MMA fighters have what is, to some, the perfect body type.
Just think of Conor McGregor or Jon Jones and you’ll see why.
They’re muscular, but they’re not overly bulky. They have shredded abs, but they’re not veiny and overly-tanned like stage bodybuilders.
For many, it’s the perfect beach bod!
And believe it or not, it’s actually achievable to get a physique like this for yourself.
So how can you get a body like an MMA fighter?
The first step to getting an MMA fighter body is to lean down significantly. Most top fighters have crisp, visible abs and defined obliques, only possible at fairly low levels of body fat. But they’re also powerful and muscular, so you’ll need to get strong at the gym, especially in Olympic style lifts that emphasize explosive power.
But there’s a little more to it! Keep reading for tips from a pro trainer.
What Are the Hallmarks of the “MMA Fighter Physique”?
An MMA fighter’s body is sculpted, muscular, and lean all over.
It’s an exceptionally balanced and functional physique, with no one body part really standing out among the rest.
MMA fighters have strong legs, broad backs, muscular arms, and sculpted chests and abs.
However, the muscular physique is lean enough to become invisible under most regular clothes. Unlike a bodybuilder or strongman, MMA fighters look pretty much like normal (in shape) people in street clothes.
However, they blow everyone away in short sleeves, tight shirts, or on the beach.
There’s no hiding that you’re ripped when you have an MMA fighter’s physique!
Being lean is probably one of the biggest indicators of an MMA physique, especially in lower weight classes. A complete lack of any extra body fat and visually crisp abs and obliques is a part of the look.
But don’t mistake fighters being extremely lean for them being weak. They’re far from it!
It takes incredibly leg and core strength to throw devastating kicks and move fluidly around the ring. It takes arm, shoulder, and back strength to throw punches.
You also come out of your training with surprising agility and overall athleticism — that’s the part that’s not obvious when you look at an MMA fighter.
MMA fighters have to dodge and weave, lift their opponents, and dominate people as big as or bigger than them.
They need to be able to duck out of the way fast and throw a brutal punch.
Finally, they need absolutely elite levels of endurance, because getting tired in the ring is a recipe for getting knocked out.
5 Training Tips for an MMA Fighter Body
Don’t let the hard-to-obtain hallmarks of the physique scare you off.
Jake Dickson, Associate Editor at BarBend.com and personal trainer with a B.S. in Exercise Science, has tips that’ll help you achieve that physique.
Getting this body will require a lot of effort, but the steps to achieve it aren’t that complicated once you break it down.
1. Run for Stamina and Cardio
“Going 5 minutes straight in a round against another fighter takes endurance,” says Jake Dickson.
He recommends building the stamina you need through running a few times a week.
Plus, he says it’ll help get your legs in the right shape for fighting.
Running is a fantastic way to push your body to its limits and build up stamina and cardio health.
Whether it’s sprinting or distance running, you’ll lose body fat, build lower body muscle, and grow your stamina.
Sprinting is particularly good for building muscle all over your body, as you’ll know if you’ve read about how to get a sprinter’s body.
You’ll create power, speed, and some agility when you take up running.
The further you push yourself, the better your physique will become.
Running is also a great way to improve your general fitness as a beginner.
Perhaps you’ve never been to the gym before, and you’re not ready to invest in a membership until you’re a little fitter. That’s fine!
You can easily buy a second-hand treadmill for a great price on websites like Facebook Marketplace, or even on eBay.
And of course, running outdoors has always been free. This makes it accessible to everyone who can run (even if you can only run a few paces at first!)
Hit the treadmill or the trails, and you’ll be building your stamina in no time.
2. Lift Weights for Muscle Growth and Definition
Almost all fighters perform strength training with weights to train their muscles.
It’s not about having big biceps for MMA fighters. It’s all about developing functional power and strength.
Jake Dickson says, “To deliver powerful strikes on their opponent, [MMA fighters] have to tap into the strength that comes from their hips.”
To obtain this, he doesn’t recommend your usual bro-style lifting, but Olympic weight lifting.
Olympic weightlifting will have you perform exercises such as the jerk, clean, and snatch. These all involve a great deal of full-body coordination and hip strength.
For example, a snatch has you lighting a weight from the floor, extending your hips explosively when you rise.
This increases your joint strength and stability, flexibility, and the overall function of your hip joints and strength.
3. Do HIIT for Speed and Agility
High-intensity interval training is a great cardio workout, but you have running for that.
