T Nation

MMA/Combat Athletes


For any/all MMA athletes on T-Nation

How do you train? Specific methodology?

Do you find it hard to blend weight training and mma?

Do you participate in any other sports outside of mma?

Do you notice a carryover from those other sports that help your fight game? Or vice versa?



Im not into MMA anymore due to time constraints, injuries, and the flipping high cost of MMA in these parts...but when I was in grad school I did alot of olympic and powerlifting along with 2-3 days a week of JKD/BJJ/MT...as long as your nutrition is decent and you get enough rest, I think you can do it well. If you do alot of MMA, you may want to keep the weight workouts to the basic olympic and power movements with heavy weight, low reps, near full recovery between sets (3-5 mins) to avoid burning yourself out and leave the conditioning to sports specific MMA drills.

I wasnt the best technician in MMA, but at the time I was in the 230-240 range with around 10% BF and the explosiveness and strength helped me beat guys or give them a good run for their money despite them being phenominal MMA technicians. I think my weight workouts were about 3 times a week, heavy cleans, snatches, squats, box jumps, glute hams, bench, rows, press, jerks, deads, RDLs, along with short sprint and agility sessions. It carried over well onto the mat.

I met a ton of great MMA guys who I think could have used their time more efficient and been even more of beasts if they would have used their weightroom time for heavy weight/low rep explosive movements instead of focusing on doing high rep conditioning with weights. Most MMA guys probably get plenty of conditioning during their martial arts sessions, and if they wanted to do more interval type work with sports specific moves would probably be worth a try over doing HIT workouts and high rep bodyweight or low weight high rep bodybuilding type moves.

The funniest thing I remember is a ripped pretty boy BJJ guy who did really well in competition, but when practicing with me sometimes get all frustrated "you dont look that strong!" when Id ground and pound or just lock him up in a hold he couldnt get out of...he was a ripped 190 or around there if I remember, I never was a ripped bodybuilding looking guy but I was explosive and athletic...ah the glory days ha...but anyways, people may get sick of it in reading my posts, but for any explosive athletic endeavor I say you cant go wrong if you have limited time or workouts per week, and just go heavy hitting on cleans, squats, deads, snatches, RDLs, overhead press, bench and rows...the basics done consistently and with intensity will overcome doing the "perfect" workouts and well designed programs, containing "specialized movements" and lots of supplemental work with expensive supplements in a hap hazard or half a$$ed inconsistent manner...


I've been training MMA in San Diego for a few months now, and I've been trying to figure out the same things. I train BJJ around five days a week for about 90 minutes, which makes for a pretty exhausting workout. I'm in the military, so I have to deal with whatever run/swim/run bullshit they come up with for us in the mornings, and on top of that I was doing 3x/week full body workouts in the weight room. I had to cut these back, as I was getting too burned out.

I'm still experimenting with a good program. Right now I'm lifitng about five days a week but for only about 20-30 minutes, sticking to supersets of basic compound movements, using 5x5, 4x6, or 3x10 parameters. It seems to be working out well.

I'm trying to learn what the Pride Fighters at my gym train like. Most of them use something like 3x/week weight sessions, and they also do sled dragging on the beach, tire flipping and those sort of GPP things.

Flexibility is huge too, and almost everybody does yoga. I've found it extrememly helpful, so I'd recommend it.

I am definitely glad for my weight training background, and for being in generally good shape. There are a lot of times where my main advantage over an opponent is conditioning.


Oops, on the set/rep parameters, I meant 10x3...


Just when I was getting ready to make my very first post a question as to what workout I should be doing to compete MMA and BJJ sport, this comes along. Thank you xen.
My quandry is this. I want to be as strong and fast as I possibly can be at 200 lbs. +/- 2lbs.
Right now I'm in the 206 lbs. range at around 12'ish % BF. Any suggestions?


I'm assuming that dropping your body fat significantly is already a given... I can't think of any articles in the archives here that deal specifically with speed, but i'm sure you can find some if you search enough. Training the type IIB fast twitch muscle fibers will be the path to gaining speed. Plyometrics and explosive lifts like the olympic lifts are probably the best way to accomplish this. Keep in mind that stamina or strength-endurance is going to be a major factor in MMA as well.

The book "Warrior Speed" by Ted Weimann is a good resource on the subject.



I didn't like the book warrior speed to much. I think a good book is "Training for warriors: the team renzo gracie workout" by martin rooney.

