Circuit Challenge – Drop the Weights and Hit the Floor
By Doug Balzarini
Bodyweight movements are effective and efficient exercise options, especially for MMA athletes. In a sport with weight classes, the goal of the strength coach is to help the athlete become as strong as possible for their respective weight class. We aren’t trying to add a lot of mass to their frame—we are improving their relative strength. Bodyweight exercises are a great way to accomplish that.
Benefits of bodyweight exercises include:
-No equipment necessary
-No gym needed—they can be done anywhere, anytime
-Easy to progress or regress depending on your ability
-Can be put together in a circuit for a great workout
Busy schedules and lack of time are common excuses that keep people from fitting in their workouts. Follow this bodyweight-only routine to get in, get results, and get on with your day.
1. Unilateral Lower Body Exercise: ROLLING PISTOL SQUAT
My favorite strength exercises for the lower body are the bilateral (2 legs at the same time) squat and deadlift. However, I feel that it’s imperative to incorporate single leg training into your routine as well. Correcting imbalances, challenging core stability, and improving coordination is just a short list of unilateral training benefits. While there are multiple pistol variations, I like this advanced version for my MMA athletes.
1. Begin in a seated position with your elbows between your knees.
2. Start the movement by driving through your heels and rolling back onto your shoulders.
3. Next, explosively reverse the movement by pushing your hands into the ground and throwing your legs forward. Use this momentum to come up to a standing position on one foot.
4. Use the momentum but keep the movement controlled throughout the exercise.
5. Pause at the top and then slowly go back down into the rolling position to repeat the movement. Perform reps on one leg for 30 seconds and then repeat on the other side.
2. Upper Body Exercise: PUSHUP WITH ROTATION
Pushups are one of the most effective exercises you can perform, and there are countless variations. This one involves a “sit through” drill that is a popular grappling movement.
1. Perform a traditional pushup. On the way back up, rotate your torso and sweep one leg underneath your body, extending it out on the opposite side. I make sure to cue my MMA athletes to keep their top elbow tight to the ribs at this point of the movement.
2.Pull the leg back through and return to the top of the pushup position. Repeat the pushup and perform the sit through drill on the opposite side. Alternate sides for 30 seconds before moving to movement number three.
3. Explosive Full Body Exercise: POP-UPS
Many folks think this is a lower body movement. Just try to perform it without using your arms—convinced yet? This is truly a full-body exercise that requires the coordination and sequencing of the upper and lower body working together.
1. Assume a tall, bilateral kneeling position.
2. Drive your arms up and bring your butt down to your heels.
3. Explode up by extending your hips and driving with your arms.
4. Land softly on the balls of your feet with one foot forward, a neutral spine, and your hands up. Repeat the movement 30-60 seconds while swithing lead legs.
4. Active Recovery Exercise: PLANK WITH ROTATION
I’m not a fan of wasting time during workouts. After you finish a set, do you watch the TV, check your phone, or maybe the girls on the elliptical? You’re at the gym to get better, so why not be efficient and utilize your time wisely? “Active recovery” movements are a perfect use of your time, and planks fit the bill. This particular variation includes a hip drop to slightly increase the challenge.
1. Begin in a traditional plank position with your elbows under your shoulders, your spine in a neutral position, and your toes tucked.
2. In a controlled fashion, slowly rotate your torso and drop one hip toward the ground.
3. Return to the neutral position and continue the movement on the other side.
4. Continue to alternate sides for up to 60 seconds.
Method To The Madness
You should always have a gameplan while training. Failing to plan is planning to fail. Workouts don’t need to be complex programs with percentages and variable tempos to be effective. Alternate between lower body and upper body movements, and put your recovery movement at the end. Here’s a quick recap of this 4-movement circuit that will target your entire body, build strength, and challenge your conditioning.
1. Pistol: 60 seconds (30 seconds per leg)
2. Pushups: 30 seconds
3. Pop Ups: 60 seconds
4. Planks: 60 seconds
Perform these movements in order, and then rest for 60-120 seconds (or until your heart rate reaches 120 BPM if you have a heart rate monitor). Start with 3 rounds and work yourself up to 5 total rounds. Include a quality dynamic warm-up before the circuit and a proper cool down after, and you’ll be in and out in 45 minutes. Train hard, train smart, and become better, faster, and stronger.
Doug Balzarini is the owner of DB Strength, which provides fitness training, education, and resources. He is also the strength & conditioning coach for Alliance MMA, where he works with UFC Champ Dominick Cruz, Bellator Champ Mike Chandler, as well as Brandon Vera, Travis Browne, Ross Pearson, and more. He has produced 2 DVD projects and was recently a coach on The Ultimate Fighter TV show. Visit www.DBStrength.com for more information.