Strength Training For Combat Sports


Where do you stand on strength training for combat sports?


Before I answer, understand my experience in combat sports is limited to around 4 to 5 years of Gracie Jiu Jitsu, so it’s not like I have experience in other disciplines.

I can however, discuss some generalities and give you my take on things.

First, most people coming from a strength training background usually have plenty of muscle and strength, and they will rely on it/go back to it frequently.

Importance Of Conditioning

What’s typically lacking most is conditioning, so working the heart and lungs takes on a new importance.

I’ve never boxed competitively, but have done plenty of heavy bag work.

It’s very tiring, both from the footwork to the ducking, weaving, moving around your opponent right down to how much your shoulders burn when keeping your hands up.

If we look at it from an MMA perspective (where all disciplines or at least many exist), the situation is much the same – conditioning matters, and matters one hell of a lot.

I’ll caution you though, on coaches who’ll tell you muscle/power is always a negative.

What they’re really trying to say is that the more power you use, the faster you’ll gas out.

This is true – the more power you use, the lower your gas tank gets.

It’s like using afterburner on a fighter jet – you have a lot more “oomph”, but that fuel gauge starts going down fast.

On the other hand, power does in fact matter and matters one hell of a lot.

If that wasn’t true, then why are there weight classes in wrestling, boxing, MMA and virtually every other combat sport?

The answer is obvious – size and power do convey a very clear advantage. Not in every situation, and you don’t want to rely on it exclusively but come on.

In extreme cases, some coaches take a real dislike to big/strong guys and will try and make examples out of them by exhausting them in warmups, then throw them into a roll, have them box smaller/faster guys etc.

Maybe they got picked on by bigger/stronger kids in their youth, I dunno. But several of them I’ve met have hang ups like this.

As for the ideal strength training for MMA? I tend to think some form of LATT periodically supplemented with some very heavy training works well.

Best Conditioning Workout

The best conditioning work is sparring, there’s just no substitute for it. If you can’t spar I’d hit a heavy bag, shadow box, work ground techniques on a dummy or perform sled sprints or burpees. Burpees in particular work well given you’re moving your body up/down and around in ways other conditioning work doesn’t.

It’s also why they’re miserable but I know I need to do them.

Finally, train twice as long as you expect the fight to go and work on conserving energy. You’re not always going to be the biggest/strongest, so you may in fact need conditioning and technique to carry the day.

In short, conditioning is important but you have to have everything.

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Coach Rob Regish

Rob Regish is an internationally recognized name in the field of health and fitness. He's been a weekly contributor to for almost a decade, answering listener questions from around the world.

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