 to 8 reps with the heavy weight, I develop more size. I don’t need that,” he said. “My coaches know I need lighter weight, 15 to 20 reps.”
STRENGTH TRAINING (50 MINUTES)
The most important exercise of the day, Oleynik said, is a classic combination of both cardio and strength training: the sit-up.
“When you’re doing sit-ups your diaphragm constantly gets compressed, so it throws you off in terms of breathing,” he said. “This is what happens in a fight. So every time my training is over, I go down and have to finish at least 100 sit-ups with a twist.”
Oleynik broke down some of the recovery routines that have kept him mostly injury-free over a decades-long career.
“The most important thing when it comes to recovery, and actually the entire process of training, is nutrition,” Oleynik said. As a heavyweight, the fighter is in the unique position of technically being able to gain as much weight as he wants. But the 40-year-old has been able to compete at a high level for so long because his diet still consists mostly of lean meat, vegetables, and natural fats. “I coach my body as a working machine. Whatever you put in your body, that’s the outcome you’re going to have. Whatever gas you put in a car, that’s how fast it’s going to go.”
“You must, must sleep during training,” Oleynik told us, a feat easier said than done for the father of five. “That’s the tricky part. Some of my kids are young, they wake up in the night, they have to pee, or they want to eat.”
On average, he says, Oleynik sleeps 6 hours a night, but makes sure to sneak in an extra hour or two throughout the day.
For Oleynik, the recovery process is as mental as it is physical, training your mind to switch gears when you leave the gym. Usually this starts with either an ice bath or quick stay in the sauna, but then it’s putting the fight out of mind until the next session.
“What I’m trying to do is, I’m trying to switch my mindset,” Oleynik told us. “I’m going with my kids to the zoo, to the movies, doing family things. You have to switch your mind from all the hard work and totally relax. Totally zoom out and concentrate on something, anything else.”
View the story on MensHealth.com.