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    How to Train Like an MMA fighter

    Is your gym routine getting dull? Get into shape with mixed martial arts training—and have a good time while getting a good workout! 

    What Is Mixed Martial Arts?

    What started as bragging rights between practitioners of different martial arts disciplines has spawned one of the fastest-growing sports in the world.

    On the surface, mixed martial arts (MMA) fights look brutal. In these no-holds-barred, full-contact bouts, athletes use elements from different martial arts—from boxing and kickboxing to Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and Judo to wrestling—until one competitor submits or is knocked out.

    MMA fighters are some of the most well-rounded and toughest athletes out there. Not only do they need to be versatile martial artists, they need serious stamina, endurance, speed, power and strength to survive in the cage.

    Training for MMA

    Given the demands it places on the body, MMA requires a training routine that really kicks butt, which makes MMA training a great addition to any workout routine…whether you ever get into the octagon yourself or not.

    “It requires you to work in multiple planes of motion and use different energy systems,” says former professional MMA fighterRob ‘Razor’ McCullough. “You have to bend, twist and rotate. It’s constantly changing and you have to be able to train like that, too.”

    Skills You Need to Develop

    Since the best MMA fighters are skilled martial artists, you need to use standing and striking techniques (like punching, kicking and using your knees) alongside grappling and wrestling moves. And you must learn how to defend yourself, too.

    Your training will depend on your individual martial arts experience.

    Those with a striking background, such as boxing or kickboxing, will want to work on the ground game; those with a grappling background should concentrate on perfecting punches and kicks. Those with minimal experience will need to focus on foundational skills. 

    To develop these technical skills, repetition is key. Drills, whether using a heavy bag or sparring in the ring, is a vital part of the training program.

    Developing Explosive Strength and Endurance 

    “An MMA fight is like a marathon with a lot of sprints thrown in,” says Muay Thai specialistBrent Bartley. “You could be going along at a reasonable pace and then suddenly it’s super-explosive.” To go all-out for each round, MMA fighters need to build both endurance and explosive power, making strength and conditioning critical. 

    However, your goal isn’t just to build big muscles—you need functional strength.

    “You’re trying to get strong but not buff,” says McCullough. He favors moves likekettlebell snatches,pullups andsled pushes, which can help you hit harder and take down your opponent.Plyometric exercises are another effective way to build power and endurance; think multiple reps of box jumps and jump squats.

    Sprawls—moves that look like a cross between a burpee and a yoga cobra pose—work too. Standing with your feet hip-width apart, lower to a squat and place your hands on the ground. Then, jump your feet back to a plank position and immediately drop your hips to the ground and arch your back. Then, press up and jump your feet back to the starting position. 

    Endurance training isn’t just about running the longest distance possible.

    According to Bartley, speedwork and interval training not only build cardiovascular fitness, they also breed confidence. “If you can run a mile or three miles, you know in your head that you’re fit. And that’s a mental lift,” he says.

    Working Your Core

    Since MMA involves movement in all planes, a strong core is essential. Not only will it keep you upright and balanced, it will also power your punches and kicks. 

    McCullough saysTRX or suspension training is a great way to hone your abdominal and stabilizer muscles, since it demands that you use your core all the time. Maintaining a single anchor point—one hand or foot in the handles—for exercises like planks, pushups and pikes makes it even more challenging.

    Another McCullough favorite? Throwing a heavy slam ball across your body and against the wall. (Gohere for more medicine ball workouts.)

    Don’t Forget Workout Recovery

    If you spend hours upon hours in the gym, it’s easy to skip the easy days. But you need to give your body time to repair and reap the benefits of all your hard work.

    “You tear your muscles in the gym. You recover by sleeping, hydrating and paying attention to your nutrition,” says McCullough. 

    There’s a whole world of recovery tools and methods available from massages to ice baths and cryotherapy to compression boots and socks.

    Self-myofascial release techniques with a foam roller or lacrosse ball are a simple way to work out the kinks. “It’s going to help get the blood flowing and improve range of motion so that you move better and recover faster,” says McCullough. 

    A Sample MMA Workout

    If you’d like to try MMA training for yourself, this three-step sequence is a good place to start. Once you’ve gotten used to the intensity, gohere for a longer MMA workout.

    Pushup with Alternate Leg Check 

    From a plank position, perform a pushup. At the top of the pushup position, tap your right knee to right elbow. Then, tap your left knee to left elbow. Repeat.

    Alternating Side Plank

    From a forearm plank position with forearms parallel and elbows stacked directly under shoulders, rotate to a side plank. Balancing on your left forearm, keep your hips off the ground and reach your right arm to the ceiling. Return to the starting position. Then, rotate to a side plank on your right side.

    Jab-Cross with Burpee Combo 

    From a fight stance with boxing guard (one foot forward) and knees soft, bring your hands to your jawline with light fists and elbows in toward ribs. Throw a jab-cross—straight punch with your lead arm followed by straight punch with rear arm—and then perform aburpee for one rep.

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    **These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

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