There's also an E-book called "Tap out: strength and conditioning for combat sports" by Jason Ferruggia.

If you check the westside website they have a quite a few guys who are training mma athletes now.

Next 5 yrs are going to INCREDIBLE for the sport.

Personal opinion... if you want to get faster, move a presecribed weight fast.

that implies dynamic effort lifting (westside conjugate protocal ...google it), olympic lifts, plyometrics, ballistic movements (medicine balls, etc).

To be explosive you still need a decent maximal strength base so don't forget that.

Warning point is, don't get overly obsessed with that as you can cause other attributes to suffer (cardio, strength-endurance, etc). Just know your priorities and work those first.


Mmmm im just in boxing right now, but MMA is perhaps the most exciting thing I've ever seen especially Pride FC. I like to play soccer and I think this helps with conditioning and agility. Martin Rooney's "Training for Warriors" is a good book you can pick up at EliteFTS.

I think its best if you dont max out on exercises stick in the 3-5rep range. Do a lot of conditioing, and i hear bodyweight exercises are a big thing to do among fighters...I think CT's article on "Strength Continuum" and "Power Continuum" would have a huge carryover especailyl the power one because it well helps you develop power...Punching bag drills for punching, BJJ for tech./condiitoing. I think its also good to well run like hell outside to get conditioned.

In martin rooney's book they have drills they use and stuff for conditioing. I hear running a few miles on off days is good. DOES anyone have any ideas on how the punching bag has carryover? I hear its very effective because you learn to punchthrough..like the speed bench presss there is a deceleration phase unless you throw the bar in the air...with the punching bag theres no decerlation phase...o and it teaches you how to use your hips to punch...i still use a punching bag a lot.

I dont know how effective agility drills are but maybe a lot of the football agility drills could do good for MMA..the ladder also could be good. I always hear how agility training will help you and all be faster on the feet to move, its probably true, but to a certain extent and I think sports like basketball, soccer and such have a good carryover cause you gotta move a lot.

Basketball emphasizes it more though (i think)
Working on
Agility (this can tie in with conditioing also, and agility sessions aren't supposed to be long..according to Jamie Hale)
will do you good...working on coordination if you dont have very good coordination would do good for you.

I think that will make a successful program. But like if your conditoing sucks emphasize that more and not as much as strength etc, and it works for anything else. Like if your strength sucks ass then work on that more. Work on your weak points more. I guess Im kinda just getting started now talking about this and I can go on forever and its late right now so ill just shut up lol and maybe post something later...sorry if spelling and such is bad 2.

dl- MMA fun.


Opps after I posted I just saw what Xen Nova wrote cause it just came up.
Speaking of strength-endurance, what do you guys think is better doing bodyweight stuff (squats, pushups etc.)
Or taking a weight and doing a bunch of reps with it?

I hear the Lions Den fighters (Ken shamrock) they do a lot of bodyweight stuff, and its a staple in their routine. Theres actually an article on it somewhere in this site.
I definaetly agree though Xen Nova with what your last post was with the speed thing (westside dynamic effort, ballistic etc.)

dl- train hard, fight easy.


Great thread. I have been doing both proper weight training (not that 3x12 bullshit I was told to do when I joined a gym) and MMA for the past few months, so I'm a real nubie. But what I have been finding is that the MMA sessions seem to help with recovery from the weights sessions. Does anyone else find this? I do MMAx3 per week and weightsx3 per week. The caveat to this is if I overtrain in the gym, I really crash and burn fast. When I just did weights, I could get away with more volume and more stupid stuff.
But generally I think that MMA training and weights complement each other to make people more athletic than someone who was doing one or the other.
As for the high rep bodyweight exercises, I dont really rate them for conditioning. IMHO I think that they can be great for body movement/awareness but I find that I never get tired in a specific muscle group, and this is what high rep bodyweight seems to train.

Keep contributing anything you can think of to this thread because I think there are a lot of guys, like me, that could learn from the more experienced blokes.


Most of the guys I see in the MMA gym I go to do rely pretty heavily on bodyweight exercises. As far as general conditioning for the sport, they're the way to go, but I know that the Pride guys also lift weights (I'm not sure the specific protocols, I'll have to ask) and do a lot of GPP work.

As far as speed goes, if you're already doing MMA, then you're probably putting in quite a bit of time in on heavy bags, speed bags, and pads with a partner. Those in themselves should do quite a bit to develop speed. The books and resources listed previously in this thread would be a great place to start as far as further emphasizing speed work.

