Bodybuilding Workout Program for MMA Fighter?

Question: I am an aspiring mixed martial arts fighter. I currently train jiu jitsu and kickboxing a total of three to four times a week. My question is related to weightlifting/cardio. I want to make sure that my training is suitable for my goals. Here’s a breakdown of what I’m currently doing. Does this sound good?

Day 1:
An hour of cardio before I work out (chest and triceps)
Dumbbell press flat bench 3 x 14-20
Incline dumbbell press 3 x 14-20
Decline press 3 x 14-20
Cable fly 3 x 14-20 (retract 3 x 14-20
Cable Push 3 x 14-20
One-arm push-up 3 x 14-20

the second day:
One hour of cardio two hours before training
shoulders and abdomen
(Smith Military Press 4/5 x 10-12
Side Raise 4/5 x 10-12 (Front Raise 4/5 x 10-12
Discard 4/5 x 10-12
stomach muscles

Day 3:
Same cardio as the first day
Back and biceps
(Line drop down 4/5 8-12
Seating row 4 x 8-12
Top cable row 4 x 8-12
4 x 12-20 back extensions
Preacher curls 4 x 6-10
Dumbbell bent 4 x 4-8
Sitting curls 4 x 8-10
4 x 8-12 cable crimp

the fourth day:
1 hour cardio

Day 5:
Same chest routine on Monday

the sixth day:
legs (
Leg press 45 degrees 4 x 8-12
Leg extension 4 x 8-12 (leg curl 4 x 8-12)
Calf raises 4×8-15

Answer: This is a typical bodybuilding program and is not of much use to an aspiring MMA fighter or any sport of wrestling or any other sport for that matter. Here are some issues with your current software:

1) You train too much. You don’t get stronger while lifting weights but through the recovery process that has to happen. Depending on your program, you only rest one day, and for all I know you still did jiu-jitsu or kickboxing that day since you didn’t specify which days you did those exercises.

2) You’re doing a lot of sets for each muscle group. On the first day alone, there are 12 chest-only sets. This is way too much. You should focus on the minimum amount required to elicit the required training adaptation. Any more than that and you are only cutting out your energy reserves that can be used for recovery.

3) Many of the exercises chosen are poor choices (leg extension, smith press, front raise, cable fly, etc.) or redundant. For example, all elbow muscle exercises (biceps curls) are done with a clenched grip and again, you don’t need a 16 set to get the job done.

4) The qualities of strength required for mixed martial arts or any wrestling sport are: relative strength, explosive power, and stamina. (Functional hypertrophy can also be included unless your body fat percentage is very low and you’re already within your weight class.) The majority of repetition ranges are for strength/endurance. There is no work being done for the other strength characteristics.

5) You perform straight sets when they should be super antagonistic muscle groups. This will allow you to get more work done in a shorter unit of time and ensures that your body is balanced on both sides of the joints so that you are structurally sound.

An example of straight sets would be to do a set of bench presses, rest, and then do another set of bench presses. One example of super antagonistic muscle groups is doing a set of bench presses, resting the required amount of time based on your goals, and then doing a set of seated cable rows.

6) Your cardio workouts are too long and too close to your weight training. Stop doing cardio before lifting weights, and don’t do any steady state, traditional aerobic cardio. You should get a lot of active conditioning while training for your sport. If you’re not, you should limit your rest periods between rounds and make sure they’re progressive. If you can’t do this, ask your coach to do it for you.

Since there is no off season for your sport and you are training for it three to four times a week, you must take care of the time so as not to overtrain, therefore, you must choose the exercises that give you the greatest return on your investment. I also like to only weight train two to three times a week. I can’t promise you still can’t train because I don’t have enough information about you (specifically diet) but there is definitely less chance than you currently do.

Here are some of the best exercise options. Select only one exercise from each group:

Incline dumbbell press, palms facing each other
Parallel bar dips (Close handle push-up, shoulder-width grip
Press a barbell or dumbbells on the floor (standing barbell press

Upper body stretching exercises:
Parallel chin grip
Shoulder-width chin-up (wide grip chin-up)
Incline dumbbell rows (one-arm dumbbell row)
Rope Face Row (Seated Parallel Grip Rows)

Leg, hip and knee exercises:
back squat (front squat)
Dead lifts, clean grip, sumo, or snatch grip
Dead Roman elevators
Cleans energy
Squat split
Impulsive, decelerating or accelerating

Auxiliary/therapeutic exercises:
elbow flexor family (biceps)
(elbow extension family (triceps))
(External rotor family
(Calves family)
Belly family

So here’s a typical three-day routine that shouldn’t take more than an hour. (listed are exercise, sets x reps, tempo, and rest period):

Day 1
(A. Power Cleans: 4 x 3-5 x 11 x 0 x 240 sec rest
B1. Standing barbell press: 4 x 3-5 x 20 x 0 x 120 sec
B2. Parallel grip chin-up: 4 x 3-5 x 30 10 x 120 sec rest
C1. Triceps extension: 3 x 6-8 x 30 10 x 90 seconds rest
C2. Seated Zottmann Ripples: 3 x 6-8 x 30 10 x 90 sec rest

the second day
(A. Clean grip deadlift: 3 x 6-8 x 2110 x 180 sec rest
B1. Dumbbell floor press: 3 x 6-8 x 31 x 0 x 90 seconds rest
B2. Single-arm dumbbell row: rest 3 x 6-8 x 31 10 x 90 seconds
C1. Bench Press Rise: 3 x 10-12 x 60 sec rest
C2. Incline Hammer Raise: 3 x 10-12 x 3020 x 60 seconds rest

day 3
(A. Telemark Squat: 3 x 12-15 x 2010 x 75 sec rest
B 1. Parallel dip: 3 x AMRAP (as many reps as possible) with body weight x 2010 x 60 seconds rest
B2. Curved-grip cable rows: 3 x 12-15 x 2011 x 60s
C1. Seated external dumbbell rotation, arm on knee: 3 x 10-12 x 30 10 x 60 secs rest (C2.) Seated leg raise: 3 x 15-20 x 22 10 x 60 secs rest

Take a day off between workouts.

Once every four to six workouts, you should change all loading parameters: sets, reps, tempo, rest interval, and exercise selection.

Keep in mind that this is just a sample program and there are many other great exercises you can do that will help you as well. In order for the weightlifting program to be more specific to you, I would have to assess structural balance on you and get more detailed information.

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