How to Get in Shape for MMA

How to Get in Shape for MMA

Combat sports like MMA demand a lot more from your body than any other workout regime. Other than mastering martial arts skills, you need to have unbelievable strength, an incredible level of cardiovascular fitness, and unmatched flexibility to be an MMA fighter. Even if you are not training to fight, you need the same kind of training regimen that a professional fighter does to get his body in perfect MMA shape.

However, achieving that lean, ripped, Rocky Balboa-inspired figure is not an easy feat. It requires discipline, willpower, and a consistent routine so that you can get fit without breaking your body. Moreover, most people fail to understand that they need to have breaks in between workouts to give the body time to recover.

Here’s an extensive guide on how you can get in shape for MMA.

Work on your Cardio


Having well-built, strong legs is integral to MMA training, as this sport requires you to derive power from your legs. Running is a must for every combat sport especially from a cardiovascular point of view.  Therefore, you need to include running in your weekly regimen.

If you are not a runner, you should start with scheduling a run twice or thrice a week. Once your body is accustomed to it, take it up a notch and go for a run four to five days a week. Try to cover a three to five-mile distance in each run for best results. High-Intensity Interval Training or HIIT is a great alternative to long-distance running; try sprinting if the thought of monotonous long-distance running bores you to death.

Compared to running, HIIThas added benefits as it takes less time and is a great way to train your body. Also, HIIT effectively increases your explosive power. Having explosive power, allows you to generate the maximum amount of force to throw powerful strikes.

The key is to do it intelligently. Sprint for a few yards (five to ten or twenty to thirty) depending on your fitness level and preference, add a plyometric exercise like push-ups or horizontal jumping at the end of each sprint, and rest for a minute before you begin again. This will help you build stamina and stability through your whole body, especially at your core and legs.


Preparing a fit, strong body for MMA requires a high-intensity training regimen. Therefore, it is important to include a low-impact workout like swimming in your routine to balance things out. Swimming is not only soothing for your mind but is a great way to burn calories and achieve a proportional body needed for MMA.

It is also a great recovery tool, so you’re killing two birds with one stone. Research shows that doing a low-intensity aerobic workout like swimming can help you recover faster, with a higher chance to decrease inflammation. It also helps you get a hang of your breathing and improves lung capacity. This comes in handy during submission attempts where one is not allowed to breathe freely.    

Add Strength and Conditioning

After cardio, the next thing you need to focus on while getting in shape for MMA is building muscle and enhancing agility. Based on your fitness level, you need to follow an intense strength and conditioning regimen to prepare your body for grappling and striking.

Remember that bulking is not the goal here, sure it can help you take a few hits without feeling a thing but it negatively affects your agility. Strength workouts should be done only twice a week,  they are not supposed to interfere with your actual MMA training.

There are many types of strength training you can go for like weight training or compound exercises. The purpose is not only to increase the width of the upper arms but also to strengthen the core so that it can support your upper body. Few compound lifts include bench press, deadlift, overhead press, bent over row, squats, clean and press, that serve the purpose well.

Since the level of fitness, age, ability, and fighting style varies from person to person so it is best to consult your trainer and have them devise a feasible workout plan for you. Just remember to warm up before a strength training session and to skip it if you have a serious injury.

Training for Flexibility and Mobility

Stretching is another important thing you need to practice to get in shape for MMA. Whether you’re a Muay Thai classicist or kickboxer, you must be flexible to be good at MMA. Increased flexibility will enhance your posture, thus enhancing your mobility. Your joints will move more freely and there will be a lower risk of joint pain, strains, and muscle damage.

Incorporate stretching into your daily regimen by doing a light stretch after every workout while your body is warm. This will also help in post-workout recovery. However, don’t stretch too hard or before a workout as you don’t want to pull a muscle or tear a ligament. You need to exercise stretches that target both your lower and upper body.

Monitoring your Weight, Nutrition, and Hydration

As they say, a perfect physique comes with a few sacrifices. Especially when you are getting in shape for MMA, you will find that you would have to let go of a few guilty pleasures like processed foods. Think of it as being a caveman but in modern times. Keep your diet as clean and organic as possible.

Stick to basic food groups such as meat, vegetables, fruits, nuts, and seeds for best results. If you don’t have a weight issue, all you have to do is eat clean. However, if you are overweight, you need to be on a strict diet. Consult your trainer or nutritionist for a diet plan based on your body needs.

Considering the brutal nature of MMA, you must monitor your water intake to avoid dehydration. Even if you are one percent dehydrated, your performance will be affected. It’s a common misconception that MMA fighters must drink two to three gallons of water every day.

The key is to drink enough water that the color of your urine is clear. If it’s too dark or yellow, you need to increase your water intake. The exact quantity of fluid requirement depends on your sex, age, weight, and training level but as a rule of thumb, men should try to drink a hundred ounces of fluids per day, and women should drink sixty-five to seventy ounces.


In conclusion, the best prep regimen for MMA is a combination of cardio, power and stamina building, and strength training. You need to be regular with the workouts to get into optimal shape and stay in it.

Don’t forget to take a rest every two to three days so that your body can recover. But make sure it is only one day as you don’t want to lose momentum. Remember that consistency is the key to achieving that perfect MMA fighter body.

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