MMA Strength and Conditioning Workouts

Published by Jason Narog on

Girl Kickboxing

When we’re discussing MMA strength and conditioning workouts, we can approach this from three totally different directions –

  1. people who want to go to a cardio boxing class and hit pads
  2. people who train martial arts and go to local tournaments
  3. pro and semi pro fighters who want to improve their overall strength and conditioning to make larger purses

If you’re in group 3, you probably already have a team of coaches, a recovery program, etc so I don’t believe this article should be geared towards you. If you are in that target demo, please read about my trip to the UFCPI

MMA Strength and Conditioning Workouts for cardio kickboxing types

You’re my bread and butter. NASM has a specialization (I have the course, I never took the cert) called the MMACS (MMA Conditioning Specialization) that’s geared towards circuit training for this exact type of person. I don’t think you need to search for an MMACS if you’re interested in MMA Strength and Conditioning Workouts, as I’ve seen other MMA certs flood the market, but someone who at least knows they exist can help you more than a random personal trainer with no MMA background.

Assuming you’re training at home my gear recommendations would be the same as they are across almost all of my other articles –

  • Kettlebells or Bulgarian bags
  • TRX trainer or TRX Rip Trainer
  • Medicine Balls
  • Agility Ladder
  • Something to punch and kick

You can make a punching bag out of a pillow case and some old clothes if needed. My heavy bag is nothing more than a bunch of shredded up pieces of clothing and some sand (I took it apart once then put it back together, trying to stuff things back inside was not a pleasant experience.)

If you’re using kettlebells, the go to expert on the subject is Pavel Tsatouline. Any of the following kindle books are good –

When starting a kettlebell program, its best to go find yourself an SFG1 (or higher) instructor as kettlebells can destroy your back, hands, etc if not used properly.

If I were designing a program for someone who was taking a cardio kickboxing class away from me and wanted only the strength and conditioning portion of my program I’d go with kettlebells. If someone wanted both from me I’d go with Bulgarian Bags.

The “hard style” of kettlebell training, at least as it was described to me, involved minimizing twists and turns to the spine. Punching and kicking is nothing but twisting the spine so I wanted to keep those two activities separated by several hours of time from one another.

Bulgarian Bags, on the other hand, involve lots of twisting and turning on their own (just look at a Suples Spin that involves moving almost the entire body) so they felt like a good activity to join together.

What would a 1 hour routine of Bulgarian Bags and cardio kickboxing look like?

The Bulgarian bag routine comes from here: Bulgarian Bag Workouts

(for the first time ever, here’s every cardio kickboxing routine from my Pushups and Pizza program!)

Shadow Boxing Routines

Week 1

Set a timer – 4 rounds – 2 minutes of work and 1 minute of rest. If 2 minutes doesn’t feel like enough work increase this to 3 minutes on strength day 2.

  1. Left punch; right punch; left hook; right punch
  2. right punch; left punch; right hook; left punch
  3. Left punch; right punch; left hook; right punch; bob & weave left
  4. right punch; left punch; right hook; left punch; bob & weave right

Week 2

Set a timer – 4 rounds – 2 minutes of work and 1 minute of rest. If 2 minutes is too easy set the timer to 3 minutes (or up the intensity of your movements.)

  1. Left punch; slip right; right punch; slip left; left hook; left hook
  2. Right punch; slip left; left punch; slip right; right hook; right hook
  3. Right knee; left knee
  4. Left punch; right punch; left uppercut; right uppercut

Week 3

Set a timer – 4 rounds – 3 minutes of work and 1 minute of rest.

  1. Left punch; left punch; right punch; bob & weave to left; left hook; left hook; right knee
  2. Right punch; right punch; left punch; bob & weave to right; right hook; right hook; left knee
  3. Left teep; catch; parry; right knee
  4. Right teep; left slip; right slip; left knee

Week 4

Set a timer – 4 rounds – 3 minutes of work and 1 minute of rest.

  1. Right slip; left knee; left uppercut; right hook
  2. Left slip; right knee; right uppercut; left hook
  3. Left shield block; left punch; right hook; right hook
  4. Right shield block; right punch; left hook; left hook

Week 5

Set a timer for 6 rounds, 3 minutes of work with 1 minute of rest. Total time – 23 minutes. If it’s too easy, move faster.

