When you’re going to the gym to do strength and conditioning work for MMA, you must bring the same level of intensity to the training session that you bring to sparring.
Notice I said training session and not workout. The difference is that a training session has a specific goal and is a part of an overall plan, while a workout is simply something you do for an hour that might be hard and might make you sweat, but doesn’t necessarily move you any closer to your goal of getting stronger and improving your power and endurance specifically for MMA.
So in order to have the absolute most effective strength and conditioning session, your body must be fully prepared.
You probably spend a lot of time warming up before sparring doing things like skipping to increase your heart rate and body temperature, shadow boxing to prep the striking muscles, and light rolling with a partner so your body loosens up to be able to play guard if necessary.
But before lifting weights, many fighters spend about 2-3 minutes warming up, if they spend any time at all.
This is absolutely insane and will not only increase your risk of injury but also decrease the effectiveness of your training.
So what exactly do you need in a warmup for a really effective MMA strength and conditioning workout?
Like everything in the strength and conditioning world, different fighters will need different things. But the following 5 things must be included in everyone’s warmup. Do so and you’ll be on your way to getting strength and power you’ve always wanted and avoiding stupid injuries in the gym.
1) Improve tissue quality
I can’t stress the importance of doing this. My friend and strength coach Nick Tumminello gave me a tip where he says you should always do this on your IT band because it decreases the impact of leg kicks. Think of when you have a knot in your traps, when someone digs into it, it really hurts. Same goes with the IT band, if you have knots, when some crazy Thai boxer kicks it, it’s going to hurt a lot.
You can improve your tissue quality with a foam roller. Instead of writing about it, simply watch this video:
2) Perform static stretches for tonic muscles
God forbid – we do static stretches before exercise. You’re going to tear your muscles right off your body, don’t do it!
OK, this is going a little too far. The fact of the matter is that if you have short, tight, and tonic muscles, these muscles are going to take over during movements when they’re not supposed to. Statically stretching them shuts them off and lets your body recruit the most efficient muscles for the job. This has been proven by extensive study by a highly regarded Czech doctor named Vladimir Janda.
You might’ve heard that static stretching decreases your power output. This is true, you don’t want to do static stretches of the chest right before a 1 rep max bench press. But if you stretch the chest, then perform mobility exercises, then perform a couple of warmup sets, your power does not decrease at all.
So what muscles are tonic on your body? It’s different for everyone and if you really want to know visit a good sports physio or strength coach, but often the pec minor and psoas muscles are tonic and would benefit from static stretching.
3) Perform dynamic mobility exercises
Instead of simply running on the treadmill or skipping to warmup, dynamic mobility exercises work your muscles through a full range of motion. When performed correctly, they’ll help to improve your flexibility and strength, which is what mobility really is.
Flexibility is your ability of body to get into a range of motion. Mobility is your ability to use that range of motion.
There are a few exercises that all fighters do, that you can watch in this video:
4) Gradually elevate heart rate to 80% Max HR for 20 sec and increase body temperature
Because your training session is intense, I like to make sure my athletes are warm and they get their heart and respiratory rates up. If you were going to do sprints that elevate your HR to max, it’s probably a good idea to get your HR up to 80-90% before the first sprint.
Simply jump on a treadmill or other cardio machine and warmup for 2 minutes. Increase the pace every 20 seconds and you’ll be where you need to be at the end.
5) Warmup each exercise with at least 1 lighter set
This goes without saying. And the closer you train to 1RM, the more sets you need. So be sure to do warmup sets and build up to your working weight.
Follow these 5 points and you’re sure to improve your effectiveness in the gym, which will carry over to a better time in the ring.
If you want to follow a complete program that includes all of these components in the warmup and a detailed, step-by-step program to build your strength and peak you for a fight, then check out the Ultimate MMA Strength and Conditioning Program.