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Squatting For MMA


I was wondering what you guys thought would be the maximum squat/dead-lift/bench target for a fighter, perhaps as a percentage of body weight, before you run into diminishing returns in terms of fighting performance. I don't have an opinion on this since I just started weight training, but I suspect somebody on this website has a pretty good guess.


There really is no answer, lifting maximally builds the quality of absolute strength which is just a quality that fighters need to a certain degree. Theres no number values that every single fighter should be shooting for, they just have to develop enough absolute strength that they can fight well as well as still develop their actual fighting skill level and conditioning among other things.


Succinct Answer: It largely depends on the fighter's genetics. And it is far less than you'd think.

To continue...

Maximal strength is pretty low on the totem pole of priorities for a fighter to train. For example, a true max effort deadlift once you're efficient at it (meaning no newbie gains or recovery ability) will wipe you for a good week if you're supposed to be putting in 2 a days training multiple combat sports AND general conditioning (running, lifting, kettlebells, x-fit, etc).

And keep that in mind^^...you are training multiple fight sports. Regardless if you're on the "I just train MMA" bandwagon, you will have a weakness and naturally you will need to attend to that weakness, so at bare minimum you're training two sports (technically). As an MMA fighter you are a multiple sport/discipline athlete and that is in addition to the general conditioning prep that you need to do. And I do believe that you NEED to do it, but...

Developing your maximal strength is part of your GENERAL CONDITIONING

If you really want to develop strength for MMA, that will transfer directly, do shit like what Frankie Edgar does with Martin Rooney like 1 min pushup maxes and stuff. When you're doing 100 pushups in a minute or 50 dips like frankie then you can outwork someone and have enough power to still KO them (which is more about timing than it is strength).

Maximal strength is very important to develop, but usually in support of other expressions of skill, and in mma it mostly is there to aid your SPEED. There are no grinding 1 rep maxes in mma. Keep that in mind. Only respect-the-chops-era-ken-shamrock powers out of armbars. Everything is repeated effort. And you want PERFECT repeated effort, not sloppy. All of that is going to weigh heavily on your CNS and your recovery. SOMETHING will have to give eventually and it will be your strength training or your skill training.


Was going to respond, Xen Nova already did it better.


That's the philosophy I've followed until now. However, lately I've been wondering why football players and indeed amateur wrestlers, who also train very hard, can get away with maximal strength training and if MMA fighters, and other martial artists might not be "missing out." Again I can't speak to this because I haven't tried it, but it seems like it would be a lot less work to push another 170lbs guy around if I could bench 300. My follow up question would be how much more different would it feel if I could bench 400 or 500 instead, not that I could in any way hope to do that.


it seems like it would be a lot less work to push another 170lbs guy around if I could bench 300.


how long do rounds last in MMA? benching 300 while fresh (e.g., after 2 minutes rest) is probably quite a different beast from benching 300 after doing a minute or two of fairly high intensity work...

pushing a guy around takes a bit of technique, yeah? that is how come good benchers aren't necessarily good MMA fighters. people have a tendency to squirm in ways barbells do not...

there are costs - benefits and i guess it is about figuring whether the trade-off is worth it. max strength training takes time, and it takes time to recover from the training if one wants to get the supercompensation strength benefits. when one compares what else one could be doing with ones time (e.g., practicing pushing another 170lbs guy around for however many minutes the rounds last) then one might be better off doing the latter...

during season... how about off season??

don't know...


I can't find the video anymore but somewhere on the web is a video of Jim wendler and rippetoe and someone else at a roundtable discussion of fighting sports and strengh training... they explain in simpler terms what Xen said, that your work in weightroom really is GPP


Agree, and Xen has a way of doing that.


Robert A


First, I think kmcnyc's often written advice to train the hell out of weights until it interferes with your skill work or your conditioning / endurance work works here. It is succinct, but such fucking elegant advice because it means over emphasis on weight training is going to be self-limiting.

At first you are going to make progress in leaps and bounds. When you are weakest and most in need of improvement you will make it, and then diminishing returns can show up and tell you to go into maintenance mode.


Robert A


always more. no its not time consuming or difficult to build up. no it wont effect your training. do it beltless and wrapless. in no way is being the stronger more imposing fighter a bad thing. and the idea of the whole needing to be at peak conditioning to accomplish your big lifts is to me, absurd some of my best lifting ive done on 3 hours sleep after going toe to toe with aa bottle of liquor i rescently took from january until last tuesday off squatting while engaging in no exercise outside of cardio technique and bag work i also drank like a fish including a week of debachery in cuba. on top of that i hadnt gon above 400 since about october. first day back in the gym i threw on over 4 plates with no problem. strength earned through gut wrenching hard work and mental determination doesnt just dissapear because you added some cario or cut some weight. or even because your getting run ragged aerobicly. have faith in the anaerobic system and its importence when you get in the shit.


well put i agree.




