Fighting Fit

Fighting Fit


The most important weapons of an MMA fighter are his hands. Each hand includes tendons, muscles, nerves, blood vessels, and most importantly, bones. The hand has 27 separate bones including carpals (wrist), metacarpals (palm), and phalanges (fingers). They can be used for blocking, grappling, wrestling, and as a striking tool. During these types of actions, there are a variety of injuries the hands can sustain, specifically to bones, including:




The most common injury in contact sports is called the metacarpalor “boxer” fracture. The main damage is done to the bones that form the palm and knuckles, called metacarpals. When a fighter strikes,the force is transferred from the hitting knuckle to the body of the metacarpal bone, causing the bone shaft or neck of the bone to break. The most frequent metacarpal fracture is to the fifth finger area (your pinky finger). With this type of break, you may still be able to move your fingers, but there may be pain throughout the knuckle or the back of the palm. Other signs of fracture include swelling of the area, hematoma formation, deformity, and, of course, pain. Remember, just because you can move your finger, it doesn’t mean that you don’t have a fracture.




A joint dislocation is when any bone leaves its normal position in the joint due to pressure, but there is no fracture. Dislocations are recurrent, so once you have had one, you are susceptible to reinjury. This is because the tissue holding the joint stretches, leaving the joint prone to dislocation. Again, it’s always best to let a physician relocate the bone.




A sprain results when the joint is overextended, causing swelling, pain, and difficulty in movement of the joint. Tendons and ligaments travel beyond their normal range of motion, and some fibers may even break. Sprains are very common and require as much treatment as fractures, including immobilization.




The finger fracture happens when enough force is applied to a phalange (bones in the finger) and the bone breaks. Again, as in the “boxer” fracture, this type of fracture may become displaced. Finger fractures are very common in the thumb and index finger. Usually a displacement can be remedied by placing the dislocated bone back in place, a process known as reduction. It’s always a good idea to have a physician put the bone back in place because deformation is a possibility.




Proper care of hand injuries is of utmost importance. Immobilization and rest are essential to a speedy recovery. The use of anti-inflammatory medication and cold therapy (ice) also plays an important role. The majority of chronic problems after a hand injury are almost always due to inadequate treatment or reinjury to a previous lesion. Always follow your physician’s advice, as it may very well prevent further problems.


You can help prevent injuries to your hands by:


using proper wrapping and padding when striking a heavy bag


wearing adequate gloves when striking and sparring


using correct technique when striking (use your first two knuckles)


applying ice and resting your hand if it becomes sore


seeking immediate treatment from a physician if you have swelling, discoloration of the skin, or any deformity


Neglecting your non-glamour muscles is a recipe for injury.

Stronger muscles in your neck, shoulders, and back can help decrease your chance of injury, but these muscles are often overlooked in favor of bigger biceps and pecs. Even though athletes recognize that possessing a strong neck, shoulders, and back are critical to better posture and injury prevention, few fighters train these areas regularly. Since many of the muscles addressed in this circuit (rotator cuff, quadratus lumborum, sternocleidomastoids) are small and often underworked, begin training these areas conservatively. Use slow, controlled tempos, and don’t jerk or bounce in any of the positions. Don’t forget to warm up before beginning the circuit. Perform each exercise consecutively. Repeat for three total circuits.

Incline Dumbbell Cleans

Swiss Ball Leans


Emphasis: Mid and upper back (rhomboids,
traps, rotator cuff, erectors).

Begin lying on your chest on an incline bench with a dumbbell in each hand. In the first movement, shrug your upper back. In the second movement, rotate your arms forward until they become parallel with your head. Lower under control.

Repeat for 12 reps.


Emphasis: Anterior and posterior neck muscles (traps, sternocleidomastoid, scalenes, levator scapulae).

Place a Swiss ball against the wall. For forward leans, place your forehead against the ball. For backward leans, place the back of your head against the ball. In both exercises, lean your weight into the ball to increase the resistance.

Hold each position for 10 breaths.


Clean up any lingering winter diet disasters by adding a few of the following spring delights to your daily diet.


Nicknamed “The Food of Kings,” this vegetable boasts a royal showing of folate, iron, B vitamins, vitamin C, and fiber. Anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and anti-cancer properties are abundant in these crisp stalks that can be grilled, roasted, stir-fried, sautéed, or eaten raw in salads. Look for asparagus with firm, thin stems, and use within 2-3 days of purchasing. For optimal freshness, store asparagus in the refrigerator with the ends wrapped in a damp paper towel or upright with water at the base and a plastic bag over the tips.


