Speed Squats for MMA with No Accommodating Resistance


Helping a friend who’s an amateur MMA fighter set up a program. He has a decent squat already (about 405). Looking at ways to incorporate more power development into his strength workouts but he only has access to a basic squat rack.

Are speed squats worth doing (thinking of putting them on one day and medicine ball throws on another day) if you don’t have access to band/chains and what sort of % and reps/sets should they be done at?


I do my speed squats with no box, bands, or chains. I use a 3-week wave between 55%-65%. With a squat of 405 your friend could probably be successful with those percentages as well.

I’m not totally sure of what directly carries over to MMA, but Matt “the Immortal” Brown trains at Westside Barbell with Louie himself so I would try to find out what his training looks like. I’ve seen video of him doing some sled dragging (which is popular there) but other than that I don’t know. I’m sure you can find out.

Don’t forget your jumps for power!

Louie says 40 Jumps, twice a week.

When Dr. Squat trained Evander Holyfield, before he won the HW title, they did afternoon sessions of jumping.

Wendler likes jumps every lifting day.

Chad W. Smith and juggernauts jump.

Alpha, who keeps a lot here, does jumps as part of his “dynamic warm up,” or pre lift conditioning.

I have some book by Y. Verkhoshansky, and for wrestlers, he recommends;

1.“Barbell squat jumps for 8 reps.”

2.“A ten-fold jump from leg to leg for 2 repetitions.”

3.“Kettlebell squat jumps for 8-10 reps.”

4.“Double leg squat jumps while remaining in place for 10-12 repetitions.”

5.“Jumps onto a box 40-50 cm high with a double leg take off for 4-6 reps.”

6.“Six or ten-fold jumps(2 on the left leg, 2 on the right leg for 1 repetition.”

Rest 15-20 seconds between exercises. Do 2-4 series, separated by a rest of 6-8 minutes.

-I have ZERO experience with Barbell squat jumps, but jumps up onto a box, broad jumps, skipping, and hopping around frog style are all pretty low risk.

Also, max is right about Westside using the sled drag for fighters. Sled Drag bear hugging a barrel to drive the hips “in,” or squeezing a soccer ball to developing squeeze power for chokes, or holding dumbbells or barbells with “your dukes up” to build shoulders and upper back.

Check out the Westside Barbell Podcast from more ideas.


What weight class is he and how deep is that 405 actually sitting in the hole? Seriously.

Speed squats are fine for what they are, but mma fighters are not powerlifters and therefore need to modify some things in how they approach the lift.

  1. The stances need to be mixed up, but emphasis should be on narrow stances that have a more “athletic stance”. Wide stance squatting is not practical for the majority of mma training (although it can be used to bring up a weak posterior chain effectively–I am talking about sport transfer here)

  2. The bottom of the squat needs to be as deep as he can get safely and with good form. Injuries happen at the extreme ends of ranges of motion (in a scrum/pile up for a fumble in football, end of the pull-through phase in a sprint OR the beginning of the foot cycle where the leg is extended out, generally in very coiled or very extended positions). It is therefore of profound importance that a fighter train a long range of motion to build stability in the end ranges and help protect against injury. This assumes of course that the fighter has enough hip/ankle mobility and core/back strength to achieve the position safely. If not then it doesn’t help and will feed into possible injury.

  3. The bottom of the squat needs to be trained with a 2-3 second pause–this is again in the interests of building stability in that end range of motion wrt injury. Stability requires muscular control and a certain degree of strength is required to be able to control yourself + a weight. I would do both paused and unpaused squats, but the initial 4 weeks or so I would do mostly paused squats to help build the strength of that position.

  4. Weight wise they ought to be done at or maybe 10-15% above his weight class limit. That’s a starting point.

  5. Percentage wise the most power is typically generated between 55 and 65% 1RM. But it is more important to dominate your bodyweight since you will be fighting someone that size + rehydration bloat.

  6. Sets/reps you can start with the classic Westside rep scheme, but I would progress beyond that once he has gotten used to things. If he is as strong as you say his issue will be power endurance/local muscular fatigue rather than strength.

Most fighters I know don’t have the strength to safely do these. At least at first.

Great idea for advanced guys with great technique and lots of strength, but I’ve never seen an MMA fighter that had that off the bat. Not even naturals do that.

