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A Weight Training Program for Mixed Martial Arts

Get Fit and Strong for MMA


Updated June 18, 2014

Successful mixed martial arts fighting requires a combination of speed, power and strength -- and bulk is certainly an advantage, depending on weight classifications.

Weight training or resistance training, used intelligently, can be used to enhance these athletic characteristics. Because all athletes have individual needs, a generic program, like this one below, will need to be modified for style of fighting, age, goals, facilities available and so on. However, here's a weights program, starting out, that you can use to set yourself up for martial arts competition fighting.

General Preparation

The general preparation phase should provide all-round muscle and strength conditioning. If you prepare on a seasonal basis, this would be used in the early pre-season. If your sport does not have seasons, then just progress through the training phases one after another.

As a general rule, and for all the following programs, don't do the workouts prior to a fight training session. Do them later in the day after ring work, or well before, or on a separate day if possible. Nothing you do should limit your ability to practise the actual technical fighting skills in your sport, in the environment in which you would normally compete.

Frequency - 2 to 3 sessions per week for 8 to 10 weeks
Type - general conditioning
Exercises - 9 exercises, 3 sets of 10 to 12, plus warm-up and cool-down in the Basic Strength and Muscle program. (I favor the Romanian type deadlift rather than full deadlift in this program.)
Rest between sets - 30-90 seconds

Specific Preparation

In this phase, you will focus more on the development of strength and power. This is the period, later pre-season, leading up to the start of competition.

Frequency - 2 to 3 session per week, 4 to 6 weeks
Type - strength and power
Exercises - 5 sets of 6: Romanian deadlift, incline bench press, hang power clean, pullups, squats -- plus combo crunches at 3 sets of 10 to 12
Rest between sets - 3-5 minutes, crunches, 1-2 minutes

Competition Phase

The aim of this phase is the maintenance of strength and power. Ring training and competition should dominate. Prior to the start of competition, take 7-10 days break from heavy weights work at the end of Specific Preparation while maintaining your ring work. Weight training in the competition phase should play essentially a maintenance role.

Frequency - 1 to 2 sessions per week
Type - power; lighter loads and faster execution than in the specific preparation phase
Exercises - 3 sets of 10, rapid concentric movement, 40% to 60% of 1RM. Squats, hang clean, Romanian deadlift. Crunches.
Rest between sets - 1-2 minutes


  • Be sure to warm up and cool down prior to weight training.
  • Don't train through serious injuries, acute or chronic.
  • Don't sacrifice a ring session for a weights session -- unless you're treating or recovering from an injury with weights work.
  • If you have a knowledgeable coach, be guided by him or her regarding the details of your program.
  • Take at least a few weeks off at the end of the season to recover after a hard season of training and competing.
  • If you're new to weight training, read up on the fundamentals before you start.

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