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The dummy didn’t want to move.
With stiff arms pointing toward the sky and long legs dangling behind it, the man-shaped hunk of dead weight dragged on the end of a chain like an oversized sinker on a fishing line. At the other end of the chain, Quinton “Rampage” Jackson—one of the world’s top MMA fighters—struggled to run backwards, tugging with all his might to pull the heavy punching dummy to the drill’s finish line.
Once he reached the line, Jackson immediately picked up a 20-pound medicine ball, lifted it overhead, and slammed it against the ground. He did this 15 times, then dropped to the ground and rifled off 20 Push-Ups.
“It’s a hard workout,” Jackson tells a camera crew filming the workout for the site Bodybuilding.com. “You’ve gotta be alpha to do something like this.”
Jackson’s workout—and MMA weight room training in general—is nothing like old school routines that focused on strengthening one or two major muscle groups. MMA training elevates the heart rate while also working on other aspects of athleticism, like strength, speed or balance, with moves meant to mirror the demands of an MMA fight.
The routines are brutally tough but incredibly effective, helping athletes build strength, power, agility, mobility, durability and endurance all at once. That’s why many non-MMA athletes, like Green Bay Packers linebacker A.J. Hawk and Arizona Cardinals receiver Larry Fitzgerald incorporate MMA training principles into their workout programs.
To improve his performance in the octagon, Jackson alternates between resistance training and trail running. The combination helps him improve his endurance for the later rounds of a fight. The random obstacles and unpredictable terrain on the trail improve ankle stability, balance, coordination and body control. Some of those runs are long and slow, at a pace where you can hold a conversation, while others mix in sprints.
To train like Jackson and other MMA fighters, try this four-day program, designed to improve all aspects of your game.
MMA Workout Plan
Perform in circuit fashion with no rest between exercises. Do this workout twice per week on non-consecutive days.
Sets/Reps: 3xCircuit with 1-minute rest between sets
Perform each trail running workout once per week on non-consecutive days.
High-Intensity Interval Training
Sprint for 20-30 seconds followed by 20-30 seconds rest. Repeat for 20 minutes.
Long-Slow Distance Training
Jog at 70 percent of max heart rate (at a point where you can still talk) for 40 minutes.
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Tabata, Izumi., Nishimura, Kouzaki., Motokoi, et al. (1996.) "Effects of moderate-intensity endurance and high-intensity intermittent training on anaerobic capacity and VO2MAX." Med Sci Sports Exercise 28 (10): 1327-30