Strength and Cardio Training for Fighters


"Yes, I am guilty. I just killed cardio"

 If you are a fighter, or a fighting enthusiast who loves to watch the sport live or on TV, you know how much strength and endurance it takes to be this type of athlete. They kill the cardio! But what you see during those live fights is only half the battle. 

You should see what it takes to get in the ring to begin with! Their training is no joke, and it is not easy. Fighters must build the strength and endurance to sustain a pretty long and strenuous engagement with their opponent, and they never knowing really what it will entail. How hard has the other opponent trained? How strong is he? You can bet he or she is probably pretty fit as well! You'll want to be operating at your very best.

The key is to stay focused and maintain a healthy lifestyle which includes a rigid exercise and diet program. Both are intertwined, and just as important to equally balance, however, we are going to take a closer look at the strength and cardio training required for fighters. There are some great tips around to make this part of your life a bit easier.

Why is Cardio and Strength Training so Important?

All research leads to the same conclusion: Exercise is the best preventative way to avoid common health ailments and chronic diseases for everyone. Not only for fighters! It even helps ward off and decrease symptoms of psychiatric diseases. Exercise benefits the entire human body, the heart, brain, blood vessels, the bones and the muscles. Leading an active life is the single most important element in long term health. 

However, many make the mistake of focusing primarily on cardiovascular exercise, and exclude the strength training and stretching that is just as important. Just like everything else in life, balance is very important, even with fitness. Especially when it comes to strength training. Many times it is overlooked because it's seen as too strenuous or dangerous. Women worry about bulking up, parents worry about the risks for children. But in all actuality, strength training can benefit almost every age and gender. It aids in shedding fat, maintaining a healthy bone mass, and preventing atrophy.

For athletes and fighters, cardio and strength training are even more important. For one, stronger muscles will incur fewer injuries. In addition, improving muscle endurance helps improve cardiovascular performance. When the muscles are stronger, they can last longer, and work harder. As a fighter, you want and need all these elements for successful and matches.

MMA Methods for Strength Training

Your body's core power comes from just that, your core. The core, along with your hips, is the originator of a fighter's punch, kick, and grappling abilities. You'll want to keep them as STRONG as possible. Fighters, wrestlers, football players, or anyone else that needs to "move like a cheetah and hit like a bull" (great saying and so true) can benefit from the strength training of their core muscles. The most common technique used today is explosive training, or lifting weights with maximum velocity. It burns calories, and forces the central nervous system to utilize the maximum number of muscle fibers available. 

Below are examples of workouts in which top MMA fighters achieve their optimal core strength. It is recommended that you perform each workout once a week with a rest day in between each session. Complete all the recommended sets for each exercise before moving on to the next. With exercises that say you are to work up to a repetition maximum, or RM, gradually move to the heaviest weight that allows you to complete the recommended reps in good form. Meaning warm up with lower weights, then progressively add on during that session until you reached your maximum. 

The goal here being muscle gain and a leaner physique.

Sample Workouts

● The One Arm Dumbbell Snatch
Directions: Stand with your feet wide apart and hold the dumbbell in one hand. Squat bending your hips back and then your knees naturally following. Powerfully extend your hips and knees back up and pull the weight straight up in front of your body lifting the dumbbell overhead.
Sets: 6
Reps: 3
Rest: 90-120 seconds

● The Box Squat
Directions: Set a box behind you at the height in which when you squat down your hips are below your knees. Grab your squat bar and stand with your feet shoulder width apart and feet turned slightly out. Squat with your hips leading, sit on the box for a brief moment, and bring the hips back up.
Sets: 3
Reps: work up to a 3 RM
Rest: 45-60 seconds

● The Towel Pullup
Directions: Hang a towel over a pullup bar and grab the ends in your hands. Hang from the towel and pull yourself lifting your chin above the bar. Simply hanging from the towel for as long as you can is also a good technique
Sets: as many as needed
Reps: 40
Rest: 45-60 seconds

● Push Ups

Directions: A good form is important here. Place your hands on the floor directly under your shoulders, tighten your abs, squeeze your shoulders and keep your body straight. Lower your body in that form until your 1 inch from the ground, then return to starting position.
Sets: as many as needed
Reps: 40
Rest: 45-60 seconds

● Sit ups
Directions: Pretty self explanatory, just your basic sit up laying on the ground with your knees bent, crossing the arms and lifting your torso up.
Sets: 1
Reps: 40
Rest: 45-60 seconds

● Cable Suplex:
Directions: Using a low cable pulley machine and attach a rope accordingly. Get into a shoulder-width stance facing the weight machine gripping the rope with your thumbs up. Squat down keeping your chest up. Quickly straighten your hips and lift the cable up, extending both arms up as you rotate your body and shoulders to the right side. Immediately drop to the starting position, and explode up to the other side, making one complete rep.
Sets: 3
Reps: 8-12
Rest: 45-60 seconds

For workouts 2 and 3 click here.

As you can see, most of the strength and cardio are key elements in the life of any athlete, and especially for fighters who need endurance and power for their punch! Most of these workouts do not require a membership to the gym, they require hard work, discipline and commitment. Take your game to the next level by eating right, getting plenty of sleep, and creating the body you need through your fitness regimen to train at your maximum and win your fights.


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