5 Important Strength Training Exercises for Mixed Martial Arts

            At Spartan Fitness MMA Birmingham, AL we strive to be well-rounded mixed martial artists, which not only includes our Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and Muay Thai kickboxing training, but Strength and Conditioning as well. One of the key aspects of martial arts is the prioritization of skill over strength.  Someone who is smaller and weaker than their opponent can control the fight so long as they possess sufficient knowledge and technique. That is not to say that strength and athleticism are to be ignored by any martial artist. Anyone who has been training for a while knows the feeling of partnering up with someone who looks like a professional athlete. Your skill and experience may greatly outweigh theirs, but there is no denying that strength is distinctly advantageous.


If physical strength is such a benefit to martial artists, then how does one go about training for it when off the mats?  This question obviously has more than one right answer and will vary depending on a number of factors such as age, gender, weight, access to equipment, and time management. However, this is not to say that some general advice can’t stand true for all practitioners of martial arts. Any activity that is physically challenging and achieves some degree of muscle hypertrophy without causing excessive strain will induce growth. To put that more simply, anything you do that causes your muscles to burn or get tired, and does not cause sharp or severe pains, will help you on the mats. 


            But what if you want to optimize your training? There are a number of tried-and-true exercises that, when combined, provide a full body workout with direct carry over to mixed martial arts. These exercises were chosen based on the muscle groups they target, their relation to mixed martial arts, and the relatively low strain and impact they impart on the body. 


1. Front Squat

No one should skip leg day, and Front Squats are a top pick for nearly any athlete. These can be done by simply holding a weight in your hands close to your chest or resting a bar on the front of your shoulders, then squatting until your hips are perpendicular to the ground. Because the weight is loaded on the front of your body, the core stays active and less pressure is exerted on the spine. 




2. Chest Fly

Both striking and grappling can be hard on the shoulders so picking a low impact exercise for them is important. Flies are a great pick for anyone looking to get the most activation of the pectorals and deltoids with as little shoulder strain as possible. The angle at which your body is oriented can be changed to alter which muscle groups are under load. 




3. Deadlift

Posture is an integral part of any sport, especially martial arts, and there are few exercises better for posture than the deadlift. This does not mean deadlifting for one rep max however. This exercise should be done with low weight and many controlled reps for the best carry over. 




4. Box Jump 

Explosive, or dynamic, movement is where power comes from when striking or when getting a dominant position in a scramble. Even when you train for strength, dynamic movement should be incorporated, and the box jump is a simple and effective choice. 



5. Pull-Up

A strong back is something often overlooked when talking about strengths in fighting, but it is no less important than a strong core or arms. The beauty of the pull up is that, while mainly regarded as a back exercise, it is also great training for the biceps, grip, and core stability. Not everyone may be able to do a pull up. Thankfully they can be made significantly easier by simply adding a band under the foot or lowering the bar and doing inverted rows. 


    All of these exercises are used regularly in our Strength and Conditioning classes here at Spartan Fitness, as well as many others. These five were listed as being among the best, but it is important to remember that no one exercise is necessarily better than another. What matters is how your training is structured and how you do the exercises. This is why we strive to always be there to answer your questions and help you to achieve your goals both on and off the mats. 



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