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Thoughts Regarding MMA Training


This is a lot shorter version of something that I had already typed... accidentally pressed the back button and poof it disappeared tear.

I'm just bouncing ideas around but tell me what you think.

Just thinking:

An mma athlete has different needs than other sports. For example, volleyball, basketball, a wideout need a high vertical. Thats unnecessary for a fighter as cool as that may be. Sprinting speed? well he shouldn't be running. 1 rep maxes really dont mean much at all. Especially since weight classes exist (and even if there is a discrepancy tables can turn easily cause of a variety of other factors.)

I'm going to generalize a lot but hopefully you'll see the point in doing so.

rep ranges between 1-3 (except with the advent of a large number of sets) stimulate the CNS rather than develop muscles. You're teaching your CNS how to fire off your muscle fibers in the correct manner to lift the weight. You then hypertrophy the muscle when it reaches its maximum potential and you need more fibers to fire off. For some people 4-5 reps still stimulates this response.

In these ranges you're basically teaching yourself the lift. Does this strength transfer to anywhere except to the movement you're practicing? (Bench squat clean snatch whatever) Hardly in the fighting arena, if you move 2x and need 4min to recover to do it again that doesnt have shit to do with combat.

I think that a combat athlete needs a few things that are a bit different than other athletes.

1- Hypertrophy/conditioning in specific muscle groups. Areas that are problems as far as fatigue or that are prone to injury. Prehabilitation and developing the muscles in that area is important. Identifying weakness and ovecoming them. general rep range being between 10-20. (still can add weight to this improving strength) There are other ranges to develope hypertrophy but 5 sets of 10 is a lot more time efficient than 10 sets of 3.

2- Variety of conditioning methods. Training specifically for assigned rounds, training for intervals, training to teach your system to deal with lactic acid, etc. There are so many ways to train this and different implements to use its a seperate post. It can be very specific (sprawls and bagwork) or arbitrary (1 arm snatches, sledgehammer and burpees) but there are a ton of effective methods.

3- Total body strengthening, best method is to use complexes because you can use near max rep ranges (6-8) but still have a cardiovasular proponent as long as replicating fight type environment (everything getting work) and hypertrophy in important muscle groups. Another favorite would be strong man medley's. If you dont know the benefit of these get off my thread now. (its not 1-3 rep ranges but you can see that you still can add weight)

4- the BULK of time should be spent actually practicing the sport, do as many bench presses as you want but very few things teach you to hit harder than practicing your striking on progressively heavier bags. Efficiency of movement, accurracy, and all important attributes to the fight game are developed through actually training.

If you want to hit harder, master the movment, get your biomechanics right and all that shit falls in place. Get better on the ground? its ALL technique... there is a large strength component but again for all the weight room work nothing developes that better than wrestling with heavier opponents or simply rotating in fresh partners.

If you do your hypertrophy work you will have developed more muscle fibers to fire off and instead of them being wired to lift weight, they're wired to HIT or hip heist or perform whatever movement is necessary for the fight itself.

Now, it depends on whether the fighter has an emphasis on standup or ground fighting.But for example someone that depends on their standup game a workout could look like.

.Total body strength complex/medley
..interval/cardio work
....Same session, or earlier session spend bulk of your time working technique and developing power through actually practicing your sport.

I think that if you can clean & jerk your bodyweight then you're ok and can raise your work capacity and even your strength through other means...IF the athlete truly does need to raise their strength then I would use gymnastic type exercises which tend to use 3 sets of 6-8 reps or utilize isometric holds along with pistols and perhaps back squats you can develope tremendous strength that transfers EASILY to the ground. If you use thick paralletes you improve your grip strength as well.


There's so many things wrong with this post I don't even know if I can address them all but heres a try:

"If you move 2x and need 4min to recover to do it again that doesnt have shit to do with combat"
This is bs a max-power punch doesnt take out the same amount as a max bench

"But 5 sets of 10 is a lot more time efficient than 10 sets of 3."
Where do you get this information from?

1-arm snatches and hammer swings are hardly arbitrary, what about the obliques?

Paragraph #4 the weight of a bag has nothing to do with the increasing your punching strength

"If you do your hypertrophy work you will have developed more muscle fibers to fire off and instead of them being wired to lift weight, they're wired to HIT or hip heist or perform whatever movement is necessary for the fight itself." <- this line just makes no sense :frowning:

IF the athlete truly does need to raise their strength then I would use gymnastic type exercises.


