T Nation

Total Body vs. Upper Lower Split for MMA


I posted once in the sticky but only got one response, and I don't have much time to waste waiting for people to view my post. So, I apologize to anyone who is one of the "search first!" or "post in the sticky!" kind of people. Oh well.

I have 3 to 4 days a week for weights and I plan on using the template from the Concurrent Strategies site. (http://www.elitefts.com/documents/concurrent_strategies3.htm)

My main question is, for an MMA fighter who trains technique 3 days a week and does complexes one day a week for extra cardio, what is better: three total body days or two upper/two lower?

The Upper Body days on the site truly seems a little excessive for the amount of strain I'm already putting on my body with grappling and pad work. I'm not sure if I'm interpreting the program wrong, but as I've said it really does look like it will could hurt me rather than help me in the long run.

I'm looking for a program where I can lift heavy, get stronger and put on 5 lbs or so in the next few months. I don't see how I'll be able to get 4 sets of heavy shoulder presses up after throwing up a super heavy bench, having rolled 2 hours the day before.

For that reason, I've also adjusted the 4x6 to a 4x6-8 for SE exercises, but I think it might even have to become 4x8-10 and the current 3x12 to 3x15. I'm not too interested in cleaning on my bench day, so I would rather squat on my bench day. Here is my idea:

Squat 5x3
Bench 5x3
Barbell Row 5x3
Romanian Deadlift 4x6-8
DB Press 4x6-8
Pull ups 3x10-12

Clean 5x1 (according to the site's loading protocol?)
Military Press 5x3
Chinups 5x3
Zercher/Front 4x6-8
Push ups 3x10-12
Standing Cable Trap 3 Raise 3x10-12

Hang Clean (considering removing this)
Deadlift 5x3
Incline DB Bench 4x6-8
Seated Row 4x6-8
Lunges 3x10-12
Lateral Raises 3x10-12

Let me know if this is a good idea and any changes or major redirections you would make. In the past I have only trained with compound lifts (typically 3-4 exercises a day) and almost always heavy, for 3 days a week. I'm hoping to stick heavy but add some medium stuff in too.


G’day ovencover,
and welcome to the forum.

If you want some of the more experienced guys to help you, it might help to include stuff like-
How long you’ve been training (weights, mma), you height/weight, and where your major lifts are at (squat, dl, clean, press, what-ever). This will give people a better view of where you’re at.

As a general answer, though, of split vs total body, do what works.
I know that sounds kinda stupid, but really there are many arguments either way.
Personally I like total body work-outs, because they work for me, you might be different.

That being said, it seems that you are set on doing a total body-
and the one you have proposed looks ok to me. Personally I wouldn’t be doing quite so much on each day, but I train abit on the “conservative” side. Again, this is because it works well for me.
On that note, I personally would abbreviate the program slighly- no rdl or pull-ups on the first day,
no push-ups or cable trap on the second, no hang cleans (which you are considering) and no seated row on the third day. Again- this is just my personal preference, I believe that quite often less is more. Especially if you are also training mma 3x wk, and also doing complexes.

Although- I would add in some shoulder-health stuff. Face-pulls, ext. rotation, blackburns, 3-4 sets of 12-15 of one of these, to the end of your workouts, your shoulders will thank you for it.

I haven’t checked out the program on the site, but singles on the clean doesn’t seem like a good idea to me, at least, not week in, week out… however your comment made me think perhaps these aren’t “true” singles, but done at percentages of 1rm?

Hope this was helpful.


Alright, I’m looking more towards this now

Bench 5x3
Seated Row 4x8
DB Shoulder Press 3x12

Military Press 5x3
Incline DB Bench 4x8
Pullups 3x12

Chin ups 5x3
Push Press 4x8
Push ups 3x12

I realize the vertical and horizontal press outweigh the back work but I thought this would be evened out by the deadlifting and cleans. Because of this imbalance I have considered through in Lunges instead on the Push Press day. I plan to work auxiliary wrist and shoulder health stuff in at the end of workouts if I have time/energy. As for the reps on the leg movements, I have planned to do heavy every day for the first week and then a change in loading from then on


They look like good workouts to me. The only thing I would realize is that although you may want to lift three days a week, you may not have the ability to between skillwork. But two to three total body sessions would be good I think, and you’ve got the basics covered.

Also- you may want to rotate rep ranges. Your body will adopt fairly quickly to doing 3x5 if you do it all the time- mix it up with 5x5, 2x12, 6x3, etc.


looks good…agreed, however I’d go for full body lifts every workout. I wouldn’t split at all. When I’m on the verge of adaptation, usually around the 3 month period, I break things up a bit and do nothing but body weight stuffs for about a month and then go back to lifting.

Depending on your nutrition, you should put on some mass with that kind of workout. Of course this is going put weight on you. So you would need to think about what weight class you’d like to be in and modify your nutrition accordingly. You can cut before a fight, but in my experience, I do the best in the ring/mats when I’m close to my walking weight. I get really weak when I cut weight. That’s just me. You might have a better experience cutting than I do.

I tried something torturous yesterday for shits and giggles. I RDL’d, jerked to military press to squat, mil pressed again and returned to the floor. That was 1 rep. I did a 5x5 of this @105lbs with 60secs of rest between sets. Felt like my whole body was on fire but I felt like I got a lot of work done in a short amount of time. Personally, I always opt for full body over splits.