Mixed martial arts (MMA) is a full-contact, combat sport that incorporates a wide variety of traditional and non-traditional fighting techniques. It has become hugely popular in recent years, especially among males ages 18 to 34. Part of the attraction with MMA, which is widely considered to be one of the most grueling sports, lies in the variety of techniques fighters employ to take on their opponent. These athletes also are incredibly fit, using a wide range of training techniques that develop high levels of cardiorespiratory endurance, strength, agility, power and balance.

Check out Table 1 for a summary of the health- and skill-related requisites for MMA fighting. 


Given its popularity, it is increasingly likely that you will encounter clients seeking to emulate the training of an MMA athlete. Doug Balzarini, an ACE Certified Personal Trainer, encountered such a challenge in 2008. Armed with a keen interest, but minimal knowledge of the sport and its training techniques, he set out to develop his MMA knowledge and skill. Since then, Balzarini has not only trained professional MMA athletes, but has competed in MMA as well. 

Balzarini shared with ACE his top five favorite exercises to use when training elite athletes. With upper-body pushing and pulling, lower-body and rotational core movements, these exercises are sure to make your clients sweat. 

1.Push-up and Sit Through

2.Pop Ups

3.Torso Rotations

4.Med Ball Sprawl and Throw

5.Heavy Rope Pulling

Bonus Exercises

Here are few more of Balzarini’s favorite exercises to use with his MMA athletes:

  • Tire flips using a 420- to 750-pound tire to train maximal strength
  • Sledge hammers (wood chops) to the tires to train explosive slams and throws
  • Heavy ropes (floor slams, tug-of war) to train grip strength and core power
  • Heavy medicine ball work (30–65 pounds) to train core power, slams and throws
  • Exercises using the TRX to train core strength/power, balance and control of body movement bilateral body symmetry