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By Ryan Jansen  |  23 January 2021   

Power is one of the most valuable and determining qualities that a combat athlete can possess.  When power is applied properly it will allow the individual to hit harder, move quicker and react faster.  Explosive strength or power will supply the combat athlete with the ability to produce the maximum amount of force within the shortest amount of time. 

Can we train our bodies to develop power? Yes, we can! Plyometric training applied correctly will provide the nervous system with a demand that empowers the body to react using quick and explosive movements.

This type of neuromuscular conditioning will stimulate the body to move and react with the explosive intensity that most adequately replicates the energy demands accentuated in a fight or live sparring session.

Let’s Get Powerful!

Jump Squats

The jump squat is one of the most basic, safe, and effective exercises that can be practiced to develop power in the lower body.  In the content of an article posted on sweetscienceoffighting.com, professional strength and conditioning coach James de Lacey describes the significance of the squat jump exercise in relation to the needs of the combat athlete.  

“The jump squat employs the stretch – shortening cycle (SSC).  The SSC is where a pre-stretch of the muscle and tendon occurs (eccentric or lowering phase) which is immediately reversed into a concentric contraction (upwards phase).  

This pre-stretch allows greater force to be produced compared to no pre-stretch.  The SSC is used during many different techniques such as striking and shooting takedowns.  Enhancing the SSC component will potentially transfer to enhancing the performance of striking and shooting takedowns.”

Plyometric Pushup

This exercise is one of the best movements that the combat athlete can practice to develop explosive strength in the upper body.  Undefeated professional kickboxer and Karate expert Steven “Wonder boy” Thompson posted a video of himself training for competition on the website wesharez.com. 

In this video Wonder boy is filmed executing a plyometric pushup in a strength and conditioning circuit that was devised by his strength coach Josh Reynolds MMA Workout: S & C Routine Of The UFC’s Stephen Wonder boy Thompson – YouTube.

Tuck Jumps

This plyometric exercise will improve leg strength and it is a great option for the combat athlete with the desire to improve power in the lower body.  Such power will supply the combat athlete with the ability to accelerate during takedown attempts and kick with increased tenacity.  

Human performance specialist and strength coach for multiple Brazilian Jiu Jitsu world champions, PJ Nestler posted a 12 Week Strength and Conditioning Program for Jiu Jitsu Athletes on the website figthcampconditioning.com in which he employs the use of the tuck jump exercise to help develop explosive power in the lower body.

Medicine Ball Rotational Throws

 One of the absolute best exercises to promote rotational power in the core for striking and for the functional acceleration that is necessary in live combat sports situations.  Loren Landow is the owner of Landow Performance in Denver Colorado and Educator for the National Strength and Conditioning Association.  

Within an article posted on fightcampconditioning.com, Landow posted a strength and conditioning routine that he devised for former NCAA Division One wrestler and former UFC bantamweight champion TJ Dillashaw.  In this workout, Dillashaw was instructed to perform open medicine ball rotational throws against a wall.

Medicine Ball Chest Pass

This exercise is excellent for the combat athlete seeking to increase punching power.  It is also an exercise that can be administered to enhance explosive strength in the upper body which will become necessary during grappling skirmishes.  

Coach John Gaglione, a Sport Performance Specialist out of Long Island New York who specializes in training combat athletes, posted an article on the website longislandwrestling.com in which he advises the implementation of this exercise for the combat athlete. 

Within this article Gaglione quotes “medicine ball throws for distance are a great way to train for power since the object can be released and there is no deceleration phase to this movement.  This move is done for distance and will work on increasing absolute power for the athlete.”

Medicine Ball Slams (Overhead or Rotational)

Functional and ballistic exercises that incorporate the core and lat muscles can benefit the combat athlete seeking to improve striking power.  This exercise will also train the nervous system to administer greater power during clinching, pummeling and while attempting to snap an opponent to the ground. 

A highly viewed video of MMA star Dustin Poirier was posted on YouTube in 2019 showing the UFC Lightweight contender performing this exercise as directed by world renown strength and conditioning coach Phil Daru: MMA Strength Endurance Workout with Dustin Poirier – YouTube.

Stationary Jump Lunges

The jump lunge is an advanced variation of the basic walking lunge exercise.  The difference is that the athlete will explode and jump in the air at the end of each movement while at the same time switching his or her forward foot before landing. 

The jump lunge exercise can be implemented into the strength and conditioning routine of the combat athlete as a more advanced lower body exercise.  In addition to improving power in the lower body, this exercise will improve dynamic stability and coordination while at the same time targeting the glutes, quadriceps, hamstrings, hip flexors, and calves.

Clap Pushups

An explosive variation of the pushup exercise can be witnessed in most boxing and kickboxing gyms as a way of stimulating explosivity in the upper body.  This exercise can be performed on the ground without any resources which make it a great addition to add into the toolbox of the combat athlete.  

Brazilian Jiu jitsu black belt and Bio force Certified Conditioning Coach Sally Arsenalt posted an article on Breakingmuscle.com in which she describes clap pushups as one of five exercises that can develop explosive power for Brazilian Jiu jitsu.

Lateral Hops or Rope Jumps

It is important for the combat athlete to incorporate exercises into their routine that generate power and stability while moving laterally as this type of movement pattern will become necessary during a fight or sparring session.  

While he was in camp training for his title fight against Dustin Poirier at UFC 242, two-time world combat sambo champion, Khabib Nurmagomedov was recorded performing lateral hops as part of his strength and conditioning routine and to supplement his agility training.  Khabib - Khabib "The Eagle" Nurmagomedov Training For UFC 242 - YouTube

Medicine Ball Sit-Up

The age old sit up is still considered one of the best abdominal exercise for core strength and endurance.  The catch and release of a medicine ball while executing this movement can increase resistance, improve hand eye coordination, and add an explosive throwing element to your workout. 

