10 Best Strength-Building Exercises for Mixed Martial Arts

The following are some of the best strength-building exercises you can incorporate into your mixed martial arts training.


Mixed martial artists must incorporate a unique blend of strength, agility and endurance to be proficient in the sport.

And while sparring in the ring with partners can help you improve your agility and techniques, resistance training, including weightlifting, is the best way to add strength for the various movements and catapult your success.

The key to training is to include a combination of upper and lower body exercises as well as work your core muscles. That said, following are some of the best strength-building exercises you can incorporate into your mixed martial arts training.


While most people don’t think of sprints as a de facto resistance exercise, they provide a great starting point for your training, enabling you to attack muscle fibers essential for forceful, explosive movements, according to Men’s Fitness. Commence your mixed martial arts strength training with a 25 meter sprint, then walk back to your starting point. Perform sprints for five minutes before you start your weight training.


Pushups are an ideal strength-building exercise because you can perform them many different ways. They also work multiple muscle groups, including the chest, shoulders, triceps and abs.

Place your hands about shoulder-width apart — with your feet extended behind you. Inhale as you go down, then exhale as you push yourself back up.

On days you want to focus on endurance, perform four or five sets of pushups to failure. Use kettle ball handles with your feet elevated to make the exercise more difficult.

Shoulder Presses

Shoulder presses increase strength in the muscles necessary for shoving adversaries away from you. You can perform them with both dumbbells or barbells.

Do the exercise while seated some days and standing on other days. Standing incorporates more of the stabilizer muscles you’ll use during fighting.

One caveat is to always bring the bar or dumbbells down toward the front of your shoulders. Never perform behind-the-neck presses because they can injure your rotator cuffs, according to Livestrong.

Bent-Over Rows

One of the best all around exercises for strengthening upper back muscles is bent-over rows. For best results, perform this exercise with a barbell.

Bend your knees slightly as you bend at the waist so you focus more on your upper back and less on your hamstrings. Perform the exercise on top of a block or bench to get a fuller extension when you lower the weight.


Having a strong lower back is essential in mixed martial arts because there are times you’ll rely on these muscles to lift or throw and opponent.

Again, bend your knees so put the emphasis on your lower back and not your hamstrings. Exhale as you lift the bar from the floor, and inhale as you lower it. Like most exercises, perform three to five sets of ten repetitions.

Kettlebell Swings

This is another strength-building exercise for your lower back, muscles that you can easily injure if you don’t train them. Kettlebell swings also foment explosive hip extension, bring your glutes into play and strengthen your grip, according to Diesel Strength & Conditioning.

At the top of the movement, swing the kettlebell above your shoulders, then take it down between your legs. Avoid going too far above your head or you’ll place an undue amount of stress on your spine.

Bicep Curls

Frequent movements where you pull an opponent toward you incorporate your biceps muscles. To increase strength for biceps, perform barbell curls while standing.

Use a combination of static and cheat movements on different days to force the muscles to grow. Cheating allows you to handle more weight and works the shoulders and hips in conjunction with the biceps.

Tricep Extensions

Triceps strength enables you to push adversaries away from you, whether your standing or on your back. You can perform tricep extensions with straight or E-Z Curl bars.

The latter is a bit easier on the joints. Taking the weight behind your head better enables you to build the long head of the triceps, which is essential for building strong triceps.


The squat is the best overall exercise for building leg strength, which you need kicking and outlasting your opponent.

Place the bar behind your head on the natural padded shelf of your traps. Take the weight down until the bottoms of your legs are about parallel to the floor, then push the weight back up.

Free-standing squats are best for MMA training because you must learn to balance the weight, which replicates more natural movements in the ring.

Static Holds

Strength training wouldn’t be complete without at least one isometric movement. To render the movement apropos for mixed martial arts, try performing some static holds.

This is as simple as taking a large keg and squeezing it with both your legs and arms. Hold the movement as long as you can to build muscular endurance.

One the most important aspects of MMA strength training is to perform exercises that simulate movements in the ring, according to Bodybuilding.com. Static holds accomplish that goal.

Final Take


Hopefully after reading the above you may already be aware of some and some may be a good refresher. Jump back into the octagon at your next training session and try some out in the surrounding gym.

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