Sometimes...A more complete and honest way of saying it is that if you have a fair bit more technique it often takes little strength to "push" someone around. If you have much greater strength you can accomplish a fair bit with minimal technique.

Skill, Conditioning, and Strength all matter and an extreme advantage in one can compensate for deficit in others. The issue is that it needs to be a SIZABLE advantage and a small deficit to happen with any real consistency.

There is usually too much parity in MMA due to weight class and records for one fighter to have a massive size/strength advantage. It happened/happens in Japan because they treat weight class more as suggestions over there. I am thinking of Sakuraba vs Randleman or Sakuraba vs Jackson as examples.

2.) In season vs. off season is a fair point, but it gets very fuzzy with fighters.

There is no strict, clear, in vs off. A fighter could have a self imposed "off season" between fights to work on getting better/stronger/healthier, but the reality is that scheduling fights is often a bit more chaotic, especially for amateurs.


Robert A


Agreed (imagine that huh?).

One of my instructors, Charlie Lysak, is like grappling with an oak tree. I mean I literally cannot budge him AT ALL in any direction, and although I'm not the best technician in the world by any stretch, my technique is usually enough to allow me to move other people his size or even larger around if not easily then at least successfully much of the time. Shihan Charlie is just a freakishly (frighteningly in fact) strong individual. Some of the things he can do literally boggle the mind. I guess some of us just get lucky and hit the genetic jack pot.

Luckily there aren't many out there like him, but in rare cases like his raw strength can be more than enough to make up for a lack of skill (in Shihan Charlie's case though, it also probably doesn't hurt that he's been training HARD and fighting since he was able to walk).

For the rest of us though generally an understanding of leverage, angles, different types of energies (yielding, pressuring, continuous, etc...), and technique are going to take us further than pure brute strength will.

Personally I feel that while some maximal strength work can be beneficial (especially if you are very weak relative to your body weight), most people would be better served spending the majority of their GPP time on strength endurance (stuff like strong man training, partner resisted drills for time, max push-ups/pull-ups/squats/etc...) and power endurance training (repeated jumps, plyo push-up variations for time or distance, tornado ball slams, etc...). Strength is all well and good, but if you're burnt out after a couple minutes, then your strength is no longer going to be much of an asset. And like someone said above, that slow grinding type of strength that comes from max effort lifting isn't really all that applicable to MMA (or at least very rarely occurs, and even then usually only because of a lack of skill)anyway.


Thanks for the kind words fellas!

I go back and forth on this too, this is what I'm thinking currently:

  • MMA = Multiple sports. Really let that sink in. You're doing a LOT, not just wrestling or playing a specific skill position in football. That takes a lot of time to learn. You realistically only have so many hours in a day. And if you have 4 hours to train. MMA Class, Muay Thai, Wrestling, Weights. I hope your submissions are good or you're getting enough of them in your MMA class... if not congrats your new weakness if your groundgame. Or ok... BJJ, Weights, Muay thai, Wrestling. Well I hope you can transition from each art without any lag time and you've been able to practice mixing your strikes and takedowns. Oh guess not. Fuck with the game theory as much as you want but when it comes down to it lifting specifically for your 1 rep max is not going to be high on your priority list. I didn't even mention aerobic AND anaerobic conditioning. Or if you want to get extra time in on the pads... To put it bluntly. Weightlifting, powerlifting, etc are their own sports. Treat them that way.

  • MMA time periods do not play to the advantage of one rep strength. To answer your question directly: If your technique is equal in both situations then being stronger is always better. But pushing him around if you can bench 300 won't be easier. But if you can do 10 sets of 3 on the bottom (every 30s) with 200 (rather than 170) then it MAY make a difference. It's multiple bouts of you moving as fast and explosively under a load as you can (and before you even ask, I don't think it's good to go crazy with this on 0-lifts and it's better just to work on your technique unless you're GSP). Which is why in my earlier post I mentioned that your ME strength in MMA (usually) comes to play in support of other athletic attributes. It's in the book Starting Strength by Mark Rippetoe, but the continuum of reps has completely different adaptations. Moving on a related point...

