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Bodyweight Workouts for MMA | Bodyweight Exercises

Updated on May 25, 2014


This is primarily a bodyweight program that can be done entirely at home with little equipment.  Bodyweight exercises are good because they will teach your muscles how to work together while minimizing the risk of injury that weights tend to exacerbate.

We'll be working on a four day split.  I have the workout set for Mon-Tue-Wed-Fri, but you can choose any four days that follow the same pattern.

All exercises are in the form sets x reps - if you can not perform this many, then start out lower.  Your three-month goal should be a doubling of total volume, whether through sets, reps, or both.

Recommended Equipment

While you don't need any equipment for most of the exercises, sans the ones with resistance bands, I've compiled a list of stuff that might be helpful for you now or as you progress through the program.

Priority equipment is starred.

Dipping Belt: This can be used to add additional weight to your pull-ups and dips. $30

25lb Plate: You can attach this to the dipping belt or use while doing crunches or hyperextensions. $25

Resistance Bands*: Some of the exercises I included require these, so it's a good idea to buy some if you want to do the program in its entirety. They're pretty cheap at about $10.

Yoga mat*: This is recommended for people that have wood floors, as laying on them can be uncomfortable. $20

Sit-up and Hyperextension Boards: These are expensive and not required, but will help you get the most out of your crunches and hyperextensions. You can usually find a combo price under $200.

Pull-up Bar*: Pull-up bars can be used to perform pull-ups, chin-ups, and arm hangs. Most can be mounted in a door frame and are under $40.

Push up Bars: These will enhance the workout you get from doing push ups. They usually run about $15.

If you choose to just buy the recommended equipment, then you can expect to spend about $70, which is one or two months of a gym membership or about 50 pounds worth of freeweights.

Stretch Before Your MMA Workout

Stretching is an important part of your pre and post workout, as is warming up. Immediately preceding a workout, you should take at least ten minutes to stretch. Static stretching will not benefit you, and will only decrease your strength, so make sure that you're using dynamic movements to stretch. Here's a list of some dynamic stretches that you can do to help reduce the risk of injury and warm up.

Leg Swings: These should be done with your back straight to maximize the effect. They are good for stretching the hamstrings. You may alternate legs.

Lateral Leg Swings: These should also be done with your back straight. They are used to stretch the adductors and abductors in the hips--most groin muscle pain is from these.

Arm Circles: These are great for loosening up the shoulders.

Torso Twist: Keep your hands and your hips and rotate your torso from side to side. This is good for the lower back and abs.

Side Bends: Lean side to side while keeping your back straight. This is good for your obliques.

MMA Bodyweight Routine

Finally, it's time to check out the actual routine. This doesn't have to be followed exactly, as each person has different capabilities. If you can't complete an exercise, then just do the best you can. On the pull-ups, for example, many people may only be able to do partial reps. That is completely fine.

Monday: Focus is on legs and core

Jump Rope | 3 x 3 mins - will build good power in the legs and abs
Depth Jumps | 3 x 10 - will build explosive power in legs and core
Bear Crawls | 3 x 5 meters - core exercise that works the abdominals particularly hard
Broomstick Twists | 4 x 25 - targets the obliques and abdominals
Incline crunches | 3 x 15 - flat is okay if incline isn't available, but increase reps to 60
Hyperextensions | 3 x 20 - need someone to hold feet ; can hold weight in arms

Tuesday: Focus is on arms and chest

Dips | 2 x 10 - good chest and triceps workout
Triceps Dips | 2 x 10 - works the triceps ; keep your hips straight to do this
Pull-up Bar Hangs | 3 x 30s - use a pronated grip (hands out) ; good for grip strength
Chin-ups | 2 x 5 - use a supinated grip (hands in) ; works lats, but also biceps
Push Ups | 3 x 20
Crab Walk | 3 x 15 meters - great for the triceps and core
Resistance Band Curls | 3 x 20 - targets biceps

Thursday: Focus is on legs and core - identical to Monday but with burpees instead of jump rope

Burpees | 3 x 15 - great total body exercise for core power
Depth Jumps | 3 x 10
Bear Crawls | 3 x 5 meters
Broomstick Twists | 4 x 25
Incline crunches | 3 x 15
Hyperextensions | 3 x 20

Friday: Focus is on the upper back and shoulders

Pull-ups | 3 x 5 - use a pronated grip ; the king of upperbody exercises
Chin-ups | 3 x 5
Frog Stand | 3 x 5 mins - this will work your shoulders really well
Vertical Push Up - 3 x 5 - for shoulders ; use a wall to help balance if needed
Resistance Band Back Flys - shoulders and traps ; you need to wrap the band around a static and anchored object.
Resistance band upright row - will work the traps and shoulders


Having good cardiovascular conditioning is important for any fighter, and while bodyweight exercises will help increase it, nothing will up your cardio like some aerobic exercise will. There are a lot of things you can do to to increase your conditioning, including track and street running, biking, and swimming. Out of the three, I think swimming is the best way to get into good shape. It has the lowest risk of injury and is the quickest method.

Dangers of Running

I mentioned above that swimming was the best aerobic activity because it has the lowest risk of injury. While the dangerousness of biking should be evident, running is seen as a pretty benign activity by most people. This isn't entirely true, as excessive running can lead to numerous injuries in the leg that will not heal without time off. This is a common cause of overtraining, mainly because people aren't aware that they are destroying their legs. You can cause knee problems and shin splints by running too much, so if you do I don't recommend doing it for more than 10 miles a week, although even that is too much for my liking.

Exercise Location Ideas

You may find that some exercises are difficult or impossible to do without some sort of platform of device. I've dedicated this section to helping you think of ways to do certain bodyweight exercises without expensive gym equipment.

Pull-ups: If you don't have a pull-up bar, these can be done on a sturdy tree branch, certain support beams in a basement (MAKE SURE THIS CAN SUPPORT YOUR WEIGHT), or on the monkey bars in a playground.

Dips: You can also do dips in a playground, or perhaps between two tables or counter tops. Again, make sure everything is anchored and safe before using it.
Hyperextensions: These are best done on an hyperextension bench, but you can also do them off any elevated platform. You'll just need someone to hold your feet.

*It is not advisable to do exercises without proper gym equipment, and any injury that happens as a result of it is not the fault of the author. It is your own responsibility to judge the safety of any exercise medium.


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    • kjrzeek1 profile image

      kjrzeek1 6 years ago from New Jersey, USA

      Bodyweight exercises are the way to go. Pull ups, push ups, sit ups, and dips are all you need. Now that I am older and nursing injuries from football and heavy lifting I finally realized that being fit does not have to involve bench pressing over 300lbs. Great Post!

    • profile image

      Wallace Keith 7 years ago

      Great hub, usefulinfo Many Thanks

    • captainchris profile image

      captainchris 7 years ago

      Great interesting read.

      Not much of a bodybuilder but building right muscles is a necessity in martial arts.