Most athletes completely overcomplicate exercises for combat athletes.
Focusing on novelty and “specificity” at the expense of effectiveness.
Here’s my top 12 exercises for combat athletes after 10+ years of coaching fighters:
1. Neck Work
i.e. plate neck flexion, isometric holds, and bridges.
Whether it be reducing concussion risk or grappling strength.
“For every pound of neck strength, odds of concussion is reduced by 5%” (Collins et al., 2014)
Neck strength is vital.
2. Grip/Wrist Work
i.e. Towel chin-ups, wrist rollers, and farmers walks.
Grip obviously matters, but forearm, elbow, and wrists also feature in the top 7 most common injuries in MMA (via UFC Performance Institute). Protect them.
3. Loaded Carries
i.e. Farmers, zercher, and suitcase.
Develops grappling strength and grip like no other exercise.
Here’s some strength standards we expect of our athletes.
i.e. Zercher squat, back squat, and bulgarian split squats.
King of strength development exercises. Foundation for developing power in striking, throws, or kicks.
5. Medicine Ball Throws
i.e. Rotational MB slams, scoop throws, and chest throws.
Gives you the freedom to develop rotational power, trunk strength, and mobility.
i.e. Weighted chins, Pendlay rows, and DB rows.
Grappling athletes have huge backs for a reason. Pulling is key.
i.e. loaded, bodyweight, or assisted.
Jumps improve your ability to generate high levels of force – quickly.
8. Anaconda Strength
i.e. roll-outs, hollow hold variations, and L-sits.
Develop your ability to generate internal pressure for grappling or dealing with strikes.
i.e. Zercher good mornings, RDL’s, and single-leg hip thrusts.
Protects the lower back, supports hips escapes, and striking power through the hips.
i.e. push-ups, bench, and landmine press’.
Build upper body armour and general pushing/punching strength.
11. Lateral Hip Work
i.e. Lateral split squats, landmine lateral lunges, and cable abductions.
Reduce hip “tightness”. Important for grapplers mobility.
12. Ankle Training
i.e. Single-leg calf raises, tibialis raises, and bent-leg calf raises.
Ankle injuries are one of the most common injuries within combat sports.
Give it a share to fighters that would benefit.