MMA Myth Busters

As MMA continues to grow in popularity, it seems that less-experienced trainers are creating programs to try and mimic the metabolic and cardiovascular demands of MMA. This has developed the “MMA is tough, my workouts are tough, so I am tough” mentality of training that supports concepts such as: throwing up is positive indication of a good workout, or if you aren’t constantly sore or injured, you aren’t really a dedicated MMA fighter.


As a result of this mentality, aspiring fighters are hammering out insanely demanding metabolic circuits in addition to their six to seven days of martial arts training, which can leave their muscular, nervous, and immune systems devastated. The result is a fighter lying in a pool of his own sweat, unable to muster the strength to high-five his trainer and wondering if he can crawl out of the gym to go home. It’s time for this “myth” to be put to the test with some training facts.


MMA technique and sparring sessions are similar to both the physical and metabolic demands of actual fighting.


MMA fighters are now training more daily and weekly martial arts and sparring sessions than ever before.


Recovery is essential to heal muscles, improve motor programs, and make improvements in strength, speed, and power.


Classic signs of over training are persistent soreness, fatigue, and increased injury rate.


Throwing up is a sign that you have just put such inappropriate stress on your central nervous system that your body is trying to protect itself from more absurd damage.




Although MMA is tough, this doesn’t give trainers and coaches a license to destroy their athletes. We must still follow rules of program design that apply to every athlete. The first aspect of training that must be programmed into a fighter’s week is recovery. After this, the appropriate workouts can be scheduled. A “balls-to-the-wall” mentality is cool, but know that any trainer or program can make a fighter tired and sore. Not every trainer or program can make someone better.


If you are incessantly tired and sore, you are not tough, you are over trained, and you need to change your program. Metabolic circuits have some advantages, but that does not mean they are always productive or appropriate.




Intelligent training begins with assessment. In addition to cardiovascular training, you should take a good look at your strength and flexibility limitations. If weakness or tightness is present, address these needs before simply jumping into “all out” circuits. Particular areas to address are the neck, rotator cuff, groin, and hamstrings. In order to build strength without crushing the nervous system, classic strength and flexibility sessions can be used to replace metabolic sessions during the week. This will not only turn some of your weaknesses into your strengths, but it will also leave energy for your daily martial arts training sessions.


Another tip while rolling or sparring is to train with a mindset that you are attempting to improve both technical and cardiovascular capacity. Rounds can be used to develop both technique and gas with the right emphasis. Wearing a heart rate monitor during sparring can help you to better understand the precise demands of the sport and the recovery necessary for improvement.


As MMA becomes more mainstream, it is time for MMA training to match this growth. Haphazard training leads to haphazard results. Time to listen to our bodies, get enough rest, and most importantly, question the myths.

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