Training

MMA Training Guide | Physique, Strength & Conditioning

MMA – or Mixed Martial Arts – is the most popular fighting sport in the world. It’s also one of the most demanding sports, requiring a huge amount of skill, stamina and determination. This is why MMA fighters are some of the most ripped athletes you’ll see. If you want to build that toned body, you’ll need an MMA training program and a nutrition plan that goes way beyond the time you put into the gym.

Short, explosive movements and agility are key to MMA success. These are attained through training strength, endurance and your all-important sparring technique.

Worried you might be punching above your weight? Don’t worry – in this guide we’ve laid out everything you need to get the ultimate MMA body.

In this guide you’ll find:

MMA strength training

MMA fighters are up there with ultra-marathon runners, triathletes and strongman competitors in terms of their training dedication.

Variety is key to making the most of your MMA strength training and achieving that key balance between strength and endurance. Don’t forget that mixing it up in the gym and introducing some variety into your workouts can prevent your body from plateauing, making your body more agile and able to take on the many different movements MMA requires.

MMA strength training tips

Strength will be one of the most important fitness elements when it comes to your MMA training. Here are some general top tips for improving your strength:

  • Mix it up. Vary your focus between strength and conditioning. Strength training means maximizing the power of your muscles, while conditioning is about managing the flow of energy in your lungs, heart and blood flow. Make sure you carefully plan out these workouts so you know you’re getting plenty of each.
  • Push your boundaries. Don’t be afraid of heavy lifting – but don’t go too far. You want to be striking the perfect balance between respecting and pushing your boundaries. The best way to do this is by listening to your body and being mindful of how much strain it can handle.
  • Develop a lifting technique. You’ll need a good lifting technique to get the most out of every lift and curl. If you don’t have the correct form, you’ll be putting unnecessary strain on yourself and risking injury.

Michael Bisping MMA training

MMA circuit training workout

Can you strike, grapple, duck, dive and manoeuvre over an extended period of time?

This workout will help you build muscle and endurance to do so, and lasts just 30 minutes to boot, so you could even fit it into a high-impact lunch-break. There are five stations involved. Aim to do as many reps as you can at every station in five minutes, before resting for a minute as you move between each, covering three circuits over the 30-minute period.

Warm-up. Sprint 25 meters, then walk back to the start to recover. Repeat this for five minutes. This will get your heart rate up and wake up the muscle fibers in your muscles so they can perform powerful, explosive movements.

Then move on to:

Station 1 will develop your upper-body strength and muscle endurance. Do 15 reps of the following:

  • Push-ups – keep your core tight and give those abs a workout.
  • Jumping jacks – a super-simple explosive leg movement
  • Bench dips to work the triceps – combine with a dipping belt and weights for an extra challenge

Take a 60-second break.

Station 2 will give your whole body a workout. Do 10 reps each:

  • Burpees to work your whole body and get your heart pumping
  • Clean and press to work your hamstrings, back and shoulders. Requires a heavy exercise ball or barbell
  • Weighted burpees to hit the whole body again. You’ll need two dumbbells for this
  • Box jumps to work your whole body and push your explosive endurance

Take a 60-second break.

Station 3 will improve your leg strength. Do 10 reps each:

  • Jumping squats to build overall strength in your legs
  • Jumping lunges to really work your glutes and quads
  • Clean and press, again. Requires a heavy exercise ball or barbell
  • Kettlebell swings involving explosive hip movements, strengthening your glutes, back and core

Take a 60-second break.

Station 4 will boost your full-body strength. Again, 10 reps each:

  • Goblet squats to build your quad muscles. Use kettlebells or dumbbells for this
  • Pullover/tricep extensions to works your arms. Use a barbell for these
  • Incline dumbbell bicep curls to work your arms
  • Swiss ball push-ups. Keep these stable and you’ll build up strength in your pecs
  • Bent-over barbell rows to build and widen your lats

Take a 60-second break.

Station 5 will increase your body’s core power. Another 10 reps of each exercise:

  • Toe touches to stretch your core and hamstrings. Test your stability and strength here with a medicine ball
  • Tire flips – a classic strongman move to build strength across your whole body
  • Ab-rollouts will test your core on an ab-wheel. Keep your back and core tight throughout to get the most out of this
  • High-speed curls to hit the biceps again. You’ll need a resistance band

Bisping training handwraps

MMA training nutrition

Developing a robust MMA training guide is just half the battle – to really fire on all cylinders you need a proper nutrition plan. Master your nutrition, and you’ll have the energy to perform at your best whilst building your MMA physique.

Ideally, you should eat before and after a workout – even during a gym session if you really want to grow and develop quickly. What and how much you need to eat and drink will depend on how intense your session is.

What to eat before MMA training

As your main source of energy comes from carbohydrates, it’s a good idea to top up on carb-rich foods before starting your workout. This will give you the energy to perform at your best. It’ll also reduce the breakdown of muscle tissue and encourage more growth.

Chicken, brown rice and vegetables is a classic pre-workout meal that combines protein and carbs, promoting muscle growth while giving you a slow release of energy. Stick to meals you can cook in  bulk, and you’ll have a tasty pick-me-up prepared for every sparring session.

On top of your meal-prep, pre-workout supplements can also give you a huge lift before a tough session in the gym. Designed to maintain your electrolyte balance, they can help you stay alert so you can go further and lift heavier.

What to eat during MMA training

Exercises that boost your endurance are also key to MMA training – and intra-workout supplements make the perfect companion to these. They keep you going during high-performance workouts like running and cycling, replenishing the amino acids your body uses whilst you’re exercising over long periods of time.

Finding protein shakes too heavy to take mid-session? Consider CLA capsules. They’re a super-convenient source of CLA oil for your diet, and super-easy to build into your MMA training program as you push for progress.

What to eat after MMA training

What you consume after your MMA workout will affect your muscle growth and recovery. You have a window of roughly one hour to consume protein after your workout in order to replace the nutrients you’ve lost effectively. That’s not to say you can’t replenish muscle loss after this point – it’s just any protein hit won’t be as effective, so make the most of it.

The quickest and most convenient way to do this is by consuming Impact Whey Protein with some extra carbohydrates. One of our favourite high-carb nutrition hacks is adding some of our super-mixable Instant Oats to a protein shake of your choice.

This will repair the muscle you’ve lost in your workout session, so you don’t have to dip into your glycogen reserves and end up losing muscle. Get something that’s right for you- try different post-workout supplements to aid your body’s recovery.

Top tips for making the most of your MMA meal plan

  • Prepare weekly meal plans. Ever find yourself with nothing in the fridge and settling with pizza for dinner? You need to plan your nutrition ahead of time in order to avoid being tempted by fast food and unhealthy choices.
  • Store food safely. You’ll need a good solution for storing your foods in a fresh place and in the right packaging. Look no further than our high-quality meal prep containers.
  • Throw away poor-quality food. Any unhealthy food like chips, candy and soda lying around? Get rid of them.
  • Drink more water. Staying hydrated is key to your body’s performance and recovery.
  • Take a break. Once a week, focus on eating the food that makes you happy. Having a ‘cheat day’ is good for a carb reload, as well as a personal incentive to keep you going.

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Victoria Catterall-Decalmer

Victoria Catterall-Decalmer

Editor

Victoria is our US editor and has a master’s degree in English Literature. She loves doing unconventional workouts like pole fit, which she's done for the past four years. She's also a passionate foodie, so in her spare time, you'll find her trying out the newest restaurants in her home town.


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