FREE Report: Top 5 Conditioning Drills for MMA Fighters, Wrestlers, Jiu Jitsu Players and Other Combat Athletes
Developing good conditioning requires a well thought out plan, consistency and time. Below are a few of our favorite conditioning drills that we have used with some of the best fighters and grapplers on Earth. These are not the only way to get in shape, but should give you an advantage over the competition.
Mixed martial arts is probably one of the most demanding sports in the world.
Not only do you need a variety of skill sets, but you also have to develop a massive gas tank, to ensure that you can perform for up to FIVE, five minute rounds.
For those of you that compete, you know exactly what I’m talking about.
Gassing out during competition can turn a black belt into a white belt in no time, so the goal of this article is to share some of the top conditioning drills that help our fighters prepare for UFC, Bellator, ADCC and more.
These drills are great for stand up fighters, wrestlers, jiu jitsu athletes and everyone in between. As you know, someone can be very fast and efficient on their feet, but can collapse under the pressure of a good ground fighter. The exact opposite is true as well. Many wrestlers and jiu jitsu practitioners are inefficient on their feet. The ground master doesn’t have the endurance to throw strikes, and move constantly.
No one should ever lose a fight because they are out of shape, period.
So below, you are going to read and view a few of our favorite drills that help our athletes perform at their best.
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Top 5 Conditioning Drills for MMA Fighters, Wrestlers, Jiu Jitsu Players and Other Combat Athletes
I learned this drill from John Brookfield. While it may look very simple, do not let the simplicity fool you. This is probably my favorite conditioning drill for stand up fighters. You can use a large beach towel, blanket or moving blanket. Obviously, the heavier the blanket, the more challenging it will be.
You start by grabbing the towel/blanket by two corners, then simply shake the towel as hard and fast as you possibly can. Next you start to move you feet. Circle, spin, shuffle and move in every direction. Hint: think of a squirrel trapped in a small room. The faster your hands and feet move, the better.
Done correctly, this will wipe most people out in less than 30 seconds. You can use this drill in a variety of ways. You can do a variety of interval splits, as part of a larger metabolic circuit or you can train for time and work your way up to 5 minute rounds. It all depends on what you are trying to accomplish that day.
When a fight goes to the ground, the ability to control your opponent is paramount. To do this effectively, you must have a strong grip, powerful pulling muscles, strong shoulders and the ability to maintain pressure over time. This pulling series is one of my favorite drill to develop strength and endurance for ground fighters.
We use a 100 foot, 2″ thick rope that is wrapped around an anchor post. From there, you simply pull the rope in a variety of positions until it reaches the end. Then slide over to the other side and continue. It is basically a ‘never ending’ rope pull.
You can sit on your butt and pull over your shoulder, face sideways and pull across your body, plank (facing the post) and pull, plank (facing away, *shown above) and pull out, or basically any position you can imagine.
This is great for ground fighters, wrestlers and jiu jitsu practitioners to develop massive upper body strength and endurance
Sprinting is a basic human movement pattern. We were designed to run. While sprinting on a track, at the beach or in a park is great–running uphill is better. Here’s why: Sprinting up hills works your entire body, builds muscle, taxes your cardio respiratory system, and expands your gas tank. I’ve also noticed that it is much easier on your joints than running on a flat surface. Bottom line: running up hills makes you stronger, tougher and more resilient.
Jerry Rice ran a two-mile hill by his house almost every day of his career. His ability to outlast the competition became a legend and players feared working out with him. Walter Peyton also ran a short hill by his house outside Chicago, and despite his size, was an absolute monster on the football field. We have learned from these guys and started implementing hill sprints with our athletes, and the results have been incredible.
We vary the workouts depending on the day and goal of the session. Some days might be a 45sec-1minute climb, while other days are 8-12sec bursts up the hill. We’ve even started adding a variety of exercises in combination with the hills sprints to tax the body in new ways.
Bottom line is this: Find a hill, run to the top, walk back down and repeat. You will expand your gas tank, develop powerful legs, and build dominant hips. Your next opponent won’t know what hit them.
Partner Battling Ropes w/ Lateral Shuffle
Battling rope exercises are an incredible way to build endurance in your arms and shoulders. Perfect for boxers, muay thai, and basically anyone that throws their hands during a fight.
This partner drill uses two 50′ ropes laced together, allowing two athletes to move, compete and work together.
Once the ropes are looped together, each athlete grabs their two ends, starts making waves while shuffling laterally back and forth.
By adding the lateral motion, it challenges the entire body, taxing the cardio respiratory system in a big way. You can do this drill for repetitions, various distances, time or make it a competition between athletes. The movements closely resemble stand-up fighting, and challenge the body under tension.
Remember, the key to this type of drill is making sure the athlete is moving as fast as possible (hands AND feet). It is easy for them to go 70% and look like they are working hard, but half-assed efforts will produce half-assed results.
PS…this drill can be done solo, with a single rope anchored at the midpoint, but I like using the partner drill, because of the competitive aspect.
Picking someone up, holding them against the cage and maintaining pressure during a fight is exhausting work. Not only is it hard on your muscles, but it also compresses your chest, making it hard to breathe.
Have you ever fought hard for a takedown or maintained pressure against the cage?
Carrying heavy objects builds strength throughout your entire system. Your grip strength, back, hips, legs, shoulders and core all get taxed during these exercises.
You can carry heavy bags, dumbells, sand bags, kettlebells, barbells, other people and just about anything else that you can think of. The weight can be overhead, on your shoulders, in front of you, or at your sides.
Bottom line is to pick something heavy up, maintain good posture and walk with it for distance. You can use this solo or as part of a metabolic circuit, depending on your goal for that day.
This will build strength head-to-toe and, more importantly, it’s the type of strength that you will need to apply on the mat and in the cage.
BONUS! Sled Work
Push it, pull it, drag it…Sled have been used by football players for years to develop explosive power off the line. MMA fighters can use this knowledge to build strength, speed, power and endurance that translates into the cage.
If you’ve used the sled before, then you already know how taxing these tools can be. Revered by most strength coaches, sleds can be used in a variety of ways for many different purposes.
For simplicity sake, think of it this way: Sleds are very similar to driving hard for a takedown. As we all know, takedowns can be exhausting work, so utilizing a fast sled drive can help an athlete build the strength and endurance necessary for this style of fighting.
We typically use light to medium loads for short (5-10yard) bursts of effort. This effort is repeated or used as part of a larger metabolic circuit to get the desired effect.
DISCLAIMER: These drills are simply a piece of a much larger program. A powerful piece for sure, but a top strength and conditioning program will address many other areas. To stay up to date on the latest and greatest, be sure to follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and on our website.
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Our goal is to provide you with the top strength and conditioning information available and to help you dominate the competition. MMA is a demanding sport that requires strength, speed, power and endurance to succeed. Fight Camp Conditioning is committed to helping you fight harder, perform longer, stay healthy and perform at your very best.