Rev up your salad swagger and keep boredom at bay by using many different varieties of lettuce in your salads. Boston, bibb, arugula, mache, mesclun, and watercress are just a few to try. Channel your inner Popeye and reach for spinach, a dark, leafy green that’s packed with vitamins, minerals, flavonoids, carotenoids, and fiber. Spinach has been shown to have anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer benefits, and helps in maintaining cardiovascular, gastrointestinal, and bone health. Create a nutrient dense side dish with a quick sauté of spinach, garlic, and olive oil, or throw it in the juicer for a refreshing cocktail.


Strawberries are bursting with vitamin C, polyphenols, phytonutrients, potassium, and fiber, and they can provide big benefits in the way of antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and cardiovascular support. Add strawberries to green salads, protein smoothies, or enjoy them in a fresh fruit mix. Purchase organic and locally grown strawberries when available, and consume them within two days of purchase to maximize their nutritional benefits.


Although cherry season is short (typically late spring to mid-summer), the flavorful fruit yields a long list of health benefits, including cardiovascular, anti-inflammatory, and sleep related. These little red powerhouses pack a punch of fiber, potassium, magnesium, vitamin C, flavonoids, and carotenoids. While found in both sweet and tart varieties, tart cherries have more benefits for athletes recovering from training. Recent studies have shown that tart cherry juice helps decrease post-exercise joint pain and muscle soreness, leading to faster recovery times and decreased symptoms of muscle damage. Add fresh/frozen cherries or dried tart cherries to high protein Greek-style yogurt, chicken salad, quinoa dishes, or into snack mixes.


This firm, slightly sweet fish can troll the cold waters of the ocean for up to 40 years and grow as large as 700 pounds, although the average is closer to 50 pounds. This big boy of the flounder family is an excellent source of protein, omega-3 fatty acids, selenium, magnesium, and B vitamins. Its nutritional profile offers cardiovascular and anti-inflammatory benefits, cancer protection, and support to brain function.



• ½ pound fresh asparagus, woody ends cut off

• ¾ cup grape tomatoes, halved

• fresh herbs of choice (basil, rosemary, thyme, chives, etc.)

• Two 6-ounce halibut fillets

• ½ tbsp. extra virgin olive oil or coconut oil

• juice of ½ fresh lemon

• sea salt and black pepper to taste


• Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

• Lay asparagus spears evenly in a baking dish and top with grape tomato halves and fresh herbs.

• Lay the halibut fillets over the vegetables and drizzle with oil and lemon juice.

• Sprinkle with sea salt and black pepper.

• Bake 18-20 minutes (uncovered) or until the fish flakes with a fork.

• Serve with a mixed green salad and quinoa or brown rice.

Seasonal foods will vary depending on where you live. For detailed information on your specific area of the country, check out websites such as and or make a visit to a nearby farmers market and see what your local growers are bringing to the table.


UFC Welterweight Matt Brown demonstrates a functional strength workout for increased core and lower body power.

Utilizing the Westside Barbell System under the guidance of Louie Simmons, the goals of this strength and conditioning routine are to increase overall strength, paying particular attention to the lower back, hips, and glutes, while increasing dynamic muscular endurance. Try adding this workout to your weekly routine for lower body stability.


This exercise is superior in developing whole body General Physical Preparedness (GPP). Matt walks for a steady pace for a determined time, or he performs multiple trips of 60 yards, changing positions and walking styles, such as rickshaw style, walking backwards, and walking forward with a high knee. You can wear ankle weights and a weight vest to make the exercise more challenging. This exercise builds up the entire posterior chain, trunk, traps, and hand grip.

Duration: 5 minutes

Rest: 30-60 seconds between exercises


Matt starts in a wide sumo stance with an over-under grip. He grasps the bar with his arms locked out and his shoulders pulled back, while keeping his legs straight to pre-stretch his hamstrings. He pulls himself down to the bar by lowering his glutes and pushing his knees out. Matt pulls the bar back toward him, keeping his lower back arched and “trying to spread the floor” with his feet by pushing his knees out and squeezing his glutes toward the top of the movement. Using doubled-over mini bands will cause a forced over-speed eccentric phase. This is vital because kinetic energy is gathered in the eccentric phase. This causes a sudden release of elastic energy stored in the tendons and soft tissues of the body. Heavier weight will not add to the rebound phase as effectively as using an over-speed eccentric phase.

