How MMA Fighters Should Build Punching Power

STACK Expert Gethin James discusses the training elements that build effective punching power in MMA fighters.

Whether you're in the ring or the cage, the MMA arena is no place for the faint of heart. MMA is unlike any other sport. Although conditioning is obviously a huge focus, lifting heavy weights is important for overpowering opponents, being physically capable to perform complicated techniques and building a layer of protection. This article breaks down ways to structure effective MMA workouts for a knockout blow!

MMA Fighter

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Lower-Body Strength

If you deconstruct most kicking techniques, you will witness outward rotational forces of each hip. The most prominent movement is the pressing action of the kicking leg. The glute (butt) muscles are the prime instigator of these movements. There is also much work to be done on the biceps femoris of the hamstring group.

It is important to include single-leg movements when programming MMA workouts. Single-Leg Deadlifts are dominant in building stability and coordination, but the deep Pistol Squat is the champion of building dynamic leg strength. Lateral Lunges are also effective. They are specific to developing outward rotational forces.

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Combining proper technique with correct conditioning of the lower limbs dramatically reduces a fighter's chance of developing issues with his hips and knees. Strong lateral leg muscles also work well for protecting the thigh bone against inside or outside leg kicks.


Working up from the glutes, we have the mid-section—the abdominal muscles, obliques and lower back. Pounding these core areas with resistance training can ensure that ground reaction force will transfer into a striking technique. If the core is weak, reaction force will not be substantial enough to inflict damage to an opponent. A weak core is also a massive factor in the ability to absorb body shots without having the wind knocked out of your lungs!

The Dish is a terrific exercise for stability and shock absorption. This brutal abdominal blast can be further progressed with a Medicine Ball Pass. The Lateral Medicine Ball Toss is also a fun way to improve rotational power.

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Upper Body

Beginners often hurt their elbow when they throw a punch. This is because they treat the punch like a snapping extension of the arm instead of a power push from the shoulders. The deltoid muscle that surrounds the shoulder should dynamically lift and rotate the upper arm bone. The deltoids also act as vital protection for the ball and socket joint of the shoulder.

Attempt a Land Mine Press with heavy resistance. Its brutal pushing action also engages other important punching muscles, such as the anterior serratus and the trapezius. It also stabilizes the trunk and requires punch-specific ground reaction force.

Putting It All Together

It is important to be able to coordinate your lower with your upper body. This ensures good displacement of kinetic forces during striking.

As far as the larger lifts go, Power Cleans are the ultimate brawn builder for a powerful punch. However, you must incorporate sideways variations. Take the Wood Chop as an extraordinary example. It requires a lateral element and rotational element to improve hip and shoulder uniformity.

Regarding sets, keep the volume so that the repetition range can stay low—e.g., five sets of five repetitions or four sets of six repetitions.

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