Training for mixed martial arts, wrestling, boxing or other combat sports requires a balance of developing specific skills, balance, timing, co-ordination, strength, explosivity, mobility and conditioning.

The challenge is to address all of these in such a way that they are complimentary to each other and at the same time do not come into conflict with each other.

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Key Points of Strength and Conditioning for MMA

There are many training modalities and components to bear in mind with when using supplemental strength and conditioning programs for MMA.

Strength, mobility, flexibility, conditioning, are the focus of supplemental training, but the challenge is that you need to reserve enough time and energy to develop your sports specific martial art skills.

The goal of all of this is directed towards being able to stand and fight, box and grapple for five minute rounds while maximizing all the above aspects of a you as a complete combat sports athlete.

When it comes to setting up a strength and conditioning training routine for MMA, the one obvious thing is that we need to truncate the volume and likely frequency.

All the major muscle groups are also going to be taking a pounding with all the extra push-ups, core work, burpees and so on that you will be doing in the warm-up sessions of your MMA training sessions. So we need to be efficient and use some basic compounds and not overdo things.

Consider These Factors

  • For main lifts, use compound movements
  • Keep the main lifts to no more than two per session
  • Do not go to failure or test one-rep max strength or anything similar. Doing this puts too much stress on your CNS and recovery
  • Add assistance movements which provide direct carry-over benefits to your fighting, such as hip thrusts for bridging an opponent
  • Avoid going too heavy or going to failure as you need to be mindful of injuries and keeping your energy for your main goal – MMA and combatives training
  • Use these sessions to develop weak areas, whether grip work (something very useful for Judo practitioners!), rotator cuff/rear deltoid work and so on
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2 Day a Week MMA Strength Routine

The routine below is what I used (in my late 40s) while doing Muay-Thai 2 days a week.

Our typical classes were 90 minutes and started with 15 minutes of jump rope, about 15 minutes of boot camp style circuits, and then an hour of bag work, drills and sparring.

After two days a week of getting my butt kicked with this stuff, the last thing in my mind at that time of my life was pursuing a typical bodybuilding routine! (by the way here is an awesome free Muay Thai e-book)

Week One – Day One – Lower

Snatch-Grip Deadlift off of 2″-4″ Podium

Barbell Step-Up

Supplement:

Barbell Hip Thrusts

Lateral Jumps

Week One – Day Two – Upper

Weighted Neutral-Grip Chins

Single-Arm Dumbbell Incline Press

Supplement:

Two-arm Dumbbell Swings

Towel Hangs From Chin-Up Bar

Week Two – Day One – Lower

Trap Bar Deadlift

Dumbbell Jump Squats

Supplement:

Barbell Hip Thrusts

Crossover Bounding Exercise

Week Two – Day Two – Upper

Weighted Dips

One-Arm Dumbbell Rows

Supplement:

Kettlebell Swings

Medicine Ball Wall & Floor Slam

Parameters

The loading I used for the first two movements on each day was 2×5, 2×8, 2×12-15, cutting the weight by 10-15% each time. I started off with 85% 1RM for the 2×5, then 70% for the 2×8, and then 55% for the 12-15%.

There was no deloading required as I was only hitting the weight room 2 days a week.

For the supplementary exercises (Dumbbell Swings and Hip Thrusts) I used 2×15.

For the paused incline bench, I counted two second pause at the chest. I found that this greatly helped me get upper body tightness and increased strength on this movement.

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MMA Strength and Conditioning Routines

The following routines combine both strength and conditioning into the same workout. These are designed to be fairly brief while providing you with a well-rounded training routine.

Workout One

Strength:

Trap Bar Deadlift 3 sets x 8-10 reps

Double Dumbbell Snatch  3 sets x 8-10 reps

Circuit (done with little or no rest between; 1 minute rest after each cycle):

Box Jumps 10 reps

Clap Push-Ups 10 reps

Tire Flips or Sandbag Shouldering 10 reps

repeat 3x 

Supplement:

Plate Pinches

Workout Two

Strength:

Barbell Step-Up 3 sets x 8-10 reps

Towel Chin-Ups with 30 second hang at the end 3 sets x 5-10 reps

Circuit (done with little or no rest between; 1 minute rest after each cycle):

Alternate Medicine Ball Push-Ups 10-12 reps

Kettlebell Swings 10-15 reps

Jump Squat From Kneeling Position (“Knee Jumps”) 10 reps

repeat 3x 

Supplement:

Lateral Med Ball Toss

Workout Three

Strength:

Racked Dumbbell Front Squat 3 sets of 12-15 reps

Single-Arm Dumbbell Incline Press 3 sets of 8-10 reps

Circuit (done with little or no rest between; 1 minute rest after each cycle):

Barbell Russian Twist 10-12 reps each direction

Alternating Jumping Lunges 8-10 reps each leg

20 Yard Prowler Sled Push

repeat 3x 

Supplement:

Glute Bridge into Mount Hip Escape