Dec 052013

train-like-mma-fighterTo be an MMA fighter, you have to be strong, move quickly, and you have to think on your feet. It’s no easy task – that’s why so many people fail in this sport. But, those who stick with it find that, even if they never compete professionally, they get into great shape and are very capable of defending themselves in a street fight. Before you rush out to the training center though, you should forge a solid foundation.

Bodyweight Pushups

Get your MMA Shorts on and get ready to do some pushups. It’s a sort of poor-man’s version of the bench press, but don’t underestimate it. Most people can’t do 10 good pushups with good form. Get on your hands and knees. Put your palms flat on the floor, a little wider than shoulder-width apart.

Now, retract your scapula – your shoulder blades. Pretend you’re pinching a piece of paper or a dollar bill between your shoulders. This is the proper shoulder position that will protect them and force you to lift with your pectoral muscles.

Now, put your feet together and kick them out behind you. At the top position (the starting position), your back should be mostly flat, with just a slight arch. If your back is rounded or you have a sway back (severely arched), don’t do the pushup. Check your form and start over. Have someone watch you the first time.

A full pushup is one where your nose touches the floor. Don’t cheat the reps by arching your back, rounding your shoulders, or rounding your back. Your shoulder blades need to stay retracted. It’s a short movement, but don’t let that fool you. It’s incredibly hard to do correctly. Work your way up to 3 sets of 10.

The Squat

There’s probably no better exercise for MMA than the barbell squat. If you’re looking to learn how to perform this movement correctly, your best bet is to study coaches like Mark Rippetoe, who have been coaching for more than 25 years. The squat focuses on something called “hip drive,” giving you more power through the hips and legs, which is something you’ll love when you start grappling and kicking.

It also has the tendency to build muscle all over the body, since stabilizing the bar on your back requires the use of most of the body’s stabilizing muscles. You can even get a good abdominal workout by properly performing the squat.


Dips train the chest and arms directly. You can do this either on a bench or a parallel dip station. The important thing to keep in mind with dips is that you want to make sure your triceps are parallel to the floor at the bottom of the movement. Many people cheat the move and never get the benefit of working the arms and chest fully.

Once you can do 3 sets of 10, it’s time to start adding weight using a dip belt.

Mike Ripberger is an MMA instructor. He loves blogging about the fundamentals of martial arts and how the sport can benefit you.