T Nation

Lifts to Benefit Combat Sports

Just gonna put some things out there from my own opinion. Please feel free to argue (with something constructive) or add too. Hoping this is the best place on the forum for this if not Chris please move to where you think appropriate.

My opinions on which lifts people who do combat sports (my main focus being BJJ/MMA) should focus on for sport specific

Lowerbody strength - I believe the squat or deadlift both play equal role, but I believe only one should be done per week so you can recover. Picking between the two I think depends on your own leverage, I myself prefer squat as I am short and find I am stronger in the squat, more explosive, and can recover better, where as a taller/longer armed person may favour the deadlift

lowerbody accessory - for this I think the zercher squat, glutebridges, rdl’s and lunges , these could be mixed up every other session / training block. Zsquats work the upperback and underhooks, glutebridges obviously will carry over into a good bridge, while single leg work is a must for take downs

upperbody strength - Floorpress , for me I think this is better than the normal bench IMO as its more likely you will be on your back in a combat sport than on a bench! I also find its a little kinder on the shoulders which already take a beating!

upperbody accessories - facepulls for shoulder health. Tonne of backwork, whos ever said their back is too strong? maybe some incline bench because who wants a pigeon chest?

Power - Full clean over high pull, simply because for me with the clean, you either make the lift or you don’t … high pull I find as the weight goes up I cant help but feel like I’m ‘meeting’ the bar shortening the RoM.

Intrested in your thoughts!

there’s a combat forum subsection


I don’t believe in sport specific lifting as the term is commonly used. I prefer to think in terms of transferability (which may not be an actual word). When people usually use the term sport specific they try and do exercises in a way that imitates an actual movement they perform in their sport. So the idea of the floor press being superior because it “looks” like what you would do from the bottom when grappling doesn’t take into account that you shouldn’t be trying to bench press someone off you in the first place.

IMO, if you need to get bigger and/or stronger then just do a traditional type of program to achieve that. If you hit all of the basic movement patterns, as Dan John has defined and suggested for a long time, you will get stronger in a way that will transfer to most sports. There are sports that are very specific in what they demand from an athlete, sprinting for example. That would require an approach that is taking into account one or two goals: running speed and explosiveness out of the blocks. Combat sports require a lot of different physical attributes so a more general strength program would be, IMO, better. Also, an important thing to consider is strengthening the body to endure all of the training and make it less injury prone. I know a lot of guys my age and even younger who have hip issues. Some have had hip replacements. There are guys with knee issues and back issues. I don’t have those problems but I do things like squat and deadlift. One of the things that I believe weightlifting can do is address strength imbalances. People tend to do the same movements in training and lifting can keep you from developing imbalances.

To me, specific training would be carrying sand bags, for example. Maybe the Prowler to focus on driving through on a TD attempt.

Brooks Kubik has a book called 100 strength tips for combat athletes. Give a read it’s very informative.

What do you think of military presses and other standing exercises value? I feel the carryover should be there with the added core work and neurological effects but idk if all that is already taken care of in training

I think military press is as good of a lift as any for combat sports. I’m just a hobbyist, but the serious guys I train with tend to use an array of compound lifts. I think there is a lot of value in having a strong overall body, especially as you get older and want to keep banging with the young and aggressive guys.

5/3/1 style programs, CrossFit style training and Olympic lifting are what I’ve observed and discussed among the mma/bjj guys I know and respect.

I’ll bite-
I think if your a hobbyist- I always say - keep doing what you are doing.
til one goal or one practice inhibits another.

what ever lift and rolling you are doing - keep doing it until
it affects, recovery, flexibility/mobility or progress or your work or your life.

its cool to crush squats or what ever and not be able to walk at work-
if you are able to still perform your job.

training for combat sports is no different.

I always also advocate-
1 skill work
2 conditioning ( however you do it)
3 strength work
in that order.

If you want to get into specific lifts, those conversations can be entertaining.
or they can often turn to pissing contests.

I did a variety of supervised lifting- with S&C types some good some junk
but they where aware of my entire training regimens as I was a college athlete and post college greco roman and Judo and BJJ

put emphasis on core/torso neck and grip work.
put the same emphasis if not more on
building mobility flexibility and joint health.

build a strong body -however you do it-
I can add what I liked or what worked for me if people are interested
Im older and broken but did different stuff and some of the same stuff.

Open up your bag of tricks for us bro. Always good to hear from people who have been there and done that.