MMA Workout Plan: Routine of A Fighter

Benedict Ang, CPT, PN1-NC
Published by Benedict Ang, CPT, PN1-NC | Staff Writer & Senior Coach
Last updated: December 28, 2023
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Aside from sparring and knowing how to land a punch, a balanced training program is essential for any aspiring mixed martial arts athlete.

The right program will not only improve your performance in the ring but also prevent injuries that could stall your fighting career.

After spending a few months studying various MMA professionals inside and outside the ring, I put together a well-rounded MMA training program.

Whatever your fitness goals, this program offers something for everyone, whether you're an aspiring fighter or a fitness enthusiast.

Quick Summary

  • An MMA workout plan for a fighter typically includes a combination of weight training, power and endurance exercises, cardio, and conditioning to enhance overall performance and toughness in the ring.
  • The plan is structured to benefit both aspiring MMA fighters and fitness enthusiasts by improving physical attributes and mental resilience.
  • Research published in PubMed underscores the importance of 7–9 hours of sleep per night for muscle recovery and maintaining a healthy metabolism, highlighting its crucial role in an athlete's routine.
  • From a personal viewpoint, the balance of physical training and mental preparation in this plan is key for the success of any MMA competitor.

Best MMA Workout Routine

Woman resting at gym

The best MMA workout includes the following four training routines.

Beyond physical improvements, MMA training offers numerous benefits such as increased self-confidence, enhanced focus, and improved coordination, which can positively impact various aspects of daily life.

Workout #1: Weight Training

Building lean muscle is one of the first training principles for any MMA fighter.

A well-designed weight training program hones in on compound exercises (movements that work multiple muscle groups simultaneously) to effectively build strength and increase muscle fibers.

In my coaching experience, compound exercises like squats and deadlifts have been game-changers for my fighters, significantly enhancing their strength and muscle mass.

Some of the best weight training movements for MMA athletes include:

  • Squats: This is a lower-body powerhouse movement that builds leg and core strength. It’s essential for powerful strikes and takedowns.
  • Deadlifts: The multi-joint movement strengthens the posterior chain and enhances overall power, aiding in grappling and ground control.
  • Bench press: The bench press develops striking power by targeting the chest, shoulders, and triceps.
  • Pull-ups: These are excellent for building upper body strength and enhancing grip strength.

Workout #2: Power & Endurance Training

Woman training

Power and endurance are integral parts of MMA strength training, as fighters need to generate explosive force while preserving their stamina in a fight.

Plyometrics and circuit training provide these benefits.

Having trained numerous fighters, I've seen firsthand how plyometrics, like box jumps, drastically improve their explosive power and endurance in the ring.

Here’s a sample workout:

  • Box jumps: 3 sets x 10 reps
  • Medicine ball slams: 3 sets x 10 reps
  • Kettlebell swings: 3 sets x 15 reps
  • Battle ropes: 3 sets x 30-second intervals
  • Quick jabs: 3 sets of 45-second intervals

Workout #3: Cardio Training

The next part of our training routine is cardio. Cardiovascular fitness directly impacts a fighter’s ability to maintain a high level of intensity in the ring.

From my coaching experience, incorporating varied cardio, like running and skipping rope, markedly boosts the fighters' stamina and ring performance.

You can build your cardio fitness by incorporating a variety of exercises into your routine, such as:

  • Running: To build aerobic stamina and strengthen lower body movements.
  • Skipping rope: To enhance footwork, coordination, and agility.
  • Swimming: To give you low-impact, full-body conditioning.
  • High-intensity interval training (HIIT): To boost your anaerobic capacity and accelerate fat loss.

Here’s how you can prioritize your cardio:

  • HIIT: Twice a week
  • Swimming: On rest days
  • Running and skipping rope: On all other days

I don’t recommend doing two forms of cardio on the same day, especially if you’re doing heavy strength training on that day.

Workout #4: Conditioning

Man pushing sled

A good conditioning program is the final piece of your combat training.

This will help you develop the mental and physical toughness needed to withstand the insanity of martial arts combat.

In my years as a coach, I've seen conditioning exercises like sled pushes and farmer’s walks dramatically improve fighters' mental and physical resilience.

