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MaxCondition For MMA Athletes! Part 5

It amazes me when I meet an athlete that spends hours performing sprints yet does no agility or quickness training. In most sports there is a need for constant change of direction. Reacting to ever changing situations is also evident.

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Agility and quickness training is usually neglected by athletes and coaches. This means coaches in every sport not just MMA. It amazes me when I meet an athlete that spends hours performing sprints yet does no agility or quickness training. In most sports there is a need for constant change of direction. Reacting to ever changing situations is also evident.

In this article I will discuss some basic principles that apply to the above-mentioned qualities. For an in depth look at agility training refer to the section on Also, refer to Quickness Training to learn more about quickness training. The article can be found by searching the table of contents.

I will close out this week's edition by talking about the mental toughness that is required to be an MMA athlete.

Agility can be defined as the ability to accelerate, decelerate and rapidly change direction while maintaining balance. The key element in agility training is exposing the athlete to a wide array of different movement patterns. Agility training should be treated as a quality nervous system type of training. Not an endurance event.

The nervous system needs to be fresh to maximize its ability to learn. My athletes perform agility training anywhere from 1-4 times per week. This depends on the individual athlete. If the trainee shows great movement in his or her sport minimal time is spent training this quality.

On the other hand if the guy cannot box without falling over his feet a considerable amount of time is spent working on his ability to move. There are some authorities that claim the only way to enhance sport specific agility is by performing the sport. I would disagree with this. For example boxing requires numerous motor qualities.

By training the qualities separately there is a more concentrated effort on that quality. Numerous research studies and practical cases have supported this statement.

Agility Drills

In my agility programs I use a variety of techniques. Renegade Training has heavily influenced my training protocols. Agility Training includes ...

  • Non-Equipped Wide Range Drills (backpedal, carioca, etc.)
  • Tumbling (Forward rolls, backward rolls, combinations, etc.)
  • Jump Rope (line drills, slalom jumps, high knees, etc.)
  • Agility Ladder (one foot per square, right foot in, crossover steps, etc.)
  • Barrier Drills or Bag Drills (side steps, two feet between bags, etc.)
  • Cone Drills (quick cut drills, zig zag pivot drills, etc.)

Agility Drills In Action

Most combat athletes are probably familiar with the tools mentioned above. Although, most have probably never seen or used an agility ladder. These ladders are not just for football players. They are for anyone who is serious about their agility training. They are cheap and easy to store away or take with you on the road. I have seen this tool help combat athletes improve their footwork to a level they never thought was possible. Below is an example of what you can expect when incorporating a properly designed ladder program into your regimen.

Recently I began working with a young boxer who was heavy footed to say the least. He was a terror if you chose to stand in front of him and slug it out. When guys gave him movement he was no more than an average boxer. I worked with him 8 weeks and all of a sudden he was a terror moving or while remaining stationary. I incorporated a fair amount of agility drills into his program. We used a wide range of modes such as jump ropes, cones, ladders etc.

When we began his agility program he was very efficient with the rope and the numerous cone drills. He was not good with the ladder. Maybe because he had never been exposed to it. To make a long story short in 8 weeks he became very good using the ladder. More importantly he began moving in the ring with lighting quickness and precision. Did the ladder contribute that much to his improved movement skills? I think so.

Quickness is defined as the ability to rapidly react and move in response to a given stimulus. Quickness can be thought of as the first phase of speed. Quickness drills are short in duration; usually 6-8 seconds.

Reaction drills make up a large part of my Quickness programs. I like to use everything from quick hand tap drills to lateral movement reaction. Below are a couple of drills that I often use with MMA athletes.

  • Lateral Movement Reaction: Two athletes face each other in an athletic position. Athlete A begins to move laterally while athlete B mimics the movement pattern. The drill is performed for 6-8 seconds. The partners then switch roles. This is a great reaction drill that teaches the body to rapidly change direction.

  • Quick Hand Tap Reaction: This is a drill that I developed particularly for football lineman. I found that it was also suitable for combat athletes. This drill is made up of four sequences.

    1. Two athletes face each other. Athlete A holds hands in front of body while assuming the athletic knee bend. Now athlete B holds hands behind the back. Athlete B then flashes a hand and athlete A quickly taps the hand with the mirror hand. Athlete A must return hand to starting position as quick as possible.

    2. Athlete taps hand with crossover hand

    3. Athlete B flashes two hands and athlete A taps both hands.

    4. Athlete B flashes one or two hands whichever he or she chooses. Once the hands are flashed they are also removed quickly. Athlete A touches the hands anyway possible. This sequence is difficult and requires great reaction time by the athlete. Remember once the athlete shows the hands they are then quickly removed. Each sequence is performed for 8 contacts then you move on to the next sequence.

Mental Toughness

In the past few weeks we have discussed various elements concerning physical preparation of the combat athlete. The discussion of preparing this unusual breed of competitor would not be complete without mention of the mental toughness that goes into this sport.

People often ask me what type of person gets in a cage and fights ? The mental profile of combat athletes varies greatly. As in any sport you have your good guys and bad guys. For the most part these athletes view what they do as a sport and are no more violent than anyone else on the street. Now, when they enter the cage it is a different story.

No matter how athletically gifted an athlete is they will not succeed at a high level if their mental conditioning does not match their physical. The question then presented is can mental toughness be taught? I think it can be enhanced if the proper steps are taken. My goal is to make the programs I design for MMA to be so challenging that the competition seems easy. This type of training can build tough character. When the athlete is training or enters the ring they ask themselves how many other people are out pulling weighted sleds up a hill or how many other people are chopping on tires with sledgehammers.

This type of work is very taxing physically as well as mentally. One of my favorite motivational tools is the old Shotgun Trick. As an example the trainee is going through some GPP work and stops in the middle of performing burpees. They cannot possibly do another one. Now I will pose this question to the athlete. If I had a shotgun in your face and told you that I would blow your head off if you did not do another rep what would you do? They always do a few more reps. This tells me that it was mental failure that resulted in termination of the movement. By constantly subjecting the trainee to difficult situations their mental toughness increases.

Studies indicate that most successful MMA competitors are very relaxed shortly before their bouts. The guy you see running around screaming and making a spectacle of himself is probably scared out of his pants. The number one indicator that someone is very anxious about his or her fight is the weight question. Everyone has seen these characters. They ask every person they see how much they weigh. The confident athletes stays to themselves and is thinking of the task at hand.

Final Note

Stick to quality training with an emphasis on weak spots. Do not neglect the aspect of mental preparation. By following the guidelines we have covered the last few weeks I am sure your game will dramatically improve.

Agility Quickness Camp Conducted by Coach Hale
Louisville Kentucky
February the 23rd
Call for info 859-737-2753
Email for information
Visit Coach Hale's site at

Coming Soon:
Coach Davies / Coach Hale MMA Strength and Conditioning Camps.

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