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Workouts & Training Used by MMA Fighters

by 
author image Henry Halse
Henry Halse is a Philadelphia-based personal trainer, speaker, and writer. He's trained a wide variety of people, from couch potatoes to professional athletes, and helped them realize their own strength, determination and self-confidence. Henry has also written for various fitness and lifestyle publications, including Women’s Health, AskMen and Prevention.
Workouts & Training Used by MMA Fighters
MMA fighters use a variety of workouts to train. Photo Credit: PaSta77/iStock/GettyImages

Mixed martial arts — commonly referred to as MMA — is a full-contact combat sport combining the disciplines of various martial arts. The nature of MMA requires a fighter to not only have a combination of striking and grappling skills, but an extreme amount of strength, quickness, agility, flexibility and stamina. As a result, workouts and training programs designed specifically for MMA fighters train them for the metabolic and physiological demands of a fight.

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Kettlebells

Kettlebells are characterized by a ball of steel with a handle attached. For the MMA fighter, kettlebells provide a tool for building total-body power and strength while improving balance and flexibility.

Kettlebell exercises such as the kettlebell swing force you to develop hip drive that can improve the ability to transfer energy from your lower body to deliver a kick, punch or throw an opponent to the ground. Mike Mahler, a certified kettlebell instructor, suggests focusing on full-body exercises while performing the entire workout without putting the kettlebells down for 10 minutes.

Read more: 10 Core-Strengthening Kettlebell Moves

CrossFit

CrossFit is a core strength and conditioning program used by several amateur and professional MMA fighters such as BJ Penn. The combination of functional movements such as body-weight exercises and Olympic lifts can build the strength, power, stamina, endurance, balance, coordination and flexibility required to be a successful fighter.

Exercises typically included in CrossFit workouts for MMA fighters includes box jumps, kettlebell swings, medicine ball exercises, tire flips and metabolic conditioning.

Read more: 16 Essential CrossFit Moves

Strength training is an essential part of MMA training.
Strength training is an essential part of MMA training. Photo Credit: takoburito/iStock/GettyImages

Strength Training

Basic strength training is a key component to an MMA program. Professional MMA fighter Brock Lesnar, for example, follows a four-day strength training program leading up to a fight. Each day focuses on a specific body part or area that allows sufficient recovery between workouts to prevent overtraining.

Day 1 focuses on chest and triceps exercises such as the bench press and dips. Day 2 is a back/biceps day with exercises such as pull-ups and curls while Day 3 focuses on shoulders with a combination of presses. Day 4 finishes the week with a leg workout including squats and dead lifts.

Circuit Training

MMA fighters use circuit training for workouts to resemble the pace and metabolic demands of a fight. Circuit training for MMA fighters includes a variety of total body functional exercises that can improve strength and stamina at the same time.

Common circuit training includes dumbbell or kettlebell exercises, running, sandbag carries, sledge hammer swings, tire flips, jump rope, medicine ball throws or barbell presses. One of the most effective circuits includes timed intervals that correspond with the time of the rounds, where you perform the maximum number of repetitions followed with a one-minute rest and repeat for the appropriate number of rounds for a fight.

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