Building Explosive Power

UFC batamweight Raphael Assunção shows readers two exercises that help him power through opponents.

A powerful, explosive body is crucial in MMA. Throw a punch, defend a takedown, shoot a single, land a head kick—all these movements require power and speed to be effective. Try to take your opponent down slowly—and without any power behind it—and you’ll be face first on the canvas. It’s important to include effective strength training exercises that will improve full-body power development and transfer successfully to the cage.

The goal of this month’s circuit is to increase force production by developing power from the ground up. The more force you can produce and push into the ground, the more force the ground will “push back” into you, thus creating a more explosive movement (good ol’ Isaac Newton’s Third Law). Full-body movements that emphasize the lower body will produce optimal results. Two exercises that don’t require any special equipment and will help you accomplish these goals are the Weighted Box Jump and the Single-Arm Dumbbell Snatch.


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To execute the Single-Arm Dumbbell Snatch, all you need is a dumbbell (or kettlebell). Begin by grabbing the weight off the ground. Keep you knees and hips bent, and focus on maintaining a neutral spine throughout the drill. To initiate the movement, lift the weight in an explosive fashion, as if you were trying to throw the dumbbell straight above your head. Be sure to push your feet into the ground as you drive your hips into extension, causing a slight jump. Allow the momentum of this explosive lower-body movement to “carry” the dumbbell upward. The arm is more of a guide, ensuring the weight stays close to your body. As the weight passes shoulder height, quickly lower your body under the weight by dropping your hips and slightly bending your knees. Complete the movement by standing up tall and fully extending your arm. Slowly lower the weight back down, and repeat. Be sure not to “arm the exercise,” as this will defeat the purpose of the movement.

Perform 6-8 reps on each arm, 4-5 sets.


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To perform the Weighted Box Jump, you will need something sturdy and safe to jump on, such as a plyo box, and a relatively light weight, such as a 10-pound medicine ball. Begin about 12 inches in front of the box with your feet hip-width distance apart. To initiate the movement, bend your knees and hips into a 1/4 squat position, bring the ball down to waist level, and explode up by extending your ankles, knees, and hips. You will dynamically throw your arms out in front of you at the same time. Focus on landing soft and absorb into the landing using your muscles, not just your joints. Be sure to step down one foot at a time, as most box jump injuries occur when athletes jump down off the box.

Perform 6-8 reps, 4-5 sets.

Doug Balzarini

Doug is a trainer, coach, and owner of DB Strength. He has produced MMA strength-specific DVDs, offers workshops, and has coached on The Ultimate Fighter. As the strength coach for Alliance MMA, he has worked with UFC Champ Dominick Cruz, Bellator Champ Michael Chandler, Phil Davis, Brandon Vera, and Alexander Gustafsson. Visit for more info.

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