T Nation

MMA Training


This is for any fighters out there.

I've always ncluded kickboxing and wrestling in my workouts to some extent, but very minimally over the last few years due to excessive weight lifting. The past several months however a buddy of mine has gotten me into training pretty heavily as he's preping for a MMA fight in June.

It's gotten to the point now where we're doing 3 workouts/week involving 40minutes of kick and punch training, 30 of grappling and then usually 30 minutes full sparring. Needless to say this leaves the body pretty beat up. on top of that I am running (mostly interval runs) 3-4 times/week plus doing a full-body bodyweight progam 3-4 times/week (clap push-ups, chins, burpees, hand-stand push-ups etc). I haven't done weights in nearly 2 months now which is a record for me. But I'd like to start getting back into it a bit so I don't lose my strength.

This is what I'm thinking to maintain/gain strength and size without overtraining on top of all the other work:

5x5 scheme, only fail on last set


Dumbell Clean & Push Press
Incline Bench


Flat Dumbell Press
Barbell Row

What do you all think? Questions/comments


Hi Pound4Pound,

Well, it really depends on how long you've been training, and more importantly, how you feel from day to day.

When I was training seriously I went to class 3-4 times per week (which usually lasted about 1.5 -2.5 hours depending on the sparring afterwards), was doing a high intensity circuit 2-3 times per week, and would have the occasional belt test thrown in (the shortest of which was 2 1/2 hours of pure hell :wink: ).

The funny thing is, is that I wasn't particularly tired during the week (well except maybe after a belt test) and saw huge improvements in my strength, endurance and overall conditioning.

If I were you I might consider either dropping the bodyweight stuff in favor of weight training, alternating between the bodyweight and free weight stuff from workout to workout, or simply increasing the difficulty of the bodyweight exercises rather than adding in the free weight work on top of what you're already doing.

Also, I wouldn't use those exercises. Instead you should stick to heavy compound lifts such as deadlifts, squats, bench presses, military presses, pull-ups/ chin-ups, rows, and if possible some of the Olympic lifts (snatches, hang cleans, clean and jerks).

Good luck and good training,



Mate, I reckon the weights on top of everything else you're doing is too much for you. Stick to your skill work and work on mastering your own bodyweight with increasingly complex exercises. If you wanted to cycle your training between weights and bodyweight, go with some basic oly-style lifts to work on max recruitment and full body explosiveness. I don't think going to failure on your existing program is a wise idea either as you're gonna fry your system eventually.

Mind you, the movements you're doing at the movement are pretty good too. Perhaps it's just a matter of alternating these with the bw stuff?

It all comes down to the fact that your max bench or deadlift is not gonna make your combinations sweeter or your takedown defense or submissions better. But you strike me as someone who knows this anyway.



Thanks for the feedback guys. I'm glad you posted. I think if I do incorporate some weights I won't go to failure at all but do some good crisp heavy reps, about 3-4 of say a 6 rep max as my final set. Other than that I'll just keep a keen eye on how my body is feeling.

I totally agree that weights won't help my punches, kicks or takedown defence but what I'm worried about is that if I lose too much strength I'll lose my ground advantage. Right now I have the extra explosivness and strength to pull away from many dangerous situations. It ain't pretty, just out-powering the other guy, but whatever works right?? Also the grip strength gained from deadlifts and cleans comes in real hand when trying to bend wrists, ankles etc.

Does the strength from these excercises help as much as I think or is it mostly natural strnegth and skill work?

Would ground fighting be 80% skill and 20% strength or 90/10 or 60/40? WHat do you guys think?

If I was just fighing stand-up (ie kickboxing) I wouldn't even lift weights, It's the grappling I feel may benefit from the weights.

Thanks again for the advice!


