MMA 101: Lifting Weights

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Everybody wants to be swole, every bro wants to be jacked, everyone wants the six pack and the arm veins. All of those are great things, they aren’t, however, requirements for fighting. In fact, too much time with bros trying to see how much ya bench can create a deficit that’s hard to train around. Let’s look at some simple strategies for how to lift for MMA.

Being strong is important to fighting. Always will be. The size of your arms? That’s irrelevant. Don’t let your desire for gym gains interfere with your training goals. If your stated goal is to be the best fighter you can be, then you need to do some sort of strength training.

It’s unlikely, however, you need to be lifting five times a week, on a body part split, targeting chest and bi’s, back and tri’s, and heavy leg days. You need to lift as often as you can recover, and lift in a way that targets your weak points without creating more.

For example, if you can throw your hands all day, but regardless of how many times you hit your opponent nothing seems to stun them? Assuming your technique is close, you’re lacking in overall power. You’ll need to work on the bigger compound movements – squats, deadlift, overhead press. Movements that will work more than one joint at a time which can handle a heavy load. If power is your issue, then you need to be moving heavy weight. Generating the force needed to put up a respectable deadlift number will translate into power in your hands. Power is generated from the feet, through the legs, into the hips, up the torso and terminates at the end of the arm in the fist. The more power you can translate from the ground up, the more power there is at the end of the punch.

Movements that use the muscles in the legs and hips, like the deadlift and squat, will develop the power necessary to land really hard punches. I’ll put it another way – name me one solid power puncher that didn’t have at least a respectable ass relative to their size?

I can’t name one either. Strong hips and legs = hard punches.

You build power by building strength. You build overall strength by moving heavy weights. You can squat an empty bar till your legs fall off. Unless you’re using heavy weight (heavy for you, don’t kill yourself) you won’t build the tendon and ligament strength to really whip a strike home.

So maybe strength and power aren’t your issue. You can deadlift twice your body weight, squat a house, and bench…well…no one cares, it’s not important. However, if after round one your traps and biceps are jelly from holding your hands up and you can’t move your legs because every fiber in them is screaming from lactic acid – you may be more swole than you need to be. In the weight room you’ll need to be focusing on higher rep, lower weight movements to induce and help overcome that muscle fatigue. Muscles are dumb, they only respond to the stimulus we provide them, in the way we provide it. If burnout or fatigue are your issues you should be working with lighter weights at as close to failure as you can get for reps. I am now and will always remain a proponent of compound movements in the weight room for fighting. No one has ever paved the way to victory doing tricep kickbacks and booty raises. Those are for other pursuits. Focus your time on movements that move your body. If you need to combat fatigue, ket-tle bells are a phenomenal tool. A 35lb kettle bell will reduce even the most studly human into a puddle of bitch on the gym floor. If it’s muscular endurance you need, high reps, low weight, repeat till you hate yourself.

These are general concepts. Everyone trains a bit different, everyone responds to things differently. The common thread is that being stronger than your opponent is never a bad thing – unless you can’t use it. Use the above as a guideline to get started. Be honest with yourself about where you are on the spectrum of strength and focus on bringing up lagging areas. Gyms are great places to see people act tough that aren’t. Don’t be that guy.