Plenty of what goes by the names of cardio or conditioning these days feels unnatural, to say the least. You strap yourself into a machine, gyrate a little for a while, and you're done. Somehow, this is supposed to be making you a better athlete, but it sure doesn't feel like it!
This MMA workout is the exact opposite. You'll be slamming and dragging dummies, going after a heavy bag with fists and elbows ablaze, pushing the sled until your quads burn, rumbling through wrestling drills—all nonstop, just like fighting for the title. It comes from the mind of one of the best young fighters on the planet, UFC standout Sage Northcutt. And his willing victim was none other than bodybuilder Hunter Labrada!
To follow this routine to the letter, you're going to need equipment you might not find outside of a fighting- or wrestling-focused gym or school facility. Ideally, you'll need a grappling dummy or something like it, one kind of heavy bag for boxing drills, and another, shorter kind for diving and dodging. If you don't have the equipment or gym access, do the best you can, or sub out the most equipment-specific drills. (Dummy suplexes on an unpadded gym floor? Yeah right!)
No matter how you approach it, this is a full-body workout that will test your coordination, endurance, and explosiveness. Take breaks if you have to, but keep them short, and don't let your heart rate return to normal any time during the workout.
Circuit: Perform 1-3 rounds, depending on your experience and conditioning levels
Sage's Technique Keys
Dummy suplex/body slam: Using a gable grip with your thumbs tucked, lock your hands tight around the dummy. Keep your pelvis back as you push your hips up against the dummy. Keep your head tight underneath the dummy's shoulder, then use an explosive motion to flip the dummy back over your shoulder and onto the mat.
Box run-up: Count each time you lift a foot onto the elevated surface. Go at your own pace, and continue counting to 50.
Stationary rowing: Start with an overhand grip for 1 minute, switch to an underhand grip, and repeat. Row at a fast pace, attempting to keep the calories-per-hour readings between 600 and 1000.
Heavy bag work: Using both hands, do a burst of four punches at the bag, then take a beat to bounce on the balls of your feet. Repeat "burst and bounce" sequence for a total of 1 minute. Then, do the bursts using your elbows, 30 seconds with each elbow and with your hands open. Finish up with 30 seconds of hook punches. The idea with this heavy bag work is to be light on your feet, using explosive movements to get the bag swinging.
Sled push: Ideally, perform this superset using the "I go, you go"-style with a training partner. When you push the sled in one direction, keep your elbows in at your sides. When you push it back, stick your elbows out away from your sides. Ideally, use your workout partner as resistance. Push hard! You've got multiple sets to survive here, but you get to rest while your partner does their work.
Push-up with resistance: Lay on the floor and have your partner put one hand on the back of your head and the other in the middle of your back. Have your partner exert pressure on you as you do a set of push-ups to failure, or 10 reps.
Double leg shot: When you do this movement, make sure that your front knee touches the mat first, then use your back foot to explode off the mat. Once you've finished the double leg shot, keep your fingertips touching the mat as you circle 360 degrees in one direction, then 360 degrees back. Do another double leg shot, then do your circles again. Keep this up for one minute. Make all of your movements explosive, and minimize rest to maximize endurance.
Duck and dodge: Keep your legs far apart on this movement so you can get low enough to dodge the swinging bag. While you want to stay in the same basic position, you can straighten each leg as needed to help you dodge the bag.