Unconventional Training: The Holy Grail of MMA Workouts

Unconventional Training: The Holy Grail of MMA Workouts

Why on earth would you want to train with cannonballs with handles, duffel bags filled with sand, or a bat that weighs 20 pounds? The answer: they make you the strongest, leanest, and toughest SOB possible. Kettlebell, Sandbag, Steel Club, Rope, Sledgehammer, and Steel Mace training all have one thing in common: they’re Unconventional Training tools used by the toughest of the tough to build massive strength, bone-crushing power, un-ending endurance, and rock-solid muscle. They’re used by military and law enforcement personnel, professional combat athletes, and those looking to get extraordinary results from their training. Needless to say, MMA fighters looking to take their performance to the next level MUST look into these methods if they’re serious about winning.

Unconventional Training methods have proven results. Some were developed recently for specific combat sports (such as Battle Rope training for professional football players), while others were developed hundreds of years ago and are now utilized as core training methods for large military forces (such as kettlebell training and Russian soldiers). Some have even been used for THOUSANDS of years and were developed by warriors to enhance their strength and stamina for combat (such as ancient Indian warriors with Indian Clubs, Heavy Clubs, and Steel Maces).

Each training method offers MMA fighters the opportunity to build real strength and power while also increasing their endurance and stamina to super-human levels. But beyond those objectives, these methods offer enhancements to your agility and resiliency, after all, increased strength and conditioning means nothing to a fighter who is immobile, inflexible, and lacks the grip strength to open a jar of baby food. Each component of physical fitness is necessary to ensure victory in the ring. The following Unconventional Fitness Training Methods will aid in all of the above while also getting you shredded (imagine your opponent being mentally beaten before the match even starts when he sees the crazy pile of muscle on the other side of the ring). Here’s a list of Unconventional Training methods and what they can do for your training:

Kettlebell Workouts

Kettlebells offer unique benefits for MMA workouts.

Kettlebells are a staple in every Unconventional training regimen. The American Council of Exercise (A.C.E.) put together a study on the efficiency of a simple kettlebell workout to increase one’s conditioning level. It found that during a simple 20-minute kettlebell workout involving kettlebell snatches and presses, participants burned 20 calories a minute (400 during the twenty minute workout). Not bad considering it’s not a thousand dollar piece of equipment or joint-pounding roadwork. Click Here for Kettlebell Exercises.

But beyond conditioning and cardio (attributed to the full body, ballistic movements involved in kettlebell exercise), kettlebells can help you build massive strength and power. Why else would the 48kg (106lb) kettlebell exist? With kettlebell training you can enjoy all the benefits of Olympic-style quick lifts, the snatch, clean, jerk with other ballistic exercises like the swing and juggling. All of which will build a tremendously strong and lean body with the added benefit of grip strength and back, and hip mobility, perfect for fighters.

Sandbag Workouts

Sandbag training can help you do anything: increase your conditioning level, boost your overall strength, and give you an iron grip (not to mention a new-found ability to stop flood waters like a champ). If you’re looking to gain unreal grip strength that will help in every martial art and combat sport, then sandbag training is for you

Sandbags can offer a nice variety in your training regime and (depending on the brand of sandbag), have adjustable weights which will allow you to work on strength, power, and conditioning all in the same workout. Sandbags are perfect for combat training because they give you that dead-weight feel of an opponent, especially when you get into the heavier sandbags (125lb+). For your conditioning purposes 50-80lbs is all you’ll need. Click Here for Sandbag Exercises.

Battle Rope Workouts

The Battle Rope is a brutally effective fat burning and conditioning tool that will set your lungs on fire within seconds of starting each set. If you thought you needed to run or do steady state cardio (which is an antiquated notion these days), then you’ve got another thing coming with rope training. You can use rope training (also known as battling ropes or battle ropes) for pulls, slams, climbs, waves, dragging, and a million other exercises, all of which will get you sweating while helping you build killer grip strength at the same time. Complete a few timed sets in between other unconventional training methods or finish your workout with some battle ropes, either way, you’re in for a workout that’s gonna finish you before you finish it. Click Here for Battle Rope Exercises.

Steel Club Workouts

One of the best ways to build grip strength while increasing full body power is training with steel clubs. Steel clubs are a variation of Indian Clubs, but offer more full body strength building benefits. You will build some serious shoulder, core and forearm strength on a healthy diet of heavy clubs. Like most of the unconventional fitness training methods, it will increase your flexibility and mobility greatly as well.

Steel Mace Workouts

Steel Maces offer rotational strength for MMA fighter workouts.

How do you make a heavy weight feel even heavier? Put it at the end of a four foot pole and swing it around! The Steel Mace (also called a Macebell or Gada) is a tool that has been used for thousands of years by the greatest wrestlers in the world. It is an odd-looking tool that always grabs the attention of anyone who sees it (especially when it’s in use). Very weapon-like in style, the Steel Mace is an unbelievable strength and conditioning tool which will help you build a ridiculously strong core, mobile and flexible shoulders, and the grip strength of an ape.

