Two Best Exercises for MMA Athletes

Learn the two best exercises for MMA athletes from STACK expert Rob DeCillis.

Mixed Martial Arts

In the sport of MMA, strength is key. If two fighters have equal technique, the stronger one usually ends up with his hand raised at the end of the fight. With so many great athletes on the rise in MMA, a combat athlete needs to take strength training just as seriously as any other part of his training.

Two strength training exercises that I use with my fighters in most programs are the Deadlift and Pull-Ups/Chin-Ups.


The Deadlift builds glute, hamstring and low-back strength. The more strength and power you can generate off the ground, the more devastating your punches and kicks will be.

When performing the Deadlift, always keep your reps low. I recommend between one to five reps per set and no more than 10 total reps per training session. This will produce strength gains while keeping you fresh for your MMA training.

  • In athletic stance, assume Deadlift position with back locked, core tight and chest flexed
  • Grip bar just in front of ankles
  • Explode into standing position by extending hips and knees; keep back flat and chest up
  • Lower bar to floor through same motion; repeat for specified reps


The Pull-Up and Chin-Up are the Deadlift for the upper body. They are a measure of how strong you are, pound for pound. When you go to lock up with an opponent, you will notice a difference if you have strong pulling muscles that these exercises build.

  • Place hands on bars with palms facing away for Pull-Ups, or facing toward you for Chin-Ups
  • Pull up until chin is over or even with bar
  • Lower until arms are fully extended
  • Do not swing body or use legs for momentum
Photo: U.S. Army

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