3 Reasons Why MMA Fighters Need Strength Training
Intelligent strength training programs, particularly in the women’s smaller weight divisions, should be a major component in and out of fight camps.
By Rui Li, NASM CPT, CES, FNS
The sport of mixed martial arts has grown exponentially in just half a decade, and so has its legitimacy. Between the superstardom of Ronda Rousey, Conor McGregor, and the recent legalization of mixed martial arts in the state of New York, the acronym “MMA” now appears a permanent fixture in everyday folks’ lexicon. “Bro, you do MMA?”
The up and coming fighters are increasingly more talented, driven, and hungry for title shots and big money fights. They are legitimate athletes with incredible talent and physical abilities, so why aren’t all of them utilizing strength training programs? Athletes should be trained like athletes, and in every professional sport, strength training makes up a sizable portion of the overall training program.
Every MMA fighter needs a highly customized, intelligently designed strength training program, both in and out of fight camps. Let’s explore why:
1. Injury Prevention
Staying strong is one of the best insurances for protecting the body against injuries. Whether they are overuse injuries or freak accidents, the more activated and strong a fighter’s muscles are, particularly in the hips, core, and back, the less prone the fighter’s body will be to breaking down. Strength training using compound movements, such as power lifts and Olympic lifts, will hit all the critical muscles that ensure a solid, resilient, and athletic body.
Many women fighters were introduced to the sport as adults, and due to the unique, (and grueling), demands of MMA, can be at a greater risk for injuries since the years of growing and adapting to the movements necessary in each martial art discipline are simply not there. A high caliber strength training program can cut down on the risks significantly, and ensure that women fighters, regardless of when they entered the sport, will maximize their earning potential and preserve their bodies for a lengthy and lucrative career.
2. Increased Performance
Who doesn’t like seeing a fighter with knockout power? Or how about being in awe at the ability of a fighter to just completely “ragdoll” their opponent? Being physically strong will always pay off in dividends in every sport, particularly one in which two people are trying to beat the snot out of one another. In the smaller women’s weight divisions, (115lbs, 125lbs), knockouts are rather uncommon, and one might think it makes sense given their smaller stature, but a greater focus on strength training would absolutely result in a higher chance of more knockout victories.
The equation is simple: more strength equals more power. The more power a fighter can generate, the more likely it is that her strikes will be effective at putting the opponent to sleep. Similarly, if a fighter is being pinned down by an opponent, a powerful hip escape generated by strong glutes and hamstrings can be awfully handy in getting out of a bad position.
3. Psychologically Beneficial
Every athlete goes through the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. Fighters are no exception, especially when a win can mean the biggest payday of your life, and a loss can mean a devastating drop in lucrative opportunities. Nerves and self-doubt are ever-present before a match, but a physically well prepared athlete will always be in a more resilient mental state.
UFC strawweight fighter Tecia Torres regularly goes through intense strength training programs in which the “Tiny Tornado” squats and deadlifts far more than her own body weight. In FIGHT NIGHT ORLANDO: ANDRADE VS TORRES, Torres commented that she was “just as strong as her [Andrade], just as athletic as her”.
Combat sports are fundamentally brutal and primal, and fighters will always “size” each other up. When a fighter knows she is physically strong, has proof of it from countless hours of hard work in the gym, and has a muscular physique to show for it, the confidence gained is invaluable.