There are few athletes whose bodies are more toned, more practically strong or more impressive than those of UFC fighters. Every muscle they have is perfectly adept at keeping them standing, throwing a powerful punch or bracing for impact. And every muscle they have seems to be defined and strong. There are few things that match the dedication that Ultimate Fighters have to their sport, mentally and physically, but you can harness their mindset and their moves to make your own workouts even more effective.
You might be a lover at heart, but here’s how to train like a fighter in the gym.
Get Into The Mindset Of A Fighter
If you want to have the body of a UFC fighter, the first thing you’ve got to tackle is your mindset. Fighters aren’t bodybuilders or figure competitors. Every muscle in their body serves a purpose. Arms are for punch. Abs are for bracing. Legs are for dodging. Psychology Today found three ways that MMA fighters get into a warrior mindset. And even if you’d never hurt a fly, you can use these tips to transform your fitness.
The first way fighters harness their mental energy is by scripting. “Scripting describes a method fighters use to solidify their game plan and stick to it,” says Psychology Today. “MMA fighters take inventory of their strengths and weaknesses and those of the opponent. The intelligence gathering helps them to fine tune a script.” Know where you stand, your strengths and weaknesses, and plan your script accordingly. Work hard to improve your weaknesses, take pride in your strengths.
Once you’ve developed your script, frame it. “Framing is a technique used to shape how you feel about a situation,” says Psychology Today. For a fighter, framing an important match as just another fight takes the pressure off. In the gym, you can frame your tough exercises as run-of-the-mill, your runs as jogs, your failures as learning experiences.
The last technique fighters use is called “othering,” and it’s to blame for the mean-mugging alter egos of otherwise personable fighters. Switching your mindset from one personality to the other can get you into beast mode. Your gym personality can be hardcore, focused and determined while your mood can switch to your typical, pleasant personality as soon as you exit the locker room. Harness your alter ego and use it to fuel your workouts.
Five Exercises To Get You Started
UFC fighters keep their opponents guessing in the ring and their bodies guessing in the gym. Their workouts are varied and challenging, but there are a few standard moves that make their way into the routines of your favorite fighters. Here are a few exercises to get you started.
There are a million variations on the cable pull, which make them super versatile in crafting all sorts of muscles to get you in fighting shape. To use cables like a UFC fighter, Men’s Fitness suggests pairing them with a BOSU ball. Put your BOSU ball directly in front of the cable machine and connect a rope extension to the cable. Do 30 reps of cable pulls while standing on the BOSU to improve strength and balance. No one’s going to be able to knock you down.
Incline Push Ups
Upgrade your standard push up to an incline push up to target your lower chest and triceps more specifically. It’s a simple, effective way to build your UFC body. All you need to do, according to Muscle & Fitness, is adapt your standard push up with your arms placed on a bench or blocks to create the incline. Don’t let your elbows flare out. Keep your core tight and your back flat throughout the whole movement.
Medicine Ball Sit Ups
While we’re upgrading basic exercises to make them UFC fighter approved, it’s time to ditch the traditional sit up in favor of something a bit more challenging. One of the best ways to amp up your sit ups is with a medicine ball. Like the cables, this simple addition provides you with endless options for adding weight to your sit ups. LiveStrong suggests starting with holding a medicine ball while you go through your regular sit ups, placing a medicine ball between your feet to anchor yourself or tossing a medicine ball to a partner while you both do sit ups facing each other.
Grab a bench and get dipping to get those UFC worthy triceps. With the bench perpendicular to your body behind you, hold the edge of it with your arms fully extended, says BodyBuilding.com. Extend your legs forward, bent at the waist and perpendicular to your torso. This is where you start. Lower your body by bending at the elbows until there’s a little bit less than a 90 degree angle between your upper arm and your forearm. Use your triceps to lift yourself up again to the starting position.
Bodyweight Glute Bridge
Have you ever noticed the powerful posterior on UFC fighters? You can thank bodyweight glute bridges in part for that. Greatist calls it one of the top 25 best butt exercises – and for good reason. Lie down on your back with your knees bent and your feet shoulder-width apart. Your arms should be down by your sides and your fingertips should be able to graze your heels. Raise your hips straight up, fire up your butt and brace your core. Make sure you’re not crunching your neck and that the majority of your weight is displaced evenly between your shoulders and your neck. Lower down slowly and feel the burn.
Protect Yourself Outside Of The Ring
If there’s a common theme between all of the exercises mentioned above, it’s that none of them are using hardcore gym equipment. It’s bodyweight, cables and BOSU balls in lieu of heavy weights and machines. This isn’t always true, of course. There are the fighters that swear by the big weights and machines. But many choose to forgo the equipment favored by bodybuilders to protect themselves outside of the ring. Their bodies suffer enough abuse at the hands of their opponents. They don’t need to subject themselves to any extra opportunity for injury.
You might not be facing off against a tough, toned and intimidating fighter every time you enter the gym, but you can use the mentality and exercises that make UFC fighters some of the strongest athletes in the world to fuel your own workouts. Get into the right mindset and protect yourself using simple, effective exercises with minimal equipment and you’ll be able to achieve the practical strength that makes Ultimate Fighters so versatile and, frankly, frightening in the ring.