Actually I have found that several weightlifting excercises have improve my "stand up" (note: I hate this term and I wish people would stop using it, because it is so non specific), but since I started doing olympic front squats, my front and side kicks have gotten much more powerful, and full contact twists, hanging leg rasies, and scots presses have massivly improved my roundhouse, and my lead hook. But anyway since you are training your other athletic qualities on your non weight days, I would switch your 5X5 to 3X5, or better yet 5X3 so you can keep you fatige to a minimum, but still practice your lifts so you don;t go backward


I forgot to add this in my first post, I think that ground work is probably about 90 skill 10 strength, but I think you have the wrong way of looking at it, what I have always done is try to carry over the skills you learn in weightlifting to fighting, for example the hip extension you have to learn to clean properly can be used to throw front kick and straight knees, as much as I dislike pavel I do agree that strenght is a skill, and one part of it is building it in the weight room, and the other part is expressing it in the ring, you have to learn both.


I would say that you should keep up the weightlifting, but manage the overall volume in any given week based upon how beat up you are.

I think you have the right idea, but I would go a little heavier and stick to heavy triples or 5 RM attempts. The reason being that heavy triples seem to tax me less than singles or doubles while allowing me to gain strength.

Grappling can be mostly skill, but strength plays a much larger role than in the "Stand-up" game. We have all had the experience of rolling with the new, huge guy who can hang with you by virtue of his size and ferocity alone (though he will get in a lot of triangles).

I think you would find that most modern western kickboxers lift weights at least to some degree. You can see it in the physiques.



I lift weights 3 times a week and grapple 3 times a week. I have found that by the fourth day i am drained. This is when I make it a point to get adequate rest so my body can recuperate. It is difficult to achieve balance between the two.
I have noticed that, in some instances, strength is a great help on the ground (exactly as you have stated). Ever seen someone completely lift someone else while in their guard and pass by slamming them? Matt Hughes comes to mind.
I agree with what the others have said about oly lifts. I actually go train with an Olympic coach if time permits. The explosiveness you develop from doing those lifts is hard to beat. Strength helps but technique is king IMO.
I have been using a modified (for my schedule) version of the poliquin 1-6 method combined with bjj with gains in both. I do not know if it is the right way to approach this, but it has been working well for me.

Good Luck


Im not a fighter, but i have a huge interest in sports conditioning and MMA. Heres what I think:

From looking out your plan its clear to see that overtraining is an issue to manage, as your volume of intense training is so high.

With that said, I think your main focus should be on recovery methods (myofascial release, contrast showering, sleep quality, proper cooldown etc) and diet (Berardi's stuff on G-Flux is excellent).

I still think the heavy weights would help as well, just pay attention to your total volume (maybe periodize your running?).

Your weights program is pretty good, short and intense. I would say it needs some vertical pulling to balance it out, maybe if you swapped the flat DBs for pullups and cycled inclines and flats through microcycles. you could also periodise it (5*3, 5*5, 3*5, 4*6 etc) which would keep you adapting and fresher.

I also agree that the weights will give you that explosive edge on the ground as well as in standup and they will increase your capacity for strength endurance.

Im not an expert, but thats my two cents. Hope its of use.

(You could ask AC in his next locker room, he is the master at this stuff. I think he has a book out on martial arts conditioning as well.)


Good advice, thanks. In that case I'm gong to incorporate some heavy bar and dumbell tricep extensions because I think that would help in controling the other guys arems whether on top or bottom.


All great advice. I'm gong to keep the weights in my routine. I'm gong to hit 2 - 30mintue sessions/week, stay well away from failure and rotate a variety of compound movements and even a couple isolation ones such as curls and extensions.


you could also, lift the same day you train mma. you just have to work in enough time for rest

this would give you more "off days"


1) When adding weights, don't train to failure- you'll only teach yourself to fail in a fight AND tax your recovery abilities.

2) Stick to money exercises. Don't do curls and calf work and crap. I would highly recommend Olympic Lifts and their dumbbell varients. Me and all my training partners have seen great improvement on punching speed/power with dumbbell snatches, for instance. On Squats, bench, Deads, etc stick with doing some Dynamic Effort Days and Max Effort days. This will keep your speed and strength up.

3) Drop the running. Running is the most useless thing a fighter can do. Fighting is anaerobic, not aerobic, so running has little to no carryover. Sprinting is better, but may not jibe with your recovery abilities. Running is definitely a NO NO. I don't know of any pro MMA coach who has their fighters run. Even boxers are starting to phase it out.

4) Check out www.workingclassfitness.com. Great articles on lifting for MMA athletes. Also look up Coach Jamie hail on google and Mike Mahler. Both have great MMA conditioning articles.

