Your Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) training should include a broad base of strength, but you will need certain types of strength more than others. One of the most important types of strength you need to develop is Explosive Strength. Not only that, but you will need to develop the ability to deploy your Explosive Strength repeatedly otherwise known as Explosive Strength Endurance.

If you don’t have a comprehensive Explosive Strength training program to compliment your MMA conditioning, then it’s most likely you’ll be working an Explosive Strength deficit, meaning you won’t be deploying the full amount of strength you’ve built up in your conditioning.

Below I outline how you build Explosive Strength specific to your MMA fight preparation.

What is Explosive Strength?


Explosive Strength, aka Explosive Power, is defined as:

“The ability to expend energy in one explosive movement act or in a series of strong sudden movements such as jumping, throwing an object or in striking with as much force as possible in an explosive manner.”

In order to be fully conditioned in an explosive context you need to be conditioned for “Total Body” Explosiveness. The skills involved in MMA mean the entire body is at work in striking, grappling, throwing and kicking.

The Explosive Strength workouts outlined below will help you with the following Explosive Strength goals:
  • Build a Functional Strength foundation for MMA Explosive Strength Workouts
  • Reduce your Explosive Strength Deficit
  • Improve Rate of Force Development
  • Improve your Explosive Core Strength
  • Improve your Explosive Triple Extension Strength

The Functional Foundations of Explosive Strength


Before you perform any Explosive strength or Plyometric conditioning there are some areas in which you need build a strong foundation. This foundation will significantly enhance the quality of any Explosive Strength training and will also protect you from injury.

One of these areas is Functional Strength. In order to set an adequate foundation and protect against injury you should have followed a program of whole body Functional Strength that for at least 6 weeks also in order to begin lower body Explosive Strength training you should be able to squat a minimum of 1 and ½ times your body weight in a 1 rep max lift. This will ensure you have built up significant lower limb strength and it will also aid in the triple extension power of ankle, knee and hip joint thus allowing you to condition greater Explosive Strength in the lower limbs.

You will also need to adequately condition your back as this will significantly affect your punching power when combined with correct conditioning for arms which will again allow you to perform upper body Explosive Strength conditioning in a more productive way.

As is the case in many other sports you will also need to undertake a foundational program of Core Strength without this you will not be able to perform more advanced Explosive Strength training for the core. Outlined below is a sample program which will help you build the basic Functional Strength foundation for your Explosive Strength training.

MMA Workout A - General Strength Lower Body:

  • Squat 3x5
  • Dead lift 3x5
  • Stiff legged Dead Lift 3x5
  • Weighted Glute Bridge 3x5
Your final set should be your heaviest, use 2 minutes of rest between each set. Once you can lift your final heavy set weight on all three sets then increase the weight on the final set and repeat the process again. 2 minutes of rest in between each exercise.

MMA Workout B - Chest/Back Progressions:

  • Bench Press 3x5
  • Wide grip pull ups 3 x failure
  • Chin Ups 3 x Failure
  • Barbell Shrugs 5x5
You aim to progress the chin ups to weighted chin ups and the wide grip to weighted wide grip pull ups.

MMA Workout C - Core Strength:

  • Dumbbell Get Up 5x5 each side 70% 1RM
  • Seated Good Mornings 3x5
  • Dumb Bell hanging knee Raises 3x5
  • 1 Minute Plank
You should aim to build up the planks to be a minimum of 2 minutes 30 seconds. Progress the weight on the knee hangs but start very light and don’t go too heavy on the seated good mornings.

With this program after 6 weeks you will see:
  • The leg dominance of this program will lay solid foundations to build speed and power. It will provide a solid injury prevention foundation allowing you to safely perform lower leg power moves with maximum effect.
  • Your core will be significantly strengthened. The core is one of the elements providing a strong foundation for your striking and throwing. Having a strong core will maximise the power in these techniques and will also provide a solid base for more explosive core work.
  • Significant improvement in back and chest strength which will lay the foundation for significantly increasing your throwing and striking power.
  • Compound movements used will strengthen the smaller muscles allowing economy of training and targeting of smaller muscles.
Now you’ve followed the program outlined or you already have a basic level functional Strength, it’s time now to work on building your Explosive Strength.

Explosive Strength 1: Explosive Triple Extension

Having explosive Triple Extension is key to many explosive moves such as jump kicks, driving into an opponent and other techniques. I will also help you develop increased mobility for your fights. The lower leg strength you built up in the previous workout will help you with this particularly your posterior leg strength in the Glutes and Hamstrings.

Workout for Developing Explosive Triple Extension

Training using this workout should ever last you more than 4 weeks while using progressive over load and gradually increasing the load. If your Explosive Strength phase exceeds four weeks you could experience breakdowns so it’s best to use a less is more approach and focus on simplicity, intensity and consistency. You will use phases of no longer than 14 to 28 days. These will now be rotated into your Strength lifting plan that has already been outlined above. You can perform 2 sessions of this a week with good intensity and the longest rest you can. None of the exercises will change only the loading of the movements will.

