6 Ways to Build More Power, Speed, Agility and Quickness for MMA, BJJ, Wrestling and Other Combat Sports

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MMA Fighters
Tyron Woodley sprinting w/ Coach Giff.

The foundation of all exercise is movement and before we dive into complex lifts and explosive plyometrics, we need to lay a solid foundation.  Below you will find a variety of different drills and exercises that you can use to develop more coordination, body awareness, speed, power and athleticism.

Learning to Move Efficiently

Everyone should be able to squat, lunge, hinge, push, pull and move efficiently. Building quality movement patterns and developing a foundational level of strength is essential and should be a priority.

Below are a few basic movement drills that can help prepare an athlete for a variety of situations. These locomotion patterns are perfect ways to finish a warm up, increase body temperature and help you improve general athleticism.

6 Basic Locomotion Drills

  1. Crawl
  2. Walk/Run
  3. Side Shuffle
  4. Carioca
  5. Butt Kickers
  6. High Knees
  7. Skips

Medicine Ball Drills

Medicine balls are an invaluable tool for MMA fighters and grapplers to develop upper body power. They can be used in a variety of exercises, but for the purposes of this article, we are going to focus on throwing.

We can throw them against a wall, the ground or with a partner.

Medicine ball exercises can be performed on the ground, kneeling (both knees down), half kneeling (one knee down), standing, or w/ movement.

Basic medicine ball throws include:

  • Chest pass
  • Overhead throw (soccer throw in)
  • Rotational Throws
  • Shot Put
  • Hinge for height
  • Hinge for distance
  • Slam

Ladder Drills

We typically use ladder drills after our warm up and locomotion drills.  They are a great way to build strength, coordination and to fire up the nervous system before more intense work. These can become incredibly complex, but don’t need to be. Start slow, focus on technique and increase the speed as you become more proficient.

Here are some ladder basics that you can add to your arsenal:

  • 1 foot per square running
  • 2 feet per square running
  • In, In, out (Icki Shuffle)
  • Ali Shuffle
  • Rotational Switch
  • Cross Overs

Jump Rope Drills

Jumping rope has been a staple for combat athletes for a long, long time.  Be sure to spring off of your toes and propel your body up, as this will help improve your quickness and explosiveness.

Below are some jump rope drills to try:

  • Two feet
  • Move right and left
  • Move forward and back
  • Circle right and left
  • Side to side bounding
  • Front to back bounding
  • 1 foot hops
  • High knees
  • Double unders

Agility Drills

Agility is defined as our ability to change direction.  Reacting to our opponent, setting up an attack and defending requires us to move quickly and change directions quickly.

The sky is the limit on these drills, but here are a few of our favorites.

  • 2 cone shuffle – set up two cones, 5 yards apart and shuffle as quickly as possible back and forth.  These can be done of reps or time, but should be short and quick.
  • 3 cone drill – You have seen this one in the NFL combine.  Its also called 5-10-5 drill. 3 cones, five yards apart, start in the middle and sprint to one side, back to far side and then thru the middle to finish.
  • Box drill – 4 cones, 5 yards apart, set up in a square.  Sprint forward, side shuffle over, back pedal, side shuffle and repeat back the other way.
  • Reaction drills – light or color.  You can get creative with these. Setting up cones, colored dots or similar in a variety of patterns (half circle, circle, or other).  The athlete must respond to their partner or coach’s command.  So, if you are using colored dots, the coach my call out ‘red’ and the athlete has to find red and get there as quickly as possible.

Plyometrics

Plyometrics can best be described as “reactive power” training, as plyometrics involve powerful contractions in response to a rapid stretching (eccentric action) of the same muscle and connective tissue.  Just like any exercise, we should always lay a solid foundation and progress into more intense exercises.

Here’s a progression for plyometrics:

Level 1 – to box or step, no gravity
Level 2 – movement to stick or hold…introduce gravity and land well.
Level 3 – movement to bounce or studder, then progress
Level 4 – True plyometric, repeated jumping or bounding.

Speed, agility and quickness can make a good athlete, great.  Developing those characteristics takes some time, a well thought out plan and consistent practice.  Hopefully some of the drills described in this article will help you expand your exercise library and improve your workouts in the future.

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