5) Train smart. Remember that your training for PERFORMANCE and not FATIGUE. Most people forget this and only judge a workout by how tired/sore they are afterword. Keep a training log to make sure that everything is improving.

6) I've found some GPP work to be great for fighting- sled dragging, farmer's walk, car pushing, etc.

Welcome back to the iron.


lol thanks. I don't agree with the no running thing though. Long slow runs yes, but give me the lungs of someone that does 2 miles road work every other day and I'll still be feeling fine at the end of the fight.

Running works you heart, lungs and legs like nothing else and what's more important than those 3 things in a fight?

Give me a completely tired, gased and winded chuck liddel and i'll ko him!!

gotta do the road work


But sprinting works all of those, bud. Plus it's more sports specific. You get all the benfits of long distance running plus you're training the same energy system you use when you fight (& it takes half the time). I've seen marathon runners gas out when grappling. Read up on it on those sites I mentioned and here on T-Nation- you'll see.



He said he was doing interval runs. They are great for anaerobic lactic training, which does apply to MMA.


First of all, If you're training for a mma competition why divvy up your grappling and kickboxing? Just freestyle spar for thirty minutes, throw in all your bodyweight exersizes or sprints and be done in under an hour. Training for an aproxamated two hours in one sitting, like you are now, will kill your testosterone levels. If your shins, thighs, elbows, and hands aren't tough enough yet you could devote ten minutes to hitting a hard bag each day and that'll serve to bring them up to par, but for crying out loud, ease off a little.

now about your weight training, definately stick to a twice a week routine like you have listed here. Squat, bench, powerclean and rows as well as the occasional overhead lift and powercurl are the most beneficial lifts a fighter can do, although I would switch up rep scemes to keep from overtraining and/or undertraining, on one random week during sunday you might do 3x3 and thursday you might do 3x6 for example.

also, deadlifting for reps is a killer, 3x6 will pound you into the ground and you'll be screwed for the next couple of days, since you spar almost every other day, this could be bad. I'd just hit no more than one set of full deads every other week if I were you.

You seem pretty focused on your ground game, so I would do a crapload more grip work. You can spend hours a week working your grip and it will barely affect your CNS (although some grip exersizes may cause temporary blindness.)

the best ways I can think of to strengthen your grip are to replace your regular pullups with towel pullups (throw two towels over the chinup bar, grip both ends of one towel in one hand, and both ends of the other towel in your other hand and if you can't figure out the rest you shouldn't be allowed to breed) replacing full deadlifts with towel deadlifts (same as towel pullups, but make sure to use collars,) and finally doing pin pulls (strangly less taxing than full deadlifts, and they give you incredible results).

don't give up your bodyweight training, these serve as great feeder workouts, but keep them short, you were very unspecific about your bw exersize routine, so I can't critique it, but keep them under twenty minutes, do a wrestlers bridge any time you aren't moving (like between sets of pushups) and streach afterwards.

And I've found that grappling is more like 50/50 strength/skill in a street fight, but when you've had a little experience, any extra skill doesn't matter. I took kickboxing from an olympic kickboxer who also had a black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, and the first time we spared he kicked my ass for three minutes until I somehow managed to get him to the ground, after that he was like putty in my hands. the only experience I'd ever had was wrestling my friends all my life, and the dozen or so fights I've been in, but I weighed over a hundred pounds more than the guy and was probably two to three times stronger.


Right on. Strength is king when it comes to the ground game.

My bodyweight routine is 4-5 circuits, very little rest. Very very oxygen demanding routine. Takes about 20 minutes to do 5 circuits as follows:

1) Handstand push-ups
2) Chin up, hold while extending legs out horizontally then bring them back in and lower for 1 rep
3) Clap push-ups x 6 then regular push-ups to almost failure
4) Bodyblasters (roll backwards till feet touch floor then roll forward onto feet and dive into push-up for 1 rep)
5) 10 Burpees

That's one circuit. After 4 or 5 I stretch everything and am done.

How's that look?


Agreed. I just don't like sprint/walk workouts, I like sprint, slow jog, sprint etc to keep moving and keep heart pumping for entire workout.