WSBB Blog: 5 Fundamental Exercises For MMA

by WSBB Education on November 09, 2020

Tags: MMA, Conditioning, Grappling 

Time to Read: 3.5min

When training for mixed martial arts, the success of an athlete depends on their strength and conditioning as much as it depends on their skill and technique. Today, mixed martial arts has grown into a multi-million dollar sport featuring some of the best athletes on Earth. With this influx of advanced athletes, we understand that advanced training methods are needed to stay ahead of the pack.

Here at Westside Barbell, we have a history of working with fighters from all backgrounds over the last twenty years. Many fighters from amateur to pro level have trained here, and over the years we have found a few workouts we consider highly valuable to the mixed martial arts athlete. Here are five exercises we regularly use for our fighters at Westside Barbell, and how you can employ them for yourself or the athletes you coach.

Box Squats

Box squats can be used to build both strength and conditioning. Depending on whether it is a max effort day or a dynamic effort day, different set and rep schemes can be employed to get the desired training effect. With our fighters we use max effort box squats to develop absolute strength, as well as introducing max effort top sets of three and five to switch the focus more towards strength endurance.

On dynamic lower day box squats can be used for the normal high set count low rep count workouts, or you can utilize a 5 x 5 style workout to work both strength and work capacity conditioning. You can change out different specialty bars to change up the training effect, as well as adding bands or chains for accommodating resistance. Considering the amount of ways you can set up box squats, they are an excellent way to get stronger and avoid any issues with accommodation.

Sumo Deadlift

Sumo deadlift is an excellent exercise choice for a mixed martial arts athlete. Sumo deadlifts create a powerful base for any athlete, and for fighters having a strong base stance to throw strikes and shoot takedowns is paramount. Like box squats, sumo deadlifts can be set up in many different ways.

A few of the preferred setups are deficit sumo deadlifts standing on a two inch deficit, sumo deadlift against bands or chains, and sumo rack deadlifts. These exercises can all be done for max effort singles, or multi rep sets of three or five. Sumo deadlifts can also be used as an accessory exercise for time to condition an athlete.

This calls for bar weight less than 50% and either doing an AMRAP set or doing sets for time.

Close Grip Bench Press

Developing upper back, shoulder, and arm strength is important for fighters for many different reasons. Aside from throwing a stronger punch, having strong arms increases your ability to grip and control opponents. This exercise can be done with different bars like the camber bench bar, or the axle bar, and can be used as a main or accessory exercise.

As a main exercise we will work up to a max effort single, or a set of three of five reps. For accessory work we will do multiple high rep sets, anywhere from 5 x 5 to 4 x 10-12.

Sled Drags/Pushes

One of the best ways to increase strength endurance while also training cardiovascular endurance in athletes is to use the sled. Here at Westside, we have our athletes push sleds with both a low and high stance. We also have them drag sleds walking forward, backward, and sideways.

While dragging a sled, we will have athletes carry a safety squat bar or sandbags on their back. This trains the athlete to not only maintain strength and endurance over time, but it also trains the mind to focus on the task at hand and endure.

Wheelbarrow Walks

Wheelbarrow walks are one of the best ways to condition an athlete for competition. You’ll be developing grip strength and endurance holding the wheelbarrow, developing balance and coordination walking a heavy wheelbarrow, and improving your work capacity walking the wheelbarrow for increasing distances. The weight loaded should be appropriate for the distance traveled, we recommend varying between heavy short distance walks and moderately heavy long distance walks workout to workout.

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