For reactive strength based guys (the ones that typically fall into the “natural athlete” category) the most important aspect at first tends to be building a reservoir of pure strength and stability. This is because they’re so elastic they can rebound on anything but they don’t always have the ability to control that extra weight and it can lead to injuries when something goes south. Same idea as a red line RPM gauge on your car–naturally reactive guys have a red line very close to their “break point” and need to develop more buffer or resilience. Naturally un-reactive guys need to push that red line closer to their max.

Hopefully that makes sense.

I think I understand what You mean . You need all the gears!

Lately, when box jumping, I’ve been doing a hop, or a hop and a skip before my jump, and just that little bit of extra force is challenging my reactive strength, and my ability to control the “force.” I think the reversal, from absorbing the landing then turning around to jump, doing barbell squat jumps would tear my legs apart.

-I like the idea of using different stances for a fighters’s squats. I’m using different grips in my upper body training, and really liking the results.

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Agree here too on grips as well. With BJJ and wrestling involved the grip needs variety and challenge.

Additional thought for those mma fighters here–include half-kneeling or “lunge stance” overhead pressing variations–including the landmine press-- to work the upper body. This has a ton of carryover to the fight because you will in a staggered stance at least a very good chunk of time.

Same goes for lateral lunge variations–we are too sagittal heavy most of the times. Not a problem for a PL or BB or even crossfit person or eeekend warrior. Could be a huge issue for a guy getting shoved, tripped, wrestled, kicked and punched in the face for a living though…

I do speed squats with no bands/chains/etc.

Use 65-75% of your max
Do not pause at the top or bottom
8-12 sets, 2-3 reps

Works well.

Squats done without the use of “Accommodating Resistance” (bands, chains, isokinetic machines, etc…) but for maximal speed can still build substantial “starting speed” (often called “explosiveness”). Remember that the presence or absence of “AR” does not change physics and that the “weight” you are lifting is the result of the mass of the bar x it’s inertia in relation to the constant pull of Earth’s gravitational field (hence why it would “weigh” less on the surface of the moon or underwater).

By increasing the speed at which you attempt to lift the weight it increases the “weight” that you are lifting (hence why a penny falling at terminal velocity hitting you in the top of the head would be fatal while just resting a penny on the top of your head would be harmless). The issue of course becomes the fact that due to the upward inertia you would have to either decelerate the weight at the top of the movement, or actually jump in the air with it if the weight is too light since you will always be stronger at the top of the lift due to superior leverage. AR attempts to remedy this by adding extra resistance to the top of the motion and thus more accurately matching the “strength curve” of the exercise.

Regarding true plyometrics (which jump squats are actually not) where you are attempting to “rebound” into an explosive movement, it’s not so much that most adults lack the requisite strength in their muscles to do those movements safely but more so because our connective tissues have not been adequately conditioned/prepared or have atrophied/not kept pace with our muscular strength development. This is evidenced by the fact that children can safely and easily perform plyometrics work without anywhere close to the risk for injury as most adults. Adults who participate in regular and focused strength training are generally at an even higher risk of such injury since most of them actually create massive imbalances in their muscular strength to connective tissue strength ratio due to the disparity in recovery/adaptive rates of those two tissue types (the use of exogenous hormone use makes things even worse).

Have you guys used used an isokinetic machine before? It seems like a cool training concept, I’d love to come across one sometime.

Actually missed the day when my class got to try out the isokinetic machines at a nearby graduate program when in college. Definitely a cool concept though and it would be awesome to see how they felt.

If he can squat 405, he probably doesn’t need advice from someone who doesn’t know how to write a program for an MMA fighter who can squat 405lbs.

Watch eric Lillibridge do his weight progression from 225 to 1000plus on the squat, with a 1050 max easy to figure percentage. His fastest squats are around 500 to 600 the bar comes up almost over his head, thats why he is so explosive, those 50 and 60 % squats are activating fast twitch muscle fiber he does same with pulls same thing , i did speed squats on a few occasions did so at end of movement i used calves and would come off ground 1/2 inch or so . I did them before i would do behind neck jerk to overload pch, not mma i know, randy couture has mma conditioning book i bought that has some real mma circuits, exercises for a fighter.