T Nation

Lifting For MMA


I had my first class of MMA last week.
At the end of the session I asked the coach about lifting weights.

He said that I should only lift maybe twice a week, and that the lifting is very different to bodybuilding type lifting.

For example he said that when they do barbell curls they do not use strict form but cheat alot as it makes them more functional, but I've read that you should always use strict form???

Also they do more olympic type lifts like power cleans, I've seen videos on how to do power cleans but have heard you have to use correct form otherwise they can be dangerous, they look pretty straight forward to me in the videos I've seen, just pick the bar up off the ground and rack it on the shoulders?? whats so hard about that??

He also told me not to bother with behind the neck barbell presses and only press infront of the neck as the load is always infront in combat, same with squats, i.e. do front squats instead of back squats, but after doing front squats my shoulders really hurt from the weight of the bar.
Anyone else out there into MMA, I'd love to see an example of your workouts??


at elitefts they have a book called Training for Warriors. It will answear all your questions.


I totally agree with that second point. The first point, is debatable. 2 days a week of weight training will probably maintain what strength you have. To get any significant results, I'd be more comfortable with you training 3 times a week. The trick will be managing recovery, and hitting MMA with full energy (both of which can be achieved by monitoring your nutrition, and the intensity of your resistance training.)

To start with, isolation moves aren't high on my list of exercises for athletes, especially martial artists. But let's not call them Cheat Curls. Let's call them Power Curls, or, like Dan John has called them, Reverse-grip Cleans. Does that make more sense now?

They're a great upper body move, which complement heavy rowing nicely. I have no problems with grapplers training bis. Strong biceps are crucial for keeping chokes locked in, as well as grabbing and initiating many throws. Big biceps, however, may not be so important.

I don't think they're as involved as everyone thinks. If you're not competing in Olympic lifting, adn aren't injuring yourself (or setting yourself up for injury), you can "teach" yourself to clean by starting lighter, with low reps, and progress at your own rate.

Well, I don't like B-T-N presses for a handful of other reasons, but that one's valid enough. Stick with Militaries (standing, of course). As for the squats, back squats are a Super-basic exercise that anyone with 2 feet should be doing.

If front squats bother your shoulders, try playing with your grip width before cleaning the bar to a solid rack position. If it's still bothersome, don't do them, problem solved. You can progress fine with back and overhead squats, all sorts of deadlifts, step-ups, and lunges.

I'd look into finding "Science of Martial Arts Training" by Charles Staley (search for "Charles Staley" on Froogle.com, I believe it's out of print, but I found it there). It's an awesome resource for...Martial Arts Training.


I bought Training For Warriors, I'd go with that. It's by Martin Rooney. If you don't wannnnna do that. SEARCHING time. Search the internet they have tonnnss of stuff. Go to elitefts.com...then go to the Time Under Tension Training artciles (pt.1, pt.2) they are good articles and show what Zach Even-esh is doing with the grapplers and MMA fighters.

FOR YOU AND ANY OTHER MMA FIGHTERS. If you want a good article PM me, it's like a roundtable with martin rooney, alwyn cosgrove and joe dowdell. It's just a bunch of good information, worth a read though if you like/interested in MMA.



You mentioned this was your first MMA session, right? Have you been involved with other combat sports before this? The reason I ask, when I started Muay Thai training it was so much more intense than I was used to doing, it was all my body could handle. After about 6-8 weeks I slowly added in weight training. Just be careful and try not to do everything all at once, it'll just lead to burnout.

In terms of training, look up Steve Maxwell and Steve Cotter. I have training dvds by both and they are specificly geared toward combar sports.


i'll second what BJBliffert said. if you just started MMA, now isn't the time to start lifting. i'd suggest you get used to the soreness, and figure out what your weak points are. then devise a strength training progam based off of that...

also, take a look at the top MMA fighters. look at Matt Hughe's back, and you can tell he's a deadlifting machine. he's also the strongest person in his weight class in the UFC, and routinely man-handles people becuase of this (that, and he's a damn good fighter).

i'm guessing that you have class 2-4 times a week, too, so be wary not to let your MMA and weight lifting cause you to overtains.

and have fun with it, bro...


What kind of martial artist does bicep curls?

I would recomend compound exersises only. 3x3 rep scheme to avoid non functional muslce gains. Oly lifts are great to improve explosiveness, which is very neccecary in martial arts.

NOTE: Don't punch with weights, it will mess up your form and probably end up slowing you down.


Well...like I said...grapplers would be the ones to do curls, since those muscles are an important player in sinking in and securing different kinds of chokes (guillotine and rear naked, among others).

That would be in addition to using big compound movements. To exclude direct bi training when it's potentially beneficial, simply because they are traditionally a "bodybuilder's exercise" is narrow-minded.

Hey look, we agree on something. :smiley: This is probably the single biggest myth I see still floating around. Skill training should not blend with resistance training.


People have already said what I want to say so I will just add a few.

That depends on how much experience you have as a martial artist and as a weight lifter.

That is so true.

If you want to build muscle on biceps, strict form should be used. If you are training to prepare your arm to pull/lift someone or getting out of an arm bar, then power curl could be a better choice.
Heavy KB clean could be an even better choice, but that is just me.

Maybe what you cleaned was too light...

Like Mino I don't like BTN press and pulldown for a few reasons but not this one...

This one is way out. Back squat trains your posterior chain more while front squat is more qaud dominant.

For this one I think your coach maybe mixing up strength training and conditioning a bit too much.

If it hurts, don't do it. There is always more than one way to train.

I train WSSB style, at "off" time I have 4 weights sessions (2 lower body, 1 upper max, 1 upper reps) and 3 fighting skill sessions per week. Each skill session has different emphases (technical & tactical/power/conditioning & endurance etc.)

When training towards a fight, I decrease number of weight sessions to 2-3 (just to maintain strength and mass) and increase number of skill training sessions. If you are interested please PM me.

Geek boy


Also keep in mind that any muscle gained from lifting is not 'non-functional'. Myofibrilar hypertrophy will improve strength and speed, and sarcoplasmic will improve endurance. Either way you benefit. Biceps are actually one of the most important muscles for all grappling sports.


hey buddy, i train in mma too. heres a few things ive learned.

. the bodyweight stuff is infinitely more important...when i say bodyweight i dont mean endless reps of pushups and squats....were talking one armed pushups (extended, maybe), pistols with some weight, and weighted pullups. those are usually lower rep training that will go much farther in your mma training. some gymnastic movements are also good, such as planches, knees to elbows etc, they will really make your core strong, which is essential in mma.

a huge part of your training should be conditioning. gassing on the mats is not good...the bodyweight things i mentioned earlier will go far for conditioning when done circuit style and all that stuff...

the lifting that you do do should obviously be composed of big compound movements....the o-lifts should not be ignored as well as the squat,dead,bench...

hope i helped




i just got the book "Training for Warriors" as these guys suggested, and it's awesome. seriously, i would suggest pretty much everyone get this, especially boxers, wrestlers, kickboxers, MMA and cops...

it's a pretty advanced read, but this means you can plan out your workouts (i'd suggest to alternate between the beginner body weight circuit and the bar complex routine) while you develop in your training...

btw, thanks for reccomedning this fellas!



google zach even esh... he writes articles for elitefts also.

his training stuff is EXCELLENT for mma.


Do the compound movements since you need to develop functional and explosive strength.