Do MMA Fighters Bench Press?


Any type of muscle-building exercise will make some kind of contribution towards building the strength fighters need during their MMA fights. That being said, bench pressing needs to be utilized properly and moderately if it is to be an effective exercise in relation to MMA. 

Do MMA Fighters Bench Press?

MMA fighters use bench pressing and other powerlifting exercises as a way to build endurance that will increase their chances of winning a match. Because this is one of the most challenging exercises, bench pressing is one of the best ways for MMA fighters to maximize their upper body strength.

Powerlifting exercises and MMA training often work towards very different goals, so incorporating powerlifting exercises such as bench pressing into an MMA routine may seem counterintuitive. However, when used properly, these types of exercises can be beneficial. Read on to learn how many famous MMA fighters use powerlifting to improve overall performance.

Does Bench Press Help in a Fight?

Bench pressing may not appear to directly help in a fight, but it does build strength, which is a crucial aspect in improving your fighting skills. But, because strength is not the only factor in winning a fight, bench pressing should be used in conjunction with other exercises to improve overall performance in an MMA fight.

Proper form in bench pressing is also extremely important as it mimics the forms of a punch in the rear arm of a fighter, affecting the velocity and punching performance of the fighter. 

A Study in Boxing

A particular study conducted on 12 male professional boxers in Spain examined the variables that affect boxing performance and what contributed to optimal performance. The most important factors are:

  • Strength
  • Velocity
  • Power
  • Agility

The study observed that the movements in bench pressing were similar to that in straight punching moves and that these punches in particular would increase in velocity with an increase in the power load of bench pressing.  

Testing

In the study, the 12 boxers were first familiarized with the one-repetition maximum nature of bench pressing by following this sequence of gradually increasing weights:

  • 8 repetitions at 50% of estimated maximum power
  • 3 repetitions at 60% of estimated maximum power
  • 2 repetitions at 70% of estimated maximum power
  • 1 repetition at 80% of estimated maximum power
  • 1 repetition at 90% of estimated maximum power

Next, each participant was instructed to bench press loads ranging from 30 percent to 80 percent of their estimated maximum power and the velocity of their punches was measured after each change in the weight of the BP load. 

Results and Takeaways

Measurements of the different boxers’ punching velocities after working with different levels of bench press showed that the increase in maximum power increased the velocity of the punches in the rear arm, suggesting that bench pressing helps the fighter control the execution of their punch. 

However, this correlation was only present in the movement of the rear arm, not the left. This is believed to be because, in the traditional stance of an MMA fighter, the punch of the rear arm mimics the act of bench pressing as opposed to the position and movement of the lead arm. 

In conclusion, bench pressing at 85 percent of the maximum power of the fighter can improve the velocity of their rear arm punch. However, professional fighters may benefit from varying the loads for their left and right arms, and bench pressing should be performed moderately to avoid fatiguing the arms. 

Do Push Ups Increase Punching Power?

One of the best exercises that increase punch power is the push-up and used sparingly. There are many variations of the push-up that can target different factors that affect the power of your punch.

Types of Push-Ups

Fast punch-ups target the pectoral and shoulder muscles and train them to get acclimated to firing punches at an accelerated pace. Being able to punch faster than your opponent automatically gives you an edge because you are able to get ahead of their moves and exhibit clean combinations in a match. 

Clap push-ups are a great way to increase the power and endurance of your punches. Because it is also a plyometric or explosive type of exercise, this will greatly affect the impact of the punches you are able to land on your opponent. However, the number of repetitions should be limited as they will exhaust your muscles very quickly.

Push-ups are the next-best alternative if bench presses are not an option. Many athletes are unable to do bench presses due to shoulder and elbow injuries, and so there are lower impact push-up variations that help build upper body strength and endurance.

Other Powerlifting Options

Punching performance is best determined by the acceleration and velocity of the fighter’s movements and, and there are many exercises that can be used in rotation in addition to bench pressing and push-ups that help improve the quality and power of the fighter’s movements.

  • Squats
  • Deadlifts
  • Weight or resistance training

These are powerlifting options that many MMA fighters incorporate into their routine.

Should You Bench Press if You Are Training MMA?

If your goal is to increase the velocity and power in your punches, then yes, bench pressing is a good option as a rotating exercise in your weekly regimen. However, because bench pressing exercises are purely to increase maximum strength, if not utilized properly, it can interfere with the high-velocity strength necessary for MMA.

Because bench pressing is a 1RM or one rep max exercise, it may not be the best fit for a daily exercise. Still, it is a good way to push the boundaries of an athlete’s strength as it challenges each athlete to exert and control their entire strength in one spurt. 

Controversy

There is a significant amount of debate as to whether exercises such as bench pressing are beneficial for MMA fighters, as it may affect their performance negatively. In MMA, strength does not always result in increased power, and strength is only one factor in their overall performance. 

Jone Jones, in particular, is famous for touting his excessive powerlifting as the reason for his disappointing performance against Ovince Saint Preux. Many athletes believe that powerlifting exercises including bench pressing will negatively affect an athlete’s efficiency, flexibility, and speed.

Moderation

This statement can be true if powerlifting exercises such as bench pressing and deadlifts were the focus of an MMA fighter’s training over other aspects such as speed and agility. But it is the excessive amount, not the existence, of the powerlifting exercises in the training that will hurt a player’s performance. 

More than bench pressing or powerlifting, it is important to draft a cohesive training plan that targets their own personal strengths and weaknesses and combines strength training, cardio, circuit training, and flexibility exercises that will result in long-term strength and improved performance as an MMA fighter. 

While there will be naysayers and skeptics on utilizing bench pressing as part of an MMA training program, it is most important to note that there are many MMA fighters that consider it a necessary part of their routine and customize the parameters to work towards their professional goals. 

Conclusion

MMA is a combination of different martial arts and requires a diverse blend of strength, endurance, and explosive power. While powerlifting has a completely different approach from any combat sport, many powerlifting exercises and techniques are borrowed to increase the skill of MMA fighters.

Studies have shown that the weight fighters are able to bench press is directly correlated to the punching velocity of their rear hand. Because bench pressing can affect the maximum punching velocity of the fighter, training with different weights can improve overall punching performance.

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