You can try to find a more well-rounded athlete in terms of overall fitness than a mixed martial arts fighter, but we doubt you’ll be able to.
A high level MMA fighter has the endurance to go five five-minute rounds with a little bit still left in the tank at the end; the power and strength to land lethal strikes and execute crippling submission holds; and the overall athleticism to master various fighting disciplines—from wrestling to karate to boxing. Not coincidentally, virtually all successful MMA fighters possess lean, athletic physiques to show for it. So if the UFC body type is what you’re after, why not train like a fighter?
“The types of workouts I do with my MMA athletes don’t require any running or aerobic work, because there’s no aerobic work done in a fight, only anaerobic,” says Adam Zart, head of strength and conditioning at Hayastan-IMB Mixed Martial Arts school in Charlotte, North Carolina.
“We do sprint-based intervals, and by doing this, the guys respond faster to putting on muscle and losing body fat in addition to improving their cardio levels. But it’s not necessarily muscle mass they’re putting on—it’s more muscle density. Most of the exercises we do are big, compound, leg-based moves. In fighting, the guys are squatted down a lot and shooting in for takedowns, so these guys can’t afford to get tired legs.”
“[Zart’s] strength and conditioning program for me has been amazing,” says Tony Tan, a trainee of Zart’s who will be making his amateur MMA debut at Patriot Fights in Charlotte on September 10 (ImperialFighting.com). “I noticed results in my cardio after just one week—being able to spar longer and not be tired afterwards. I was also worried about having to cut weight, but I haven't had to do that at all, as the pounds just fell off naturally without having to change my diet, and I feel much stronger."
The below workout, designed by Zart, is a collection of basic yet intense movements that, when performed as a circuit (one exercise after the other with minimal rest, then repeat multiple times) can whip anyone into shape, fighter or otherwise. Give it a try the next time you’re looking to complement your traditional lifting program with a dose of high-intensity, fat-burning conditioning work.