There's so many things wrong with this post I don't even know if I can address them all but heres a try:

"If you move 2x and need 4min to recover to do it again that doesnt have shit to do with combat"
This is bs a max-power punch doesnt take out the same amount as a max bench

*----------> True, my point is why train it they're two different things altogether how do they relate? How does that REALLY improve your punching ability? Sure it "strengthens" those muscle? Does it really? No it just teaches the muscles to fire properly move the weight. You want more muscle mass to fire, you use higher rep ranges. Just like in westside, to teach the CNS they use their max/dynamic ranges, but they use higher rep ranges as a means to hypertrophy and train the muscle.
HUGE generalization...Low reps teach muscle, hi reps create it.

"But 5 sets of 10 is a lot more time efficient than 10 sets of 3."
Where do you get this information from?

*-------> Because I've done both and I know that it takes a lot less time to do 5 sets of 10 than 10 sets of 3. And i think that the athlete would be better of practicing the sport itself than in the weight room. The nature of mma lends itself to actually fighting rather than lifting weights. You'll probably be moving more in the terms of tonnage with 10x3, but i'd sacrifice that for another 2 rounds on the mat.

1-arm snatches and hammer swings are hardly arbitrary, what about the obliques?

*------>It's arbitrary because its not a movement you're actuallying going to perform in your fight. What about obliques? Hit the heavy bag enough, do your "core" work you'll be straight.

Paragraph #4 the weight of a bag has nothing to do with the increasing your punching strength

*---------------> I have to disagree just based off of experience. Rocky Marciano for one believed in doing this.

"If you do your hypertrophy work you will have developed more muscle fibers to fire off and instead of them being wired to lift weight, they're wired to HIT or hip heist or perform whatever movement is necessary for the fight itself." <- this line just makes no sense :frowning:

*----------> Ok. I could be wrong and I probably am... which is why i posted.
But I dont see what you don't get. Instead of the CNS and the muscles being programmed specifically to bench, they did grow larger but the cns isn't stressed so most of the muscle memory/learning ability goes towards the perfection of fighting technique rather than lifting technique.

IF the athlete truly does need to raise their strength then I would use gymnastic type exercises.

*---------> I explained that it's less time consuming and has a very serious carry over especially to relative strength (since most combat athletes probably don't want to go up any weight classes). Also it's a huge bang for your buck, they're like olympic lifts minus the learning curve (which isn't even that big)

Thanks for taking you time to point out stuff, I'm trying to sort this out in my head. Keep in mind (as i said in my small disclaimer) I'm generalizing left and right I know its a lot more complicated but for the sake of time I"m just saying it in laymans terms.



I disagree with pretty much everything you said, besides the implemenation of snatches and sledgehammers for conditioning.


With regards to vertical leap in fighting, while it is not totally necessary in fighting, it is not totally necessary in basketball either. Vertical leap translates to explosiveness. This can be overcome in basketball, such as putting a higher arch on your shot. In MMA, a high vertical leap helps on your stand up, the ability to explode off your feet and punch or kick someone, or to explode and takedown someone. If you look at fighters in the top of the talent pool, a lot of them have some ups. But fighting is the game you don't play, and vertical leap is just one of thousands of variables in the equation. Just my two cents.


Ya i KNOW everyone's going to disagree with it but every body i ask can never give me a reason why. No logic.

Just "this is the way it is".


True but in fighting it shouldn't be focused on as it is in lets say football (lets reference Defranco). If it happens thats great, it means you're doing something correct. A large vertical leap (as far as being a fighter) should be something that is a side effect of training not specifically trained for, right?

Just cause I improve my vertical leap doesn't mean that I can hit harder. The time would be better spent improving your biomechanics.


What makes you think that FB players train to improve their vert? It is simply a display of power.


You seem to think raw strength and explosiveness (read plyometrics not kettlebells, which are different) are not predictors of success in MMA. If you look at many of the most powerful MMA's out there they often dominate their opponent through raw strength: matt hughes, GSP, Gomi are just a few that fit this category.

At a certain point in sports you can reach a level where upping your max lift only makes a slight difference, look at Bop Sapp for example. If he did more of an intense conditioning phase, he would not gas as quickly.