  • The time and CNS resources needed to get you that strong and maintain that strength will take away from your ability to recover. So unfortunately for the above situation it is not realistic to have your technique being equal. Training unfortunately is a zero-sum game. If you add to over here (strength), it is because there is a deficit elsewhere (technique, cardio, etc). And generally speaking for most people skill training is simply a bigger bang for your buck. Just like squatting rather than leg extensions. So like I said earlier, unless you're GSP, most of us can polish the sword of our technique a lot more.

  • Again MMA is multiple sports. Learning a new skill, a new movement, a new combo actually requires motor unit coordination and a lot of firing of your brain/cns to acquire the ability. As practitioners we tend to forget about this. So we think we can just drill a whole bunch then go lift weights because your drilling didn't feel that draining, but that is not true. Not to be sidetracked, but you can learn a lot going random topics from the other forums here. If you read the thread on nootropics (I'm not even sure where it is actually), they provided some background research for how learning new skills or just brain fatiguing work (engineering students, etc) eat up a lot of brain chemicals. How much more would something as kinesthetically involved as MMA is do the same?

All that said, I'm with Broz on this one, you can progressively train up to any point that you want. Most of the guys that do wrestle and lift like a motherfucker have also been doing it all of their adult life and even if they started that way it was probably a result of being young and a n00b, so they just adapted after enough time (and in the prime of life). If you're coming from an athletic background that doesn't require similar rigors then you'll need more time to work up to it. Also a lot of the wrestlers and football players you're probably thinking of are collegiate or olympic. They're genetic phenoms.

Again, anything is possible. It doesn't matter which end of the spectrum you believe:
1) We're 4billion years of motherfucking evolutionary success
2) We're the pinnacle of God's creation and love.

Our bodies are AMAZING machines capable of more than we give them credit for... Give it the right tools, keep it from getting too banged up, and give it time to adapt (smart progression). You can do damn near fucking anything. But being a better lifter does not make you a better fighter. Just like being a better fighter does not make you a better lifter. I don't get on the heavy bag to work on my power clean, ya know?


Xen, if we'd be both gay, I'd sent you some nice dick-pics of mine lance.

Instead, I'll just say: great posts!

Whelanj, part of the problem is the old question itself, "in case everything is equal...?" - thing is, it's 100% theoretical.
There was never, and will never be a situation like "totally equal but for teh bench".

Most guys should bpress their bodyweight after some time and squat above bodyweight with very good technique.
If you can't do this after a year you're either rather untalented in that department or have no idea how to train.
As long as you make easy gains, go for it, fighter.
Everything after about 1.3, (perhaps 1.5 for the buff guys) bw bpress is a total bonus.
Note that it still won't enhance your power much because a max on the bench is usually a grind (in contrast to, eg oly lifting where records have the tendency to look deceptively easy peasy.).
Grind is bad because of 0 carryover and maximal fatigue.

Which you don't really need.
A max for MArts means you can go for more weight in the 40% - 60% range (nicer on the joints, medium reps with fast, powerful execution; lots of sets) or more in the ~80% range (same with less reps and sets). Both of which are vastly more useful.
Also, military presses and chinups can be even more useful to a fighter.
For instance, if you are naturally strong with shoulders and chest, why bench? Chin+Squat would be the winning combination here.
Deadlifts with for untalented guys, on the other hand is a disaster if ego meets grind.
If you happen to have short arms, are busy with wrestling, boxing, mma, you should only deadlift heavy and hard if you absolutely hate spines.

How much shoud I train? Can't I just grind on top of my training?
Xen has it right, wrestlers are a special breed of workhorses, same with pros, guys on gear etc.
David Haye (boxer cruiser(heavyweight) claims a 180kg bpress. He reps with three plates in another interview, however. Also, he's a braggard, most likely on gear and talented and a pro.

Again, how much you can train is getting into the lofty realms of philosophy.
One idiot from another forum once wrote that you could pretty much train 18 hours a day, since only sleep, meals and your shits prevent you from training.

Everyone's different, if you really want to lose sleep over a super luxury question:
I'll slip into my greek toga if you are a pro or have pro- aspirations, have already a prefectly individualized plan with massages, therapy thrown in there, lots of expensive, specialzed coaches and grade A whores to carefully balance your sexual cravings.

If not, what's the point?
Just try out how you cope with a busy schedule.


What a spectacular post Xen. Every word of it is true.

It was funny because I was just thinking about this the other day, about how guys love lifting so much and are always looking to keep their maxes and muscle high while boxing or whatever.

And then I go to amateur fights, and see guys that have been boxing for a month, and they look like total shit after the first minute of the first round.

Then I see guys that have been boxing for a year, and they look like total shit after boxing for two minutes of the first round.

