Cross Training for MMA – Infographic

Cross-training is integral to building overall muscle strength and helping bring your conditioning to the next level. It doesn’t matter how much time you spend in the ring, performing the same moves over and over again will only get you so far. Switching it up to include strength training and conditioning, in addition to your technical exercises, is key to continued improvement.

Developing a cross-training routine which includes both anaerobic and aerobic exercises helps increase endurance and prevent injury.

Aerobic Exercise

Aerobic exercise is generally longer in duration than anaerobic exercise. A 3000m run and a marathon would be classed as aerobic exercises or events.

Aerobic Exercises Aerobic or “with oxygen”, training triggers an increase in heart rate and breathing, but are not so strenuous that they cannot be continued for a good length of time. This type of exercise is used to improve cardio. Examples of Aerobic Exercises:

● Yoga

● Brisk Walking

● Hiking

● Dancing

● Cross-Country Skiing

● Rowing


Anaerobic Exercise

Anaerobic exercises include a 100m sprint and a shot put. They are short, explosive exercises or events and require ‘fast twitch’ muscles which generate power quickly, but also fatigue relatively quickly.

Anaerobic Exercises Anaerobic or “without oxygen”, on the other hand, are closer to a HIIT tempo, where the intensity is much higher and the activity can only be performed for a short period of time. Anaerobic exercises are typically accompanied by shortness of breath and higher heart rates.

Examples of Anaerobic Exercises:

● Heavy weight training

● Sprinting

● Running

● Cycling

● Jumping


So How Do MMA Fighters Benefit from Aerobic and Anaerobic Exercises?

Keep fitness training specific to MMA. MMA requires explosive, anaerobic movements as well as a great base of aerobic fitness.

MMA sports are highly complex physiologically and use a wide range of abilities and metabolic mechanisms during training and competition. High physical and technical demands such as grappling, kicking, and punching require extreme anaerobic power and aerobic fitness levels in order to endure multiple rounds of high intensity and intermittent efforts.

Whether you’re into kickboxing, muay thai, or wrestling, both anaerobic and aerobic exercises teach your body how to use oxygen more efficiently. Being able to maintain good oxygen levels is a major determinant for endurance and speed during a fight. Muscles need oxygen to function and to make energy to push your body through that match or workout.

These types of exercises can help improve your overall physical condition giving you more power, explosiveness, strength, speed, agility and muscular endurance.


Which Exercises are Best for Me?

The Journal of Sports Science and Medicine conducted a study on the effect of short-term sport specific strength and condition training on the physical fitness of MMA athletes. They selected 17 experienced fighters and split them into two groups.

One was focused on a short-term complementary sport-specific strength and conditioning programme and the other was focused on a “regular” strength conditioning programme commonly used by MMA fighters.

The results show that a high-intensity, low-volume strength and conditioning training programme specific to MMA –  resulted in significant performance improvements for well-trained fighters in comparison to the regular training routine commonly used by MMA fighters.

While there are many great aerobic and anaerobic exercises such as cycling, swimming, and running to choose from, it’s best to define the physical demands of your particular sport in order to develop a proper training programme.

To help, here’s an infographic detailing cross-training workouts for these activities that are specifically curated for those involved in combat sports. The levels “beginner” through “advanced” are based on your perceived level of fitness.


Infographic from

About Drew

MMA, Fitness & Marketing enthusiast from North Wales, UK. A Stoic Hippy with no hair. Not to boast but - 1st Class Degree in Sports Science from Loughborough, MSc in Nutrition from the University of Liverpool. 20 years experience of weight & fitness training.
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