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Pop Strength for MMA


Suitable for: Combat Sports participants who have a basic understanding of lifting and gym based exercise and who are able to complete all exercises with the correct posture.

Equipment: Barbell and dumbbell sets, adjustable bench, chinning bar.

Repetitions and sets: Explained in each exercise.

The Workout:

1. Squats with an eccentric emphasis

Sets: 4 Reps: 5-3
  1. Position yourself behind a barbell that is on a rack (roughly shoulder height).
  2. Hold the bar with a wide, overhand grip and bring your head under and in front of it.
  3. Pinch your shoulders back and let the bar rest on your shoulder muscles (not on your neck or spine).
  4. Lift the bar off the rack and stand upright with your chest out and back straight.
  5. Begin to lower yourself down by first twisting your hips (i.e. your rear) up and then out behind you whilst bending your knees.
  6. Slowly lower yourself down over a period of five seconds. The weight should move through your heels (you should be able to wiggle your toes throughout the movement) and keep your knees directly over your feet (so they do not move out beyond your toes)
  7. Once you have lowered yourself as far as is comfortable, raise yourself back up to the standing position. As you come up, focus on pulling with your arms and squeezing the bar against your back.
  8. Rest for 2 seconds and repeat. (Tip: athletes with long limbs are more-susceptible to having problems with balance when completing squats. Try elevating your heels by placing a small disc flat under the rear of each foot. If this improves your balance/range of squat then you should focus on increasing hamstring flexibility).

2. Incline DB Bench Press

Sets: 4 Reps: 5-3
  1. Sit on the edge of a bench with a 45 degree incline with a dumbbell in each hand
  2. Lean back against the bench and lift the dumbbells above your chest so that your forearms are vertical (you may need a partner to help you).
  3. Extend your arms up above you until they are fully up (but not locked at the elbows) before lowering the weight back down until they are either side of your chest.
  4. As a general rule, take 2 seconds to lower the weights down before exhaling as you push them back up as fast as possible. Keep your core tight and do not allow your back to come away from the bench.

3. Weighted Chins

Sets: 4 Reps: 5-3
  1. Take the position below a pull-up platform and select the grip that has both hands pointing palm-in (so your thumbs face back towards you).
  2. Hang for a moment and then begin to pull yourself up until your chin is over your hands.
  3. Lower yourself down and repeat.
  4. To hold additional weight, cross over your ankles and have a partner place a dumbbell in-between your lower legs as you hang. Some gyms also have chinning straps for your waist.

4. Transverse Lunges

Sets: 3 Reps: 5 each leg.
  1. Stand upright with arms relaxed by your side and with a dumbbell in each hand.
  2. Imagining you are at the centre of a compass, step forward and out with your left foot in a north-westerly direction so you are in a split stance.
  3. Keeping your torso upright, plant your right knee down to just above the floor (your left knee should remain above the laces of your left foot; if it moves out over your toes then you need to step our further).
  4. Raise yourself back up into the split stance and then bring your left leg back to the original position. Now repeat with the right leg.
  5. Try facing a mirror during this excercise. Attempt to keep your hips and torso facing directly towards the mirror at all times.

5. Military Press

Sets: 3 Reps:5
  1. Position yourself so you are holding a barbell in front of you (relaxed against your hips) with an overhand grip that is slightly wider than your shoulders.
  2. Bring the barbell around and above your elbows (so your palms are facing out ahead of you) so it is positioned just above your chest.
  3. In a pressing movement, lift the bar up and straighten your arms straight above your head (do not lock out your arms).
  4. Lower the bar back down to your chest and repeat the movement.
  5. Make sure you are keeping your stomach muscles tight throughout the movement. Do not allow your hips to angle down as this will compress your lower spine as you lift.

6. Press Pull

Sets: 3 Reps: 8 each arm.
  1. Start in a press up position but so your hands are holding two light dumbbells (so the heads are above and below one another rather than side to side).
  2. Widen your foot position so they are roughly shoulder-width apart.
  3. Complete a press up, keeping both elbows tucked into the side of your torso (as opposed to coming out 90 degrees to your body) and attempting to have your chest touch the floor.
  4. Now lockout your left arm and shift your upper weight over it. At the same time complete a row with the right arm by pulling the dumbbell up to your ribs and then back to the floor.
  5. Complete a second press up and now row with the other arm.
  6. Keep your core tight throughout the exercise and do not let your hips sink down.

7. Plank Circuit

Sets: 3 Time: 60-90 seconds
  1. Start in a press up position so you are on your toes with feet together with your body straight and stomach tensed.
  2. Bend your arms so you are now supporting yourself with your elbows.
  3. Hold this position, keeping a tight core, for 60 seconds. Do not allow your hips to rise up into the air or sag down to the floor.
  4. Turn over onto your left side and put your weight through your left elbow and the outside of your left foot. Tense your core and bring your hips up so that your body is in a straight line. Hold your right arm up vertically into the air and hold this position for 60 seconds.
  5. Swap sides and repeat for a further 60 seconds.
  6. Rest for 1 minute and begin the second set.

Article by Brendan Chaplin, Founder of Strength & Conditioning Education

Brendan Chaplin MSc CSCS ASCC is a performance specialist and strength and conditioning coach. Currently he is the founder and managing director of Strength & Conditioning Education where he provides coaches with the tools and resources to develop themselves to their best and raise industry standard. Follow him on twitter @BrendanChaplin and checkout his website.