MMA Power Training

Build a bigger gas tank and ratchet up your strength with this three-pronged attack.
Hitting your local gym over and over for half an hour of lifting followed up with 20 minutes of cardio is a waste. To elicit increased strength or endurance you need to introduce new stressors. This workout puts featherweight contender Cub Swanson through three distinct phases tailored to increase the performance of a mixed martial artist -- and the movements will benefit you as well.

The key elements are a dynamic warm-up that primes the body, a series of movements designed for energy system development, followed by strength training employing some of the same movements Swanson uses in the Octagon.

Variation A (below): Crisscross your feet and your arms.
Variation B (below): Shuffle your feet while swinging arms from thigh to overhead.
Variation C: Shuffle your feet front to back simultaneously, but this time swing arms front to back.

Perform each variation moving forward 10 yards and then backward to your starting position.

Trunk circle: Hands on hips with a flat back, move your shoulders around your hips, chest to knees, alternate direction after half of your reps.

Scorpion stretch: Keeping your chest to the floor and arms extended try to touch your heel to the back of your opposite hand. Alternate sides, be sure to have your knee elevated in  the air for best stretch (below).

Burpee: Perform a standard burpee by starting from a standing position, drop to plank position lowering the hips to mimic a sprawl. Jump your feet back to your hands and jump to complete the move. Increase the workload by using only your opposite hand and foot when moving in and out of plank position.

Elbow to instep: Get into a lunge position with one foot forward and drive your elbow to your instep, stretching your hip joint and hip flexor, repeat on other side. You can remain stationary or move across the room.

Prep your system with an unloaded bar and perform the series with crisp form. Think of it as the weightlifting corollary to shadowboxing:

Overhead squat: Start with the bar overhead, wide grip. Eyes straight ahead, flat back. Squat down until thighs are parallel to floor, move slowly and be sure to maintain integrity in your spine and core. Follow up with deadlift, upright row, and front squat and clean.

Create a five-by-five-yard box placing three cones in front of you. Your starting point is the fourth
corner. Run a shuttle to a cone and return to your start position for one rep. Complete as many reps as you can in one minute. Add a bungee for resistance and have a partner call out cone numbers to add a reaction element.

Get on a VersaClimber and go for a full minute at maximum effort. Try and get as many feet as possible. Notching over 150 feet is a good start.

If you don’t have access to a VersaClimber, mark out a distance of 25 yards. Time yourself as you sprint back and fourth a total of six times. If your time is 1:10 or less, you’re in pretty good shape. Swanson completed the drill in 56 seconds (right).

Start with the bar on the floor, flat back, eyes forward, in a deadlift position. Stand up and shrug the bar to your shoulders. Catch the bar by spinning your arms forward, and use your legs to cushion the landing and press the bar overhead.

Mark out a hexagon on a smooth flat surface that is one-foot long on each side. Starting in the middle of the hex, jump over the line in front of you and return to the center. Work your way around the hex jumping over each line but remain facing forward the entire drill. Three full rotations is one rep.

Secure a resistance band to a chin-up bar, stand directly underneath and press your palm to the floor (left).

Squat underneath a pull-up bar and jump to the bar landing in a full hang, complete a pull-up and lower yourself until your arms are extended and drop to the floor.

Explode out of a standard push-up and clap your hands and return to a starting position. You should land softly, creating minimal sound. To increase the difficulty, launch your feet of the ground as well.

Using a roped medicine ball, slam the ball from side to side as fast as you possibly can (shown below). Time how long it takes to complete 10 reps each side and try to increase your speed and power.

Perform the dynamic warm-up and move into the next phase. Perform each exercise in the energy development phase in succession to complete a single circuit. Complete two to three circuits and move on to the strength phase and continue circuit training. You should complete the last two phases in 45 minutes or less. Add circuits to each phase to increase the intensity.

Dynamic Warm-Up
Jumping Jack Series - 2 x 20 yards, forward and backwards
Mobility circuit (Trunk circle, elbow to instep, scorpion, burpees) - 1x10
Barbell Functional Movements (deadlift, upright row, front squat, clean, press,
overhead squat) - 1x10
Energy Development Circuit

Energy Development Circuit
Agility and Reaction Drill - 2-3 sets, 1 min., max reps, rest 30 seconds
Hexagon -  2-3 sets, Timed, 2 reps, rest 30 seconds
VersaClimber - 2-3 sets, 1 min., max reps, rest 90 seconds
300-Yard Shuttle - (sets optional), Timed 1 90 seconds

Strength Circuit
Clean and Press - 3-4 sets, 5 reps, load: bodyweight
Resistance Band Push - 3-4 sets, 20 reps (each side), load: varies, rest 30 seconds
Jump Pull-Up - 3-4 sets, 10 reps, load: bodyweight
Clap Push-Up - 3-4 sets, 10 reps, load: bodyweight
Rotation Slam - 3-4 sets, 10 reps (each side), load: 12 kg. ball

Cool Down
Foam Roll
Pigeon Stretch
Ball Bridges
Shoulder stretches

Photography by James Law. Shot on location at Ezia Human Performance, Cub Swanson’s apparel by Virus,

Watch Past Fights


Go inside the film room with Chad Mendes, who breaks down his first fight against Jose Aldo with UFC commentator Jon Anik. Mendes faces Frankie Edgar in the main event at The Ultimate Fighter 22 Finale on Dec. 11.
Dec 1, 2015
UFC 194 boasts a number of finishers among its ranks. Go back and watch some of the epic first-round KOs from the likes of Conor McGregor, Luke Rockhold, Jacare Souza, Chris Weidman and Jose Aldo. Don't miss UFC 194 on Pay Per View on Dec. 12.
Dec 1, 2015
UFC Minute host Lisa Foiles catches up with Sage Northcutt ahead of his Fight Night USA bout on December 10 to talk about his training session with George St-Pierre and also the haters out there in the MMA world.
Dec 1, 2015
UFC commentator Joe Rogan previews what he calls "one of the most exciting middleweight championship fights in a long time" between Chris Weidman and Luke Rockhold at UFC 194.
Dec 1, 2015