Do MMA Fighters Lift Weights?

MMA fighters train year-round to be some of the best all-around athletes in the world. They use sprint training either outdoors or on a treadmill, and they work to become proficient in multiple martial arts like Jiu-Jitsu, Muay Thai, and Judo.

They learn to be excellent wrestlers, boxers, and focus on training muscles to be as limber and explosive as possible.

Do MMA Fighters Lift Weights?

MMA fighters do lift weights in training. Unlike bodybuilders, the goal of weight-lifting for fighters is not aesthetics. MMA fighters lift weights to build explosive power and increase endurance in the octagon. MMA training weight routines use fewer reps and never lift too heavy or rep to failure. 

MMA training is about much more than bodybuilding. An MMA fighter must be a strong all-around athlete. This means that MMA training focuses on strength, agility, physical endurance, mental fortitude, and explosive muscular power.

Weight training routines that MMA fighters use are always compound movements that focus on increasing multiple attributes. MMA weight routines never focus on a single muscle.

Does Lifting Weights Help In a Fight?

Lifting weights undoubtedly helps in a fight. It is an exercise that builds muscle strength, endurance, and explosive power. This does not take the place of circuit training and martial arts training, but it serves to boost performance in every other area of training. Because the MMA fighter is not weight-lifting to bulk muscle, there is not a risk of becoming less agile. 

The key to lifting weights is to think of every lift with a holistic mindset. Think about the movements that you do in your MMA fights.

  • Punches such as the jab or overhand
  • Kicking 
  • Blocking 
  • Double collar tie
  • Grappling
  • Takedowns and trips
  • Holding
  • Passing
  • Ground striking

Your weight lifting routine will supplement and strengthen these movements. As you do your martial arts training and sparring, pay attention to areas where you see that you need more strength or endurance, then plan weight routines that address those areas.

How Often Do MMA Fighters Lift Weights?

The routine frequency is always determined by other aspects of the training routine. A fighter will spend multiple days a week in martial arts training and sparring. Additionally, much of training time is spent increasing speed and agility with circuit training.

However, every serious MMA fighter spends some time each week in weight training. 

Professional MMA fighters have trainers who help them to identify specific weaknesses and tailor workout routines to maximize their strength and agility.

They also create specific routines that include sufficient active recovery time, and proper nutrition. Amateur MMA fighters have to plan workouts, recovery, and nutrition strategies on their own. 

As you plan your own MMA training routine, be sure to focus on weight routines that will increase your explosive power and endurance when performing common maneuvers in the ring.

Many of these movements will become apparent during your martial arts training and sparring routines. Here are a few principles to keep in mind.

  • Do not focus on a single muscle group. Exercises must be compound, focusing on multiple groups to increase strength, coordination, and agility.
  • Do not focus on maximizing weight. This is not bodybuilding, it is endurance training. This will inevitably lead to cut and lean muscles, but overall muscular endurance and explosive strength is the goal. Adding too much weight will increase recovery time. 
  • Do not do single-rep max weight challenges. This type of activity will increase your recovery time without adding any MMA fighting benefits.
  • Do not do reps to failure. Your focus is to keep going and build the body to work as a coordinated machine. Working a single group to failure will decrease your overall workout effectiveness and do little to increase endurance in the octagon.
  • Do low numbers of reps in a wide variety of exercises for overall training.

Weight Lifting Exercises For MMA Fighters

For those starting out, the bar, a sandbag, or some lighter dumbbells should be used at first. Increase weight only as the exercises become easier. This will build muscle endurance and strength without causing massive increases in recovery time.

  • Bar clean and jerk. This exercise can be done with a bar with smaller weights or dumbbells. This exercise is primarily for improving explosive power from head to toe. This exercise requires the coordination of every muscle group and increases stability and explosive power in the octagon.
  • Deadlift. This can be done with a sandbag, bar with or without weights, dumbbells, or kettlebells. This exercise particularly strengthens the back of the body and increases stability and endurance.
  • Squats. Squats can be done in high repetitions with bodyweight, or fewer reps with added weight from a sandbag, dumbbells, medicine ball, or a bar with or without weights. Add weight as needed to keep the exercise difficult, and be careful to keep proper posture, knee, and hip alignment.
  • Standing Straight-Arm Dumbbell Press. This exercise is done alternately, just like punching. This is the best exercise to increase your punch strength in the ring. This move will simultaneously increase grip strength.
  • Bar Lunges. These are usually done with a bar and weights, but they can also be done with a heavy sandbag. This exercise builds endurance, strength, and agility in the legs and lower back. This is important for that explosive drive needed for grappling in the octagon. This exercise can also be done as walking lunges.

Grip Strength Exercises For MMA Fighters

So you have your opponent down, now you have to keep them there. Grappling can make or break a fight, and your grip strength can make or break your grappling. Here are four main exercises you need to do to increase your grip strength.

  • Hammer curl and reach. This exercise can be done with either kettlebells or dumbbells. It will increase both your handgrip strength and the muscle strength in your forearm, especially if you keep the weight out at 90 degrees during the reps instead of relaxing the forearm to your side. 
  • Suitcase carry. Grab a couple of heavy kettlebells, dumbbells, or sandbags, and walk around with them. Do not stop. This will specifically increase handgrip strength and lower forearm strength. 
  • Fatbar pull-ups. Add a tennis ball to each hand, grip the pull-up bar, and do your reps holding those tennis balls on the pull-up bar. 
  • Towel hang. Take a towel, throw it over your pull-up bar, grab an end in each hand and then hang. You can position and reposition your body however you want, but keep hanging. The longer you hang, the more grip strength you build. The thicker the towel is, the more grip strength you will build as you hang.

What Kinds of Exercises Do MMA Fighters Do?

MMA fighters do every kind of exercise necessary to become some of the best all-around athletes in the world. Every exercise is focused on training the body to become better coordinated, stronger, more agile, focused, and stable. 

The better fighter is a fighter who has focused on developing the entire mind and body into a well-coordinated machine that can take advantage of an opponent’s every weakness and oversight with precision, accuracy, and the endurance to finish.

With this in mind, MMA fighters typically divide training time up between multiple types of exercises. Ratios differ from person to person, and routines will change to fit the evolving needs and strengths of the fighter. These are some of the types of exercises that might be involved in a fighter’s training routine. 

  • Sprint running
  • Sprint bicycling
  • Weight lifting
  • Martial arts such as Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Muay Thai, and Judo
  • Boxing
  • Wrestling
  • Bodyweight lifting
  • Core training such as planks and push-ups
  • Plyometric exercises such as jump squats and burpees
  • Live sparring
  • Punching bag sparring


MMA fighters incorporate weight lifting into their workout and training routines. When it comes to getting the submission from your opponent, all training routines should be exploited to maximize your strength, agility, explosive power, and stability. 

Weight lifting in combination with moves that mimic movements you will be taking in the octagon will strengthen muscle groups in tandem so that your body is more powerful and stable.

This means that you will be able to both guard and attack with more force and accuracy. This training combined with plyometrics, martial arts training, and cardio training will make you a force to be reckoned with.

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