The recent explosion of mixed martial arts has prompted a lot of people to take their newfound interest in the sport to the next level. More and more people are wanting to enrol themselves in martial arts and MMA gyms are popping up all over the world to supply the demand.

The majority of these MMA gyms offer classes in Boxing, Muay Thai, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and Submission Wrestling (among other arts). What a lot (not all) of these gyms neglect is sport-specific strength and conditioning classes – leaving you to fend for yourself in the gym.

Here are 5 important guidelines for you to consider when you’re designing your MMA workouts.

MMA Workout Tip #1 – Train Your Core!

There’s a lot more to core training than just sit ups and lower back extensions. The power of your punches, kicks, and throws are all dependant on the rotary strength of your core. The core region really is your strength center and your MMA workouts should be packed with core strengthening exercises.

The muscles of the body function together as a kinetic chain and you’re only as strong as your weakest link. Since the core is involved in pretty much every MMA-related movement you do, weakness will completely throw off your game.

There’s all sorts of exercises you can do to strengthen your core. There’s actually a book that profiles over 100 MMA-specific core exercises. Some of the exercises will get you some weird looks in the gym but it’s worth checking out for sure.

MMA Workout Tip #2 – Don’t Forget To Stretch

With increased flexibility comes increased versatility as a fighter. Want to throw Crocop-like head kicks? You need to be flexible! Want to work from the rubber guard? You need to be flexible! Want to look like a contortionist while you stuff takedowns like B.J Penn? You need to be flexible! Want to reduce the chances of sustaining an injury while you’re training? Of course you do! You need to be flexible!

Flexibility is something I’m personally trying to implement into my MMA workouts at the moment. Out of all the fitness components, flexibility is the easiest to gain but the quickest to go when you stop doing your stretches. Since improvements in flexibility come rather quickly, I had high expectations for myself. Unfortunately, I haven’t been getting the results I had been hoping for.

However, it looks like my problems are solved as today, for the first time, I did my stretches in the sauna at the gym following my regular MMA workout. The increased temperature made a huge difference and I felt more limber immediately after. In addition to the sauna stretching, you can enrol yourself in some “hot yoga” classes. I’ve heard nothing but positive feedback about them from various Muay Thai & MMA students.

MMA Workout Tip #3 – Perform Only “Functional” Exercises

If you want to be a fighter, you’ll have to ditch those old bodybuilding workouts. Your MMA workouts should consist of primarily compound/multi-joint exercises that will carry over to your fight performance. When you’re about to perform an exercise, just think to yourself – what aspect of MMA will his help me with? If the exercise doesn’t directly simulate a related movement – replace it with something that does.

So, in other words ..

  • Ditch the triceps kickbacks and do more close grip presses.
  • Ditch the preacher curls and do more close grip, supinated grip pull ups.
  • Ditch the leg curls and do more straight leg dead-lifts.

Get the idea?

Just in case you don’t, here’s the explanation..

  • Close grip presses = increase in the power of your punches
  • Supinated grip pull ups = increase in your Thai “clinch” strength
  • Straight leg dead-lifts = increase in the strength of your takedowns/slams

These are just a few examples of many.

MMA Workout Tip #4 – Vary Your Training Intensity

Fighting is performed at a very high intensity. Your MMA workout should always mimic the demands of your sport so you should implement high intensity training. You can accomplish this through high intensity interval training or “HIIT” for short. The purpose of training at a high intensity is to increase your tolerance to the accumulation of lactic acid. For an extended/detailed explanation, click here. In short, the accumulation of lactic acid decreases the contractile strength of your muscles.

With that being said, you can’t ALWAYS train at an extremely high intensity. In Thailand, a lot of the training camps vary the intensities of their runs. They’ll do a long distance, low intensity run in the morning and in the afternoon, they’ll either do intervals or simply run a much shorter distance, at a much faster pace. The low intensity jogs allow for some “active recovery”.

However, depending on your MMA training program, you may not have room to implement low intensity runs. The training demands for a fighter can be pretty demanding so it’s important to keep in mind that low intensity training can be anything from skipping to light rolling.

MMA Workout Tip #5 – Circuit Training

Circuit training refers to performing multiple exercises in concession without a rest interval between each set. Depending on your exercise selection, circuit training can be a great way to perform your HIIT training (as discussed above). When you’re working on your muscle endurance (high repetitions & long time under tension), the circuit training format is ideal as it best mimics the demand of your sport.

When your performing your “traditional” bodybuilding-style workouts, your set will last for approximately 40 seconds (depending on your rep ranges) and your rest interval will be around 2 minutes. In MMA, you certainly don’t get a 2 minute rest after only 40 seconds of fighting. In an MMA fight, you work hard for 5 minutes, then get only 1 minute to recover. You should tailor your MMA workout around these demands.

Circuit training is the best way to structure your muscular endurance programs as you can train for 5 minutes straight (providing you implement a proper split) before taking your 1 minute to rest. Here’s a video by Craig Ballantyne (author of “turbulence training”) that will give you an idea as to what exactly circuit training is.

He’s got a book out (SEE IT HERE!) that provides all kinds of various training circuits. You may want to switch up some of the exercises for your personal MMA training as a lot of them may not be specific to fighting.

Anyway, that about wraps it up for now. When designing your MMA workout program, it all comes down to common sense. Well, common sense and some basic knowledge of human anatomy and energy systems.

If it all seems overwhelming, don’t worry. We’ll be uploading all sorts of MMA workouts to the site so keep checking back.