On the other hand look at Jason "Mayhem" Miller, if his strength levels were higher, then he wouldn't have been overpowered as badly by GSP when they fought.

I think a periodized approach attacking an athletes weak points tapering into intense pre-fight conditioning training is the way to go.

Technique is of course important, but I think MMA's would do good to take time off completely from their sport to recover physically and also to dedicate time to whatever their weaknesses are (possibly a longer and more intense conditioning phase, possibly a longer and more intense raw strength phase or hypertrophy phase) without being drained through the demands of training. Trying to gain strength while training 8-10 hrs a week of wrestling, muay thai and jiu-jitsu is not an optimal environment.

As for the gymnastics stuff, that's such an arbitrary statement. The skill level needed for those is so high that it could detract from time better spent on other variables. Someone being unable to do a handstand push-up might be better served by increasing their standing barbell press, a much more specifically measurable lift, besides the core support neccessary to do a handstand push-up pales in comparison to the force exerted from a standing press.

Some athletes might benefit from what you are suggesting, but it's such a blanket statement that it presupposes their max strength levels will be enhanced enough through their training, this is too big a step to take in logic to apply it generally.


I like pretty much everything you mentioned. But I disagree on this point. If we're doing 5x10, we're going to use more than one exercise, correct? While you can get away with only one exercise at 10X3. So, in the context of a full workout, I'd say you're not really saving any time with 5x10.

Hypothetical Situation #1 - For any and all to answer.
A 28-year old guy (6'0", 200 pounds, 13%bf), who has been training according to Fitness Fiction magazines (read: he's never heard of T-Nation), for the past 3 years comes to you and says "Dude, I want to be a competitive MMA fighter. Help me out." He has no martial arts experience. What do you have him do?

Hypothetical Situation #2 -For any and all to answer.
A 28-year old guy (6'0", 200 pounds, 13%bf), who has been studying Muay Thai, BJJ, and Greco wrestling consistently for the past 3 years, but has never exercised other than sparring and repetitive skill practice, comes to you and says "Dude, I want to be a competitive MMA fighter. Help me out." What do you have him do?


if the context is overly complicated, look into the context. People try and analyse things too much, you need to get out there and train and see what works for you, like some guys might like doing weights, others might not touch them, feel they dont do anything for them. I personally dont use barbells or sandbags but thats not coz im some anti weight training guru trying to sell a book, i just dont feel i need to use them, asses your weaknesses and set realistic goals and monitor your progress, cutting back what doesnt work and experimenting. Some of the top MMA guys have such simple routines, like Fedor Emelianenko, his training consists of boxing and grappling drills, calisthenics and running. Train as specifically as you can, when Quinton Jackson was asked why he doesnt use barbells to strengthen his slamming power he said "im not going to slam a barbell so why practice it with a barbell?"


I would suggest taking a look at what some of the better college wrestling programs use and go with something similar. From what I see MMA is very similar to wrestling, it is for the most part a high out put endurance sport. I think your fighting training will do more to build punch strength than lifting weights.



Kind of related. I'll contribute more to the discussion when I'm home later on. At work at the moment.


You should watch this vid for great MMA training info....




How about we look at the issue in a different context. What about a baseball pitcher? Should they train "as specifically as possible"? For them, that would consist of simply throwing pitch after pitch after pitch after pitch. That's what his sport, and his position, requires. If that's not a formula for muscle imbalances and overuse syndrome, I don't know what is.

I agree that there are a bunch of competitive fighters around that still avoid training with external weight. But that's simply not the best way to do things. If Rampage, instead of avoiding free weights, worked on heavy 2-DB power cleans, do you think he'd become an ineffective fighter or become victim to some kind injury? No. He'd get stronger. For him to ignore that fact, though it works for him and others, is myth-perpetuating ignorance.


Xen Nova, you make some fucked-up point there. However, as soon as someone brings up fucked-up things, I'm more than willing to discuss.

I will first tell you a bit about my MMA training ideas. I fight at 160 pounds (different weight clases over where I live), and walk around at around 185. When at 185 I can power clean 150% of my weight. I don't do benches, but I can close-grip bench about 180% of my weight. Nothing impressive, just good enough for what I currently need.

I train in the weight room using classic schemes such as 5*5 and 10*3. I also do singles.

I will also tell you that saying that between 1 and 3 reps you only target the nervous system is...moronic. I know countless people who have developed hard, fast-twitch muscle doing nothing but singles and doubles (I live in an east-european country).

