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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.
In an attempt to “bring up their weaknesses” bodybuilders often opt for isolation exercises. Chest flyes, concentration curls and leg extensions are all part of the bodybuilder’s repertoire.
Additionally, since these isolation exercises work only one small area at a time, you must do many different exercises to get a full workout, which again leads to a greater time commitment.
Athletes, on the other hand, are more concerned with function. And since the body was not designed to have each muscle and/or movement pattern isolated, they rarely perform isolation exercises like bodybuilders do.
Instead, they focus on movements that engage the entire body, just like what would naturally happen during a sporting event.
These exercises have a huge metabolic cost and rev up your metabolism much more that a chest fly could even dream of doing. Also, because they work so many muscle groups simultaneously, they are very time efficient.
As you can tell, I favor the use of exercises that work the entire body over isolation movements. That being said, there are times, where an isolation exercise can be effectively used to supplement the use of the more result-producing exercises.
Resistance bands serve a wide variety of purposes and allow athletes to work on flexibility, strength and sport specific movements. In boxing or martial arts, the bands allow you to work on your specific punches, but instead of punching against air, the bands provide resistance, which leads to increased strength and power. You can easily reap the benefits of faster and more powerful punches by incorporating band training into your workout.
What you need to do:
Attach the resistance band or bands to a fence or sturdy post. The band should be in line with the direction of your punch. That means that it should be about shoulder-height and you should have room in front of you to punch straight ahead or to the side.