Phase 1: Dynamic Warm Up and Technical 20 Minutes

In every workout you will work and warm your core with a selection of high volume body weight exercises for the abdominals and lower back. You want to work on the following:
  • Crunches
  • Twists
  • Back Extensions
  • Hanging knee Raises
This should also be phase any technical or MMA specific work you feel is needed, specific stretching light bar work or light body weight work.

Phase 2: Explosive Strength Developmental Phase 25 Minutes

This is a phase where you take the basic Functional Strength you’ve been working on for the lower body and begin to develop into raw Explosive Strength specialising in the Triple Extension.

High Pull 3x6 to gradually progress to 4x4 then to 5x2 Explosive Higher Loads
This is a key move for building foundational power through Hips, knee and Ankle also bringing the core and upper body into the move making it a sound power foundation move the workout

Step Up with Knee Drive 3x8 then 3x6 the to an Explosive Step up with Knee Drive 3x6
This is done with a moderate load and works both legs into the movement to build explosiveness through the hips.

Alternate Explosive Steps start with a bar 3x12 and increase the weight gradually but keep it light. This is done by stepping up with one foot and landing on the box with the other then exploding as soon as the landing foot touches the ground. It’s very good for building Explosive Strength in the Hip Extension.

Phase 3: Mobility Drills/Pad Work/ MMA Explosive Technical Work 20 minutes

This phase you’re going to use specific mobility frills for your sport and you will involve lighter implements such as Dumb Bells and Medicine Balls.

Explosive Strength 2: Explosive Core Strength

Being able to rotate your Core work on Strength with Core work on Explosive Core Strength will enable you transfer even more of your Maximal Strength thus further reducing your Explosive Strength deficit. When we talk about the Core we mean everything in that box between your shoulders and down to your legs. This also means working the front and back of that structure too.

This will help keep you strong in areas that will positively affect your punching, kicking and take down explosiveness. The moves will also help prevent against excess movements that may cause negative stress on spine such as excess or forceful rotation. So when we talk about Core Stability we mean moves that “Stop2 negative moves from taking place. This is called Anti-Rotation.

Workout for Developing Explosive Core Strength

Training using this workout should ever last you more than 4 weeks while using progressive over load and gradually increasing the load. If your Explosive Strength phase exceeds four weeks you could experience breakdowns so it’s best to use a less is more approach and focus on simplicity, intensity and consistency. You will use phases of no longer than 14 to 28 days. These will now be rotated into your Strength lifting plan that has already been outlined above. You can perform 2 sessions of this a week with good intensity and the longest rest you can. None of the exercises will change only the loading of the movements will.

Phase 1: Static Warm Up and Technical 20 Minutes

This warm up phase provides a solid base of Plank variations and some foundation Strength work which you will need to include to warm up the Core correctly. You want to work on the following:
  • Planks
  • Side Planks
  • Dish Hold AKA Static Hold
  • Dead Lift Variations
This should also be phase any technical or MMA specific work you feel is needed, specific stretching light bar work or light body weight work.

Phase 2: Explosive Strength Developmental Phase 25 Minutes

This is a phase where you take the basic Functional Strength you’ve been working on for the Core and begin to develop into raw Explosive Strength specialising in Punching, Kicking and Takedown Power.

Medicine Ball Dive Throw 3x5 with 2 minutes rest between sets. Gradually increase the weight of the ball. This is a very good move for developing your Explosive Strength for Punching.

Landmines with a Barbell and lighter weights as you progress. 3x12 with 2 Minutes rest between sets. Anchor one end of the bar in a heavy weight plate. Use two hands and rotate with proper rotational force as in a good punch with correct alignment keeping the Core tight and twisting the feet.

Medicine Ball Curl up Throw performed with a partner and a 3kg Medicine Ball. 3x5 with 2 minutes rest between sets. Gradually build up Speed with good technique. Progress the distance of the partner away from you making sure you have to throw harder. Begin with 50 cm away ad increase the distance gradually. This is good for when you need to move the upper body with force increasing Punching and Takedown Explosive Strength.

Medicine Ball Throw in executed just like a throw in Football (Soccer) using a 3kg Medicine Ball against a wall. 3x5 with 2 minutes of rest between sets. This is very important move for preventing extension of the spine from force acting on it...as in when you get punched. This will help you deal with strikes and brace more effectively.

Phase 3: Mobility Drills/Pad Work/ MMA Explosive Technical Work 20 minutes

This phase you’re going to use specific mobility frills for your sport and you will involve lighter implements such as Dumb Bells and Medicine Balls.

As always please warm up and make sure you have correct equipment available when you work out. If you want any more information or a personalized Explosive Strength program for your MMA training please feel free to contact me.

For more workouts for MMA Explosive Strength or Power read this post on MMA Core Strength and the Power Zone

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