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MMA Strength Training - Core Strength for Mixed Martial Arts

Updated on May 25, 2014

Strength In MMA

Strength goes hand-in-hand with conditioning in regard to importance in MMA. That said, conditioning refers to cardiovascular capacity, while strength refers to the ability to move objects for a short period of time. Explosiveness is more closely tied to strength than conditioning, for example, although the latter will allow you to be explosive throughout the fight. The purpose of this guide is to illustrate the importance of strength in MMA and how to properly train it.

Here's a list of the strongest MMA fighters. You can draw your own conclusions based on their credentials.

  • Anderson Silva
  • Brock Lesnar
  • Georges St. Pierre
  • Rampage Jackson
  • Fedor Emelianenko
  • Matt Hughes
  • Vitor Belfort
  • Nate Marquardt
  • Dan Henderson
  • Brett Rogers
  • Alistair Overeem

Why Is Strength So Important?

MMA strength training is important because it allows you to more effectively control your opponent. When combined with good conditioning, even a relatively unskilled fighter can be almost unstoppable. He can only be beaten by opponents with much greater skill and similar strength and conditioning.

Having superior strength allows you to throw more powerful strikes. Contrary to popular belief, a lot of striking power does come from strength, if you use proper form. Rampage insists that punching power comes from the glutes. Who can argue with the man? He has some of the strongest strikes and crispest boxing in MMA.

Good grip strength will allow you to secure submissions more effectively. Minotauro Nogueira is said to have some of the best grip strength in MMA. It's no surprise, then, that he is able to so effectively control his opponent's wrists and get that armbar. Another fighter with great grip strength is Fedor Emelianenko, who also has a slew of submission victories.

Core strength is the most important bit in MMA, however. When I refer to core strength, I'm talking about the abdominals, the lower back, the legs, and the glutes. If you can build a strong core, you'll be almost unstoppable. You'll be able to control your opponents on the ground, sweep more easily, prevent or execute Greco Roman throws, and throw more powerful punches. If you've ever read anything about wrestling or boxing, you'd see that you're always told to use your hips when striking or taking someone down. This is because they are the strongest part of your body and the most explosive. This MMA training will teach you how to use them effectively in a fight.

Good Lifts For Training MMA Strength

As I said before, you need a strong core in order to succeed in MMA. There are a few lifts that you should try to incorporate into your workout to ensure you get the most out of it.

  1. The deadlift is a fantastic lift that you can use to build lower back, hamstring, and glute strength. This'll make your hips much more explosive and is one of the best lifts around.
  2. Hanging cleans are fantastic for building core and shoulder strength (which is important in grappling).
  3. Squats will work your legs and lower back. They will help you push through takedowns and will also let you sweep better.
  4. If you can master the clean and jerk, it is one of the most explosive exercises you can do. It'll teach you how to use all of your muscles in unison, which is really key in MMA. Dumbbell snatches are also very good and can be substituted for clean and jerks.
  5. Pull ups will increase your endurance and strengthen your lats, shoulders, and grip. I recommend this exercise to anyone that's serious about any sport. It's really fantastic.
  6. The power straight is almost a modification of the pull up and is one of the best power exercises. This will strengthen your spinal erectors, shoulders, hips, and lats.

Functional Strength Is More Important Than "Gym Strength"

How much weight you put up in the gym is an important benchmark in regard to how effective your MMA strength training workout is, but it's not the end-all and it is by no means the thing you should be worrying about. What you want to build up is something called functional strength, which dictates your overall body strength in practical movements.

Functional strength is not just a product of hypertrophy, but of how well you're able to use your muscles in unison to achieve a certain movement. Balance is important when you're training functional strength and it should be taken into account as you're doing this.