  1.  left punch, left punch, left slip, left uppercut
  2. right punch, right punch, right slip, right uppercut
  3. left punch, left punch, left slip, left uppercut, right knee
  4. right punch, right punch, right slip, right uppercut, left knee
  5. left punch, left punch, left slip, left uppercut, right knee, left punch, right elbow, left elbow, right elbow
  6. right punch, right punch, right slip, right uppercut, left knee, right punch, left elbow, right elbow, left elbow

Week 6

Set a timer for 6 rounds, 3 minutes of work with 1 minute of rest. Total time – 23 minutes. If it’s too easy, move faster.

  1. left teep, right knee, counter clock wise pivot
  2. right teep, left knee, clock wise pivot
  3. left teep, right knee, counter clock wise pivot, left punch, right punch, left hook, right uppercut
  4. right teep, left knee, clock wise pivot, right punch, left punch, right hook, left uppercut
  5. left teep, right knee, counter clock wise pivot, left punch, right punch, left hook, right uppercut, left knee, right punch
  6. right teep, left knee, clock wise pivot, right punch, left punch, right hook, left uppercut, right knee, left punch

Week 7

Set a timer for 6 rounds, 3 minutes of work with 1 minute of rest. Total time – 23 minutes. If it’s too easy, move faster.

  1. left slip, right slip, snap back, left teep
  2. right slip, left slip, snap back, right teep
  3. left slip, right slip, snap back, left teep, left punch, left hook, right uppercut
  4. right slip, left slip, snap back, right teep, right punch, right hook, left uppercut
  5. left slip, right slip, snap back, left teep, left punch, left hook, right uppercut, left hook, right knee
  6. right slip, left slip, snap back, right teep, right punch, right hook, left uppercut, right hook, left knee

Week 8

Set a timer for 6 rounds, 3 minutes of work with 1 minute of rest. Total time – 23 minutes. If it’s too easy, move faster.

  1. left slip, right slip, snap back, right punch, left punch
  2. right slip, left slip, snap back, left punch, right punch
  3. left slip, right slip, snap back, right punch, left punch, left shield block, snap back
  4. right slip, left slip, snap back, left punch, right punch, right shield block, snap back
  5. left slip, right slip, snap back, right punch, left punch, left shield block, snap back, right punch, left knee
  6. right slip, left slip, snap back, left punch, right punch, right shield block, snap back, left punch, right knee

Week 9

Set a timer for 6 rounds, 3 minutes of work with 1 minute of rest. Total time – 23 minutes. If it’s too easy, move faster.

  1. right punch, right punch, left punch, bob and weave right
  2. left punch, left punch, right punch, bob and weave left
  3. right punch, right punch, left punch, bob and weave right, low right hook, high right hook
  4. left punch, left punch, right punch, bob and weave left, low left hook, high left hook
  5. right punch, right punch, left punch, bob and weave right, low right hook, high right hook, left knee, right punch
  6. left punch, left punch, right punch, bob and weave left, low left hook, high left hook, right knee, left punch

Week 10

Set a timer for 6 rounds, 3 minutes of work with 1 minute of rest. Total time – 23 minutes. If it’s too easy, move faster.

  1. (moving forward) Left slip; right slip; left knee; right upper cut; left elbow; right elbow
  2. (moving forward) Right slip; left slip; right knee; left upper cut; right elbow; left elbow
  3. (moving backwards) Left step; right step; right knee; left uppercut; right elbow; left elbow
  4. (moving backwards) Right step; left step; left knee; right uppercut; left elbow; right elbow
  5. Left pivot; left hook; right punch; left knee
  6. Right pivot; right hook; left punch; right knee

Bonus section of my MMA Strength and Conditioning Workouts program – swap these in wherever you want