I have the books Warrior Speed by Ted Weimann and Speed Training by Loren Christensen next to each other on my bookshelf, so I get them a little mixed up sometimes. Speed Training is also a pretty good book, it's more concise than the other, but it gets into a lot of stuff geared towards old school martial arts that might not be so useful. Warrior Speed goes pretty in depth on the basis of speed, from both a psychological and a physical standpoint.

One of the main things I took away from reading them is importance of action-reaction time.

"When you initiate an action, your opponent has to take the time to perceive that action and then respond. This would involve perception, the neurological relay, analysis, decision, neurological relay, and finally action (P-NR-A-D-NR-A), in response to your attack. An unavoidable time delay exists between your action and an opponents reaction."

I think I read in a Wing Chun book somewhere that the minimum time for this is around 200 or 220 milliseconds.

Things like temperature, mental state, clothing, flexibility, tension of the antagonist muscles, and pre-established neuromuscular pathways (myelination) also play roles in speed.



I dig doing the Pavel Pttp thing 4 days a week with DL and pushpress 2X5 heavy, then some plain old bodyweight squats, pushup varieties and ab stuff thrown in daily. This is the only way I found that my body can recover training BJJ 4-5 times a week.


Another resource is Juan Carlos Santana's new site www.intocombat.com/ I believe his background is Judo and he is now training a lot of MMA guys.

Good luck.



I think people have the wrong idea about MMA training. People say they want to be fast, strong, agile, with endurace. They haphazzardly splice, weight training, with MMA training, with general fitness programs, and this doesn't work. Or worse yet they look at what the pros do and copy that.
people make everything way too complicated. I have been fighting for 3 years and I took the last year off to work on my weaknessess. Spelling being one of them. But all my work in the weightroom yeilded very little fruit, despite making huge overall strength gains. My choice in warm up excercise (skipping) and acitve recovery (footwork drills), made a huge difference.

To break down what I am trying to say.
If you want to be a good fighter.
1. Get in good shape, running and GPP, put your self though basic training and forget the weight room.
2. Get good technique, drill the basics hard, like in the weight room, the basics are often the best.
3. Do 1 and 2 again.
4. Hit the weight room to supplement your other training.

If you want good soild advice on how to incorperate weights into MMA training go back to the begining and check out guys like Mas Oyama, Donn Draeger, Jon Blooming, and of course Bruce Lee.


Mmmm well I think that short 15-20min weight training sessions 3x per week, maybe 4 would be the best option if you feel your burning out easily from all the conditioing work etc. Also sticking with compound movements for all of these (which you should be doing). Does anyone still have any thoughts about strength-endurance...doing tons and tons of reps with a low weight?...or is it better to just stick with bodyweight exercises and your conditioing workouts (punching bag, running etc.)?
Oh and could anyone give me thoughts on HOW MANY days per week we should be doing hard anaerboic training?...I hear 2 hard anaerboic training sessions..whether its running or punching bag drills are good, then one light day of just aerobic work. And say..Im performing a weighttraining workout would it be alright to do a hard anaerboic session the nexy day or no? This obviously depends on what your weight training is looking like...so lets say I do an uper body session (max effort, or dynamic effort) then a running session the next day (a hard one)...would it be better to wait a day or just do it the next day?



I see no problem in looking towards the most experienced people in the sport for guidance on training methodologies.

Of course, you're not going to be following a full body-building or powerlifting program, you're not going to be training for a marathon or doing the January Cosmo's "lose five pounds in ten minutes by taking a really good crap" workout. Simply training for MMA is most of the conditioning you need, and yes, if you're a complete beginner and you've never been away from the Xbox before, the MMA training will be all you need to focus on.

However, if you've got a solid athletic foundation and are advancing in the sport, or planning to do it competitively, supplemental training is at least beneficial and probably necessary.

I'm a little confused by the statement that #1) "...forget the weight room." and #4)"Hit the weight room..." should be the foundational training principles.

All that aside, many people don't want to completely disregard their previous athletic background and lose the foundation they had in powerlifting, swimming, log-rolling or whatever. MMA may become one's highest priority in training but seldom is it the only priority. For this reason it's important to understand how additional training can be effectively incorporated into MMA.



Yes I got the two books mixed up. The warrior speed one is a good book, but still too much theory for my taste. But it is a lot more practical than the Loren Christensen one, thats more for TMA type athletes.

