MMA Success - Part Three!

What kind of training do MMA athletes need to perform? Find out here...

The role of strength and conditioning has been positively identified in sports such as football, hockey and other sports for some time now. Not until recently have martial artists realized the importance of this element of sports preparation. With the number of athletes participating in MMA growing rapidly it has became very important to optimize conditioning if you wish to be successful.

Training For MMA

At the present time there are hundreds of magazines and websites promoting conditioning programs for MMA athletes. The majority of these programs are based on bodybuilding methods.

This is not the ideal training situation for MMA athletes. These types of programs do not address the development of motor qualities that are important in MMA.

One the other hand programs that promote endless roadwork and bodyweight exercises are also lacking as they do not tackle comprehensive fitness. Although these methods can be very effective when utilized with other training modes.

Combat athletes need to develop a wide array of qualities such as dynamic range of motion, agility, quickness, strength, power, body awareness, work capacity and mental strength. To maximize the above mentioned qualities it is important to incorporate a numerous array of movements into your training regimen.

The Main Goals In MaxCondition Training Are:

  1. Enhance movement ability in sport as well as everyday life
  2. Identify and develop individual weaknesses
  3. Develop the entire spectrum of fitness
  4. Introduce new movements in a progressive manner.

Programs vary for each individual. Training must be intense to prepare athletes for the rigors of combat. By following the principles mentioned above the ultimate objective is to make the fight easy compared to the training.

Before a proper program is designed it is important to understand the specific needs of the mma athlete. MMA would be classified as a complex sport, where characteristically there is a high variability of motor actions under conditioning of advancing fatigue and varying intensities of work. The majority of MMA athletes have no idea of what they really need to do to enhance their sports performance.

An example of what I am referring to was evident in a recent conversation I had with an athlete concerning his training. He had just lost his bout to my athlete and he was asking me questions about my guys conditioning program (click here to read the article).

First of all I wanted to find out what he had been doing in regards to conditioning. He told me he ran 3 miles per day, done tons of crunches etc… Basically he was training to be slow and weak. He had been misled by his coaches as they had no idea what they were doing. Other mis-informed statements include. I don't weight train it makes you slow (proper weight training makes you faster).

I can't lift weights they make me too big (in fact is is very hard to put on size without eating a surplus of calories). I have strong abs I do 200 crunches per day (you have good local muscular endurance). Wow that guy looks awesome; he is in great condition (there is no correlation between looking good and being in great condition). Those are just a few of the myths concerning MMA conditioning.

Range Of Motion

Let's make a distinction between static range of motion and dynamic range of motion. Static range of motion refers to range of motion while holding a static (little or no movement) position. An example would be sitting in the splits.

Dynamic range of motion refers to range of motion while moving. An example would be throwing a kick. There is a need for both qualities in MMA. It is important to train the qualities at the right time and in the proper sequence. We will go into detail concerning the proper training methods of these qualities later.

Body Awareness

Body Awareness is commonly referred to as (Proprioception) the ability to sense the position, location, orientation and movement of the body and its parts. Have you ever seen anyone try and touch thier nose with thier eyes closed? This is a test police officers use to help determine if subjects are intoxicated. When the subjects are intoxicated they have no clue where their hands or nose are.

There proprioceptive abilities are hampered tremendously due to intoxication. It is a funny test to watch as some of these subjects poke themselves in the eye or completely miss their face. Other examples of proprioception include walking down the street (knowing where your feet are without seeing them), playing a piano, typing, driving a car, ballet etc... As you can see proprioception is very important in carrying out daily tasks.

In athletics proprioceptive ability allows us to perform movements in the most efficient manner possible. Have you ever performed a perfect sprint or perfect snatch? When they are performed with great technique they just feel right, due to heightened proprioception.


    Agility - The ability to accelerate, decelerate and rapidly change direction while maintaining balance.

In MMA agility is arguably the most important motor quality. The need to change direction often is a must for the mma athlete. Surprisingly most mma athletes do not emphasize this quality. In MaxCondition Training we utilize a wide array of tools as this quality is emphasized. By the way sprint training is not agility training.


    Quickness - Rapid reaction and movement time in response to a given stimulus.

Reaction time refers to the time interval between the stimulus and initiation of movement (Siff 2000). Movement time is the interval from the end of the reaction phase to the end of the movement (from beginning to end of movement) (Siff 2000). Quickness can be thought of as the first phase of speed.

Strength & Power

Strength training should not be totally dependent on absolute strength (amount of muscoskeletal force that can be generated for one all out effort, regardless of time or bodyweight). Being strong does not always equate to being powerful.

Power is a product of speed and strength. Power is being able to develop force in a timely manner (rate of force development). It does not matter how strong you are if you are slow as a turtle. There is a limited time for force production in MMA competition.

Work Capacity

GPP (general physical preparation) - (Verkhoshanky) Defines it as exercise to enhance the athletes ability to handle increasingly greater volumes of work. Bompa says the greater the work capacity the easier it becomes for the body to adapt to the increase of the physical demands of training.

Gpp work enhances recovery. Gpp is used to enhance multiple motor qualities such as speed, strength, endurance and flexibility. Enhancing work capacity is a complete necessity for MMA athletes.


Hale, J.P. (2004) MaxCondition. Liquid Marketing and Sales.

About Coach Hale

Coach Hale is the owner of Total Body Fitness, Winchester Golden Gloves Boxing and MaxCondition Sports Conditioning. He designs comprehensive training programs for coaches and athletes worldwide. He is the author of Optimum Physique and contributor to numerous exercise and sports publications. Coach Hale is an official member of The World Martial Arts Hall of Fame in recognition of his strength and conditioning work with martial artists. He also serves as vice-chairman for the World Martial Arts Hall of Fame. To learn more about coach Hale visit his website at