Thankfully times have changed.
Granted, following a traditional bodybuilding routine would result in the above. But any one who chooses to do this is, is either listening to the wrong people or really has no clue. Any fighter or coach when implementing weight lifting into his or her routine must consider certain rules to be truly beneficial in the octagon. The routine must adhere to the strength needs of the sport, the time in which the sport is contested and address the movements used during the sport.
Enter Strongman Training for MMA
Strongman training is perfect for MMA fighters. Strongman events typically require excellence in holding, lifting, carrying, moving over-sized, awkward, heavy objects. This coupled with the unusual positions, lack of leverage and need of a powerful grip closely resemble that of MMA, in particular takedowns, clinches and grappling.
The type of training found in strongman events force the entire body to work as a unit. Particular stresses are placed on the core, the grip and the entire posterior chain. Ask any strength coach for athletes of any sport and they will all tell you the importance of the three mentioned above. This is definitely the case with MMA.
It’s essential that fighters ensure they are getting strength in all ranges of motion. The nature of MMA requires different forces through multiple different angles. The traditional double leg takedown is a horizontal movement, but force an opponent up against the cage and a double leg then becomes a vertical lifting movement.
The problem with strongman training for MMA though is getting access to the equipment needed. Traditional mainstream gyms will definitely not have access to atlas stones, logs, axle bars…
How to Implement Strongman Training for MMA
So how do you train strongman style without access to the strongman event equipment?
How are you going to implement strongman training for MMA in a home or conventional gym?
It all comes down to implementing the movements and principles with what you have access to- and this is easier than you may think. The first investment to make is get hold of a pair of Fat Gripz. They are an amazing, cheap piece of equipment that can be easily added into any routine or exercise with absolutely amazing benefits. Fat Gripz will turn any dumbbell or barbell into axle bars and thick grip handles.
The deadlift is a truly amazing exercise and one that should be a staple in any fighter’s program. While deadlifting the back end of a car in strongman events is frequently seen, it really isn’t feasible in a traditional training setting. When in the gym perform deadlifts from different heights, with and without fat grips, using double overhand and mixed hand grips. Just make sure you use nothing that will help you perform, no straps, no gloves. A well performed deadlift is the epitome of the body acting as a single unit producing raw strength. The deadlift is a very humbling, honest exercise. There is no wait to “cheat” it, either the weight leaves the floor or it doesn’t.
Like the deadlift, the farmer’s walk should also be a staple in the fighters program. It’s easy to coach, easy to perform and frankly one of the greatest exercises for upper back development, grip strength, core stability and general strength and conditioning.
Strongman events typically call for farmers walk handles but, in a traditional gym setting, attaching the fat gripz (see paying for themselves already) to the heaviest dumbbells you can handle is just as good. Either set a specific distance or time and walk. The weight of the dumbbells should give you a tough workout throughout the duration of the exercise, don’t go too light!
Sometimes referred to as the upper body squat the overhead press is an extremely underutilized movement for athletes. Like the deadlift, the overhead press is an indicator of pure power and a staple of strongmen. But when do you ever lift an opponent overhead you might ask? Well, first of it uses more muscles than the gym classic the bench press. Perhaps the main reason however, is that the energy used in the press itself has originated from the ground.
The body has to act as a unit from the toes to the hands throughout the entire movement. This kind of kinetic energy is found in striking, clinching, throws, cage control. In the strongman world, overhead pressing is usually done with stones or log lifts. This again is something you probably will not have access to. No worries. In the gym, utilize all overhead pressing variations, like clean and press, push press, clean and jerk, single arm dumbbell press, kettlebell and again make use of the Fat Gripz.
This is probably the event in strongman that most are familiar with. Picking up a heavy object and carrying it over a distance. For some reason this kind of training is never seen in gyms. I’m not going to bother to explain how carrying an awkward heavy object can help with your MMA game. I think it’s quite self explanatory.
In the gym, the same rules as the farmer’s walk apply. Choose either a set distance or time frame, and then grab the object and hold until the set is done. But what can you use? Well, sandbags are the usually the go to. Luckily they are really easy to make and amazing pieces of equipment to train with.
Check out the video below from Ross Enamait on how to make a sandbag.
Other options are a heavy dumbbell held in a goblet style, loaded barbell held zercher style, a beer keg, even a gym partner if they are willing.
A small glimpse into today's sandbag fun – Raw, unpretentious, simplistic hard work in the rain. . Squats and presses with the 120lb bag. Lifts and bearhug carries with the 120+180lb bags together. . The sandbag offers up some simplistic training with very little excuses to boot. Anyone can make one and the strength they offer up is undeniable. . I've praised the sandbag before as the ultimate training partner and my opinion hasn't changed. . It pushes me when I need it to. It's there ready to train with no excuses. It provides me with anarchy, chaos and unpredictability in training – much like fighting and life. It couldn't care less about my moaning, my aches or pains – it exists simply to get me stronger and tougher. .
Atlas stones go hand in hand with strongmen. They are heavy spheres that can be used for lifting, carrying, loading and throwing. They feature in every strongman competition and are generally the grueling last event.
Problem is however, no traditional gym will have them.
While there are no real substitutes for genuine atlas stones, sandbags, natural rocks and stout, heavy logs will be your closest options.
I can't help but the see the parallels between training with a natural stone and life. As humans, we strive for answers, for order and we seek to control everything – our actions, surroundings, each other. Yet despite this, the world is chaotic. It moves on when they zero regard for our thoughts, actions or processes. The stone, much like life is chaotic. It's the essence of instability, uncertainty and couldn't care for one second what I'm thinking as I'm lifting and carrying it. It fights me as I strive to control it and I wouldn't have it any other way.
Strongman training for MMA in principle is simple. Lift as heavy as possible and chose awkward and odd variations. Just because the premise is simple, however, don’t be fooled. This is very tough on the body. It will hurt, push you mentally and physically, make you strong overall and get your body to act as an incredibly powerful unit. For the following routine, I would suggest you only perform it once a week, which after you have finished will seem like enough.
1. Deadlift Variation:
Perform 2 lighter sets of 8 as a warm up, then 5 heavy sets of 5 reps.
2. Overhead Press Variation:
Perform 2 lighter sets of 8 as a warm up, then 5 heavy sets of 5 reps.
3. Atlas Stone/ Stone Trainer:
Perform lifts onto a solid platform that is around waist height. Shoot for a total of 10 reps, never performing more than 2 in a row.
4. Odd Object Carry:
Perform 3-5 sets of the carry for either the chosen time or distance.
5. Farmer’s Walk:
For conditioning, go slightly lighter over a greater distance or for a longer time for up to 10 sets.
For pure strength, go as heavy as you can over a shorter distance or for a shorter time for 4 sets. You may wish to perform 1 lighter set before the heavy ones as a warm up.
To get the most out of strongman training for MMA you need to be true to yourself. Go as heavy as you can and don’t be afraid to take long rest periods. Take up to 5 minutes between lifts and never less than 90 seconds. This routine will take longer than your usual trip to the gym, but the benefits are truly worth the time and effort.
Train hard all!