3 sets of 10 reps

Rest: 30 seconds between sets


Matt places the bar on his back in a squat position, while keeping his lead leg in front. He bends over, rounding his upper back until he feels he reaches the correct position. Matt uses his lower back to initiate movement at the bottom, while firing his hamstrings and squeezing his glutes toward the top of the movement. Adding the bands to the front of the bar takes away the bio-mechanical advantage at the top of lift, which makes Matt work through a full range of motion. This exercise will build erectors, hamstrings, and glutes due to extending the legs and back simultaneously.

3-5 sets of 10-15 reps each side

Rest: 30-45 seconds between sets


This is another exercise that is superior in developing whole body GPP, which is a crucial for cardiovascular efficiency and muscular development. Matt performs this exercise by power walking with long strides and pulling with his heels. This works the glutes and hamstrings while also building calf muscles and hips (both front and back). Always walk and never run with a sled. The chaotic effect of the bamboo bar will target kinetic energy to the shoulders, elbows, biceps, and lower back to strengthen stabilizing muscles and allow for healthy joint function.

Duration: 5 minutes

Rest: 30-60 seconds between exercises


Embrace the suffering to take your fitness to a new level.

Athletes are always looking for ways to take their fitness to the next level. Many times, one of the key components is teaching your mind and body to embrace the suffering experienced during challenging workouts and training sessions. However, suffering during workouts is not about pushing your body to injury—it’s about raising your own personal ceiling and taking your body and mind outside of your comfort zone.

Here are two workouts that will train your muscular system, aerobic energy system, and your anaerobic energy system. Implementing these workouts into your training regimen will enable your body to go longer, harder, and faster before you fatigue.

The Sprint
1. Pushups: 25 reps
2. Sit-ups: 25 reps
3. Burpees: 25 reps
4. Jump Squats: 25 reps
5. Stationary Bike: 6 minutes

Perform exercises 1-4 without resting. Get on a stationary bike and remain seated for 5 minutes, keeping the bike at 100+ RPMs. This is designed to tax your cardiovascular system. For the final minute on the bike, stand up and sprint as fast as you can. This is one circuit.

Your goal is to complete 6 nonstop circuits for a total of 150 repetitions per exercise and 36 minutes of cycling.

The Powerhouse
1. Pushups: 25 reps
2. Sit-ups: 25 reps
3. Burpees: 25 reps
4. Jump Squats: 25 reps
5. Stationary Bike: 6 minutes

Perform exercises 1-4 without resting. Get on a stationary bike and remain seated for 6 minutes, keeping the bike at 70-77 RPMs. Add as much resistance as you can to maintain the prescribed RPMs. Unlike the Sprint Workout, where your goal is 100+ RPMs to work the cardiovascular system, the Powerhouse Workout uses a high amount of resistance and a lower RPMs, which will significantly tax your muscular system (quads, calves, glutes, and hamstrings). This is one circuit.

Your goal is to complete 6 nonstop circuits for a total of 150 repetitions per exercise and 36 minutes of cycling.


If you are ready to embrace the suffering and take your fitness to the next level, incorporate both of these workouts each week. Replace one of your standard cardiovascular workouts with the Sprint or Powerhouse. The workouts can be done 1-2 times per week. Wear a heart rate monitor during each workout to monitor your progress over time.

Before and after each workout, warm-up and cool down by stretching and riding the stationary bike for 10 minutes. Don’t forget to keep your body fueled and hydrated throughout the circuits.

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Among the training principles of the 15th-century samurais was the importance of paying special  attention to small details. Samurais believed that the finer points were the most critical aspects to winning any battle or succeeding in any endeavor. Likewise, athletes recognize that to be successful, the little things (food, exercise, and recovery) are important, but they rarely pay proper attention to them. Often times the difference between an ordinary and extraordinary athlete is just the “extra” attention that has been paid to the little things. Unfortunately, this concept of  “extra” is often confused with “expendable.”


In particular, there are five areas of training that fighters view as expendable. Don’t make the mistake of overlooking these important details.




