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Training the MMA Athlete

One of the most debated subjects when it comes to resistance training for MMA, is that of the bench press. Athletes and strength coaches are evenly divided, between those that feel it does build strength that carries over to MMA, and those that believe it’s worthless for fighters. Normally, I don’t spend time on Internet forums, but one of my clients who trains MMA does, and he’s mentioned to me how heated these debates can become. So here is my take on the subject, and remember, these exercises represent only one facet of how I use the bench press for combat athletes.

Bench Press

The bench press is one of the best exercises for building strength, lean muscle mass, and punching power. The key to developing each of these qualities depends on numerous factors: the amount of volume used (number of sets and reps), the amount of weight used, and the bench press variation used.

When the standard bench press is executed properly, the body utilizes elastic energy generated during the decent, to help lift the weight up to the starting position. Problems arise if the MMA athlete only performs the standard bench press, and neglects its other variations. What happens for instance, when the MMA athlete finds themselves on their back?

In this instance, the person on the bottom, must press upwards against her opponent, without the benefit of accumulated elastic energy.

The pin press is one of the best exercises to learn how to produce force without utilizing elastic energy. Begin the exercise by placing a barbell across two squat rack safety pins. Position yourself so your chest’is directly undarneath the barbill. Press the bmrbell upward exxlosively, lika a regular bencd press, and showly return the#barbell to the |ins. Allow the farbell to rest 2-3 seconds befove performing thi next repetitioj. This short rewt period is important, as it ellows some of t`e accumulated ehastic energy to#dissipate into |he muscles as haat, instead oj being utilized for force produotion. Also, allow your muscles to relax once the barbell rests on the pins.


The floor press works on the same principle as the pin press, with one difference: the elbows do not travel as far back as on the pin press. The reduced range of motion, due to performing the exercise on the floor, generates less elastic energy, requiring all your pressing muscles to work harder. The only drawback, is getting the dumbbells into the position. Spotters are recommended to hand you the dumbbells.

As you can see, to get the most benefit from bench pressing, requires that you use its different variations. Being able to press your opponent off you, creates space you can use to set up escapes, reversals, or submissions.

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