MMA is an intense, full-contact combat sport, and it requires a lot of time and preparation before you can enter the cage. Most of that preparation is done – usually – in a gym or training center. These places typically have all the necessary equipment for training: heavy bags, focus mitts, weights, and other pieces of equipment that are on-hand for when they’re needed.
Unfortunately, not everyone has the time – or the money – to attend a proper gym every day for six months, or whatever the training schedule is. I won’t say that training in a proper gym or studio with someone who knows what they’re doing is unnecessary because that would be false. It is absolutely necessary, but you can augment your studio training with some at-home training. The best part is that you don’t really need equipment for this type of training. With the COVID-19 pandemic still causing chaos in the world, this is becoming a popular method of training.
Some Issues with Training MMA at Home
Training at home for any martial art – karate, taekwondo, MMA, etc. – is tricky. There are significant issues with this type of training, and they can cause some big problems for any and all fighters. Some of these issues are:
- Lack of equipment: not all practitioners have access to all the training equipment (heavy bags, focus mitts, etc.) that you’d have in a Dojo or training studio in their backyards.
- Difficulty staying motivated: training on your own can be tricky when you’ve got nobody to train with who can help and motivate you through a difficult time.
- Limited proper instruction: a big part of martial arts – in general – is technique. This means that instructors will typically demonstrate a move and then correct your attempts. Training at home means that you have limited access to your coach or instructor. Training via video chat – via Skype or Zoom, for example – is possible, but corrections, which are usually done by physically helping you adjust your position, are not possible. This means you have to be extra careful when training so you can avoid injury.
All that said, if you can get past these issues, you’ve got tons of options for at-home training.
As far as the workouts go, I found a couple of different ones that can be used by anyone interested in training at home.
Routine 01: Full-Body Conditioning (5 minute circuit)
- 1 minute – pushups
- 1 minute – mountain climbers
- 1 minute – plank
- 1 minute – burpees
- 1 minute – crunches
- 30 seconds – sprinting (Optional)
This circuit should be done 5 – 10 times and broken up with 1 minute rest periods after each 5 minute circuit.
Routine 02: Bodyweight Training (15 min.)
- Mountain Climber Burpees
- Abs Spring-ups
- Reverse Lunge to Knee Strike
- Spider-Man Push ups
- Run & Punch
- Sit Thrust
- Bear Crawls
- Jump Squats
- Rotational Side Planks
- Combo Sprawls
Do as much as you can in 45 seconds before resting for 15 seconds after each exercise. After a full circuit – all 10 exercises – has been completed, rest for 90 seconds. You should complete 3 full circuits to complete your workout.
Routine 03: 7 Minute Super HIIT MMA Workout – No Equipment
Nick Drossos is one of the better-known martial arts and self-defense instructors online, and this 7-minute workout is intense. Performed and coached by a pro fighter, Davis Dos Santos, this routine focuses on the central skills you’ll need when you fight.
- Shadow Sparring (45 seconds)
- Rest (15 seconds)
- Sprawls (45 seconds)
- Rest (15 seconds)
- Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (45 seconds)
- Rest (15 seconds)
- Kicks/Knees (45 seconds)
- Rest (10 seconds)
- Takedowns (45 seconds)
- Clapping pushups (45 seconds) – Note: Normal pushups are fine if you can’t do clapping.
- Plank/Rotational Side Plank (55 seconds)
You can do this routine 2 – 3 times a day and, like Nick says in the video, it doesn’t need a ton of space to do comfortably. It can also be adapted to fit your personal training needs and level of skill.
Routine 04: Cardio and Endurance
- Shadow Sparring (30s)
- Burpees (30s)
- Shadow Sparring (30s)
- Jump Squats (30s)
- Shadow Sparring (30s)
- Matrix Pushups/regular pushups (30s)
This routine is really good for improving your cardio and endurance. It consists of 5 rounds of three minutes each with a 30 second rest between each round.
Routine 05: Speed and Power Workout
This routine has 3 rounds, with each exercise working 20 seconds, and a rest interval of 10 seconds.
20s – Plyo Burpees
20s – Squat Jacks
20s – Hindu Pushups
As you finish a set, give yourself a minute or two to rest, and then start the next set. You can adapt this routine in order to get the most out of it.
Routine 06: The Wonder Workout
Coming from Stephen ‘Wonderboy’ Thompson, this routine caters to all skill levels, and it can be freely-adapted to suit your needs.
The warm up is 2 circuits with 10 reps per exercise.
- Knee Drive, Arm Swings
- Hips N Skips
- Lunge and Twists
- Quad Stretch
- High Knees
- Butt Kickers
- Arm Circles
- Front to back
- Back Slapper
After the warm up, the workout itself has 5 rounds each round with 2 exercises. Each exercise is done 3 times.
- 3 sets: Burpee/Sprawl (5 reps)
- 3 sets: V-Ups (20 reps)
- 3 sets: Drop & Catch pushups (5 reps)
- 3 sets: Bicycles (50 reps) – 25 reps for each leg
- 3 sets: Split Squat Jumps (10 reps) – 5 to each side
- 3 sets: Cobras (25 reps)
- 3 sets: Squat holds (i.e. stay in squat) and punches (30s – 1 minute)
- 3 sets: Mermaids (25 reps)
- 3 sets: Single Leg Glute Bridge (50 reps) – 25 to each side
- 3 sets: Side Crunches (50 reps) – 25 to each side
At the end of the workout, walk around for a bit, do some stretching to cool down.
