These great strength exercises will “lay the foundation” for better athletic performance when added to your workout routine.
I really enjoy developing workout programs and circuits for my clients and athletes, and over the years, I’ve incorporated every tool you can imagine - dumbbells, barbells, tires, sleds, prowler, TRX, Ultimate Sandbags, Kamagon Ball, Home Depot hardware section creations, and many more. But with more experience and knowledge, the more I start to conform to the “less is more” theory. While I love experimenting and trying new methods and tools, when it comes to the movements themselves, there are some essential exercises I’ll always incorporate into my fighter training programs. The variations will change a bit depending on where we are in the program, but the point is, you’ll always find them in there. Here’s the list of the five exercises all MMA athletes should be doing to build muscle and get cut.
1. Hip Dominant
My choice: Kettlebell Swing
For lower body training, it’s crucial to include hip dominant strength work. The hips are one of the most important areas of the body to train, and even more important for someone who fights (as they play a major role in your power). I love training hip extension with sandbag cleans, tire flips, barbell deadlifts, and kettlebell swings. However, kettlebell swings in particular will help you develop the power endurance that’s most critical for successful MMA athletes.
2. Upper Body Push
My choice: Pushups With Sit-Through
I love bodyweight exercises and pushups have been a staple bodyweight movement for years. When done properly, pushups force you to really engage the entire body. The variation below will add an additional challenge to the shoulder joint, your obliques, and your hip mobility. Just remember to keep your entire body “stiff” and engaged throughout the movement to protect your lower back and shoulders.
3. Upper Body Pull
My choice: TRX Rows
When it comes to upper body strength training I love pulling movements, as there’s simply too much focus on the pushing movements and the anterior chain of the body. This is true for everyone from the “desk jockey,” to the pro athlete, as pulling exercises help with posture, grip, and backside strength. Some of my favorite tools include dumbbells, barbells, kettlebells, heavy ropes, and the TRX. TRX rows are great because there’s a quick learning curve for first timers and plenty of variations for all levels.
4. Torso Rotations
My choice: Superband Torso Rotations
While not a huge proponent of mimicking the exact movements of your sport in strength training, especially with heavy loads, I do see the obvious value in working those same muscle groups to have them strong, powerful, and more injury resistant. Torso rotation exercises have great carry thru to MMA. I’ve used tubing, slosh pipes, Kamagon Balls, medicine balls, and superbands for these movements. I like using the superbands because you can really encourage the hip movement with proper band placement. To engage your total body, place the superband across the ASIS, as it’ll enforce proper technique.
5. Sprint Work
My choice: Hill sprints
These definitely fall into the “love/hate” category. They don’t take long to complete but they should still push you to your physical and mental limit. Treadmill, stairs, track, beach, resisted, hills…there is an endless list and some are more effective than others; especially from a biomechanical standpoint. I prefer hill sprints, especially on a softer surface like grass if possible. MMA athletes endure enough pounding throughout the week from all the sparring and joint locks. Conditioning sessions that are “joint friendly” will leave your body in a much better place.
While this could easily have been a “Top 20” with so many effective MMA exercises out there, these movements will give you the most “bang for your buck”. They’ll engage the entire body and provide you with the foundation needed to take your training, and body, to the next level. If you want to get stronger, get cut, and have more “gas in the tank”, include these variations into your strength training program today.
To maximize your gains using these exercises 1R would recommend the following supplements: