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CrossFit and the MMA Athlete

training-for-mma1I have noticed a trend in MMA training lately. Crossfit has become hot in MMA and you may think that it’s a great choice…but you would be wrong. It has all the elements of a proper MMA workout- endurance training, explosive training, and cardiovascular training. There is even a workout titled Fight Gone Bad. So what’s the problem?

Crossfit is a broad-spectrum fitness program that does not take into account the work/rest intervals of fighting. If you want your training to excel, it must replicate your sport as closely as possible. It’s not enough to simply include exercises that other MMA fighters are doing. Crossfit and MMA training both incorporate Olympic lifting, functional training, and Plyometric training…but they will do it in very different ways.

A good MMA workout will be divided into phases called macro cycles. These cycles should be adjusted to a fighter’s ability to recover from workouts and the amount of time between fights. Macro cycles should also be adjusted for the fighter’s strengths and weaknesses. If I am working with a fighter that has tremendous power, but gets gassed easily, I will adjust his training accordingly. What good is having power if you can’t recover between rounds?

The strengths and weaknesses of your next opponent should also be taken into account when planning workouts. If your next opponent is a beast that starts strong, but fades in the second round, you are going to have to adjust your training…especially if you’re not a beast.

How would you like it if you, and the fighter across from you, were both training Crossfit? You would both look great, but you would also have squandered your chance to get an edge.

A huge problem with Crossfit for MMA training is the lack of multiplanner movements. Most of the Crossfit exercisies are uniplanner and limited to the sagittal (think front lunge) plane of movement. Mixed martial artists must train in the frontal and transverse plans as well as the sagittal. Imagine that you are strong when moving straight ahead but weak when going to the side-to-side and turning. How much of a problem will that be for you?

Crossfit workouts are not designed to be sport specific. Planning how to adjust your workout is critical and will impact you as an athlete. I like Crossfit and would recommend it to nearly anyone who wants to get into great shape. However, if you need to be stronger, faster, and recover better than anyone in the room for 15 minutes, Crossfit is not the workout for you.

  • Sibbs says:

    Of course if you follow the crossfit website it’s not the best for any one sport in particular, including mma. However if you have a good coach who applies the crossfit principals to more mma specify exercises and intervals, it can be extremely effective and beneficial. I am a crossfit coach currently training some mma fighters and we have gotten awesome results. Just apply those basic principles of variance, functionality, and intensity and add your sport specific twist to it and you’ll find huge benefits. Be creative!

  • haha, im way better then all you.

  • Bryan says:

    Great information, I had never thought about the lack of multiplanner movements in my training. Fortunately, I’m aware of the benefits of multiplanner and have been using the TRX suspension straps for much of my workouts. Thanks.

  • Jeff Ball says:

    That question is best answered by your trainer. Eric Wong’s article on Periodization will get you started. If you don’t have a trainer I’d look into running Tabata circuits and Complex Training.

  • If “Crossfit is not the workout for you” what is?

  • Jeff Ball says:

    Eric Wong wrote a good article titled Strength and Conditioning Periodization for MMA. It should answer a lot of your questions “and” make you want to learn more. I’ll try to write something about mutiplanner training soon.

  • M. Boone says:

    I like this type of article and would like to read more about the ‘macro cycles’ and ‘multiplanner movements’ Jeff refers to. How about it Jeff?

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