Some of the best ways to build up functional strength are to just perform bodyweight exercises and athletic activities, like plyometrics. Pull ups, dips, and depth push ups are three of my favorite exercises that help build up functional strength. You can also try doing some work outs that incorporate things like rolling tires, lifting oddly shaped objects, or sand bags. Sand bag training is actually one of the better ways to build strength and will also increase your grip significantly.

Functional strength is also determined by your frame and strength of your ligaments. If you bulk up to a level that your frame can't really support, then your functional strength is going to suffer. This is why it's important to not try to bulk up when training and to just focus on increasing your strength. You want your muscles to fit naturally on your frame or you'll become slow and sluggish.


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    • profile image


      4 years ago

      Good post. I study something more challenging on completely different blogs everyday. It is going to all the time be stimulating to learn content material from different writers and practice somewhat one thing from their store. I fckggcdkekdb

    • KBEvolve profile image

      Kenneth Brown 

      7 years ago from United States

      Very interesting article. It still holds up even after all this time.

    • loveonline profile image


      7 years ago

      Rampage Jackson has always been my favorite MMA fighter - used to be Kimbo Slice until he finally faced real competition getting knocked out in less than 10 seconds :(

    • mysteriousmaven profile image


      7 years ago from The Internet

      Nice hub. :) Thanks for sharing the information.

      I have some interest in various martial arts.

    • Dalyinx profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from New York

      Good question. I'm also wondering why I added Rua to it. He's certainly strong, but by no means one of the strongest in his division. I'll replace him with Hughes.

    • joecseko profile image

      Joe Cseko jr 

      8 years ago from New York, USA, Earth

      I did enjoy this hub. One question, though: How did you not include Matt Hughes amongst the strongest MMA fighters? The man is clearly very strong, great balance, and he possesses some formidable technique (not a master technician, though).

      I'm not being critical of this article, as I think you've embraced some great points.

    • profile image

      sherlyn - Martial Arts 

      8 years ago

      Nice hub Dalyinx. I'm pro MMA. Mixed martial arts strengthen our body as well as learning self defense were everyone should have. Thanks!

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Well written article. Great job.

    • profile image

      MMA Gear Australia 

      8 years ago

      awesome post keep up the good work.

    • Jon Law profile image

      Jon Law 

      8 years ago from Birmingham UK

      Functional strength is the key, in all sports not just MMA. I remember seeing a tv program about entry into the marines and the officers were making fun of a recruit who looked the part, great gym strength, but just couldn't do the necessary for the tests, no functional strength.

      He didn't get in!

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      Nice article but I think your list of some of the best is a bit short. You can't forget the old time hall of fame fighter that took the UFC and mixed martial arts world to the next level.

    • captainchris profile image


      9 years ago

      Great hub! Keep up the awesome work!

    • kephrira profile image


      9 years ago from Birmingham

      good hub, core strength is very important for any martial art and your point about functional strength being different to gym strength is something that many people don't realize.

    • profile image

      AK Nicole 

      9 years ago

      good hub. I'm just an amateur martial artist so I'm always looking for ways to improve myself. This helps.

    • profile image

      Fedor Emelianenko 

      9 years ago

      The best fighter in the world is Fedor Emelianenko and his combination of martial arts: judo and sambo + universal MMA training

    • TheMMAZone profile image


      9 years ago from Kansas

      This comment says it all, "Functional Strength Is More Important Than Gym Strength". Most people don't understand this but it is absolutely true.

    • profile image

      mma judo 

      9 years ago

      in MMA the fighters combine more styles to win over the opponent...

      watch the MMA fights here:

    • Dalyinx profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from New York

      Mixed martial arts. It's a combat sport that combines many of the major martial disciplines, including wrestling, Jiu-Jitsu, boxing, and Muay Thai. The fighting isn't as restrictive as it is in, say, boxing.

      Have you heard of UFC? That's MMA.

    • Cheri Schultz profile image

      Cheri Schultz 

      9 years ago from Midwest

      What is MMA? I enjoy working out but maybe I am not aware of what an MMA is.


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