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Top 5 Exercises to Become a More Explosive Fighter

This week I’ve been on a bit of a rant about the role of Strength and Conditioning in the Martial Arts. By the term martial arts I include everything from Boxing to Ba Gua, MMA to RBSD, Kung Fu to Kickboxing and Karate.

I don’t really care what system or style you follow, I do care about how effective you are at putting it into practice. And to get the most out of the arts, regardless of your goal, you need a physical body to back you up. In  my gym on any given day I may have guys training for the ring or the octagon, others training purely for the Art and others who train because it may one day save theirs or their families lives. This last one is my favourite  I spent ten years working various nightclub doors in a variety of countries. Now I have two small boys, 5 and 2, who need their Daddy, and god help anyone who threatens them.

Anyhow, before this gets a bit intense…..

Physical training is of vital importance I spoke about this in the last two posts. Getting stronger in my youth is the only reason I was able to attain my black belt and bring home several trophies. It’s the reason a former member of the Wild Geese Kickboxing club went from a string of losses to a string of victories. It’s why a man in his mid 30’s with a list of health and physical ailments was able to fight two professional rules MMA bouts, one of which was against a much younger and more experienced opponent. It’s the reason why one of our BJJ blue belts could go to the European BJJ championships and come back with a bronze after only a year of training.

Anyhow, you get the idea. Being strong is good.

So what are the top lifts for a fighter?

In my opinion the list is as follows:

  1. Deadlifts Without a shadow of a doubt, the deadlift is king when it comes to preparing for combat. You need a powerful hip extension for punching, kicking, throwing and bridging. This brings it. Keep the weight high, but not so high it becomes and extended grind. Multiple sets of 3 reps with a 5 rep max is a good start point.

  1. Kettlebell Swings and even Snatches. Much the same action as the deadlift, but now we’re working for reps and building the ability to generate power over and over. These ballistic type exercises activate the stretch reflex and have been attributed to strengthening the elastic fascia in the body. That means you can develop that spring like power that all those wiry old men that seem to be carved out of oak. You just don’t have to get old first! Do swings single handed and you’re working the rotation of the core as well, which is no bad thing. Use a fairly heavy bell and go for reps or time with these.

The Kettlebell swing - feel the burn!

The Kettlebell swing – feel the burn!

  1. One Arm Push Ups The king of upper body exercises for fighters. Granted the load is limited, it is a bodyweight exercise, but the benefits are great. You gain pressing strength, shoulder and core stability and get to work the same force vector of a punch, the diagonal line from hand to opposite foot. As strength increase we can elevate the feet or even work to doing plyometric versions of this already tough exercise. Multiple sets of 3-5 reps are best here.[youtube]

  2. Pull Ups and Chin Ups I’m not interested in what grip you use, just do them. A lot.

  3. Clean and Push Press. I can’t get enough of this lift, nor can my fighters. This is not an upper exercise, it’s more like an exercise in total body power that is merely expressed in the upper extremities. With strikers I tend use a single heavy kettlebell, grapplers tend to get more out of double kettlebell lifts. For comabatives and MMA, mix it up. The clean portion of the lift requires the hip snap, same as the swings above, dialing in that posterior chain. The push press comes through the quads, into the back and out through the shoulder and arm. Put it all together and it even sounds like a punch! Vary the rep range on these, but keep them snappy!


Centre your supplemental training around these five lifts and you’ll find yourself becoming faster, stronger and more powerful than you thought possible. You’ll also be harder to hurt!

I’ll be in Tullamore at my friend Kieran Dolan’s place, Dolan Fitness where I’ll be teaching all the above techniques and more in our “Kettlebell & Bodyweight training workshop – Developing the All Round Athlete” Workshop  on June 2nd.

The workshop will look at: -Fundamental movement patterns and how to load them -Core strength, developing and learning to use it -Power endurance, because getting tired is for other people! -Mobility drills for freedom of motion and injury prevention -Breath control for power, recovery and endurance -Implementing bodyweight and kettlebell drills into a wider training program

Places are limited so drop me a line to get involved: [contact-form-7 404 "Not Found"]



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