New Earth-Grown T-Shirt Available Now
MMA Strength Training

3 Strength Techniques MMA Fighters Aren’t Using (But Should Be)

Written by
December 9, 2015
Updated May 15, 2020

When MMA fighters train, many simply train for endurance. While this is a very important training modality in the Octagon, fighters need more than high conditioning levels to achieve greatness in each MMA match.

MMA athletes need power, strength, and a high power-to-weight ratio, along with endurance to go toe to toe with their opponents.

The following techniques are underutilized by most MMA fighters and when incorporated, can make for accelerated results in strength.

These techniques are for offseason gains. I do not recommend them when prepping for a fight simply as a fresh take on your training for accelerated gains in your offseason.

As said before power endurance training seems to be the standard for MMA training, which is important but incorporating maximal effort lifts will create a more powerful physique.

Improving a fighters strength is important for a variety or reasons. Increase in power/velocity of strikes, or a increase in power on the ground just to name a few.

If worried about not making weight simply stay in the 1-3 rep range. Staying in this rep range, along with calories set at or below maintenance, will help build strength while limiting mass gain.

3 Strength Techniques MMA Fighters Aren't Using (But Should Be)

MMA Power Technique: Contrast Training

Contrast Training or Post Activation Potential is an extremely effective way to generate maximal power for MMA fighters.

The underlying principle surrounding Post Activation Potential is that prior heavy loading induces a high degree of central nervous system stimulation, resulting in greater motor unit recruitment and force.

It has been assumed that muscles with shorter twitch contraction time show predominance in fast twitch or type II muscle fibers and exhibit greater force than those muscles with longer twitch contraction times such as slow twitch or type I fibers.

The main goal of incorporating Post Activation Potential is to increase force development quantity to maximize explosive power for athletic performance.

Post Activation Potential is best for activities that require explosive power movements, such as sprinting, high jumping, ski jumping, weight lifting, boxing, and mixed martial arts.

Onnit Pro Joe Defranco incorporated contrast training while preparing Triple H (The Game) for Wrestlemania 28. His contrast training programming was as follows:

A1: Barbell Box Squats: 6 sets of 3 w/ 80% 1RM
A2: Box Jumps: 6 sets of 3-5 jumps

Using the Post Activation Potential method correctly, your power output should skyrocket.

You should keep your rep range in the 1-3 rep range when trying to develop power. These could also beutilized with Unconventional equipment such as:

Perform a single Heavy Double Kettlebell Squat followed immediately by a body weight jump squat. Repeat for 2 more reps. rest 3 minutes perform 6 sets total.

3 Strength Techniques MMA Fighters Aren't Using (But Should Be)

MMA Strength Technique: Cluster Sets

The ATP-PC energy system is responsible for energy production for the first 10–15 seconds of maximal exercise.  One of the most underutilized strength routines are Cluster Sets.

Cluster Sets are exercises with built-in rest periods which allow you to manipulate intensity as well as volume. Cluster sets give you the tools to create high volume training without pushing your reps too high.

Instead of doing a traditional program of straight sets, cluster training is a series of low rep/high weight movements followed by a short rest period.

By accessing the ATP-PC energy system energy production in 10–15 seconds of maximal exercise we can create a maximal strength training environment.

This is extremely taxing; select a weight that is 90% of your 1RM and do five singles with 10-15 second breaks between each rep. Always rest the weight before your next single.

A1: 1 rep @ 90% 1 RM, rest for 10-seconds
A2: 1 rep, rest 10 seconds
A3: 1 rep, rest 10 seconds
A4: 1 rep, rest 10 seconds
A5: 1 rep, rest 3 minutes

Repeat for three to four more sets. As set before these are extremely taxing and should not be utilized often into your programming. You should not do this type of training more than once per week. Clusters are best used with compound barbell exercises, do not try to
3 Strength Techniques MMA Fighters Aren't Using (But Should Be)

MMA Muscle Technique: Tempo Training

As stated before most fighters are worried about cutting weight. But occasionally one will want to enter a mass gain phase.

Tempo Training or Time Under Tension Training is one of the most effective training techniques for hypertrophy or building muscle mass.

Hypertrophy training requires us to keep the muscles under for tension for much longer than strength or power work.

We still want to work at a reasonably high intensity, using the anaerobic system. We want to fatigue the muscles and cause muscle damage.

This will cause a hormone response of testosterone and growth hormone, that will increase our muscle size. The time under tension for hypertrophy training is anywhere between 30-60 seconds.

A slower tempo can provide a powerful stimulus of your muscles. Lifting the failure with a slower tempo recruits a higher threshold of motor units to create a greater result in gains.  Using TUT training with

Perform the following for 3-4 rounds of 12-15 reps. Count 3 seconds on the eccentric portion and 3 seconds on the concentric portion Pause for a second a the top before beginning your next rep.

A1. Double Kettlebell Squat – 3-4 rounds x 12-15 reps
A2. Double Kettlebell Bent-over Row – 3-4 rounds x 12-15 reps

B1: Kettlebell Pull Up (Pull Up with a kettlebell attached to your waist) – 3-4 rounds x 12-15 reps
B2: Double Kettlebel Overhead Press – 3-4 rounds x 12-15 reps

C1: Kettlebell Tricep Extension – 3-4 rounds x 12-15 reps
C2: Kettlebell Hammer Curl – 3-4 rounds x 12-15 reps

These are just a handful or the many techniques one could incorporate into there training protocol.

Onnit Academy is the most comprehensive database of information related to Unconventional Training, a unique new form of fitness methodology that focuses on functional strength, conditioning, and agility using the most efficient means and tools possible. The online database includes articles, videos, tutorials, and workouts featuring alternative implements like kettlebells, sandbags, steel maces, steel clubs, battle ropes, and more.
Free shipping is offered on orders with a minimum subtotal of $150 less discounts. Free shipping is only available in the contiguous U.S. and excludes Fitness and Digital items.
For media inquiries please contact us at
With a subscription, you'll get your favorite Onnit products whenever you want at 15% off MSRP. All automatic, worry free, and with our same great money back guarantee.
Cancel or adjust your order at any time, hassle free. Your payment method will only be charged right before your order ships. The discount applied every time is 15% off MSRP or the current sale discount, whichever is greater. For more information, see the complete Onnit Subscription Terms & Conditions and Frequently Asked Questions.

Secure Shopping

We implement a variety of security measures to maintain the safety of your personal information when you place an order or enter, submit, or access any information on our website. We incorporate physical, electronic, and administrative procedures to safeguard the confidentiality of your personal information, including Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) for the encryption of all financial transactions through the website. We use industry-standard, 256bit SSL encryption to protect your personal information online, and we also take several steps to protect your personal information in our facilities. For example, when you visit the website, you access servers that are kept in a secure physical environment, behind a locked cage and a hardware firewall. After a transaction, your credit card information is not stored on our servers.