Do MMA Fighters Lift Weights? (UFC Training Explained!)

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A lot of people will tell you that mixed martial arts is a sport where you don’t need to lift weights.

That might be true if your goal is to lose weight and get fit. But preparing your muscles for fighting is a completely different thing.

So do MMA fighters lift weights?

MMA fighters do have a regular weightlifting program. It’s an integral part of any fighter’s conditioning and fight preparation. Lifting weights helps a fighter reach peak performance levels that aid them in fighting and also prevent injuries.

As any fighter knows, there’s more than one way to prepare for a fight. Sure, an MMA fighter might not be trying to break any weightlifting records but they still have to train their whole body.

And if they want to be at their best on the day of the fight, then lifting weights should be part of the plan!

In this blog post we’ll cover some of the common questions about weight lifting and MMA fighters. So keep reading to learn more!

Do UFC fighters lift weights?

UFC fighters will often have a very consistent program of weight training for MMA. Each fighter usually has a designated strength and conditioning coach that helps them to formulate the perfect plan for them to maximize burst strength and efficiency.

Without lifting weights, UFC fighters would be even skinnier than they already are and have very little muscle mass to be able to withstand the constant struggle that a fight places on the body.

A great accompaniment to any weight-lifting routine is to use a pre-workout supplement.

If you’re planning on hitting the weights yourself to improve your MMA abilities, I recommend this pre-workout by Crazy Nutrition:

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I’ve covered the best supplements for MMA in another article, which could help you get your nutrient needs right for simultaneous weight-lifting and MMA training.

Do fighters lift weights?

Typically, fighters across any combat sport will lift weights to be able to maximize their strength for fighting. Lifting weights also helps them to stay free of injuries when considering the amount of pressure they place their bodies under.

Fighters across Boxing, MMA, Muay Thai, Wrestling, Judo, and any other fighting style you could think of will use weight lifting and strength training as a way to improve their performance for their fights just like with almost any other sport.

How often do MMA fighters lift?

MMA fighters lift weights in a variety of ways. Some do it every day, others only once or twice per week.

The frequency at which they lift depends on the fighter’s goals for their training routine – whether that be preparing specifically just before an upcoming fight event (like for the UFC) or if they’re looking for more long-term gains such as building up strength and injury prevention.

Over the course of the year, an MMA fighter could have multiple fights. So weight lifting might be more of a maintenance effort than trying to max out too frequently.

Fighters want to keep their body in top condition year-round and there can be risks with pushing too much. Progressive overload with weight training is key to growth but so is rest.

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MMA weight training exercises

Most MMA fighters are guided by strength and conditioning coaches, who focus on giving the fighter peak performance and recovery with their training. With that, a lot of the focus in weightlifting will be on compound movements like the Squad, Deadlift and Bench press.

Compound movements often give an entire body benefit by using multiple major and minor muscle groups.

The better you get at lifting weights in compound movements with the right form, the more you get out of it. The human body goes through a challenge of the nervous system to move heavy objects and causes it to wire new nerve pathways to increase performance. But this also only happens with adequate rest!

Fighters might also do other strength and conditioning related exercises like:

  • Bodyweight exercise/calisthenics – even GSP is a big fan of these styles of exercise and gains a lot of benefit from them even after his retirement.
  • Swimming – strokes through the water give many benefits to not just the cardiovascular system but also uses your muscles for improving muscle tension endurance which could have strength benefits.

How many hours per day do MMA fighters train?

MMA fighters train for an average of three hours per day. Their regime will usually involve a mixture of skills based development and fitness training of various types. Because of that, MMA fighters can have extremely high levels of fitness and endurance.

Mixing their training is great for MMA fighters who are looking at the long term career prospects of being an athlete, as this will help them develop their body into something that’s more durable over time.

Weightlifting is very often an integral part of any fighter’s fitness and fight preparation routines. MMA strength training, on the whole, allows a fighter to hit the height of their ability.

Ultimately that means they’ll be able get through longer fights without getting tired or feeling pain in their muscles, even in withstanding blunt force to their limbs and body.

Do MMA fighters take rest days?

MMA fighters take 1-3 rest days per week. The amount of rest days can change depending on weeks which are aimed on muscle growth, skills development, rest or preparation for a fight week.

Resting is completely necessary for twitch muscles to register new skills into automatic response as well as give muscles what they need to repair and be ready for the next challenge.

Should fighters lift heavy weights?

Professional and aspiring fighters should have a weight lifting routine as part of their fitness plan. A fighter should be lifting heavy in fast compound movements to maximize their burst power output. This helps them to strike fast and harder without burning as much energy.

But it’s important to keep in mind that the heavier you lift, the more rest and recovery time you will likely need. If you’re lifting heavy all the time, you are likely to feel tired when it comes to skills training.

For a fighter it’s always about trying to get a healthy balance between the different workouts they’ll perform in a week.

Practice, sparring, lift weights, rest and repeat!

A study by the School of Physical Education and Sport Science found that sport-specific weight training significantly improved an MMA fighter’s abilities:

“a sport-specific low volume, high-intensity strength and conditioning training program, designed according to the demands of MMA competition, results in large improvements of MMA related fitness parameters, in trained MMA athletes”

The Effect of Short-Term Sport-Specific Strength and Conditioning Training on Physical Fitness of Well-Trained Mixed Martial Arts Athletes, 2018

Can you build muscle doing MMA?

You can build muscle doing MMA, but it could depend on your specific caloric needs. Most MMA workouts are high-intensity and will burn calories and fat stores you have if you’re in a caloric deficit or ketosis. You’ll still build some muscle definition because of the muscle gains in burst output like striking.

MMA requires strength and endurance to compete at the highest level for extended periods. The mixture of workouts you will do in this sport will cause your body to build more lean muscle mass, muscle resistance and even flexibility.

The best gains I have found personally has been from using compound movements like squats, deadlifts, bench press and bodyweight exercises like the pull-up and dips – these alongside skills training allow me to stay in peak performance and prevent injuries which I am quite prone to.

Final Thoughts

So you should now know whether MMA fighters lift weights. It covers the exercises they perform, how often and specific programs to prepare for a fight with weight training included in their workout routine.

If you’re training as a mixed martial artist, I definitely recommend that you make time for lifting weights or at least a strength training for MMA routine like calisthenics.

Without it, eventually you’ll hit a wall and face injuries. An injured fighter is an unhappy one, because it stops you from being able to practice this sport you love!

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