A lot of the following is my personal philosophy and what I find works specifically for myself so don't read too much into this...

I think that the best type of training a MMA athlete can do outside of specific mma training is Strongman type workouts.

They emphasize unweildy objects, short intervals of anaerobic endurance (yet w/ a solid aerobic aspect), it requires tremendous amounts of grip strength, and a solid base of overall explosiveness.

MMA athletes when not focusing on anything specific would perhaps benefit from 3 total body workouts a week with (maybe) a feeder workout on an off day(maybe a 20min workout for the prettyboy muscles).

Emphasis on muscle groups really depend on your fighting style. For instance, I love to utilize the clinch, which requires a lot of pulling motions so I tend to emphasize upper body pulling motions in my training.

I dont want to say that in MMA you should emphasize your upperbody strength. I find a lot of people who say this. Especially ground technicians. You would expect it to be standup fighters who say this.

Yet one of the country's foremost boxing coaches Don Familton stated (i'm paraphrasing) that most boxer's dont lift weights, but if he had to go into the gym and could only perform ONE exercise...he would Squat.

All striking power (and takedowns) develop from the legs, its an undeniable fact, so why not train that way?

As far as strength endurance, I believe that you should do a good amount of bodyweight work, but again it should be worked in an interval type method.

For example:

20 sprawls
10 pushups
20 squats
10 neck bridges
20 mountain climbers
15 jumping jacks

Repeat till 5 min is up.

There are a lot of guys out there who will get into ALL SORTS of craziness. I mean some seriously ridiculous bodyflow shit. It's unnecessary... you never really see those movements mimiced at any time during a mma match. Sure it might be cool to do and make you a little more agile.

But what is going to make your armbar better? Doing more armbars.

Using exterior weights in a strongman fashion is great also, just as long as you make sure that you mimic the pace set for your rounds.

20seconds work, 10 seconds rest... repeat for 5min. Tabata method works great.

When you're in the weight room personally you work on two attributes, getting stronger or faster. If you feel that you don't need to be stronger or faster...maintain what you have (which shouldn't be hard volume can be very very low). And work on your other attributes.

It's about identifying your weaknesses and correcting them.

Going back to the Weight room. I think MMA athletes should train the total body each session. Especially with total body movments like olympic lifts. It's easy to make pretty good progression... and whether you want to gain weight or maintain a certain weight is a variable that's easy to manage. Maybe 3-4 exercises per session.

Bench Press

If you're stagnating in ur lifts and feel the need to get stronger in a specific lift or area... thats when I would reccomend a westside type protocal.

But thats only when you're not planning on fighting anytime soon.

Um, perhaps more later, but I've got stuff to do so if anyone else wants to chime in lets hear it!


For grappling I am not in favour of
high rep movements as it does not seem to me that the systemic fatigue that is experienced is the result of frequent repetition of the same localised movement. If you are just into boxing then strength endurance may possibly be trained this way but otherwise I would be looking at total body movements or routines which tax both cardio vascular capacity and muscular strength simultaneously.

Two anaerobic sessions a week would be reasonable but if you are engaged in serious training for your sport I query whether you need to undertake additional anaerobic training unless preparing for a competition. As the anaerobic system can be developed fully in 5 to 6 weeks I can see no good reason to endure additional taxing workouts which deplete your system when your energy would be better spent developing your overall game.

In my opinion you should prioritise the skill or playing of your sport from which you will naturally receive specific conditioning benefits and only add in additional workouts as necessary dependent upon your specific needs, the recovery from your sport workouts and the timing of your competitions.

There is a strange notion held by a number of people that you need to endure the toughest workouts imaginable at all times as a precondition for success in sports. That is not smart training in my opinion.


Check Shugarts latest article too it mentions complexes

Those are great too... google javorek complexes for more info


My current MMA training template looks this:

Current phase: General preparatory phase

Monday: High CNS
AM- ME. Upper body
PM-BJJ/ Kickboxing

Tuesday: Low CNS
Energy system training/ Tempo running

Wednesday: High CNS
AM-ME. Lower body
PM-BJJ/ Kickboxing

Thursday: Low CNS
Energy system training/ Tempo running

Friday: High CNS
PM-BJJ/ Kickboxing

Saturday: Low CNS
AM-To Shin Do (modern ninjitsu)
PM-Repetition method/ muscular endurance


Hope that helps!
That?s one way I structure my training.