MMA Workout Guidelines

Article by Eric Wong, BSc, CSCS

Strength and conditioning are keys to MMA success. Your MMA workout must develop all of the components you need for mixed-martial arts. In the past many athletes could get away with mediocre conditioning if they were highly skilled martial artists, but if you look at today’s UFC champs, they’re all highly skilled and in great shape.

GSP clearly follows effective MMA workouts

GSP's superior conditioning prevails.

So if you’re training MMA, to get the most out of your mixed-martial arts classes, you need to be in good shape.

If you’re not in top shape, you’ll be more focused on your fatigue and breathing than on perfecting the details of the techniques you’re learning.

And without good technique, you’ll waste more energy, creating a vicious cycle. If you’re out of shape, you need to focus on your base conditioning, before you can get the most out of your skills training. And if you’re in OK shape, getting
into great shape will further enhance what you already know.

Discover the 9 Key Components an
Effective MMA Workout MUST Have
(or you’re just wasting your time and energy)

1) Your MMA workout must develop all 3 energy systems: aerobic, anaerobic lactic (glycolytic), anaerobic alactic (ATP-CP)

  • The Anaerobic alactic system gives you high-power for 10 seconds – that’s the energy system you need to train to knock your opponent out or get an explosive takedown
  • The Anaerobic lactic system gives you that burning feeling – it’s what you need when you’re in a heavy clinch or doing a lot of grappling
  • The Aerobic system helps you stay fresh and recover between rounds

2) Exercises designed to enhance movements specific to mixed-martial arts

There are the general movement patterns that I outline in the article, “MMA Weight Training for Strength, Power and Speed“.

Then there are the specific movement patterns required in MMA.

Example #1 – Many people hate on bicep curls but they’re necessary to hold underhooks when standing or to defend an armbar, so they must be a part of the program.

Example #2 – Powerful strikes come from having a high level of dynamic core stability in the rotational (transverse) plane of motion, so exercises like medicine ball side tosses are necessary.

3) Exercises that work all 3 planes of motion: sagittal, frontal, and transverse

  • Most exercises that you do are predominantly in the sagittal plane, such as the Bench press and Squat
  • Examples of frontal plane exercises include Side bridges and Turkish getups
  • The transverse plane is where you earn your bonus for Knockout of the Night: again, Medicine ball side tosses are a great exercise for pure development of this plane

4) A workout program that doesn’t make you too sore so you can effectively train their MMA skills.

If you’re following a standard bodybuilder or powerlifter routine, you’re going to get sore and it will hurt your ability to perform MMA techniques with proper form because the body always avoids pain when it can.

5) An effective MMA workout program must not put on too much muscle mass (sarcoplasmic hypertrophy, like bodybuilding) – instead the focus must be on strength and muscle density (myofibrillar hypertrophy).

6) A progression scheme that peaks your conditioning level for the fight, taking into consideration the typical volume and intensity of MMA training leading to the fight.

7) A workout program that doesn’t demand more than 3 days a week of strength and conditioning. Anymore than this will surely detract from MMA skills training as you’re also training at least 4 days per week (but more often like 5-6).

8) xercises that will train all 8 biomotor abilities: strength, power, endurance, speed, agility, co-ordination, balance, and flexibility.

9) Exercises that will help prevent common injuries to fighters:

Example – the shoulder is often a problem with fighters, especially those who rely on their boxing, which causes overdevelopment of the anterior deltoid and demands a lot of anterior acceleration of the humerus in the capsule – so to minimize the impact on the joint itself, the muscles that are responsible for deceleration (external rotators, posterior deltoid, scapular stabilizers) must be strengthened eccentrically

 All of these points are essential to the complete physical development for a mixed-martial artist. There are many basic strength programs out there, like the 5×5 and Starting Strength programs, but they leave out some crucial elements such as training the transverse plane that is responsible for developing KO power.

Not to say that these programs are not beneficial, they definitely are better than doing something randomly or not doing anything at all, but they are not specific to MMA athletes, they are generalized strength programs.

If you want to see an example of how someone with world-class strength still doesn’t have the proper fitness for an MMA fight, just watch Mariusz Pudzianowski vs. Tim Sylvia:

Despite being the world’s strongest man, Mariusz totally gasses out and cannot impose his will on veteran Sylvia.

Then there are the general conditioning programs, like CrossFit. Although they can be very challenging, they are random workouts with no goal in mind other than to make you sweat, again providing a more general type of fitness instead of the specific requirements needed by a mixed-martial artist as outlined in this article.

If you’re currently working out, look at the points in this article and add in what is missing and you’ll surely feel the impact on what matters most – your MMA performance.

But if you’re a serious mixed-martial artist, you know the value of having a good coach, and now you can have your own strength and conditioning coach in your corner.

The Ultimate MMA Strength and Conditioning Program takes everything that you’ve learned here puts it together in an easy-to-follow, step-by-step program. Grab your copy today:

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MMA Workout Program Designed
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