twitter google

Developing Explosive Power for MMA – Part Two

In Developing Explosive Power Part One I discussed the alactic energy system, also known as the creatine system or the ATC-PC system. Now that the scientific part is out of the way it’s time to get down to business and tell you just how it’s done. Applied correctly the training progression will dramatically improve your explosive conditioning specific to MMA and help give you that fight ending knockout power that every fighter wants.

The Programmed Progression

Alactic power development should take place over three separate but overlapping blocks, or phases of training. Each of these phases is designed to develop the mechanical and met abolic properties of the neuromuscular system we just discussed. The three blocks are sequenced specifically to develop these properties in the correct order for their maximal development. In other words, the properties that are developed in one block form the basis for the development of the properties that will be targeted in the next block. This is exactly what periodization is all about – or at least what it should be about. Keep in mind the final stage is designed to take place in the final stages prior to a fight as this is when your explosive power should reach its peak.


BLOCK A: Max Explosive Strength

The purpose of the first block is to increase the mechanical potential of the muscles, i.e. their max effort power, by raising the abilities of the nervous system – this motor ability is also known as starting strength. You want to start by improving your maximum 1-rep power and rate of force development as this will provide the foundation for training your ability to maintain this explosive power in the later blocks. Block A should come just after a maximal strength block in your yearly training cycle and will generally last 3-6 weeks. The focus should be on 100% quality and maximal acceleration on each and every rep. Make sure to follow the rest guidelines strictly.

For Block A, the following principles should be used improve maximum explosive strength:
Reps: 1-8 per exercise
Sets: 3-5 per exercise
Rest: 2-4 minutes between sets, 6-10 minutes between exercises (active rest)
Tempo: Max acceleration, 1-2 second pause between reps
Volume: 2-6 exercises per workout
Exercise selection: Squats, Olympic lift variations, Jump squats, Jump lunges, Presses, Explosive Jumps, Heavy Med ball throws, etc.

The Complex Method is extremely effective at improving maximum explosive strength and can be used for a period of 2-3 weeks in the middle of the block.

Exercise A (max strength exercise): 2-3 sets of 2-3 reps @ 90-95% resistance
Exercise B (jumping, or ballistic upper body exercise): 3 sets of 6-8 reps @ 30%
3-4 minutes active rest between sets
4-5 minutes active rest between Exercise A&B
8-10 minutes active rest between groups of exercises (series)
2-3 series per workout

BLOCK B: Max Alactic Power

After you’ve improved you max explosive strength in Block A, it’s time to develop the ability to maintain this power output by focusing on the max power of the alactic system. The elastic properties of the neuromuscular system – this is also known as reactive strength – will also be developed during this phase and will serve to further improve your overall explosive power and build upon the previous block. In order to improve max alactic power, specific exercises will be selected that allow for maximum power output for 10-12 seconds.

The transition from general to specific exercise selection will also begin and the principles of this phase should also be utilized specifically in your MMA skill development as well. By the end of the block the exercises used should consist of explosive MMA drills, i.e. bag and pad work along with grappling and ground drills. The focus should be on maximum intensity of effort for each 10-12 second set.

You should begin monitoring your heart rate in between sets to gauge heart rate recovery and use this to set rest intervals. You will notice your heart rate decreasing faster during intervals between sets as your explosive conditioning improves. Block B should last 2-4 weeks.

For Block B, the following principles should be used improve maximum alactic power:
Time: 10-12 seconds per set
Reps: 8-15 per set
Sets: 6-10 sets per exercise
Rest between sets: rest until heart rate drops to 130-140
Rest between exercises: 8-10 minutes active rest
Tempo: Approximately 1 second per rep
Load: 30-50%
Exercise selection: Jump squats with KB, Explosive Jump exercises, Uphill running, Stair jump, Explosive Pus-ups/pull-ups, Med ball throws, Explosive wrestling drills, pad and bag work, etc.
Volume: 2-4 exercises per workout

BLOCK C: Alactic Capacity

Now that you’ve significantly increased your maximum explosive strength and alactic power in the first two blocks, it’s necessary to finalize these improvements by maximizing how long you can maintain your explosive power for and ensuring that it’s specific to MMA. This is the final stage and at the end of the block your explosive power will reach its peak.

In order to develop your alactic capacity, slightly longer work intervals will be used along with shorter rest intervals. By doing this, a maximal demand is placed on the alactic system’s capacity and thus it will adapt by improving. Keep in mind there is a strong genetic component to this capacity and there is only so much it can possibly improve. You can improve your alactic capacity 10-20% with intelligent training, but your alactic system is ultimately limited by the amount of creatine phosphate and ATP that can be stored in the muscle so there will always be an upper limit to its capacity.

An important part of Block C is the finalized transition from general to specific exercises. This means you should only use exercises and drills that are specific to your sport. In MMA that gives you the option of doing pad and bag work, wrestling drills, ground and pound, etc. The focus should be on maintaining proper technique in the drill at the highest rate of speed possible.

You should continue monitoring your heart rate in between sets to gauge heart rate recovery and decrease the rest intervals over the course of the block until they are only 10-20 seconds as your conditioning and power endurance improve. You will continue to notice your heart rate decreasing faster during intervals between sets as your explosive conditioning improves. By the end of this block, you should be able to keep your average heart rate under your anaerobic threshold.

Block C should last 2-3 weeks. The following principles should be used improve maximum alactic capacity:
Time: 12-20 seconds per set
Reps: 10-20 per set
Sets: 4-8 sets per exercise
Volume: 2-3 exercises per workout
Rest between sets: start with 30-45 seconds, decrease to 10-20 seconds
Rest between exercises: 10-12 minutes active rest
Tempo: Max speed
Exercise selection: Explosive drills specific to MMA disciplines


Joel Jamieson is one of MMA’s top Strength & Conditioning Coaches and has worked with 6 World Champions and more than 20 of today’s top MMA pros from every major MMA organization including the UFC, Pride, Dream, EliteXC, Shooto, WEC, K-1, and more. He client list includes top stars and legends such as Rich Franklin, Chris Leben, Hayato Sakurai, Jens Pulver, Spencer Fisher, Maurice Smith, KJ Noons, and many more. For the latest in cutting-edge MMA training and more articles featuring training methods you won’t find anywhere else go to


Follow MMA Training

MMA Gym Directory

List your gym

Interested in having your MMA training facility profiled on List your gym with us now!