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MMA Strength Training and Conditioning
 11/8/2010  by  Glenn Pendlay
"Strength training for MMA"


Squat, 3 sets of 5
Bench Press, 3 sets of 5
Rows, 3 sets of 5


Deadlift, 3 sets of 3
Military Press, 3 sets of 5
Chinups, 3 sets of 10, add weight if neccessary


Step-ups, 3 sets of 10
Push Press or Incline Press or Dips, 3 sets of 5
Power Cleans or Power Snatches, 5 sets of 3

I dont know why an MMA guy would do much more than this. Given all the other things that must be done to succeed in MMA, I dont think your body can benefit from much more heavy training than this. I am also not sure why an MMA guy would do the same exercises if variations are possible. If you really want a big bench, sure, bench 2 or 3 days a week. If you just want to be overall strong, then pick 3 or 4 different exercises that work the same muscle group and rotate them. This would be more useful for MMA.

Add to this about 10 minutes of a fairly heavy conditioning exercise. These should also be rotated. Remember, the goal is overall strength and condition, not to get good at any one particular thing. Find 7 to 8 exercises that work for you and rotate through them, using one per workout. Keep track of the reps you get in 10 minutes on each exercise, and try to improve. Here are some good ones...

1) Push a prowler. use a set weight and distance, and try to increase the number of trips you get in 10 minutes each time you do the workout.

2) Kettlebell clean and jerks. Try to pick a KB that you can initially get about 50 reps with (25 each arm) in 10 minutes. When you achieve 100 reps, get a heavier KB.

3) Walking Lunges. Use a pair of KB's or Dumbells, and go walking. Dont worry about a lot of knee bend, just make sure you lean over and touch the KB's to the ground each step, and keep track of distance covered. When you can walk the whole 10 minutes without stopping, get heavier dumbells.

4) The vertical lift, best if with thick handled dumbells. This is easy, just bend down and pick up the dumbells with fairly straight legs, hoist them to your shoulders and with little or no hesitation, put them right on up over your head. Same rule as with KB clean and jerks, start with a weight you can do about 50 times, get heavier dumbells when you can do them 100 times in 10 minutes.

5) Farmers walk. Whatever implement you can use, keep track of total ditance covered in 10 minutes. If you dont put them down more than once or twice in 10 minutes, use heavier implements. A great implement for this exercise is 5 gallon buckets with rubber garden hose slid over the wire handle. They are awkward and hard to walk with, which makes them perfect for your purposes. Use sand to add weight.

6) Kettlebell snatch. Do just as you would KB clean and jerk.

7) "Freestyle" complexes. My Olympic lifters do these once in a while. Take a barbell, a light one, and keep it moving without setting it down for 10 minutes. Do whatever you can think of. squats, presses, cleans, good mornings, push presses. Just keep it moving and do not set it down. Try to make it hard on yourself. On tis one there is no need to keep track of anything, just do work for 10 minutes.

8) Shouldering a sandbar or other awkward object. A stump or log would work, as would a large stone. Take it from the ground to one shoulder, drop it, then take it from the ground to the other shoulder. as many as you can in 10 minutes. When you get over 100, get a heavier object.

9) Turkish get ups. As many as you can in 10 minutes. Kettlebells work best for this, but you can do it with a dumbell.

10) Loading a log. Tie a piece of rope at waist height between two objects. Take a sandbag, log, or big rock and place it on the ground on one side of the rope. Pick it up and toss it over. Now duck down and crawl under the rope, stand up and pick the rock back up and throw it back to the other side. Repeat for 10 minutes. When you get more than 100 reps, get a bigger log.

11) Flip a big tire. You all already know what this is. Go for 10 minutes and aim to increase either number of flips or distance covered.

12) Make up your own. Got access to some ground that no one cares about and a 50 gallon barrel? Get a shovel and see if you can fill the barrel up with dirt in 10 minutes. Can you lay hands on some old telephone poles or logs? buy and ax and see how many 2' lengths you can chop off in 10 minutes. Use your imagination, but work your ass off for 10 minutes doing something strenuous and hard.

If you use a system like this, it is very easy to adapt when you get close to a competition. Simply drop 20lbs or so off of your poundages on your strength workout, and put a stop watch on your workout. Try to get through it quickly, and quicker as time goes by. And add on another conditioning exercise. Start with a 10 minute break between your first and second conditioning exercise, as time goes by decrease this rest period till you are going straight from your strength work to your first conditioning exercise and straight from your first to second 10 minute conditioning session. Another adaptation that will be useful when going from "off-season" to preparing for a fight might be to lower the reps and raise the weight on the conditioning if you are far away from a fight and more worried about getting stronger than increasing conditioning. For example, when doing the vertical exercise, you might want to move to a weight you can only get done 20 times in 10 minutes, and stick with that weight till you can do 40 reps in 10 minutes. This example can be applied to most of the other examples of conditioning drills that i mentioned. When your attention turns to conditioning as a fight gets closer, continue with the same drills, but go to a weight that allows more reps and more continuous movement. For a lower level fighter or combat athlete, sport specific mat work and conditioning work plus 3 workouts a week like this should have you in good enough shape to compete. For a higher level athlete, of course the mat work will increase, but, you will eventually do more than 3ea 10 minute sessions after your strength session, and eventually start adding in single then multiple sessions on the days you have off from strength training. This is, IMO, a reasonable approach to strength work for MMA. It has the variety of movements that are appropriate to a sport where you can find yourself in any position and must be strong in all of them. It has an appropriate amount of strength work for an athlete who is training for a difficult sport on top of doing the strength work. It also has just enough structure, if you repeat the same list of conditioning movements in order, to determine if progress is being made. This is important, because it allows you to compete with your own performance 10 or 12 days before every time you do a conditioning exercise. You push harder when you have a number to compete with. It also has a reasonable approach to switching from "off-season" work to getting ready to compete. Some of you who are looking for workouts or conditioning plans might want to give something like this a try. No, its not the best plan around for a big bench or a huge squat, but I think you would like how good of condition it would get you in for a combat sport like Judo, MMA, or wrestling.

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