Strength gains tend to be specific to a posture, what I mean is that that strength gained in one position, will not necessarily translate when trying to apply that strength to another position. Awhile back I was experimenting with a bench press program in my mma workout, which included floor presses (a variation on bench pressing where you, instead of using a bench, lie on the floor ). While performing these presses it occurred to me that, as far as posture goes, this was much more like fighting from guard than conventional bench pressing, and that using a closer grip it would make it even more similar.

I started thinking – How do I make other fairly standard training exercises more MMA workout specific?

Like most guys, I like training my arms (beach muscles, right?), but my more practical side tells me that one needn’t spend a lot of time, or recovery ability on non-essential exercises like bicep curls. If I could make arm exercises more applicable to the ring, I could justify spending more time on them, without feeling like some inflated bodybuilder.

In most MMA movements the biceps work together with the back and rear delts when pulling an opponent towards you, or when retracting a punch, so in most cases they are adequately trained with compound movements like pull-ups and rows. However when resisting an armbar, the biceps is contracted eccentrically, and without the assistance of the larger back muscles. Therefore doing bicep curls with a slow lowering phase could help defend against an armbar. It’s unlikely that you’d ever gain enough strength to overcome it, but a biceps strengthened in this way could buy an extra second or two (or help to prevent a resulting injury), which may be enough.

As mentioned above, strength gains tend to be posture specific, so better to do bicep curls in the position you’re likely to find yourself during an attempted armbar.

Start by lying on your back with the working arm stretched out perpendicular to the body, you can use the other arm to hold onto something immobile. Take the handle and (after warming up) curl the weight as powerfully as possible, and then lower it slowly, taking 2-3 seconds. You may be surprised to find the pectorals contracting powerfully as well during the movement.

Concentration curls could also be modified in your mma workout to develop strength for resisting an arm bar from the opponents guard. While standing with feet a little wider than shoulder width, grip a dumbbell in one hand, bend forward at the waist, slightly crouching, and let the dumbbell hang between your legs. You can brace the free hand on the knee, and then curl the weight towards your chest.

What about triceps? When punching, or during thrusting movements, the triceps work in synchronization with the pectorals and anterior delts, and like biceps, are usually adequately trained with compound movements. However, when resisting certain submissions attempts like a shoulder crank, the triceps works together with the lats and the internal rotators of the shoulder. Doing lying triceps extensions (skull crushers) with dumbbells instead of a barbell (hammer extensions) will help in this regard, but an even better way would be to combine a pullover with a hammer extension. Start by lying on a bench, with the feet up; hold the dumbbells over your chest with your arms straight. Start the movement by bending your arms and letting your elbows flare out and, at the same time start rotating the shoulder externally. When your hands reach about the same level as the bench, reverse the movement, driving the dumbbells back to the starting position.

A more advanced, and more realistic way to do the above exercises would be to perform the same exercises doing only negatives (using a heavier weight than your 1 rep maximum). For this you would use both arms to lift the weight, and then lower it over 5 seconds with only one arm. Start by doing one set of negatives, using 110-120% of 1RM, after your conventional sets, but if you cannot lower the weight in a controlled manner, and the descent is less than 5-6 seconds, the weight is too heavy. Later on you could (after a sufficient warm up) advance to 2-3 sets of 5 straight negatives

Negatives are extremely taxing, and the potential for injury is greater, so inexperienced lifters who haven’t built a solid foundation should not practice them. For experienced lifters and athletes however, negatives can be useful for overcoming plateaus. Even so, I wouldn’t recommend using them for more than 2-3 weeks consecutively.

There are many ways to modify exercises to make them more specific, if you have a good imagination, there are virtually limitless variations.

Since exercises only start being effective until the body adapts to it, instead of replacing all exercises with more mma workout ones, rotate standard exercise with more specific ones, using the specific exercises as competition nears.

These are all things to consider when putting together your next MMA workout!

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