Train like a Fighter
What does it take to train like a top mixed martial arts athlete? For UFC fighter Paige VanZant, a regular daily session with Team Alpha Male cohorts at her gym in Sacramento, CA, lasts at least two hours. Each workout is a mix of dynamic warmups, plyometrics, several rounds of shadowboxing and kickboxing, and technique work, strength moves, and stretching. “We change things up a lot, but there’s always a challenge,” says UFC fighter and Team Alpha Male coach Urijah Faber.
We asked VanZant to share her favorite drills and fighting moves that keep her in top shape. Incorporate elements of them into your existing program, or do the full UFC-inspired routine to help you gain stamina, speed, power, and conditioning in one total-body workout you’ll love. See the full workout in our November/December issue, on newsstands now!
Warmup: Box Jump
IMPROVES: EXPLOSIVE STRENGTH
WORKS: GLUTES AND LEGS
- Stand with feet shoulder-distance apart, knees slightly bent, a few feet in front of box.
- Bend knees into a quarter-squat. Swinging arms, drop hips and use momentum to power yourself onto the box, landing with knees bent.
- Do 2 sets, 10–12 reps.
Warmup: JUMP ROPE COMBO
IMPROVES: AGILITY, COORDINATION, ENDURANCE
WORKS: ARMS, LEGS
Intermix the following styles into your rope-jumping routine; aim for a total of at least 10 minutes of work.
Basic Jump (Left)
- Keep your feet together as you jump, pushing off the balls of your feet and bending knees slightly while flexing ankles; land lightly on the balls of your feet. Keep arms close to sides throughout the jumps.
Side Swing (Center)
- Bring both hands together and swing the rope down on your left side while jumping. Next, keeping hands together, swing rope down on right side while jumping. Separate hands and jump through the rope. Continue pattern of swinging rope on each side, then jump through center.
- From basic jump, cross your forearms together in front of your hips, making sure hands come outside opposite elbow and keeping rope close to body. On the next turn, uncross arms.
SEE ALSO: Jump Rope to Shape Up
WORKS: SHOULDERS, ARMS, CORE
Do these punches as a sequence, moving through them quickly for 2–5 minutes. Aim to complete 2–4 rounds; you can also mix in the kick variations.
Left Jab (Left)
- Begin in fighter’s stance, left foot forward and right foot back. Keep both hands protecting face with elbows pointing down, knees slightly bent. Lift back heel, staying light on both feet.
- Extend left arm, quickly punching forward with left hand. Rotate hips slightly to generate power. Quickly return arm to start.
Right Punch (Left Center)
- Repeat jab, this time punching forward with right arm while keeping left hand near head. Pivot off right leg to generate power.
Left Hook (Right Center)
- From fighter’s stance, keep right foot on floor pointed out slightly, hands in front of face.
- Punch with left arm in an arc to the right, bending elbow 90 degrees. Rotate hips and pivot off left foot as you punch. Keep right hand near face. Return to start.
- From fighter’s stance, bend both knees slightly and explode up, punching up with your right hand as if aiming under your opponent’s chin; pivot slightly off right leg to help drive the punch. Return to start.
SEE ALSO: Burn Fat With This Boxing Workout
Get Paige VanZant's full workout on page 14 of our Muscle & Fitness Hers November/December issue, on newsstands now or available for download.
Kick Series: High Kick
- Begin in fighter’s stance, left foot forward, hands near face.
- Sharply lift right leg, kicking high with right foot as you shift body weight to left, pivoting off left foot. Lower to start.
Kick Series: Flying Knee
- Begin in fighter stance, left foot forward and right foot back a few feet from bag.
- Bending both knees slightly, spring explosively forward, pushing powerfully off left leg while driving right knee into bag. Protect your face with left hand as you jump forward.
Kick Series: Side Kick
- Begin in fighter stance a few feet from heavy bag, left foot forward and right foot back. Bring left knee up to about hip height, pointing toes down and pivoting right foot out about 180 degrees.
- Snap left leg out so that inner thigh is parallel to floor, keeping body weight over right leg. Extend left arm down while keeping right hand next to face.
- Reverse the movement, bending knee and then lowering left foot to floor.
Kick Series: Kick the Can
- Begin in fighting stance, left foot forward, right foot back a little wider than shoulder-distance apart. Keep hands in front of body. Lift right knee, then jump up and kick low with right leg, hitting bag with the inside of your right foot. Your left hand comes forward as your right hand moves back (left).
- Land on right foot as you explosively kick high in a roundhouse kick with your left leg, hitting bag with the top of your left foot; hands switch so right hand comes up to protect face (right). As left leg comes down, return to fighting stance.
Vanzant used this move to finish off Bec "Rowdy" Rawlings in a fight in August. "Basically, you just fake a low kick and then you throw your high kick up on the other side. I knew that kick was going to land. Winning with it was the best feeling in the world."
WORKS: ENTIRE UPPER BODY AND CORE
- Place hands on floor and kick feet up into a handstand position, making body as long and tall as possible, squeezing glutes (left). (You can also do this against a wall for support.)
- Lift one hand off the floor, then the opposite hand (right), rocking your body side to side. (You can use a wall or have a partner hold your legs for support.)
- To progress, walk hands forward as far as you can, keeping upper body long; to come out of move, carefully lower feet to floor.
WORKS: CHEST, SHOULDERS, ARMS, CORE
- Begin in a full pushup position with fists on floor, directly under shoulders, legs together and extended behind you.
- Keeping elbows close to sides, lower chest toward floor (left). Push through hands to extend back to starting position (right). (To modify, keep palms flat on floor.)
- Do 2–3 sets of 20 reps.
HEAVY BAG SITUP
- Position yourself with your legs wrapped around heavy bag, holding bag for support. (You can ask a partner to keep the bag still for you.)
- Let go of bag and place hands behind head, lowering torso until it’s parallel to floor.
- Use strength of core to power back to sitting position, keeping hands behind head. Lower back to start and repeat.
- Do 2–3 sets of 10–15 reps.
- To modify, you can also do the situp on the floor, keeping feet anchored under rack or similar object. Keep hands behind head and elbows pointed out to sides throughout.
- Do 2–3 sets of 20–25 reps.