There is also no proof supporting your claim, while there is plenty of proof validating the contrary. Plenty of it on this very site, where it's made clear every other week that there's really nothing better for hypertrophy than 5 maybe 6 reps per set.

Another point you make is that for example, bench presses only teach your muscles to bench press. Maybe, in the extreme, if you were to do nothing but live on a bench, and do your presses.

It doesn't work like that in the real world. Our bodies have not evolved like that. We would not be around as a species if our bodies did not adapt to various movements. For example, tension in a partial movement is (obviously) transmitted to the rest of the muscle/range.

Also, high-rep training is endurance training. It gets your muslces used to lactic acid...sort of. It doesn't make new muscle fibers, not at all. Instead, it causes the existing fibers to retain more water and other "stuff", the bad kind of hypertrophy.

So my main problem with what you wrote is the low-rep targets the CNS while high reps make new fibers which you can then teach MMA-specific movements.

It just doesn't happen that way. In the gym you should be doing work for your fast-twitch fibers and max strenght. Personally, I diet a few days out of every month (to lose muscle). If I don't, I just outgrow my target weight. Doing this has kept my weight down while my strenght has crept up.

The take-home point is that skills are built while training them, but for a powerful body you definetly need resistance training (bodybuilding, oly, strongman, gymnastics, GPP, etc)and sprint-work.

Working for hypertrophy would only leave you at a great strenght disatvantage in front of people who weight just as much as you, but have gotten there by working for max strenght.

Really, do you know nothing of muscle fiber types?


Here we go again...

I concede the point regarding 5x10 and 10x3...thats valid I can understand that. Which would open up other rep ranges, but I still say the pursuit of a larger 1 rep max is pointless for a mma athlete. Training complexes is of better use for the standpoint of athleticism, gpp, and hypertrophy.

my point is this:

Power production without hypertrophy is specific to firing patterns/motor recruitment. Regardless of what you may think.

Motor recruitment is specific to the movement itself.

I've grappled with plenty of individuals who can bench the whole gym, this strength doesn't often lend itself to mat strength.

Its like writing your signature. Your right hand is easy because you're recruiting the right motions its almost "automatic", yet your left hand is a struggle. But that doesn't mean that is the reason you can arm wrestle better with your right hand.

To hit harder for instance, you shouldn't just get your bench and squat numbers up. Though that IS good advice within a certain context. Rather it takes practice to hit harder.

The key is to practice with appropriate intensity so that the hypertrophied and now larger muscle can learn to produce more force by using proper recruitment patterns for PUNCHING not benching/squatting.

So you would hit for power with perfect technique in your punching mechanics with bigger, stronger muscles.

Even Westside, the ME movement teaches your CNS to deal with the stress of pressing that much weight in order to wire your muscles to fire properly in that situation which is why they find that training the MOVMENT of the bench press (ie, close grip board presses) translates to more strength than heavy "tricep specific" movements (ie, skull crushers)

AGAIN BECAUSE: Motor recruitment is specific to the movement itself

This is why not ALL westside movements are done as maximal lifts. The lifts after your ME movment range from 5 sets of 10-20 to 4 sets of 6reps. But rarely if ever do they go lower.

The ME/DE lift takes care of the "wiring" or your motor recruitment and the other lifts take care of the hypertrophy portion.

Likewise a MMA athlete specifically looking for strength should train for hypertrophy and allow the motor recruitment to take place in practicing the movements.

I'm not saying that you can't increase the weight as you train. Rather I feel that an obsession with your ME squat, bench or even Power clean isn't going to help you become a better fighter.

Classy Cojones mentioned working specific "muscle fibers". You're right you should train muscle fibers... you should train them to fire off and recruit themselves when you need them to be recruited. Which just reinforces my point.

Why am I going to worry about my circa maximal phase for blue band, red band, see how deep the rabbit hole goes type shit to improve my striking abilities?

An MMA athlete would be better served training the muscles used within the movement whether eccentric or concentric (westside supplementary/accessory movements) and practicing the actual movement in a realistic/hyperbole environment (me/de)


From a Charles Staley Email::

Few tidbits about Motor Unit (MU recruitment):

First, we think that whenever a muscle engages to overcome a
resistance, the slowest MU?s are recruited first (there may be some
isolated exceptions however). If you?re only lifting a light
resistance, only slow MU?s will be recruited.