And I think about myself, and how long it has taken me to look reasonably good - and I've been boxing for a year and a half. And I still feel like I'm slow and suck... it's only the input of others that makes me think I look anything aside from shitty.

And then I realize that if I was too fight amateur, I might be getting in there with a guy who's been boxing since he was 9 or 10 years old, and at 17, he's done nothing but fight for literally half his life.

So really... when I get up in that ring, all those years of lifting mean exactly shit when I get my ass whipped by the skinny kid from Paterson that's never even seen a weight set but has been working the bag since he was in second grade.


Xen absence makes the heart grow fonder

I have missed your insights onto life.
some very salient well written thoughts Xen

Robert A- that is some great praise, I thank you.

I do think it bears another listen

do what you are doing - til one interferes with the other.
How will you know your doing to much
somewhere your recovery or abilities to do one task vs another will start to manifest.
or maybe not- maybe your 21 and it doesnt matter.

Im 40- and need to manage that shit very carefully
with loads with intensity - and shit with a lot of ice.

I can also speak as to why maybe some wrestlers- and even foot ball types.
( not my favorite group to call 'athletes')
have such a crazy work capacity.

two reasons

they want it (more)

they dont train in a vacuum

those two are kind of intertwined.
the first is kind of obvious.

the second- should be.

If you are in a real stable of people who work and dont complain
you are going to look around and say dude is craxy for doing that

you should say I should be doing that too

when you get to practice 5 mins early and your the last dude
or the last dude who doesnt weigh 250+ on every run
you figure it out.

or you dont.

dont ask to take off the plates either
usually you have to do what the kid infront of you or behind you does.

wrestlers are crazy with that shit- some of it is that the work capacity-
running weight room S&C shit - is all shit you can manage
that you can control

vs what happens in the mat you have to really make happen with a shit ton more effort.
but most guys dont figure that part out.

they just know the 'extra' work so and so does- they have to do to
usually just as good or as much or more


I noticed that Chad Waterbury, weighed in on this issue in the how to train thread. He seemed to think that maximal strength training in the squat, dip, and chinup was an advantage for many fighters. Does anyone know if he has commented on target maximal weights for those exercises?


Chad Waterbury did just that, but lost a lot of credibility with it.


His recommendation was: A (MMA) trainee should strive for triple bw with either deadlift or squat, double bw with bpress.

Primo: That's way too much weight. Waaay too much, in fact!
In the cold eighties, olympic games were just another front for two rivaling superpowers and their proxies.
Winners were to demonstrate their ideology's intrinsic superiority.

Coaches were testing everything on their human material. Drugs, exercises, programs etc.
If you destroyed an athlete's health, nobody shed a tear nor gave a shit.

Sprinters for example were all squatting big weights.
Ben Johnson, one of the fastest ever, was doing 300kg or 600lbs, depending on the source for a few reps.
Let's assume he was at 190 when not shredding for a contest, so he's exceeding the recommendation a bit. I bet he was around 180lbs when sprinting.

However, and once again, he was talented as fuck, juiced regularly, and was a specialist competing in a 10second endeavour. And his path was paved with the career-corpses of his teammates.

Today, practically no sprinter does that. They all squat (maybe) half the amount with better control and speed. And they run just as fast.
And they are still supertalented, superspecialized, superdrugged dudes in their prime.

Secundo: The articles were written with MMArtists in mind. The most complex Martial Arts known to men.
Like Xen already wrote, one could argue -with good reason- if use of weights are prudent at all.
People get ugly injuries from one discipline alone- Judo, Muay Thai, Wrestling, these are some injury-laden sports!

Of course Waterbury had some thoughts about conditioning, the usual high volume stuff, which is a bit of a disease in MMA. So throw that on top.

Tertio: No, not one exercise, he's recommending to pile on the iron with THREE exercises.
I have nothing against benchpress, but most fighters get far too less carryover from it.
Especially when bwx2 is your goal.
Deadlifts and squats are better, but doing both with at least one going for bwx3?
What are his recommendations for bodybuilders?
5x bw for benchpress?

If you ask me, an MMA athlete playing with weights should:
Max out his newbie gains.
Do an occasional 2-4 months run when not really training MA, focusing mostly on strength.
Work on his muscular weaknesses and strucural imbalances to get more injury resistant.
Not compare himself with bodybuilders.


p.s. out of fairness-

CW backpedaled quite a bit since he threw his recommendations out there.
Depending on the article, his recommendations are now way lower.
Around 2.5xbw for deadlift [b]IF[/b] you are talented.