When training for an MMA fighter body, you’ll be utilizing HIIT for speed and agility, plus a little extra endurance training.
HIIT sessions usually involve performing a series of exercises in quick succession with short rest periods.
Switching from move to move helps your speed, and the variety of exercises involved in HIIT workouts helps your body learn to move in different ways and become more agile.
HIIT exercises vary considerably.
You could be doing anything from jumping jacks to burpees, and it’s a good idea to do at least 10 minutes of HIIT on your days off from the gym.
It helps keep your body engaged, but the short duration of the workouts won’t fatigue you too badly the next day.
One great exercise you can do on your off-days is jumping rope.
Jumping rope is often recommended as part of a HIIT workout, and several places offering MMA fighter-style training have jumping rope as part of their HIIT workout plans.
So, find a space, grab a jump rope (ones with weighted handles work best), and have some HIIT fun!
You’ll build plenty of stamina, make your body more agile, and keep your training up even on your lower-intensity days.
4. Punch for Working Your Shoulders
Shadowboxing and using the punching bag are great ways to make your shoulders more agile.
Hitting a bag will also help build your shoulder strength, tone your arms, and develop a powerful core.
(Learn more about results you can see from boxing here.)
MMA fighters often end up going first-to-fist with their opponents, so working on your boxing moves is a good idea if you want a body like an MMA fighter.
Practicing punching will help you develop the power you need in an MMA fighter body, and the practical skill of learning to throw a punch can come in handy — even if you never actually enter a ring.
A simple 20-minute punching bag routine is fantastic to add to your workout a few times a week, and shadow boxing is something you can do at home in your spare time.
Beginners should consider working with a personal trainer when starting punching workouts.
It’ll help you learn the right form to use while shadow boxing and working with the punching bag.
5. Eat for Fat Loss and Muscle Performance
This tip is last, but it’s no less important than the four above.
It’s just not quite as exciting as all the fun training you’ll get to do.
To get the MMA fighter physique, you need to maximize fat loss and and muscle performance.
After all, even if you’re agile, powerful, and strong — you won’t really look like an MMA fighter until those abs start popping.
Ideally, you’ll eat in a way that allows you to train hard and keep or build strength while losing fat.
Cutting calories is the simplest thing you have to do to lose excess body fat.
All you have to do is figure out how many calories you burn in a day using an online calorie calculator, then eat about 500 fewer calories than you need.
For example, a 176-pound, 6-foot tall, lightly active 30-year-old man needs around 2,450 calories per day to maintain his weight.
Cutting down to 1,950 means a man with those stats will lose around a pound of fat per week.
The scale won’t be a good indicator of weight loss, though, because as you lose fat, you’re packing on muscle during strength training.
Plus, as you amp up your workout routine, you’re going to need more calories to maintain your weight.
If that man started hitting the gym to train for an MMA fighter body 2–4 times per week, he’d need over 2,700 to maintain his weight, and around 2,200 to lose a pound per week.
Jake Dickson recommends, “Focus on eating fiber-rich fruits and vegetables, whole complex carbs, and lean proteins to keep your body fueled and in MMA fighter shape.”
Theoretically, you can lose fat without cutting calories or changing your eating habits, as you’ll be working out more. You’ll burn more calories and lose fat by default.
However, keeping an eye on your intake is a good idea.
You’ll need to start consuming a lot of protein, and that can quickly add calories, canceling out the ones you burn when you work out.
Protein is power when you’re building muscle. It helps fuel your body, and it repairs your muscles after a workout session.
Your muscles don’t grow by magic. You’re damaging your muscles when you work out, and this creates tiny tears in the fibers. What helps repair these tears? Protein.
Consuming protein will help your muscles heal faster and stronger, leading to great gains and a body that isn’t left in agony after a workout.
Foods that contain a lot of protein include eggs, lean meat, poultry, dairy products, and fish. You’ll need a lot of these if you’re following an MMA training routine.
As a beginner, it’s easy to lose fat and gain strength at the same time. The more advanced you get in your training, the harder that becomes.
You may eventually need to utilize cutting and bulking cycles (bulking up to gain muscle and cutting to lose fat) to take your physique to the next level.
There aren’t too many complex exercises that you need to obtain an MMA fighter body, and it can actually be obtained fairly quickly, even for beginners.
The biggest thing is getting extremely lean while building or maintaining muscle in the gym.
Eat properly and lift weights to get started, but make sure you’re working on your endurance and skill work, too, if you really want to look like an MMA fighter.
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Hope this helps!