MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) is one of the fastest growing sports in the world, and encompasses a variety of disciplines across sports and the martial arts – from boxing to Muay Thai, and from Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu to wrestling. An MMA fighter needs not only strength, stamina and power, but also agility and speed to defeat their opponent, needing to incorporate a blend of martial arts and traditional fighting skills into their fighting style. It naturally follows that MMA fighters are some of the best conditioned, multi skilled, all-round athletes in the world, so it’s obviously appealing to follow their training regime. To get started, follow our tips below!
BUILD EXPLOSIVE STRENGTH
MMA fighters rely on dynamic, explosive movements and the ability to generate power – fast. Developing that explosive power in turn relies on the body’s ability to recruit fast twitch muscle fibres and the elastic capabilities of those muscle fibres. Stretching and contracting the muscles produces strength – “the strength shortening cycle” – and how fast the muscles are able to react and recoil when stretched can be developed and enhanced through training.
This is where plyometric training comes in. Plyometrics are quick, intense and powerful movements that both help to develop fast twitch muscle fibres and activate the strength-shortening cycle, to produce optimal explosive performance and increase the speed at which strength is generated. This includes utilising movements like box jumps, medicine ball throws, hurdle bounds and explosive push and pull ups.
It’s not enough to be able to produce explosive power – MMA fighters need to repeat it over and over again, and have the ability to last out five, five-minute rounds in the octagon. That means that endurance training forms a key part of any MMA fighter’s regime. Blending plyometrics with interval training helps increase repetitive power output, helping MMA fighters perform stronger and faster for longer.
Interval or HIIT training means alternating periods of high intensity effort with periods of lower intensity effort or rest, allowing fighters to boost endurance over shorter periods of effort and therefore reduce the risk of injury. That can include plyometric based circuits, sprints, weightlifting and fighting rounds.
TRAIN YOUR CORE
Core strength is essential for MMA fighters and is the foundation for the power generated through any combative movement. Power, speed, flexibility, balance and endurance are all enhanced by a strong core as well as improving the ability to take a blow to the abdomen. For example, hip strength and flexibility adds power to kicks, a strong twist at the waist enhances punches while a strong lower back makes submission holds and clinches more effective.
MMA training regimes are therefore packed with core strengthening. This can include exercises such as swiss ball crunches, hanging leg raises, side planks and tight rotations.
MMA fighters know that a powerful performance needs a well fuelled body. While fighters will refine their diet closer to a fight, an MMA fighter’s training diet will incorporate significant carbohydrates to fuel punishing workouts, alongside foods rich in protein to enhance recovery. This might include foods such as slow release, low GI foods including oatmeal or brown rice for sustained energy, combined with protein rich foods such lean meats and eggs to boost muscle repair and recovery. Usually, this will also involve protein supplements and incorporate foods rich in healthy fats such as salmon or avocado, and fish oil to help reduce inflammation.
MMA fighters also eat frequently, often every 2-3 hours, both to maintain an active metabolism and ensure a steady supply of protein through the day. Just like any other discipline, MMA fighters optimise their diets around their training regime and their planned daily activity. Get your nutrition right, and it lays the groundwork for the rest of your regime.