If your warm-up is simply a lighter first set of the exercise that began your workout or a five-minute walk on the treadmill, you are skipping a vital part of your training. A proper warm-up should increase blood flow, stimulate the nervous system, improve reaction, increase strength, and most importantly prevent potential injury.
Action Step: Complete a 15-minute warm-up routine before every workout that increases your heart rate and cracks a sweat.




After a vigorous workout, your body is starving for the most important meal of the day: the post-workout meal. If you are not taking in quality carbohydrates and protein immediately following your workout, you are increasing the chances of muscle damage. A protein shake is a great post-workout meal because your body can quickly digest the liquid.
Action Step: Drink a post-workout shake within 15 minutes of completing your workout.




Stretching has taken a bad rap lately. Maybe it is because people are too lazy or too pressed for time, but there are important areas of your body you need to keep flexible. In addition to improving range of motion, stretching after a workout can also help to decrease heart rate and relax the nervous system. If you don’t want to complete a full-body stretch, make sure to focus on your ankles, hamstrings, hip flexors, and gluteal muscles.
Action Step: Perform a 15-minute stretch after each workout.




This one is a no-brainer. However, do you really drink six to eight glasses of water a day? If not, you are leaving both your muscles and brain dehydrated, which increases your risk of injury. In addition to water improving athletic performance, increased water intake also leaves fighters leaner, allowing them to make weight easier.
Action Step: Start consuming at least six glasses of water a day, and cut out the sugary energy drinks.




Sleep is one of the basic necessities of life. An inadequate sleep environment and poor sleep habits will not only cause your training to suffer, but also your job, relationships, and overall health. If you aren’t getting enough restful sleep, your body will have a reduced ability for muscle repair, immune system response, memory consolidation, and the proper release of hormones, including growth hormone and insulin.
Action Step: Turn off your phone, computer, and television and get eight to nine hours of sleep a night.


These tips may seem like common sense, however, common sense is not always common. The challenge is not to comprehend the list but to have the discipline to execute the action steps. Champions, like the samurai, eventually come to realize that there are no little things. Take these five tips to heart, and you will see that your goals will be easier to attain as a result.


For more than a decade, strength and conditioning coach Martin Rooney has prepared hundreds of fighters for the UFC, Pride, ADCC, IFL, and the Olympics, including multiple UFC, Pride FC, and IFL champions. For more information, visit his


Developing badass, combat endurance requires a unique approach to conditioning. Unfortunately, many forms of aerobic training that have no business in an octagon or cage have infi ltrated MMA conditioning. One of the biggest culprits is long, drawn-out cardio sessions. Let me explain.

Your body relies on three systems to produce energy and each system is correlated with how much power you can produce. The ATP-PC system comes into play fi rst. It maintains muscle contractions for approximately 10 seconds, and it’s responsible for fueling ball-busting effort. This is why you can’t run at top speed for longer than 10 seconds. When the ATP-PC system runs out, anaerobic glycolysis takes over. It allows you to train with moderate to high intensities for up to 10 minutes (although this time varies with each person). Anaerobic glycolysis is the system responsible for accumulating lactate, nausea, and a drop in muscle pH. When anaerobic glycolysis gets depleted your body turns to its fi nal system, aerobic metabolism, that can maintain muscle contractions for hours. However, it can only support low levels of power. This is why marathon runners are as weak as a karate chop from a fi ve year-old.

The chart is neat and simple, but when you’re fi ghting, all energy systems are playing a role. The way you train for endurance, however, will determine which system dominates. For MMA, anaerobic glycolysis is the system that must be supercharged. And this is why an hour jog will wreak havoc on your ability to sustain knockout power – it develops the wrong energy system.

The Tabata Protocol, developed by Dr. Izumi Tabata, is an ideal way to develop combat endurance. His protocol consists of 20 seconds of all-out, total body effort, followed by 10 seconds of rest. My fi ghters push a 100 to 200-pound sandbag across the ground, but pushing a loaded sled or compact car will do the trick. Repeat the cycle 10 times, for a total of fi ve of the most brutal minutes of your life (the elite athletes Tabata put through his protocol will attest to the masochism of it).


Get a new grip on leg training with these three variations on your old standards.

If you do what you always did, you will get what you always got. This is a simple, yet profound rule of life. If you want more, you have to do more, and when you do more, you will become more. If you are stuck in a rut in your training, make adjustments to improve your progress.