Routine 07: 3 minute Abs
- Sit-ups (20s)
- Russian Twist (20s)
- V-Ups (20s)
- Double Crunches (20s)
- Leg Raises (20s)
- Scissor Kicks (20s)
- Straight Leg Sit-ups (20s)
- Flutter Kicks (20s)
- Shin Taps (20s)
Routine 08: 15 minutes of Shadow Sparring
We’ve discussed shadow sparring a few times in previous workouts, and now we’re going to focus exclusively on that. You’ll go 5 rounds of 3 minutes each and practice combinations of strikes, kicks, and sprawling in an imaginary fight. Each exercise is done for 30 seconds.
- Double jab
- Double jab, cross
- Double jab, cross, hook
- Double jab, cross, hook, cross
- Double jab, cross, hook, cross, sprawl
- Double jab, cross, hook, cross, sprawl, uppercut, hook, cross
- Jab, cross, inside low kick
- Jab, body jab, cross, inside low kick
- Jab, outside low kick
- Jab, body cross, hook, outside low kick
- Jab, double-step low kick
- Hook, double-step low kick
- Jab, cross, lead kick to the body (kick w. front leg)
- Jab, cross, hook, rear kick to the body
- Double jab, switch kick
- Cross, rear kick to the body
- Liver hook, rear kick (high)
- Body cross, lead kick (high)
- Inside low kick, jab, cross
- Inside low kick, jab, cross, lead kick to the body
- Outside low kick, hook, outside low kick
- Outside low kick, hook, cross, lead kick to the body
- Outside low kick, superman cross
- Outside low kick, superman cross, jab, cross
- Short uppercut sprints
- Penetration shot
- Clinch Knees
- Flying Knees
What makes this workout great is its level of flexibility. You can add or remove things as you like and change the duration of each exercise to suit your needs. As Bruce Lee once put it: “Keep what is useful, discard what is useless, and add what is uniquely your own.”
Routine 09: Footwork Drill
Footwork is a major part of a fight, and this drill will help you prepare and work on your movements.
- Probing jab
- Retreating jab
- Pivot cross
- Advancing 1 – 2
- Backpedal 1 – 2
- Switch jab
These movements are done from the right-hand side (orthodox), and then you repeat them in southpaw (left leg in front) stance.
Routine 10 Full-Body Conditioning
- Quadruped Hover (30s)
- Downward Dog (10 reps) – 5 with your legs bent and 5 with straight legs
- Fire Hydrant (10 reps) – 5 to each side
- Downward dog to forward leaning pike (10 reps)
- Donkey Kick (10 reps) – 5 to each leg
- Pushup eccentrics (5 reps)
- Glute Bridges (10 reps)
- Heel Taps (20 reps) – 10 with bent knees and 10 with straight legs
- Ws and Ys (20 reps) – 10 of each position
- Stand ups (30s)
Note: The reps are estimated as the workout wasn’t listed in the description of the video. The guy doing the workout also didn’t keep count of how many reps he did, but he said it’s about ten per exercise.
Some Last Minute Safety Stuff
It’s important to keep your physical capabilities in mind when you train – always make sure that you’ve warmed up and stretched. Don’t be embarrassed about needing to stop for a few seconds to breathe – you’re human, and you can only do so much. If you can’t do 50 pushups, then start small with 10 or 20 and work your way up. The last thing you want is to accidentally hurt yourself in training.
Medical approval (i.e. a doctor’s letter to say you can or should do a specific workout program) isn’t always necessary, but it is recommended that you get that if you need it. Although not always necessary, if you have heart or kidney problems, diabetes (1 or 2), arthritis, high blood pressure, or if you’re being treated for cancer, a doctor’s letter is a must. This is especially true if you don’t normally exercise.
I tried to find as many workouts as possible that can be completed whether you exercise regularly or not. Most of the ones I did find are very high-intensity workouts, which could potentially cause problems for both you and the gym where you’re training. It may seem like a nuisance, but it’s better to check with a doctor before you do anything and make sure that the gym’s trainers are all aware of any health conditions.
Each of the workouts that I’ve featured here can be changed and adapted to your training needs or skill level for most, if not all, martial arts disciplines. You can change what exercises you do, the duration of those exercises as well as the speed and intensity by increasing or decreasing your rest periods.
If you’re not a fan of instructional videos, there are, of course, books available. The book that I will always recommend is Fit and Superfit by Laurie Plumridge. This is a workout program with 15 levels of difficulty as the reps increase in quantity. You start at grade 1 and work your way up, but don’t be fooled – grade 1 may be the lowest level, but it’s intense, especially if you’re unfit. It’s not, strictly speaking, an MMA workout program. It’s a full-body workout that you can adapt to your training needs. I’ve used this system once or twice over the years, and it never fails to work up a sweat.
Working via books isn’t the best or easiest method of doing things, and there are significant risks involved, which is why it’s better to have someone there who knows what they’re doing if possible. That being said, it’s ultimately up to you to decide what you want to do and how you want to do it. Getting fit isn’t easy and there are days where you’ll want to quit, but, if you stick with it and fight through the pain and frustration, you’ll be in shape in no time!
I hope you guys enjoyed this article and found it helpful. Thanks for reading and I’ll see you for the next one – stay safe out there.