T Nation

5 Exercises That a Fighter Needs


In order....What do you think?

skipping rope


You seem to be going body weight, I'll toss in chinups/pullups

If your sport involves grip, a towel over the bar is good


Pull-up/chin-up (towel or gi great)
Bear Crawl


To be honest I don't think there are 5 exercises that every fighter absolutely must do/needs (BW or otherwise).

There are just so many options, and many of them work.

Just to add a little variety to the thread I'll list some partner resisted exercises that I got from Charlie Lysak's stuff.

Resisted bear crawls
Resisted wheel barrow walks
Explosive wheel barrow hops
Frog leaps
"Hand to Hand" drill


I agree with Sento...the list of exercises will differ from fighter to fighter. Some could use 5, others would have a different number.

For me, the staples are:
1. Squat
2. Push-up variation
3. Deadlift
4. Pull-ups or chin-ups
5. OH Press


Incredibly silly question.

Not just five. Why five?


oil check/3rd hook


Leg Press Machine.
Cable Machine.
Any machine by Cybex.
Any machine by Bowflex.
Squat Rack.....to do curls in.


Five because I'm not writing a book... Im writing an article. No doubt doing only five and no others is detrimental. Still, the mag I'm writing for hasn't had any training article as yet that i have read... So I think Im entering new waters...

Still no reason to waste good paper...

If I were to put it this way... What are some excercises that are most effective for combat training?

What are some that you've heard people doing that are a waste of time?

  1. Jumping rope. Works timing, coordination, and gives us white guys a sense of rhythym (small though it may be).

  2. Knuckle pushups. Work your way up to cement.

  3. Squats- So go your legs, so goes your fight. Do heavy weights mixed with lots of endurance work.

  4. Pullups- I read somewhere that a strong man is strong in the back of his body, and I believe it.

  5. Split between dips and neck exercises. Dips are some of my favorites but can be tough on shoulders that punch constantly. On the other hand, you need your neck to keep you concious. I'm blessed with a thick neck (17 1/2 in. at 5'7"), but if you're not, you better work on it.

  6. Run

Take my advice for what it's worth- I've never been in any official fights in the ring, but I've seen my share elsewhere and sparred in boxing and rolled in BJJ. This is my opinion.


Wouldnt something that works the obliques and hips be also very important? I find most people lack "rotational power". I know that a punch goes from your legs, to your hips, to your abs/back, to your shoulder and then arm extension to fist. It's all one chain that needs to work perfectly.
However for kicks id think its less complicated.


I'd also say

Pull ups
knuckle pushups (builds your wrist)
Something like leg raises


Totally depends on your aim.
For instance, for Tae Kwon Do, you'd rather do:

a body weight squat exercise for endurance, like horse stance
weighted squat, like back or front squat
dynamic squat exercise, like frog leaps
at least on ab/hip flexors exercise, like explosive hanging leg raises
one for the upper body that is most efficient at targeting your weak spots.


For a complete fighter who can only do five exercises, I'd say

one deadlift or front squat type exercise
weighted pullups
explosive olympic lift, like clean & press
one complex and demanding abdominal exercise like dragon flags
one extra for the biggest weakness

cardio, sparring, hardening your shins & knuckles, flexibility, technique training etc is separate because if not, they'd be my top five;)


The few "rotation + flexing" exercises are valuable indeed for a martial artist. But since we can only pick five..

The best oblique exercise for me are suitcase deads. Great bang for buck variation and a true core killer.


I'm assuming your talking MMA

1 Punches
2 Kicks
3 Tire/Bag flips
4 Rope Climb/Pullups
4 Sprints


Exercises fighters NEED?

Standing drills
ground drills
mixed drills
strike power drills
wrestling power drills

Exercises that would ASSIST

Pull up
jump rope

Big difference between needs and extras. Many of the greatest fighters ever were made of nothing but fight drills. the reality is "why not be sport specific?"

(disclaimer: I do not support the mythical idea that bungee and weighted training are any good. just to be clear.)

Additional athletic components sure do help but god knows a man who has the mind to be a good scrapper will be a good scrapper regardless of push ups or even jump rope. Just as many Olympic athletes succeed in spite of shit training programs and retarded coaching.



there are no "five" exercises. just check out the difference between bruce lees and mas oyamas workouts.


but every martial artist I know runs and does pushups.


If me and a group of fighters were being held captive and were only allowed to perform 5 strength training movements I feel they should be as followes:

Deadlift: Locked in an armbar or triangle choke lifting you opponent off the Mat to slam him is a valuable attribute to have. This exercise works my grip back and legs all in one motion. Bang for my buck im going deadlift.

Various Pushups: While it is the same motion, placing my hands at different angles and positions (close, wide, neutral, knuckles) I can hit and improve my chest and shoulder girdle. Adding the knuckle pushups increases my tolerance for impact and increase stability on my punches.

Rope Climbs: With legs or without, Rope climbing will increase me grip and back muscles in an extremely functional way for fighting. The pulling and instability of the rope forces you to work harder than a pullup. Using legs or without, you can vary the intensity and really push your limits.

Explosive Burpees: A combo of a sprawl, pushup and vertical jump, explosive burpees will work the whole body while taxing your aerobic and anerobic eneergy systems. They wont increase strength to the level of the first three exercises but are a great addition for an athlete. When time is of the essence and you have limited selection; to use a Burpee will aid you greatly.

Tabata Thrusters: If any person here has ever done a tabata method workout, you know the ungodly potential to break you down. Using any weight you can you continually squat and press a weight for 20 seconds, followed by 10 seconds of rest. Continue this for 8 rounds or 4 minutes. People who question this selection and have never done this workout, grab 25 lb dumbells and do as presented.

While I agree that there are better programs in the world then the one I just presented. I feel that within your restrictions you couldn't get better than this. You have max strength and total body development, along with Metabolic work, and aerobic and anerobic work development.

Any fighter who did this workout at their own max intensity (weights and reps that are challenging) Will definately put themselves in position to improve in the right ways for fighting.


walking deads - cleans - sprints with weights and resistance - pullups - weighted punches.

thats what i use with my fighters, well, since this is only a five exercise article, theres a few i couldnt list, but if i had to use only 5 i would probably use these. and i for one, dont think this as a silly question, actually, it makes you sit down and think, "which is more important, and why, thus solidifying your methods"


Osu! Masutatsu Oyama-sama sure was a fucking beast.
Christ, i need to up my training.
I wanted to stick with rippetoes but it seems i'm going to have to go the way of over training again :frowning: