MMA Fitness and Core Strength
Written by Taco Fleur MMA Conditioning Level 1, MMA Fitness Level 2, CrossFit Level 1, Kettlebell Level 2 Trainer
You can find an old video of this workout at the bottom of the page.
A strong stable core is the foundation to any strength and conditioning program. The core is defined as the muscles that make up the body minus the legs and arms. This predominantly includes the rectus abdominis, the transverse abdominis, external obliques, erector spinae (lower back), and even the glutes. As you already know, the body is composed of hundreds of individual muscles. What you may not know is that in any type of athletic movement you do will use all of these in conjunction. Example: In an MMA fight, when you shoot for a takedown, the entire body (head to toe) is incorporated in order to produce the maximum force possible to take your opponent to the ground.
Where does core stability fit into the mix? Every time you move, you will utilize your core to some extent. I know what you’re thinking, “What about isolation exercises?” Try this. Take a heavy dumbbell and curl it with one arm. At the same time, take your other hand and feel the obliques (abdominal muscles on your side) and see if they contract. I can promise you that your obliques will contract and tighten. As you can see, even a simple isolation movement like a curl will employ your core to a certain extent. It is imperative that you not neglect this portion of the body. Let’s compare a tree to the human body for instance; have you ever seen a tree with massive roots (your legs), huge hulking limbs (your shoulders, chest, and arms), but a skinny trunk (your mid section)? The answer is NO. A strong wind would snap that tree in half. Your body is no different.
I am going to show you a fool proof circuit for developing a strong core while incorporating MMA specific movements. You can do this MMA Fitness Workout almost anywhere, as long as you have a TRX suspension training band (or equivalent), a set of dumbbells, and some kettlebells. In the absence of kettlebells, you may substitute with a dumbbell of appropriate weight.
- This workout will be done in a circuit fashion, meaning that there is little to no rest in between exercises.
- You may do each exercise for repetitions or time. Example: each exercise could be 12 reps OR you could choose to do each for 30 seconds before moving onto the next.
- When you finish every exercise that will count as 1 set. Try to see how many sets you can accomplish in 20 min time.
- You may rest as long as possible in between sets, but remember your opponent probably won’t be, so push yourself.
Kettlebell Scissor – While lying flat on the ground, hold one Kettlebell with your arms locked out above your chest. Now slowly rotate your whole body to the left. Once you’re fully on your left side, you may bring your right leg across, slightly bent at the knee. Bring the foot all the way across until your toe toes the ground. Now rotate back to the right and do the inverse by bringing the left leg across, like a scissor movement. Note: the kettlebell never touches the ground.
Why This Movement: This exercise is similar to a shrimping movement or what you would do to create space from your opponent while in the bottom position. It will also be useful for sweeps. Note: I don’t know what to call this and am not happy with the name, if you have a better one, post it below.
Guard Attack 45° – Laying flat on the ground, plant the feet flat on the floor with your knees up. Grab two dumbbells and hold them infront of the face, as if protecting the face from an attacking opponent. Contract the abdominals upward in a crunching movement and punch forward with the right arm towards and past the left knee. Return the arm back to the starting position, and repeat with the left side. While punching, the dumbbell will twist until it is horizontal with the ground. Use the shoulder in the movement to get more reach and power behind the punch. The punch is at about a 45 degree angle (thus the name)
Note: Always make sure one hand is protecting the face at all times
Why this Movement: This movement is similar to that of fighting off an opponent from within your guard. It mimics punching or possibly grabbing for an arm or hooking the back of the head. Be sure to bring the hand back quickly as this may cause a bad habit that may leave you vulnerable.
Guard Attack 75° – Lay down on your back. Hold two kettlebells. Hold them tightly in the rack or bench press position. Move your whole body onto your left side and punch upwards with the right at a 75 degree angle. Repeat on the other side.
Why This Movement: This movement is similar to fighting an opponent that is standing over top of your or that has you mounted. Do not leave your arm extended too long as it will leave you vulnerable to possible armbars or a head and arm choke.
Ground ‘n Pound – Kneeling over your “opponent” as if in a mounted position, punch two dumbbells downwards, first focusing on getting the technique right and then picking up speed. Twist the hands while punching, when they are at the chest the palms are facing in, as the arm extends, rotate the hand.
Why This Movement: This movement is clearly training your body to pound out an opponent while having him mounted. This specific exercise is very useful as many fighters tend to burn themselves out while attempting to finish the fight in this position.
MMA Get-Ups Left – This exercise resembles the Turkish getup, however, it’s done without a kettlebell. The hand is pointing to the front to keep your opponent at bay. There is also a push/kick to the opponent’s knee to off balance him/damage him and to help gain momentum to get up. Lay flat on the ground, left leg flat (45 degrees to the left), right foot planted and knee up, right hand out to keep opponent at bay, come onto your left elbow, come onto your left hand, then push your hips up while kick/push with foot and switch out moving the left leg back as far as possible and stand.
Why This Movement: There is not a martial artist alive that will tell you that this is the incorrect way to stand up while facing an already standing opponent. This movement incorporates strength, stability, balance, and technique to keep your opponent from striking a deadly blow while you attempt to get to your feet. For help with understanding the movement, check out this video on the Turkish Get-up with Kettlebell.
Subscribe to our Amazing Youtube Channel below and get access to more of these type of videos.
MMA Get-Ups Right – Same as above using opposite side
Knee on Belly – Using a kickshield. Place your hands on the ground directly under shoulders, with your right shin on the. kickshield (shin is perpendicular to shield). The left leg is out and perpendicular to shield, now switch to the other side while keeping the hips low to the ground.
Why This Movement: Your opponent will be very uncomfortable and most likely switching back and forth from hip to hip in order to shake you off. If you are able to hold this position by switching from side to side, you will be able to end the fight in no time.
Roll-Outs – This movement begins on the knees with enough distance between you and the TRX to allow for a rollout, the further you move away from the TRX the more your midsection will contract to stabilize your weight. Extend the arms fully with the elbows locked out. Come forward slowly while always keeping tension on the TRX. Go as low as possible before coming back up. Be sure to engage all the muscles required for this exercise. Come all the way up and roll out again.
Why this Movement: There are very few exercises that will activate the abdominis rectus muscles quite like this. Imagine having a downed opponent turtle up while slamming your knees into his side in order to end the fight.
Explosive TRX Squat Jumps – Find the correct position so that when you’re in a deep squat position and arms fully extended there is tension on the TRX and so that you are not too far away that it pulls you forward. You will need to be lean back slightly. From the deep squat position (feet at shoulder width or slightly wider) explosively jump backwards into the air as high as possible. Land directly into the deep squat again and repeat.
Why this Movement: Explosiveness is the name of the game in MMA. If you can explode with a punch, knee, kick, or takedown, no opponent will be able to stop you. In order to do so, you must train the legs and most notably the glutes to be able to contract at a high rate of speed in order to produce maximal force. For tips on Squatting, check out the video below.
½ MMA Get-Ups Left – Very similar to the full MMA getup except that the hand does not leave the mat. There will be constant tension on the shoulder of the hand that is on the mat. Note that in the video I do not come back far enough with the left leg. The left leg should come past my hand that is on the floor. When you’re down and the leg is out, your eyes need to focus on your foot. As you come up, your eyes should focus towards your hand on the floor. This helps with the twisting of the body. Sitting on your butt, the right foot will remain planted with the knee up. The left leg will then straighten out on the floor while the left elbow fully extends outwards. Push upwards with the right leg. This allows you to switch the left leg out. When moving the left leg back you will again push off with the right leg to allow some space to get the left leg back in.
Why This Movement: This is a more fast paced variation of the full MMA Get-Ups. This movement will help emphasize and improve the most difficult portion of the full MMA Get-Up (that initial move from the floor to your feet).
½ MMA Get-Ups Right: Same as above but other side.
Combining these movements together will be the perfect addition to any strength and conditioning workout. Your core will become stronger than ever while training your neuromuscular system to become accustomed to these sports specific movements. Add this routine in to your workouts whenever you get the opportunity and you will not only see a dramatic change in your strength, physique, and conditioning, but you will become a better rounded fighter.
And before you go there, I fully agree!