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The ultimate strength-building MMA workout

Gain real power and total-body strength with this high-intensity program.

Jump to the Routine
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The Ultimate Strength-Building MMA workout
Corey Jenkins/Getty Images
The Ultimate Strength-Building MMA workout
Corey Jenkins/Getty Images

In mixed martial arts, explosiveness can mean the difference between delivering a knockout blow or merely making your opponent angrier. Harnessing the ability to quickly apply your strength will lead to rapid muscle gains and a leaner physique.

That’s why we’ve created this workout program.

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These workouts give new meaning to the expression “get your hips into it.” Most of your body’s power comes from your hips, and along with your core, they’re the epicenter of a fighter’s punching, kicking, and grappling arsenal. Moves like the dumbbell snatch, cable suplex, and push press teach you to extend your hips forcefully, increasing your ability to coordinate muscle actions fast.

These are the kinds of exercises that fighters train with, as well as wrestlers and football players—anyone who needs to move like a cheetah and hit like a bull. In addition, lifting weights with maximum velocity burns calories, and forces the central nervous system to recruit the maximum number of muscle fibers. One look at the bodies of the kind of power athletes mentioned above, and you know that explosive training yields aesthetic results too.

Directions

Perform each workout listed below once a week, resting at least a day between each session. Perform the exercises as straight sets, completing all the recommended sets for one exercise before moving on to the next.

Exercises that say to work up to a certain repetition maximum (RM) mean to gradually warm up to the heaviest weight that allows you to complete all the prescribed reps with perfect form. For example, if you planned to perform a box squat for a three-rep maximum with 315 pounds, you could do it like this: Complete 10 reps with just the bar, then place a 25-pound plate on each side (95 pounds total) and perform three reps. Then do one rep with 155 pounds, 195, and 265, respectively. Then load 315—you should be able to complete only three reps giving your best effort.

Of course, 315 may not be your maximum. Conservatively estimate how much weight your maximum will be in an exercise and determine the warm-up weights you use accordingly. Keep your reps low and rest as needed between warmup sets—these warmups should not be fatiguing. Once you’ve arrived at the correct weight for your maximum, perform two to four sets with it.

Exercises that call for 30 or 40 reps should be done as follows: Do as many reps as you can at a time with good form, and then rest. Repeat until you complete all the prescribed reps. It’s OK if you get 10 reps on your first set and then only one or two reps at a time for most of your remaining sets. You will improve over time. Each week, complete 10 more reps than you did the week before. So in your second week on this program, you’ll work until you’ve done 40 or 50 reps (as prescribed), and so forth.

When a rep range is given, such as eight to12, choose a weight that allows you to get the higher number of reps on the first set and then increase the weight on the following sets, thereby forcing you to move toward the lower end of the rep range. So, for example, by the third set, you would be using a weight that cuts you off at eight reps.

Unless otherwise noted, use the heaviest weight that allows you to complete all the prescribed reps for a given set.

Routine

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Workout 1

Exercise
Equipment
Sets
Reps
Rest
Exercise 1 of 6

One-arm dumbbell snatch

Equipment
Dumbbells
Sets
6
Reps
3
Rest
90-120 sec.
Exercise 2 of 6

Box Squat

Equipment
Dumbbells
Sets
3
Reps
Work Up to a 3 RM
Rest
45-60 sec.
Exercise 3 of 6

Towel Pullup

Equipment
Pullup Bar
Sets
--
Reps
40
Rest
45-60 sec.
Perform as many sets as needed.
Exercise 4 of 6

Pushup

Equipment
Sets
--
Reps
40
Rest
45-60 sec.
How to
Perform as many sets as needed.
Exercise 5 of 6

Situp

Equipment
No Equipment
Sets
1
Reps
40
Rest
45-60 sec.
Exercise 6 of 6

Cable Suplex

Equipment
Cable Machine
Sets
3
Reps
8-12
Rest
45-60 sec.

Workout 2

Exercise
Equipment
Sets
Reps
Rest
Exercise 7 of 6

Push Press

Equipment
Barbell
Sets
5
Reps
5
Rest
90-120 sec.
Exercise 8 of 6

Incline Bench Press

Equipment
Barbell
Sets
3
Reps
Work Up to a 3 RM
Rest
45-60 sec.
Exercise 9 of 6

Dumbbell Lunge

Equipment
Dumbbells
Sets
3
Reps
4
Rest
45-60 sec.
Exercise 10 of 6

Inverted Row

Equipment
Power Rack
Sets
--
Reps
40
Rest
46-60 sec.
Perform as many sets as needed.
Exercise 11 of 6

Half-Kneeling Cable Chop

Equipment
Cable Machine
Sets
4
Reps
8-12
Rest
45-60 secs.
Exercise 12 of 6

Medicine Ball Rotational Throw

Equipment
Medicine Ball
Sets
3
Reps
8-12
Rest
45-60 sec.

Workout 3

Exercise
Equipment
Sets
Reps
Rest
Exercise 13 of 6

Jump Squat

Equipment
No Equipment
Sets
8
Reps
2
Rest
90-120 sec.
Exercise 14 of 6

Bentover Row

Equipment
Barbell
Sets
4
Reps
6
Rest
45-60 sec.
Exercise 15 of 6

Weighted Back Extension

Equipment
Bench
Sets
--
Reps
40
Rest
45-60 sec.
Perform as many sets as possible.
Exercise 16 of 6

Eccentric Shoulder Press

Equipment
Dumbbells
Sets
3
Reps
8-12
Rest
45-60 sec.
Exercise 17 of 6

Hanging Knee Raise

Equipment
Pullup Bar
Sets
--
Reps
40
Rest
45-60 sec.
Perform as many sets as needed.
Exercise 18 of 6

Hanging Windshield Wiper

Equipment
Pullup Bar
Sets
--
Reps
30
Rest
45-60 sec.
Perform as many sets as needed.
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