Warrior Workout

Get stronger, fitter and burn pounds of bodyfat with this high intensity, MMA-inspired routine

By Joe Wuebben

You can try to find a more well-rounded athlete in terms of overall fitness than a mixed martial arts fighter, but we doubt you’ll be able to.

A high level MMA fighter has the endurance to go five 5-minute rounds with a little bit still left in the tank at the end; the power and strength to land lethal strikes and execute crippling submission holds; and the overall athleticism to master various fighting disciplines, from wrestling to karate to boxing. Not coincidentally, virtually all successful MMA fighters possess lean, athletic physiques to show for it (with rare exceptions, like Roy Nelson). So if the UFC body type is what you’re after, why not train like a fighter?

“The types of workouts I do with my MMA athletes don’t require any running or aerobic work, because there’s no aerobic work done in a fight, only anaerobic,” says Adam Zart, head strength and conditioning at Hayastan-IMB Mixed Martial Arts school in Charlotte, North Carolina (HayastanIMB.com).

“We do sprint-based intervals, and by doing this, the guys respond faster to putting on muscle and losing bodyfat in addition to improving their cardio levels. But it’s not necessarily muscle mass they’re putting on – it’s more muscle density. Most of the exercises we do are big, compound, leg-based moves. In fighting, the guys are squatted down a lot and shooting in for takedowns, so these guys can’t afford to get tired legs.”

“[Zart’s] strength and conditioning program for me has been amazing,” says Tony Tan, a trainee of Zart’s who will be making his amateur MMA debut at Patriot Fights in Charlotte on September 10 (ImperialFighting.com). “I noticed results in my cardio after just one week – being able to spar longer and not be tired afterwards. I was also worried about having to cut weight, but I haven’t had to do that at all, as the pounds just fell off naturally without having to change my diet, and I feel much stronger.”

The below workout, designed by Zart, is a collection of basic yet intense movements that, when performed as a circuit (one exercise after the other with minimal rest, then repeat multiple times) can whip anyone into shape, fighter or otherwise. Give it a try the next time you’re looking to complement your traditional lifting program with a dose of high-intensity, fat-burning conditioning work.


Perform each of the following three exercises continuously for 30-60 seconds, depending on your fitness level (a beginner would start at 30 seconds and work up to a minute). Rest 30 seconds between each exercise and, over time, decrease rest periods in 5-10-second increments (down to as little as 10-15 seconds) as you get in better shape. For beginners, perform as many rounds as you can in 10-15 minutes, taking extra rest as needed. As you progress, perform as many rounds as you can in 30 minutes keeping rest periods to 30 seconds or less.


How To: Using either a rowing machine (like a Concept 2 rower) or an elastic resistance band anchored high up in a doorframe or on a pull-up bar. Perform the rowing motion as fast as possible for the duration of the set.


How To: Explode out of the bottom of a push-up so that your hands leave the ground at the top of each rep with your arms extended. To start out, perform with your hands on top of a high box (an easier variation than hands on the floor). Repeat for reps until 30-60 seconds is up.


How To: Stand facing away from a solid wall (brick or cinder block), about a foot away from it, holding an 8-12-pound medicine ball in front of your midsection with your elbows bent. Twist explosively to one side, slam the ball off the wall, then catch it and repeat to the opposite side. Repeat for 30-60 seconds in a side to side twisting motion.

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