How to Train Like an MMA Fighter
Combat sports athletes are divided by weight classes, so the primary goal of their training program is to become as strong as possible without gaining too much weight. They aren't trying to add a lot of mass to their frame—they're trying to improve their relative strength. Bodyweight exercises are a great way to accomplish that.
Here are four bodyweight exercises many MMA fighters incorporate into their training.
Bodyweight Exercises1 of 11
With the general population, lack of time is a common excuse for why they don't work out often.
Making time is simply a matter of priorities, not a matter of not having enough hours in a day. With proper planning, anyone can put a full-body circuit together with bodyweight exercises and get a quick workout in.
Workout Breakdown2 of 11
You should always have a game plan while training. Failing to plan is planning to fail.
Workouts don't need to be complex programs with percentages and variable tempos to be effective. Alternate between lower body and upper body movements, and put your recovery movement at the end.
Perform all four movements and rest for one to two minutes. If you have a heart rate monitor, perform the exercises until your heart rate reaches 120 BPM.
Start with three rounds and work yourself up to five. Include a dynamic warm-up and a proper cool-down, and you can get a great workout completed in about 30 minutes.
Rolling PistolUnilateral Lower Body Exercise 3 of 11
Single-leg training should not be neglected in your workouts. It's great for correcting imbalances, challenging core stability, and improving coordination.
While there are multiple pistol variations, this advanced version is ideal for MMA athletes. Begin in a seated position with your elbows between your knees. Start the movement by driving through your heels and rolling back onto your shoulders.
Next, explosively reverse the movement by pushing your hands into the ground and throwing your legs forward. Use this momentum to come up to a standing position on one foot. Pause at the top.
Slowly go back down into the rolling position to repeat the movement.
Push-Up With Sit-ThroughUpper Body Exercise 4 of 11
Push-ups are one of the most effective exercises you can perform. There are countless variations, but this one involves a "sit-through" drill—a popular grappling movement for fighters.
To begin, perform a traditional push-up.
Push-Up With Sit-Through Part 25 of 11
On the way back up, rotate your torso, sweep one leg underneath your body, and extend it out on the opposite side. Keep your top elbow tight to your ribs at this point of the movement.
Next, pull your leg back through and return to the top of the push-up position. Repeat a pushup and perform the sit-through portion on the opposite side.
Kneeling Pop-UpExplosive Full-Body Exercise 6 of 11
Some might assume this is a lower body movement, but once they try to perform it without using their arms, that assumption will likely change. This movement is a full-body exercise that requires coordination and sequencing of your upper and lower body working together.
From a tall, bilateral kneeling position, drive your arms down and bring your butt down to your heels.
Kneeling Pop-Up Part 27 of 11
Next, explode up by extending your hips and driving with your arms. Land softly on the balls of your feet with one foot forward, a neutral spine, and your hands up.
Return to the starting position and repeat the movement with the opposite foot coming forward.
Plank with RotationActive Recovery Exercise 8 of 11
MMA fighters typically don't waste time during their workouts. After they finish a set, they don't watch the TV or check their phone. It's important to be efficient and utilize your time wisely.
"Active recovery" movements are great to do in between sets, and planks fit the bill. This particular variation includes a hip drop to slightly increase the challenge.
Begin in a traditional plank position with your elbows under your shoulders, your spine in a neutral position and your toes tucked.
Plank with Rotation Part 29 of 11
In a controlled motion, slowly rotate your torso and drop one hip towards the ground. Return to the neutral position and continue the movement on the other side.
Doug BalzariniAuthor Bio 10 of 11
Doug Balzarini is a personal trainer, fitness writer and creator of DB Strength. He's currently offering his services in Beverly, Mass., at Iron Village Strength & Conditioning.
Doug has several certifications, ranging from MMA to CrossFit. You can find out more on his website, DBstrength.com.