There are a ton of exercises you can do with a Steel Mace and each one can destroy your whole upper body. Let’s take the 10-to-2 exercise for example. This exericise requires you take the Macebell over one shoulder and then swing it behind your back to the other shoulder, ending each rep by pausing with the Macebell pointed at 10 o’clock or 2 o’clock. The strength and technique you’ll build from this exercise will have immediate benefits on your throwing power (such as Juijitsu Shoulder Throws). Click Here for Steel Mace Exercises.

Bodyweight Workouts

The ability to control your body (and therefore your movement) is important for anyone who will be put through a variety of positions and movements (such as fighters). They will need to have the strength and ability to get in and out of them at a moment’s notice. Bodyweight training (also known as calisthenics) can do just that. Not only will you be able to build explosive power and strength (through exercises like clap push ups, burpees, and kip ups), you’ll also be practicing balance and control (though exercises like handstands, pistol squats, and one-handed sprawls). Another great benefit is the ability to perform bodyweight training anywhere at any time with no equipment needed. Click Here for Bodyweight Exercises.

Suspension Workouts

There’s a reason why people admire the capabilities of gymnasts, they have it all: strength, agility, power, and leanness. And what do they use for their training (and in some Olympic events)? Gym rings. Work your way up to an iron cross using gym rings and rest assured that you will be one strong and lean piece of iron. Of course, simple exercises like push ups, rows, pull ups and muscle ups will do just fine.

Build strength incrementally by changing the position of the rings or by adding a weighted vest to your training regimen, or use more difficult versions of each exercise (for push ups or body rows, you can use a plyo box or bench to elevate your legs). Unlike some fancier (and much more expensive) pieces of strap hanging equipment, gym rings are very affordable and offer dozens of different exercise variations. On exercise that’s great for fighters is called the Lawnmower Extension. Use this explosive exercise to drastically improve your groundwork.

Sledgehammer Workouts

Sledgehammer slams offer explosive conditioning for mma fighters.

If you’re ready for a conditioning workout, but also want to take some agression out (but don’t have time to jump in the ring for a sparing session), sledgehammers offer the next best thing. There’s nothing like the feeling of slamming something (tires, bricks, etc) with a heavy hammer. While performing this version of therapy you will be achieving a powerful core while quickly improving your grip strength.

Sledgehammer training is great with timed or interval sets. Alternate between sets of sledgehammers and ropes for an intense burn that will have you tapping out. Any sledgehammer will work, but when you’re ready to get serious, look for Torque War Hammers. These American-made monsters weigh from 12lbs to 150lbs and feature welded components (which are very important for avoiding broken-off, projectile sledgehammer heads).

Indian Club Workouts

While most of the unconventional training methods deal with strength, power, and conditioning, Indian Clubs focus on joint mobility, specifically in your shoulders, elbows, and wrists. If tight, sore shoulders are an issue for you, than look no further. Indian Clubs have been used for thousands of years to increase flexibility and strength. This is one of the best warm ups, cool downs and active recovery methods available. Just a few short sessions and you will feel the difference in your range of motion.

Pat Miletich, 5 time Ultimate Fighting World Champion, attributed his shoulder recovery (after over 40 professional fights) to training with Indian Clubs, and now incorporates the methods to the Miletich Fighting Systems. The best way to start with unconventional fitness training is to pick one or two methods and build a workout plan based on them. Below is a sample strength and conditioning workout for a beginner. Don’t be fooled by the term “beginner.” This workout is brutal and will get your heart pumping and sweat flowing at any level. It simply means that the exercises are easy to learn. Try this routine a few times and you will be amazed at the benefits that just a handful of these amazing tools have in store.

Sample Unconventional Training Workout

A1: Alternating Swing – 60 seconds

A2: Clean & Press (Left) – 60 seconds

A3: Clean &Press (Right) – 60 seconds

A4: Push Up – 60 seconds

A5: Ring Row – 60 seconds

A6: Rope Full Body Slam – 60 seconds

–rest 3 minutes–

B1: Goblet Squat: 120 seconds

B2: Swing: 120 seconds

B3: Figure 8 to Hold: 120 seconds

–rest 3 minutes–

C1: Alternating Sledgehammer Slams: 180 seconds

C2: Burpees: 180 seconds

Marcus Martinez
Marcus Martinez is part of MBody Strength. MBody Strength helps people discover their physical potential through any means possible...Our mission is to find, test, and, in some cases, invent the most efficient forms of fitness training and equipment. We believe that there is no "Best" way for everyone to get results, there is only the way that works for you personally. We're here to help you find that way.

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