With a medium
resistance, some faster MU?s will also be recruited. When you lift a
heavy load, more fast MU?s will be engaged. But in all cases? even if
you?re lifting a maximum weight? the slowest MU?s in the engaged
muscle fire first, followed by faster and faster MU?s ? even if the
whole contraction only takes a fraction of a second.

Think of it like the volume knob on one of those old stereo sets where
there?s a vertical column of little white lights...when you turn up
the volume just a little, only the first few lights go on. But when
you turn the volume way up, almost all the lights go on. Now imagine
that you?ve got say, 7 lights lit up on that column.

Each light
cooresponds to a category of motor units. The first (lowest) light
represents the slowest category of MU, and the top light represents
the fastest. So even if you turn that knob real fast, the bottom one
lights up first, then the next, then the next, and so on.

Second point: a mad scientist-type by the name of Jerry Telle once
explained to me (and Jerry, if you?re out there, I use that term with
complete reverence!) that there are two possible types of recruitment:
?top-bottom? and ?bottom-top.? If you lift a medium weight to failure,
your slower fibers will be recruited to lift the load, and once they
fatigue, faster and faster MU?s will be brought into the fray to
continue the effort, until all MU?s are exhausted.

That?s bottom-top
recruitment. If you lift the heaviest weight you can lift, it?s like
turning that volume knob up real fast? you quickly climb that whole
column of little white lights, but that top light doesn?t have much
endurance, and when it poops out, the one under it has to work even
harder, and then IT poops out, which loads up the next one down...it
poops out, and so on and so forth down the line. That?s called
top-bottom recruitment.


And to add something::

if you were to do singles, double, triple movments... it's best to use them in a complex.

for example you do 8 triples in different movments. (c&j, bent row, rdl, etc) rest. repeat.

Or train in a manner like EDT.



First off, I respect you. You post some great stuff about MAs in general and I know that you think a lot about this stuff.

That said, I think you're looking at the wrong things here.

All training for a MMA should be to improve MMA. That means something very different for each person, but some principles certainly apply to all. We need to assess and prioritize the qualities that make a MMA great. Certainly technique is always the top priority. So on a scale of 1 to 10 a great MMA fighter needs to be a 9.5 (always room for more). However, with no strength there is nothing, so certainly strength needs to be there, say at maybe 6 out of 10? More important than strength would be power, give it say 7 and power endurance at maybe 8. See what I'm getting at? Dave Tate wrote about this. I recommend listing all of the qualities that you think will be important, then rate how important.

Now it's time to assess the athlete. If their technique should be at a 9.5 and they are at 1, they should do nothing but train technique. If their strength is at 3, they need improvement there too. Rate the athlete against your list and see where improvements can be made and which ones need to be brought up the most.

Next prioritize your training to match your assessed priorities. Personally I believe that technique is always first. After that, which quality needs to come up? Make that secondary in your training after technique. Also train is such a way as to not lose your other qualities. Knowing your strength ladder helps this. Power endurance cannot exist without power and power needs strength etc.

Also realize that we do not live in a bubble. All training has carry over affect. I think you're taking specificity too far. If it was truly as you describe, a person would be able to bench 400 but wouldn't be able to lift the bar in incline press if they didn't train for it. In the beginning of MMA training just doing MMA will make you stronger if you haven't trained for strength, more enduring if you haven't trained for endurance. Strength training will make you more powerful if you haven't ever trained for power.

Suggested sequence of training from beginner to killer:
First only MMA training. This will obviously improve technique, but will also improve all else! This is the foundation. Strength will go up, power, endurance, everything.

After a time, the practitioner's physical improvements will slow and eventually stop. Before they stop, it's time to assess the athlete and focus on the lowest common denominator that will create the most improvement. If the athlete lacks strength and power, work on bringing up strength. This will have a carry over to power. Simply, work whatever will create the most impact.

Always do more technique training, which alone will bring up other qualities, but not forever. Then strength will have the biggest impact, then power, and then power endurance. Notice I left out cardio? Because training the other qualities will almost always have more bang for your buck, and all the technique training will bring up cardio just fine.

Train strength for strength, train speed for speed, train endurance for endurance, technique for technique.

It's just that simple. The hardest part is knowing which will bring up your skills the most.

Sorry if that was long winded and repetitive, I'm at work and distracted.