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MMA Workout Routine - Lesson #1

Updated on September 17, 2012

Is your current routine SPORTS SPECIFIC??

With all the technology and information out there, it’s fairly easy for a novice person to create a workout routine to satisfy their New Year’s resolution. Available for the inquiring are computer programs, nutritionist, personal trainers, textbooks, workout DVD’s, and even step-by-step virtual training programs that get downloaded to smart phones and carried into the gym. Needless to say, if someone is looking to create a workout routine, information is available in an abundance of different sources and locations.

So how does one physically prepare to isolate themselves in a cage for a battle of their life? I think it’s safe to say that using your mom’s “sweating to the oldies” DVD is not going to cut it. I’d also go as far to say that even some of the best text books and personal trainers in the nation cannot properly prepare someone for a sport that tests stamina while bleeding from the head and standing on two legs that have suffered dozens of roundhouse kicks over three rounds. Whereas the majority of available fitness routines merely get someone in shape, they are not sport specific to the emerging sport of mixed martial arts. So how does someone create an MMA Workout Routine?

MMA Fitness Products that pack a PUNCH

Well Balanced Training

In order for a fighter to be in the best shape when they enter the cage, their fitness program needs to have all of the following attributes in order to be successful: flexibility, strength, power, muscular endurance, cardio-respiratory endurance, and agility. A fighter with only a couple of these fitness attributes is only setting themselves up for failure. After all, what good is it to be the best Muah Thai fighter if they can’t keep their guard up because they are exhausted? How successful would the best technical Brazilian Ju-jitsu fighter be if they had stamina but lacked flexibility? In some sports, you can count on teammates to cover up the missing elements of your game. In MMA, if your opponent is better prepared, they will expose your weakness as there is no hiding the sucking of wind or a lack of energy. Here, the first loser doesn’t get a silver medal, they get knocked out!

It’s important to note that developing an MMA Workout Routine needs to be carefully planned in advance and supplemented with technical training (strikes, take downs, Ju-jitsu, boxing, etc). Whereas the technical training is usually conducted year round, so should the MMA Workout Routine. It’s important to be conducted year round because the better shape a fighter is in during training, the better chance they will practice at their full potential. More importantly, the better shape the fighter is in, the less chance of getting injured.

Compound VS Isolated

The only time a fighter should take a rest from weight/resistance training is either the entire week before a fight, a month (in some cases more) after a fight, and an occasional rest week. With the exception of the entire week before a scheduled fight, much emphasis should be on training, without an off day, for an entire 12 weeks straight. If done right, your body will be exhausted.

Because fighting in the cage requires compound movements, a good MMA Workout Routine should also be of compound movements. Basically compound is a fancy word for saying multi-jointed. A good example of a compound exercise would be the squat. When performing a squat, three joints are being engaged, the ankles, the knees, and the hips. A compound movement incorporates the recruitment of the body’s large muscle groups, develops explosive power, and improves coordination. The importance of developing power and coordination in a fighter is obvious.

The antonym of compound is isolation. An isolated exercise is one in which a single joint is being manipulated, through movement, thus targeting a single muscle group. Although beneficial to bodybuilders that want to work on sculpting their arms, chest, or delts, isolation exercises have little to no value for fighters. Isolation training does almost nothing, in reference to building coordination, and takes twice as long to develop the same level of strength compound exercises do in half the time.

Compound Exercise

3 joints moving: ankles, knees, hips.
3 joints moving: ankles, knees, hips. | Source

Isolated Exercise

Example of a single joint exercise - The preacher curl.
Example of a single joint exercise - The preacher curl. | Source


Because compound exercises encompass the entire body, a good MMA Workout Routine should include a day of rest between resistance training days. Notice I said, resistance training. I emphasize the word resistance because cardio and flexibility can, and should, be done on a daily basis. In order to stay competitive, fighters should incorporate weights and resistance training three times/week and cardio and flexibility six times/week.

A good way to break down the resistance training is to go one day on, one day off. This will give the athlete four days of weights the first week and three days the second week. When put together, the resistance and weight training schedule should look something like this:

Week 1: Sunday, Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday

Week 2: Monday, Wednesday, Friday


Intensisty! Do you have it?!?!

So now that I’ve identified the type of training and the frequency, the next thing to creating an awesome MMA Workout Routine is the intensity. Because the sport of mixed martial arts is intense itself, the workout routine should be no different. As you will see later on, the intensity of the workout comes from taking four to five compound exercises and looping them together into a circuit. I refer to this type of training as High Intensity Cardio Circuits. This method of training elevates the fighters heart rate to high levels, burns calories, hypertrophies (building through breaking down) the muscles, increases muscular endurance, and expands cardio endurance. The compound movements create the power. The results? A relentless powerhouse with enduring stamina!

So how do fighters know if their training is intense enough? Intensity is monitored by the body’s heart rate and is individual specific according to someone’s age and current health. First, it’s important for fighters to figure out what their maximum heart rate is. This is accomplished by taking 220 and subtracting their age.

Next, the fighter needs to figure out what their low end heart rate should be. A clock is going to be needed in order to figure this out. To obtain the low range, one must figure out what their resting heart rate is. To get the most accurate reading, I recommend checking your radial pulse (artery on the underside of the wrist and closer to the thumb side) first thing after the alarm clock goes off in the morning and while still lying in bed. By testing the heart rate first thing in the morning, this will ensure an accurate resting heart rate and not one that is tanked full of caffeine and full of stress from work. Once the radial pulse is located, the fighter should count the number of times their heart beats in a minute time. This is the resting heart rate.

Put this into perspective, in regards to the MMA Workout Routine and intensity. Fighter athletes need to come up with their workout range. We already know the high end of the range is accomplished by taking 220 and subtracting the fighters age. Now, to get the low end (of the range), take 220 subtract the fighters age, subtract the resting heart rate, and then multiply it by .50. This means that the athlete should at least be working at 50% of their maximum heart rate. Now, take the two numbers, and that’s the range the fighters heart rate should be in between the ENTIRE workout. Tough, but so is the sport.

Some last words

Finally, the duration of the MMA Workout and lifting routine should be at least one hour. Obviously cardio is of virtue so training on the speed bag, punching mitts, jump rope and normal technical training can be mixed into the weight training day and on off lifting days. A run, jump rope, bike ride, or heavy bag work should be considered on your off lifting days. Training cardio on off lifting days should be at least 30 minutes. After the weights and resistance training, a cool down of five minutes, and a static stretch of fifteen minutes should be conducted.


If you liked this article, please read my continuation (Part 2) article to this hub:

The Inch Worm: Dynamic Stretch

Example of an MMA Workout Routine


1) Jump rope, alternating feet. 5 mins

2) Dynamic Stretching – The inch worm (hamstrings/lower back - See video). 10 reps

Circuit I – Do 5 X’s

1) Power cleans. 10 reps.

2) Pull-ups. 15 reps.

Alternating DB Press on SB

DB Curl to overhead press

3) Alternating dumbbell chest presses, with body balanced on a Swiss Ball (stability ball).

4) Hanging vertical knees to elbows – 20 reps.

5) Dual dumbbell curls into overhead press – 12 reps.

Circuit II – Do 3 X’s

1) Side plank dips – 15 reps (each side).

2) Close-grip push-ups – 20 reps.

3) Standing, leaning forward, dumbbell rear-delt fly’s – 15 reps.


Walk on treadmill. Incline at 2.5%. Speed at 3.5 – 4mph. Time – 5 mins.

Static stretching


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