Unlike a sport such as powerlifting where maximal strength is king, MMA fighters must develop a vast number of strength qualities.
One of the most important strength qualities for an MMA fighter is explosive endurance strength. This is the ability to repetitively execute explosive efforts.
MMA fighters must be able to perform at a high intensity for a prolonged period of time. Most MMA competitions are organized with durations that range from 15 minutes. So the 15 minute endurance range must be developed to the highest level. Of course, some fights end in significantly less time, but you must train to perform at a high level for the entire fight.
Jogging for 60 minutes won’t help since it’s challenging aerobic metabolism (the long duration energy system). In fact, long-duration cardio will hurt your efforts since you’ll likely lose maximal strength and muscle mass while causing a muscle fiber type shift away from high-force power toward low-force endurance. Therefore, the intermediate energy system, anaerobic glycolysis, must be developed to build endurance strength.
Four qualities should be possessed by MMA fighters: extraordinary strength, endurance, mobility, and fighting skills.
You must develop super-strong muscles that run from the base of your skull down to your Achilles tendons. Some of the most important muscles in this range are your hip extensors and back extensors. These muscles, along with a handful of others, collectively form the posterior chain (PC).
The PC assists explosive movements involved in locomotion. If you’ve ever seen a guy shoot forward to drive his shoulder into his opponent’s abdomen for a takedown, that’s the PC at work. Furthermore, a strong PC will help you lift and throw a fighter, and it’ll help you resist being pulled down to the ground.
There are many effective exercises that improve the strength of your PC. Good mornings, back extensions, reverse hypers – they all help.
But one exercise remains at the top of my list for PC development for MMA fighters: the deadlift.
By holding the load in front of you, the carryover to fighting is much greater compared to having the load across your upper back. After all, fighting is about controlling the guy in front of you.
The majority of the time your opponent will be in front of you, you’ll have your hands on him, and he’ll be trying to resist you. The fact that the deadlift strengthens your PC, your grip, and your shoulder girdle, makes it one of best exercises to build fighting-specific muscle groups.