MMA Circuit Training Workouts


MMA Circuit Training Workouts need to fit in with whatever phase Of training you are currently undergoing. If you are working on gaining mass and strength as a fighter then you could do one of three things:

  • Design your strength workouts as circuits
  • Have a completely separate circuit training programme to work on conditioning
  • Combine the two

Trying to combine maximum strength gains and increased cardio vascular capacity during the same workout is probably trying to get too much done at once – if you don‘t know how to structure such a workout. Often in MMA training, when you try to do too many things at once, you end up getting nothing done well. However, if you use a bit of creativity it can work wonders for both absolute power and endurance.

Let us break things down into 2 types of MMA circuit training workouts:

  1. Strength
  2. Conditioning

Strength Circuit Training Workout

Ok, let’s get one thing straight before we start. You’re supposed to be a fighter, not a bodybuilder. If you have any ambitions to compete in any of the major MMA organisations, you better get yourself clear of steroids if you are on them, as you will get tested and you will get banned.

Secondly, as combat athletes we need to train differently to your average gym junkies. We need to concentrate on improving strengths in movements that mirror what we do in fights. And we need to train at a pace that doesn’t allow us too much rest in between sets, yet still enables targeted muscle groups to recover enough over the course of the workout to allow for maximal force production on each and every rep of each and every set.

In the video below, MMA, Muay Thai and Vale Tudo fighter Clive Cox demonstrates a circuit that hits the entire body. He starts with an upper body move (pull ups) and then maintaining what static strength he has left, does an abdominal exercise, after which he progresses on to dumbell squat thrusts. Do this yourself to see how tough it is.

The best way to achieve all of the above is antagonist training. This means training opposite planes of motion in successive sets in groups of 2, 3 or 4 different exercises such as:

  • One arm dumbbell floor press (chest, shoulders, triceps) followed by
  • Close grip pull ups (back, biceps)

  • Kettlebell lunges (quads, glutes) followed by
  • Pull throughs (hamstrings, erector spinae)

The first example is an upper antagonist superset – push followed by pull muscle groups. The second is a lower body antagonist superset – again push followed by pull. You could repeat the superset twice for a total of 6 sets (3 per muscle group). Every time one muscle group is trained, the antagonist group gets a rest – but you don’t! Now depending on the rep ranges being used, you could add a rest period in between sets, or at the end of one superset. Don’t get gassed to the point where your poundages suffer. But don’t go soft on yourself either.

Other supersets apart from anatagonists could include:

  • Upper / lower body
  • Large bodypart / small bodypart e,g, Quads followed by biceps or chest and then medial delts etc
  • Low rep set followed by high rep set for same body part

Or any combinations of the above. There are an infinite number of variations.

Strength and Conditioning Circuit Training Workout

MMA circuit training workouts can incorporate all of the elements of the above strength session, plus some added conditioning drills. Working out in this manner enables:

  • Full rest of targeted muscle groups
  • Maximum energy output during conditioning period

grappling dummy

Let me explain. Say you wanted to do a few sets of heavy core work with a 130lb grappling dummy. You might want to do 10 slams to the floor, each side. That would hit your core, arms, and chest heavily working with that amount of weight. Then you could add a conditioning drill immediately after that, such as 2-3 minutes of jump rope work.

boxer skipping

During the jump rope period, the major muscles used slamming the heavy grappling bag would have time to recover, even though the lungs and heart would be working at a good pace. If the grappling dummy slams took about 2 minutes and the skipping lasted for 3, you have a circuit that also conforms to a five minute MMA round. You could then rest a minute, as in competition, then repeat a couple of times.

So you get the best of both worlds setting up your workouts like this. You train heavy and increase your strength with a fight specific movement using the 130lb dummy. And you also work on your gas capacity with the jump rope. What’s more – it mirrors the exact timing of a fight.

You might also end up getting a body to be proud of, while all the puffed up bloated roided acne scarred needle freaks sit on their butts between sets! Once you understand the PRINCIPLES involved in creating MMA circuit training workouts, you no longer need to look for PROGRAMS. You can be your own trainer.

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