During the eccentric motion of the sit up, the combat athlete can bounce the medicine ball on the stomach near the naval which will allow the athlete to condition their abdomen for contact.  Former Olympic wrestling alternate and UFC Champion Randy Couture demonstrates the performance of this exercise in the Official Team Quest Training Manual.

Medicine Ball Overhead Backward Throws

In an article posted on the website oldschoolgym.com, Certified Strength and Conditioning Coach and Strength Coach at Ohio State University, Dustin Myers recommended this exercise as an instrument to help the individual develop full body strength for combat sports. The correct and repetitive execution of this movement will help the combat athlete build explosive strength in the legs, the posterior chain, and the shoulders.

How the Combat Athlete Can Incorporate Power Training into Their Routine

Bec Rawlings is a female mixed martial artist and bareknuckle boxer.  Her success as a combat athlete has granted her the nickname “the queen of bareknuckle fighting”.  Still, prizefighting is just one domain in which Rawlings has displayed her fortitude.  As a single mother of three and a survivor of domestic abuse, Rawlings has proven that tough times don’t last but tough people do!

Are you eager to dominate your opponents with the power and grit of Bec Rawlings? Perhaps plyometric training is the element that is missing in your routine!

Plyometric exercises can be practiced one at a time or they can be paired with strength movements in a superset formation. 

Such exercises can also be incorporated into a circuit training module where they will be executed prior to or following the completion of a different movement.

Research done by The National Academy of Sports Medicine has found that supersets consisting of high-load resistance exercises followed immediately by biomechanically similar plyometrics will stimulate the nervous system to recruit more motor units. 

This in turn will force the body to activate more muscle fibers during each plyometric movement which will further enhance the explosiveness of the athlete over time.  Directly below is an example of this type of training program which was specifically designed for the needs of the combat athlete:

Strength and Power Superset Workout

Exercises in each superset should be performed back-to-back and without rest until both exercises in each set are complete.  The first exercise should be applied using heavier weights with 85% to 100% intensity.  The second exercise should be performed at 30% to 45% intensity using much lighter weights or using your own body weight. 

Do four rotations of the set / superset pairings below with two to three minutes rest between each set:

SETs

SUPER SET WITH

Barbell back Squat

3 - 5 repetitions

Jump Squat

8 - 10 repetitions

1 Arm Dumbbell Bench Press 

5 repetitions each side

Medicine Ball Chest Pass

8 - 10 repetitions

Chin-ups (or weighted chin ups)

3 - 10 repetitions

Medicine Ball Slams (overhead) 10 - 12 repetitions

Barbell Romanian Deadlift

6 - 10 repetitions

Medicine Ball Rotational Wall Throws 8 - 10 each side

Plyometric/Medicine Ball Workout

Former UFC featherweight champion and NCAA Division 1 wrestler Uriah Faber posted a basic medicine ball workout that he uses to get himself into condition for combat on the website ufc.com. 

For this workout, the combat athlete will execute movements exclusively with the medicine ball.  Faber incorporates three different exercise at two sets of ten repetitions for each movement.  Feel free to add additional plyometric exercises to this workout to increase the intensity.

Exercise

duration

Medicine Ball Chest Pass

2 sets of 10 repetitions

Medicine Ball Overhead Throw

2 sets of 10 repetitions

Medicine Ball Rotational Throw

2 sets of 10 repetitions

Optional Exercise

2 sets of 10 repetitions

Team Quest Plyometric Workout

The well informed mixed martial arts fan is assuredly knowledgeable of the talent and productivity that has developed out of the Team Quest training camps.  Randy Couture, Matt Lindland, Chris Leben, Evan Tanner and Chael Sonnen are just a handful of names that have flourished out of this world renown training center.  Below is a plyometric workout that Team Quest has used to help their athletes get fight ready.

Exercise

DURATION

Medicine Ball Squat Jumps

3 sets of 10 repetitions

Medicine Ball Pushup

3 sets of 10 repetitions

Offense Box Hops

3 sets each way

Medicine Ball Chest Pass to Sprawl (on knees) 

3 sets of 10 repetitions

Combination Box Jump

3 sets of 10 repetitions

Box (or plyometric) Pushup 

3 sets of 10 repetitions

Standing Box Jump*

3 sets

*For this exercise, increase from one jump to six jumps and then scale back down to zero for one set.  Hold a ten second isometric squat at the end of each set.

Live action will require the combat athlete to react and generate force quickly in response to certain demands.  The proper application of plyometric exercises at speeds that are functionally applicable to the martial arts can supply the athlete with the ability to generate the maximum amount of force possible within the shortest amount of time (power).  This type of training will enhance the overall performance of the combat athlete.

It is important to note, that plyometric/power training should ONLY be incorporated into an athlete’s exercise program once they have obtained proper flexibility, core strength and balance capabilities.

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About the author

Ryan is the CEO and Founder of Hitback Evolution LLC, a company specializing in personal development, customized fitness programs and fitness for the time-restricted individual. With over 10 years of experience as a personal trainer, Ryan has successfully aided clients with various conditions and needs in achieving their goals. Ryan has been a lifelong combat sports fan and practitioner. He is also an active blog writer and author, having published two books up to this current moment. During his spare time, Ryan is devoted to charitable service as he competes in fitness competitions, endurance sports, and athletic endeavors in order to raise money for The Foundation For NIBD In Kids. Contact Ryan via [email protected] or via his website at www.hitbackevolution.com.

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