  1. Right pivot; left hook; right uppercut; left knee
  2. Left pivot; right hook; left uppercut; right knee
  3. Right pivot; left hook; right knee; left teep; right superman punch
  4. left pivot; right hook; left knee; right teep; left superman punch
  5. Left punch; left punch; slip left; left hook; left uppercut
  6. Right punch; right punch; right left; right hook; right uppercut
  7. Left punch; left punch; slip left; right uppercut; left hook
  8. Right punch; right punch; right left; right uppercut; left hook
  9. Left punch; right punch; snap back; right punch; left hook; right uppercut
  10. Right punch; left punch; snap back; left punch; right hook; left uppercut
  11. Shield block left; left knee; pivot right (left foot in rear); left knee; right; left uppercut; right
  12. Shield block right; right knee; pivot left; right knee; left; right uppercut; left
  13. Left knee; pivot right; left hook; right elbow; left elbow; right elbow
  14. Right knee; pivot left; right hook; left elbow; right elbow; left elbow
  15. Bob & weave left; left hook; right; left knee; left; right elbow; left elbow; right elbow; left elbow
  16. Bob & weave right; right hook; left; right knee; right; left elbow; right elbow; left elbow; right elbow
  17. Shield block left; V Cover left; left uppercut; right hook; left uppercut; right punch
  18. Shield block right; V Cover right; right uppercut; left hook; right uppercut; left punch
  19. Left slip; V Cover left; left uppercut; right hook; right slip; right; left hook; right
  20. Right slip; V Cover right; right uppercut; left hook; left slip; left; right hook; left
  21. Left slip; V Cover left; left knee; pivot left; right; left knee; right elbow
  22. Right slip; V Cover right; right knee; pivot right; left; right knee; left elbow
  23. Left slip; right slip; snap back; left; right; left; left shield block; snap back; right; left knee
  24. Right slip; left slip; snap back; right; left; right; right shield block; snap back; left; right knee
  25. Left slip; right slip; bob & weave left; left hook; right hook; left hook; right uppercut
  26. Right slip; left slip; bob & weave right; right hook; left hook; right hook; left uppercut
  27. Left slip; right slip; bob & weave left; left hook; right knee; right; right uppercut
  28. Right slip; left slip; bob & weave right; right hook; left knee; left; left uppercut

Shadow boxing assumes no bag. I hated throwing kicks or making people throw kicks in empty space, so there are 0 kicks on this list. You can substitute knees with kicks where it feels natural, play around with the above combos to figure out when and where it feels good.

2 to 3x a week is a good place to start with these routines. Given that there’s 80 combos listed in this article with the ability to create your own variations by swapping out knees with kicks, you should be good for a bit without getting bored.

MMA Strength and Conditioning Workouts for the comp class

My recommendations on books from Pavel (way earlier in the article) should square you away. Swings and Get Ups (from Simple and Sinister) with some additional 5ish minute ab routines (go check my categories section) and some running or AirDyne bike work should be enough for a balanced routine. The goal here is to not injure yourself with your side S&C work when your main priority is to compete.

If you’re looking for a trainer, find one who has trained martial arts in the past. A fitness trainer whose mindset is on getting you stronger is going to be very different from a fitness trainer who understands the mindset of MMA people. I’ve trained under both.

Fitness trainer with a martial arts background understood there were days I’d show up where he had to scrap whatever program he’d made up for the day because I got hurt the night before training. Fitness trainer with no martial arts background was mad he’d spent the night planning my routine and now I couldn’t do it. You need a trainer (if you’re working with one) whose flexible and can work around your primary focus.

The get ups are going to help you with your core stability, which is key for BJJ in terms of playing in someone’s guard (its a lot harder for them to break your posture when you have a solid core) while also making it harder for you to be swept (as you’re used to holding a really heavy kettlebell overhead while balancing on one arm and one leg.) The same applies to clinch work in Muay Thai. It’s a lot harder to break you down if you have a solid core. There’ s a Bulgarian Bag partner exercise that demonstrates the same thing, you put a bag on someone’s back then grab the handles and try to pull them down. You’d be amazed by how even “really fit people” can be broken down almost immediately, which would lead to eating a knee to the face…

I’d also personally recommend staying away from things like shadow boxing with small weights as that’ll teach your punches to slowly drift downward. You want exercises that are complementary to your practice, not exercises that mimic your training. A medicine ball rotational throw is a rotational exercise in the same way a punch or kick is, but the act of throwing a medicine ball doesn’t teach you bad punching habits. A 5lb dumbbell in your hand that slowly lowers your arm while you’re making a punching movement does.

What else would you like to know about MMA Strength and Conditioning Workouts? Sound off in the comments section below!


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