One area where athletes seem to stagnate is in leg training. In the gym, there is no arguing that leg training is less popular than upper-body training. Part of this may be due to the view that leg exercises are less fun than their upper-body counterparts. If you are bored with the classic squat, lunge, or good morning, here are three variations that will stimulate both your body and mind for new results.


By using a Zercher grip—hands clasped while the bar rests in the crooks of your elbows—you can perform lower-body exercises and stimulate new gains. The Zercher grip puts a new emphasis on your arms and upper back. If the bar is uncomfortable, you can use a towel or pad to help tolerate more weight. The key to the Zercher grip is to make sure that you keep your shoulder blades pulled back and your upper back flat. This will help improve both your leg and pulling strength.


Begin standing with the Zercher grip. While maintaining your posture, squat down until your elbows almost touch your knees. Push down with both feet and return to the original position. Perform 4 sets of 8 reps.


Begin standing with the Zercher grip. Step forward with one leg and lower your body so that your back knee almost touches the ground. Push back into the ground with your front foot and return to the original position. Perform 3 sets of 6 reps on each side.


Begin standing with the Zercher grip. Lean forward at your waist while slightly bending your knees. Extend at the lower back and return to the original position. Perform 3 sets of 8 reps.

When you’re finished with your Zercher workout, you can learn more than 120 pushup variations by checking out Martin’s Pushup Warrior app at


Pushup Power

The pushup is a classic exercise for upper body development. Around the world, the pushup is a constant in combat training. In most commercial gyms, however, the pushup has taken a back seat to an array of fancy weight machines and equipment designed to keep people interested in fitness. The pushup reminds us that the best piece of exercise equipment we’ve been given is our own body. Perform these four variations of the proper pushup and you will see that this classic exercise is an effective tool in your training arsenal.


Begin in the pushup position with your arms straight, hands under your shoulders, and your core held tight. Your arms should be rotated so that the crease of your elbow faces forward. Keep your back straight, and lower your torso within two inches of the ground while keeping your elbows close to your body. Extend at your elbows to return to the original position.


The following four pushup variations are listed in order of difficulty, and they form a challenging workout. The ultimate goal is to perform 20 reps of each (80 total) in four minutes or less—with perfect form.

1. One Arm Raise Pushup

Complete a proper pushup. At the top of the motion, raise one arm in front of you. Lower your hand back to the floor, and then lower your body down for the next rep. Repeat using your opposite arm.

2. Warrior Pushup

Complete a proper pushup. Turn at your shoulders and reach one hand as high as possible toward the ceiling. Reverse the motion, return your hand to the ground, and return to your starting position. Repeat using your opposite arm.

3. Toe Kick Pushup

Complete a proper pushup. Turn at your shoulders and kick one foot under your body and as high as possible while touching your toe with your opposite hand. Lower your foot back to your original position. Repeat using your opposite arm and leg.

4. Hips Slap Pushup

Complete a proper pushup and extend at your elbows quickly so that both of your hands come off the floor at the top of the motion. Clap your hands against your thighs, lower your hands back to the floor, and lower your body down for your next rep.

If you want to learn more than 120 pushup variations and 80 pushup workouts, check out Martin’s Pushup Warrior app at


And you thought ropes were only good for tug-of-war.

Over the last few years, the rope has become a popular training tool with fighters for the development of power, power endurance, and improved cardiac capacity. The development of these abilities is created by rapidly moving the rope in multiple directions as quickly as possible.

There are a number of ways that the rope can be used in training, and the four exercises below—demonstrated by UFC lightweight Jim Miller—are a great strength and conditioning regimen that are a perfect way to close out your day at the gym…and it takes less than 12 minutes.

To begin, hold the ends of the rope (it should be anchored to the wall or a weight) in each hand. Perform each of the four exercises (back-to-back) for 20 seconds. After one set, rest for two minutes and repeat for three more sets.


Bring your arms up and down as violently as possible. Snap the rope up and down in order to create as large of a wave in the rope as possible.


Bring each arm up and down in an alternating fashion as fast as possible. The goal is to create large waves in each of the ropes.


Perform large rotations to the outside of the body by bringing each arm up and out to the sides and back down as quickly as possible.

The wave should develop in a circular fashion.


Perform by snapping one arm to the opposite side as fast as possible and then quickly repeat on the other side with the opposite arm..

The wave formed should run parallel to the ground.