Are you tired of walking on the treadmill day after day, not seeing any results? Or are you bored with doing the same lifting routine but aren’t sure what else you can do?
For an exciting way to change up your fitness routine while getting in a full-body workout and torching some major calories, you may want to consider what you can learn from fighters about fitness. Not just any fighters, though, in this article we’re talking about MMA fighters. MMA, which stands for mixed martial arts, is a full-contact combat sport that allows both striking and grappling, both standing and on the ground, using techniques from other combat sports and martial arts.
The concept of combining the elements of multiple martial arts began in the late 1960s with the legendary Bruce Lee. Considered to be the “father of mixed martial arts”, Lee is most famously known for the system he created called Jeet Kune Do, which translates to “the way of the intercepting fist.”
This system revolved around Lee’s belief that, “the best fighter is not a Boxer, Karate or Judo man. The best fighter is someone who can adapt to any style, to be formless, to adopt an individual’s own style and not following the system of styles.”
Essentially, this system taught fighters that they should absorb the good things, the things that work, from each of the different disciplines, then throw the rest away. Today, Bruce Lee’s system has been reproduced in thousands of gyms around the world that focus on functional training with the understanding that the body should be trained as a single unit.
Are you curious about how this type of training can help you achieve your fitness goals? Below we’ve outlined the top tips and strategies based on what you can learn from fighters about fitness.
When the popularity of mixed martial arts began to rise in the 70s, many fighters held the belief that strength training and lifting heavy would lead to slower muscles. Breakingmuscle.com shares that Bruce Lee went against this mainstream way of thinking and was one of the very first martial artists to discover and believe fully in strength training.
Since his way of thinking was always ahead of his time, Lee’s fitness routine is one strategy that we can learn from fighters about fitness. Breakingmuscle.com elaborates on what a typical full body workout would look like:
- Clean and press – 4 sets of 6 reps
- Squat – 4 sets of 6 reps
- Good morning – 4 sets of 6 reps
- Bench press – 4 sets of 5 reps
- Curls – 4 sets of 6 reps
Be strong and fast
When you enter a weight room in the gym, you’ll mostly see people doing low reps with extremely heavy weights in order to hit their RM (repetition maximum). It’s evident that the majority of lifters have the goal of building their muscles to become stronger. However, many of them forget that focusing on their speed is just as crucial as increasing their strength when it comes to muscle gains and a leaner physique.
The combination of being strong and fast is one of the most important elements to being a successful fighter. As Men’s Fitness explains, “explosiveness can mean the difference between delivering a knockout blow or merely making your opponent angrier.”
Strength and speed are what T-nation calls the two power-related factors and that a fighter needs power, no matter what his style. The article elaborates that training for a fight requires a two-cycle phase, cycle one focusing on the development of strength and speed, and cycle two focusing on the development of power. Power is strength times speed.
With this knowledge, what you can learn from fighters about fitness is that your workouts should build both your strength and your speed. So how can you do that? Add cardio to your strength training routine. If you hate cardio, don’t worry, a fighter’s routine is all about short but intense cardio. For example, you could do intervals on the punching bag, speed sprinting, or kettlebells for a maximum of 15 minutes. (T-nation)
Strengthen your core
Another lesson you can learn from fighters about fitness is that six-pack abs are not just for looks. A strong core gives fighters the power needed to wear their opponents down, maintain a strong foundation throughout the fight, improve their ability to work the clinch to secure dominance, and lastly to reverse an opponent’s advantage from the ground. (bodybuilding.com)
While working the clinch and wearing opponents down may not be on your to-do list, everyone can reap the benefits of having a strong core. Many people think that the core is solely referring to the abdominal region, when it actually encompasses the waist, hips, and lower back, too. Bodybuilding.com explains that “the synchronization of all the muscles associated with the lower back (the erectors) and waist (abdominal, serratus and oblique muscles) lends power to most of the movements we make, as they provide a muscular link between the upper and lower body.”
A weak core can have many detrimental effects on your health, such as a serious imbalance between upper and lower body, poor posture, and increased risk of injury. So what can you do to strengthen your core? Bodybuilding.com suggests to follow a core training program no more than twice a week to allow for full recovery between sessions (two to three days rest). An example of a good core-training program from a standard MMA training session includes:
- Exercise ball crunch
- Dumbbell side bend
- Flat bench lying leg raise
- Stiff leg barbell good morning
Day Two (after 3 days of rest)
- Exercise ball crunch
- Hanging leg raise
- Weighted ball hyperextension
- Russian twist
Following these exercises, or your own core strengthening exercises, links together all of the tips that we have learned from fighters about fitness. A strong core allows better power production as well as forming a protective shield during fighting. (Breakingmuscle.com)
Read our post on The Ultimate Fighter Workout to learn even more exercises that fighters use in training, why they are so effective, and how you can incorporate them into your own routine.