The following exercises are a must for conditioning:

  • Sled pushes: Builds explosive leg power and improves overall conditioning.
  • Farmer’s walks: Strengthens grip and core strength.
  • Tire flips: Enhances functional strength, explosiveness, and stamina.
  • Planks: Improves core strength and stability, essential for effective striking and grappling.
  • Crawling: Improves your mobility, especially if you’re training in jiu-jitsu.
  • Shoulder stability: Strengthens your shoulder joints, improves shoulder mobility, and reduces injury (especially useful for muay thai).

MMA Training Workout Split

A suggested workout split might look like this:

  • Monday: Weight training
  • Tuesday: Power & endurance training
  • Wednesday: Active rest
  • Thursday: Cardio training
  • Friday: Conditioning
  • Saturday: Technique and sparring
  • Sunday: Active rest

You can also split your weight training into two separate days to incorporate more exercises into your routine.

You can readjust to have two back-to-back training days. But I recommend not going over three days of continuous training if you’re a beginner.

Tips To Maximize Your Combat Sports Training

Man resting after working out

Over my years as a coach, I've gathered some key tips that have consistently helped fighters excel.

Here's what I've learned about maximizing your combat sports training.

  • Sleep: Ensure you get 7–9 hours of sleep per night to boost muscle recovery and maintain a healthy metabolism, according to the research published in PubMed [1].
  • Rest days: Rest doesn’t mean being immobile. The best way to recover is by taking active rest days. Active rest includes activities like brisk walking, low-intensity work, foam rolling, etc.
  • Technique and drills: On top of your training regimen, practice specific MMA techniques, such as striking, grappling, and footwork. These will hone your skills and develop muscle memory.
  • Flexibility: Performing stretching and mobility drills before and after your routine will maintain and improve flexibility, enhance your performance, and prevent injuries [2].
  • Progressive overload: When weight training, gradually increase the intensity, volume, or complexity of your workouts. This helps you avoid plateaus and ensures continuous improvement, according to the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health [3].
  • Mental training: You can build mental resilience through visualization, meditation, and setting realistic goals. A strong mental game is the key to success in high-pressure situations like fights. In addition to physical endurance, MMA training requires a strong mental fortitude, as routines designed to push through fatigue are key for developing the mental toughness necessary for enduring the rigors of an MMA fight.

“Scientifically it’s also extremely fascinating because the sport of MMA in particular is very new relative to the rest of the sports. And so with the physiological demands and stresses are just really different.”

- Dr. Andy Galpin, PhD, Professor of Kinesiology

FAQs

How Many Times a Week Should You Train MMA?

You should train MMA 3–5 times a week. However, this is once you’ve built a foundation for your training.

Why Are MMA Fighters So Lean?

MMA fighters are lean because they focus heavily on high-rep workouts instead of heavy weight and low reps.

Is MMA Cardio or Strength?

MMA is a combination of both cardio and strength.

Is It Better To Train MMA in the Morning or at Night?

It’s better to train MMA in the morning. We’ve observed that people tend to sleep better at night after working out in the morning.


References:

  1. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31469710/
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5117080/
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6950543/
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About The Author

Benedict Ang, CPT, PN1-NC
Staff Writer & Senior Coach
Benedict Ang, CPT, PN1-NC is an ex-National Soccer player turned MMA and Kickboxing champion, with ACE CPT and PN1-NC certifications. His advice is rooted in education and experience, ensuring that readers receive scientific and battle-tested insights. His mission is to empower his clients and readers to realize their potential and become the best versions of themselves.
Learn more about our editorial policy
James Cunningham, BSc, CPT
Staff Writer & Senior Coach
James Cunningham, BSc, CPT holds a BSc degree in Sport & Exercise Science from University of Hertfordshire. He's a Health & Performance Coach from London that brings a unique blend of academic knowledge of health supplements and practical exercise experience to the table for his readers.
Learn more about our editorial policy
Dr. Harshi Dhingra, MBBS, MD is a published peer-reviewed author and renowned physician from India with over a decade of experience. With her MBBS from Bharati Vidyapeeth and an MD from Rajiv Gandhi University, she actively ensures the accuracy of online dietary supplement and medical information by reviewing and fact-checking health publications.
Learn more about our editorial policy

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